FLAGSTAFF, AZ — On Friday, November 28, 2014, more than 50 people rallied and marched as Arizona Snowbowl ski area opened with snow made from 100% treated sewage on the sacred San Francisco Peaks. With no natural snowfall, Snowbowl had a mere 3 out of 40 ski runs open.
People came from Prescott and Kayenta, AZ and as far away as Shiprock, NM to support residents of Flagstaff who were addressing concerns with Snowbowl’s opening, which the multimillionaire owner promotes as “White Friday.”
“It saddens me deeply that respect alone did not stop reclaimed wastewater from being sprayed on the peaks.” said Rudy Preston, Flagstaff resident,
“And to add injury to insult, I watched them spray the wastewater snow all over picnic tables at the lodge eating area which a week later had melted down to this strange gray powder coating everything. On opening day I witnessed at least 50 people eating lunch in this stuff. They don’t even have respect for their own customers.”
“I am disgusted by recent local news coverage for Arizona Snowbowl which are nothing more than advertisements for the ski area that go so far as to falsify their reports with images and video of the ski area with a lot more snow on it. If they will blatantly lie that bad for a wastewater soaked, podunk ski area, can I believe even one word of what they say, ever?” stated Rudy.
In press releases and media interviews, Snowbowl is also misleading the public and placing people, especially children, at risk by intentionally omitting that they use 100% wastewater for snowmaking.
“This is beyond environmental racism, this is an ongoing act of cultural genocide,” stated Klee Benally, volunteer with Protect the Peaks, “The US Forest Service, Snowbowl, and City of Flagstaff have made it clear that a couple of small ski runs covered with a foot of treated sewage and marginal economic profit are more important than the cultures of 13 Indigenous Nations, public health, and the ecological integrity of the holy San Francisco Peaks.”
Louise Benally, Diné resister from Big Mountain, Sovereign Diné Nation, spoke about paramilitary style assaults and livestock theft committed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal rangers against residents of Black Mesa. Louise offered a prayer song before the group marched through downtown Flagstaff. Diné youth Toby & Jody Manuelito joined Supai Waters, from the Havasupai Nation, to lead the march which stopped for a round dance in Heritage Square. The march also paused in front of businesses known to support Snowbowl such as Oncore. Protesters chanted, “Boycott Snowbowl,” “You say recreation, we say desecration!” & “When Mother Earth is under attack what do we do? Fight Back!”
Renae Yellow Horse and Sarana Riggs from Save the Confluence spoke about attempted desecration of the Grand Canyon Confluence by a proposed development called the “Escalade.”
“We all are the defenders of the lands, above and below, all around us.” stated Renae Yellowhorse, spokesperson for Save
the Confluence Familes and Supporters, “The mountains, the rivers, the sacred spaces and places. Our sacred mountain, Dooko’osliid and our sacred spaces, the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers — they are all under threats of development, the Snowbowl as well as the Grand Canyon Escalade. This is wrong and we must all stand up and speak up. Defend the Sacred!” said Renae.
“We are Arizona Students Against Snowbowl (ASAS), a growing state wide coalition of college students calling for campus wide boycotts of Snowbowl in our institutions.” stated Iliana Correa-Hernandez student at Prescott College, “We came to protest against Snowbowl’s use of millions of gallons of sewage waste water to make fake snow on the San Francisco Peaks. This is a desecration of sacred land and an act of cultural genocide. We stand with the 13 Indigenous Nations who are protecting the sacred and defending life.”
“I was surprised that some people at Snowbowl did not know that reclaimed waste water is used to make the snow.” said Robyn Jackson, Diné community advocate and activist from Wheatfields, AZ Navajo reservation. “While two young Diné women held a banner saying ‘Boycott Snowbowl,’ some people made it known they supported Snowbowl, but others came by and expressed appreciation and support of our presence. We witnessed children playing in the snow as well as a group of people eating on top of it. It did not seem that people were fully aware of the health hazards they were exposing themselves to.”
