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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Gonzales

UN Asked To Help Protect San Francisco Peaks From Reclaimed Waste Water

Sunday, November 28, 2010 By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau Gallup Independent ST. MICHAELS – The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission is urging a U.N. official to submit a letter of allegation against the United States in an effort to get the federal government to uphold its human rights obligation as a U.N. member-state. Having exhausted all domestic remedies through the U.S. judicial process to protect and preserve Dook’o’osliid – one of four sacred mountains that mark the boundary of the Diné aboriginal homeland – the Commission submitted a formal complaint to James Anaya, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, regarding the use of reclaimed wastewater to make artificial snow at a ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks. “We are very confident that the Special Rapporteur will thoroughly investigate the sacred sites violation as it pertains to the desecration of the San Francisco Peaks and fully consider the Diné and other indigenous nations' concerns,” Duane H. Yazzie, Commission chair, said. The Commission first sent a formal complaint to Anaya in May, alleging the United States violated and continues to violate the human rights and fundamental freedoms to preserve and protect the sacred sites, cultural and religious beliefs, and practices of Navajos and other indigenous peoples. The “mountain that always glitters on top” is regarded as a single, living entity. It is also home to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, which will begin making artificial snow this month using reclaimed wastewater, according to the Commission. On June 8, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to weigh in on the matter of Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service, regarding expansion of the Snowbowl and the use of reclaimed water for artificial snow-making, despite the Coconino National Forest Service’s admission that use of reclaimed water would contaminate the natural resources needed to perform ceremonies that continue to be the basis for the cultural identity of a number of Arizona tribes. In a Sept. 2 statement prior to Flagstaff City Council approving the use of reclaimed wastewater for the Snowbowl, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said that each day, Navajos witness the chipping away of their way of life and culture. “Over the past eight years, we’ve seen the U.S. Forest Service, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and now our neighbors in the city of Flagstaff miss opportunities to help us to perpetuate our ancient way of life, for the enjoyment of skiers and the benefit of one developer instead. “It is irrefutable that these decisions hurt indigenous people in ways unseen and unfelt by our neighbors, as Navajos watch that which they’ve always known to be holy, immutable and consecrated, sacrificed for money, with little empathy shown to us or to our beliefs.” On Nov. 5 in Geneva, Harold H. Koh, legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State, said religious rights are upheld by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and made reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27. “It is rare that the U.S. acknowledges international binding treaty to be applicable on indigenous peoples,” Navajo Human Rights Commission Executive Director Leonard Gorman said. To date, however, the United States has not adopted the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In their response to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Nov. 9, the U.S. delegation said the United States is reviewing its position in response to calls from tribes and other indigenous groups and individuals. “We certainly believe that signing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without reservation, would signify that the United States is committed to rectify the abuse suffered by Native peoples,” Yazzie said. [Forwarded by on behalf of Andrea Carmen -] USDA United States Department of Agriculture Office of the Secretary Washington, D.C. 20250 November 3, 2010 Dear Interested Tribal Participant: Recent events and litigation with Tribes make it clear that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Forest Service must review our policies related to sacred sites. Secretary Thomas 1. Vilsack asked the USDA Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), who reports directly to the Secretary of Agriculture, and Forest Service to work closely to consult with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders on sacred site policies. This Administration enthusiastically embraces the spirit of Executive Order (E.O.) 13175 on Tribal Consultation and E.O. 13007 on Tribal Sacred Sites. E.O. 13007 directs the Forest Service and other agencies with statutory or administrative responsibility for the management of Federal lands, to the extent practicable, permitted by law, and not clearly inconsistent with essential agency functions, to: Accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners, and Avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites. E.O. 13007 also directs agencies to "maintain the confidentiality of sacred sites" where appropriate. USDA OTR and the Forest Service want to hear from you regarding how to improve our policies for sacred sites while simultaneously balancing pursuit of the Forest Service's mission to deliver forest goods and services for current and future generations. We need your help to examine the effectiveness of existing laws and regulations as well as recommendations for future policy or guidelines that will ensure a consistent level of sacred site protection that is more acceptable to Tribes. We believe this emerging effort will provide much needed attention to this important matter and will be in furtherance of the spirit of the President's commitments to Tribal leaders. Current Forest Service laws, regulations, and policies impacting sacred sites and consultation can be found on the Forest Service's OTR Web site: P.·oposcd Timclinc November 20 10-February 20 II Conduct in-person and telephonic listening sessions with Tribal governments, spiritual leaders, and culture keepers February -April 2011 Draft repOit and policy recommendations May -August 201 I Consult on report and draft policy recommendations September October 2011 Finalize report and proposed policy recommendations November 2011 Rollout final report and proposed policy recommendations Post-November 2011 Take appropriate steps to adopt and finalize policy changes Throughout this initiative, you can provide comments about our sacred site policies and this effort at or email . Listening Sessions: The first national telephonic listening session is on November 29,2010, to introduce the effort, to ask for your input on the proposed process, and hear your thoughts regarding improvements to our existing policies and recommendations for developing new policy. Following that call, from December through February, in-person and telephonic listening sessions will occur throughout the country. Another national telephonic listening session will be scheduled in mid-to-Iate February 2011 to summarize what we have heard, provide another opportunity for you to make your voice heard, and to set the stage for the next phases including Govemment-to-Government consultation, which should take place from May through August, 2011. After the listening sessions are complete, the USDA OTR/Forest Service team working on this initiative will develop a draft report for the Secretary based on your recommendations for policy changes and draft proposed policy language. You can comment electronically throughout this process using the website and the email address above. Consultation with your Tribal Governments will take place beginning in May 2011. What we hear from you during the listening sessions will shape the consultation process. More information will be forthcoming on the consultation phase in spring 2011. We invite you to join us on November 29,2010, for the first national listening session from 2:00-5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Please dial-in to the Roundtable at (888) 469-1285 and enter passcode 5116673. Please join us on November 29,2010, for our first national listening session on USDA and Forest Service sacred sites policies. We sincerely appreciate your assistance and look forward to hearing from you. Very best regards, HARRIS D. SHERMAN Under Secretary Natural Resources and Environment THOMAS L. TIDWELL Chief U.S. Forest Service

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