“The connection we as Diné have with our abalone shell mountain, and the importance it has in our existence. The snow is unhealthy for the entire ecosystem of our sacred mountain.” said T. Tracy, Diné who came to the protest from Tséhoottsooí, “I saw children playing in snow made from treated sewage. Hands and faces open to the waste product. It wasn’t very busy but I can imagine plenty more people, ignorant to what they’re rolling in, going to the mountain without a clue as to the harm they’re exposing themselves and the mountain’s ecosystem too.” said T. Tracy.
City officials acknowledge that reclaimed wastewater may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria and pharmaceuticals, but have no timeline for testing and mitigating these issues. It is illegal to ingest reclaimed wastewater through the eyes, mouth, ears or skin due to its fecal coliform and chemical content. In spite of this, state agencies are turning a blind eye to these facts when considering matters with Snowbowl – thus the City and State agencies are putting thousands of skiers and families at risk.
“The cultural genocide of Native peoples identities, sacred places, and religious freedom are constantly under attack.” said Amanda Blackhorse, plaintiff in a suit against the racist Washington NFL team, “Many people don’t realize corporations feed off of one another with regards to cultural appropriation, whether it’s Native mascots in professional sports or the desecration of Dooko’osliid (San Francisco Peaks), a temple for Native people. Native people are constantly at the mercy of corporate America as we watch our culture, religion, and identities be used for profit or destroyed for the benefit of leisure.” said Amanda.
The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a response to complaints filed by Indigenous organizations and the Navajo Nation’s Human Rights Commission in 2011 stating, “The Committee requests information on concrete measures taken to ensure that the sacred character of this site for indigenous peoples is respected, including the possibility of suspending the permit granted to the Arizona Snowbowl in order to further consult with indigenous peoples and take into account their concerns and religious traditions.” CERD is charged with monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
Organizers of the protest expressed solidarity for all those rising up to seek justice for Mike Brown and those fighting to protect sacred places from South Mountain, Ohlone Shell Mounds, Hickory Grounds, Mt. Taylor, Medicine Lake, Mount Graham, Yucca Mountain, Mount Tenabo, to Mauna Kea.
Snowbowl is a single for-profit private business operating under a Special Use Permit (SUP) on Forest Service public lands. James Coleman, owner of several ski resorts throughout the Southwest, recently revealed he had made an offer to purchase the ski facilities. Coleman has made new threats of ski area expansion. Since Snowbowl is on public lands, the US Forest Service will have to approve a new SUP if the sale goes through. Indigenous Nations have the opportunity and right to request consultation through that process.
Ox Sam Camp Raid Update: One Arrested as Prayer Tipis Are Bulldozed and Ceremonial Items Confiscated
Thursday, June 8th, 2023
THACKER PASS, NV — On Wednesday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation, raided the Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun (Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp), destroying the two ceremonial tipi lodges, mishandling and confiscating ceremonial instruments and objects, and extinguishing the sacred fire that has been lit since May 11th when the Paiute/Shoshone Grandma-led prayer action began.
One arrest took place on Wednesday at the direction of Lithium Nevada security. A young Diné female water protector was handcuffed with no warning and loaded into a windowless, pitch-black box in the back of a pickup truck. “I was really scared for my life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know where I was or where I was going, and I know that MMIW is a real thing and I didn’t want to be the next one.” She was transported to Humboldt County Jail, where she was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, then released on bail.
Just hours before the raid, Ox Sam water protectors could be seen for the second time this week bravely standing in the way of large excavation equipment and shutting down construction at the base of Sentinel Rock.
To many Paiute and Shoshone, Sentinel Rock is a “center of the universe,” integral to many Nevada Tribes’ way of life and ceremony, as well as a site for traditional medicines, tools, and food supply for thousands of years. Thacker Pass is also the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The remains of the massacred ancestors have remained unidentified and unburied since 1865, and are now being bulldozed and crushed by Lithium Nevada for a mineral known as “the new white gold.”
Since May 11th, despite numerous requests by Lithium Nevada workers, the Humboldt County Sheriff Department has been reticent and even unwilling to arrest members of the prayer camp, even after issuing three warnings for blocking Pole Creek Road access to Lithium Nevada workers and sub-contractors, while allowing the public to pass through.
“We absolutely respect your guys’ right to peacefully protest,” explained Humboldt County Sheriff Sean Wilkin on May 12th. “We have zero issues with [the tipi] whatsoever… We respect your right to be out here.”
On March 19th the Sheriff arrived again, serving individual fourteen-day Temporary Protection Orders against several individuals at camp. The protection orders were granted by the Humboldt County Court on behalf of Lithium Nevada based on sworn statements loaded with misrepresentations, false claims, and, according to those targeted, outright false accusations by their employees. Still, Ox Sam Camp continued for another week. The tipis, the sacred fire, and the prayers occurred for a total of twenty-seven days of ceremony and resistance.
The scene at Thacker Pass this week looked like Standing Rock, Line 3, or Oak Flat, as Lithium Nevada’s workers and heavy equipment tried to bulldoze and trench their way through the ceremonial grounds surrounding the tipi at Sentinel Rock, and water protectors put their bodies in the way of the destruction, forcing work stoppage on two occasions.
Observers stated that Lithium Nevada’s head of security was directing the Sheriff’s deputies where to go and what to do during the raid.
Lithium Nevada’s ownership and control of Thacker Pass only exists because of the flawed permitting and questionable administrative approvals issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM officials have refused to acknowledge that Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred site to regional Tribal Nations, and have continued to downplay and question the significance of the double massacre through two years of court battles.
Three tribes — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and Burns Paiute Tribe — remain locked in litigation with the Federal Government for permitting the mine. The tribes filed their latest response to the BLM’s Motion to Dismiss on Monday. BLM is part of the Department of the Interior which is led by Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).
On Wednesday, at least five Sheriff’s vehicles, several Lithium Nevada worker vehicles, and two security trucks arrived at the original tipi site that contained the ceremonial fire, immediately adjacent to Pole Creek Road. One camper was arrested without warning, and others were issued with trespass warnings and allowed to leave the area. Once the main camp was secured, law enforcement then moved up to the tipi site at Sentinel Rock, a mile away.
There is a proper way to take down a tipi and ceremonial camp, and then there is the way Humboldt County Sheriffs proceeded on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation. Tipis were knocked down, tipi poles were snapped, and ceremonial objects and instruments were rummaged through, mishandled, and impounded. Empty tents were approached and secured in classic SWAT-raid fashion. One car was towed.
As is often the case when lost profits lead to government assaults on peaceful water protectors, Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Humboldt County Sheriffs have begun to claim that the raid was done for the safety of the camp members and for public health.
Josephine Dick (Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone), who is a descendent of Ox Sam and one of the matriarchs of Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun, made the following statement in response to the raid:
“As Vice Chair of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada, and as a Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Nation elder and member, I am requesting the immediate access to and release of my ceremonial instruments and objects, including my Eagle Feathers and staff which have held the prayers of my ancestors and the Ox Sam camp since the beginning. There was also a ceremonial hand drum and medicines such as cedar and tobacco, which are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
In addition, my understanding is that Humboldt County Sherriffs along with Lithium Nevada security desecrated two ceremonial tipi lodges, which include canvasses, poles, and ropes. The Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun has been conducting prayers and ceremony in these tipis which are also protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. When our ceremonial belongings are brought together around the sacred fire, this is our church. Our Native American church is a sacred ceremony. I am demanding the immediate access to our prayer site at Peehee Mu’huh and the return of our confiscated ceremonial objects.
The desecration that Humboldt County Sherriffs and Lithium Nevada conducted by knocking the tipis down and rummaging through sacred objects is equivalent to taking a bible, breaking The Cross, knocking down a cathedral, disrespecting the sacrament, and denying deacons and pastors access to their places of worship, in direct violation of my American Indian Religious Freedom rights. This violation of access to our ceremonial church and the ground on which it sits is a violation of Executive Order 13007.
The location of the tipi lodge that was pushed over and destroyed is at the base of Sentinel Rock, a place our Paiute-Shoshone have been praying since time immemorial. After two years of our people explaining that Peehee Mu’huh is sacred, BLM Winnemucca finally acknowledged that Thacker Pass is a Traditional Cultural District, but they are still allowing it to be destroyed.”
Josephine and others plan to make a statement on live stream outside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in Winnemucca on the afternoon of Friday, June 9th around 1pm.
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day, and returned on May 11th to pray over the new sacred fire as Ox Sam camp was established.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
Thacker Pass is located in northern Nevada near the Oregon border, where Lithium Nevada Corporation is in the first phase of building a $2 billion open-pit lithium mine which would be the largest of its kind in North America. The lithium is mainly destined for General Motors Corporation’s electric car batteries, which the corporation laughably claims is “green.” Mine opponents call this greenwashing and have stated that “it’s not green to blow up a mountain.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has granted Lithium Nevada corporation and all other business corporations a whole variety of constitutional “rights” that were never meant for business entities. Without these special so-called corporate “rights,” the mine owners would never have been allowed to construct this mine.
Three Native American tribes filed a new lawsuit against the Federal Government over Lithium Nevada Corporation’s planned Thacker Pass lithium mine on February 16, 2023, the latest legal move in the two-and-a-half-year struggle over mining, greenwashing, and sacred land in northern Nevada.
The Tribes notified the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 19th that they mean to appeal their Motion seeking a Preliminary Injunction which was rejected by a lower court in early March. Four environmental groups which lost their case in January have also appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and are expected to be heard in June.
Ox Sam Camp Update: Land Defenders Arrested, Camp Raided After Blocking Excavator
From www.oxsam.org (follow for more updates).
Read the new press release from 6/8/23 here: https://www.indigenousaction.org/ox-sam-camp-raid-update-one-arrested-as-prayer-tipis-are-bulldozed-and-ceremonial-items-confiscated/
First arrests are underway and camp is being raided after land defenders halted an excavator this morning at Thacker Pass.
OROVADA, NV — This morning, a group of Native American water protectors and allies used their bodies to non-violently block construction of the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, turning back bulldozers and heavy equipment.
The dramatic scene unfolded this morning as workers attempting to dig trenches near Sentinel Rock were turned back by land defenders who ran and put their bodies between heavy equipment and the land.
Now they are being arrested and camp is being raided.
Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider Thacker Pass to be sacred. So when they learned that the area was slated to become the biggest open-pit lithium mine in North America, they filed lawsuits, organized rallies, spoke at regulatory hearings, and organized in the community. But despite all efforts over the last three years, construction of the mine began in March.
That’s what led Native American elders, friends and family, water protectors, and their allies to establish what they call a “prayer camp and ceremonial fire” at Thacker Pass on May 11th, when they setup a tipi at dawn blocking construction of a water pipeline for the mine. A second tipi was erected several days later two miles east, where Lithium Nevada’s construction is defacing Sentinel Rock, one of their most important sacred sites.
Sentinel Rock is integral to many Nevada Tribes’ worldview and ceremony. The area was the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The first was an inter-tribal conflict that gave the area it’s Paiute name: Peehee Mu’huh, or rotten moon. The second was a surprise attack by the US Cavalry on September 12th, 1865, during which the US Army slaughtered dozens. One of the only survivors of the attack was a man named Ox Sam. It is some of Ox Sam’s descendants, the Grandmas, that formed Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokotun (Indigenous Women’s Camp) to protect this sacred land for the unborn, to honor and protect the remains of their ancestors, and to conduct ceremonies. Water protectors have been on-site in prayer for nearly a month.
On Monday, Lithium Nevada Corporation also attempted to breach the space occupied by the water protectors. As workers maneuvered trenching equipment into a valley between the two tipis, water protectors approached the attempted work site and peacefully forced workers and their excavator to back up and leave the area. According to one anonymous land defender, Lithium Nevada’s action was “an attempted show of force to fully do away with our tipi and prayer camp around Sentinel Rock.”
Ranchers, recreationists, and members of the public have been allowed to pass without incident and water protectors maintain friendly relationships with locals. Opposition to the mine is widespread in the area, and despite repeated warnings from the local Sheriff, there have been no arrests. Four people, including Dorece Sam Antonio of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe (an Ox sam descendant) and Max Wilbert of Protect Thacker Pass, have been targeted by court orders barring them from the area. They await a court hearing in Humboldt County Justice Court.
“Lithium Nevada is fencing around the sacred site Sentinel Rock to disrupt our access and yesterday was an escalation to justify removal of our peaceful prayer camps,” said one anonymous water protector at Ox Sam Camp. “Lithium Nevada intends to desecrate and bulldoze the remains of the ancestors here. We are calling out to all water protectors, land defenders, attorneys, human rights experts, and representatives of Tribal Nations to come and stand with us.”
“I’m being threatened with arrest for protecting the graves of my ancestors,” says Dorece Sam Antonio. “My great-great Grandfather Ox Sam was one of the survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre that took place here. His family was killed right here as they ran away from the U.S. Army. They were never buried. They’re still here. And now these bulldozers are tearing up this place.”
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese, a spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th (shutting down construction for a day) and returned on May 11th.
“I’m asking people to come to Peehee Mu’huh,” Barlese said. “We need more prayerful people. I’m here because I have connections to these places. My great-great-great grandfathers fought and shed blood in these lands. We’re defending the sacred. Water is sacred. Without water, there is no life. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t eat money.”
The 1865 Thacker Pass massacre is well documented in historical sources, books, newspapers, and oral histories. Despite the evidence but unsurprisingly, the Federal Government has not protected Thacker Pass or even slowed construction of the mine to allow for consultation to take place with Tribes. In late February, the Federal Government recognized tribal arguments that Thacker Pass is a “Traditional Cultural District” eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. But that didn’t stop construction from commencing.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
People Take the Streets in Occupied Flagstaff to “Honor & Avenge” #MMIWG2ST
Brief report back filed by anonymous.
Occupied Kinłani, May 5, 2023 — Tonight a fierce crew held a vigil and rally then took to the streets of occupied Flagstaff on the national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, and trans relatives. Family members and friends of Arielisa Bryant & Nicole Joe spoke about the injustices they had faced at the hands of law enforcement. Others shared their stories with five families speaking out about their missing or murdered relatives. Speakers connected the desecration of sacred sites as violence against the land being violence against our bodies. After a moment of silence (which was turned into a moment of rage), the group headed through the crowded streets. Intersections were held. A round dance was done. Chants echoed, “No More Stolen Sisters!” “No Justice No Peace, Fuck the Police!” and “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” while relatives of MMIWG2ST spoke. At one point the group stopped near where Vanessa Lee was found (2018) and created a memorial. After the action, the massive red dress banner that was carried through the streets was dropped.
This action came as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland prepares to hold a “Not Invisible Act Commission” hearing in Flagstaff on May 9th at a so far unannounced location with little community outreach. The commission is filled with cops, judges, and politicians who seek to further colonial policing and laws over Indigenous lands. Haaland is also complicit in allowing the Willow Project to proceed which furthers resource colonial violence that is directly linked to #MMIWG2ST.
That study reported a total of 506 known cases in 71 urban cities across the country and 54 cases were identified in Arizona.
Ariel Bryant, found deceased 2019 outside of Kinłani.
Vanessa Lee, found deceased 2018 in the Rio De Flag downtown Kinłani.
Nicole Joe, deceased on christmas day 2017, her ex was ultimately found guilty of second degree murder.
Loreal Tsingine, shot in 2016 five times by Winslow police officer Austin Shipley.
And all those missing and murdered relatives!
As you rest in power, we will rage!
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Indigenous Action Podcast
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- Indigenous Action Podcast Episode 15: 15th Annual No Thanks, No Giving: Indigenous Anarchism
- Indigenous Action Podcast Episode 14: Queering #MMIWG2ST
- Indigenous Action Podcast Episode 13: Unsettling Climate Colonialism
- Ep. 12: Abolishing the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
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