Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 12, 2007

Ninth Circuit hears defense of Sacred Peaks

By Klee Benally
Save the Peaks Coalition

Photo by Larry Smith/Lumbee Nation/American Indian Airwaves (click on photo to enlarge)

Precedent Setting Legal Battle Brings Tribal Dignitaries, Religious Leaders & National Environmental Groups to Pasadena, CA Federal Court

Hundreds March for Protection of Sacred Sites & Human Rights

PASADENA, CA – On Tuesday December 11, 2007, a coalition of Native American Nations and environmental justice groups worked together to defend their precedent-setting victory for religious freedom and public health. The Federal Appeals Court in Pasadena, California, heard oral arguments concerning religious freedom violations, environmental destruction and human health dangers associated with the use of treated sewage effluent for snowmaking in proposed ski area development on Arizona's San Francisco Peaks.
The case was argued before 11 Judges with arguments focused on Forest Service violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and substantial burden placed upon Native American religious freedom. This case is viewed as precedent-setting in establishing an interpretation for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed in 1993.
“We are hopeful that we get a majority of the judges to understand that this an important religious rights issue,” said Jack Trope of DNA Legal Services, representing the Hualapai Tribe, Navajo medicine practitioner Norris Nez and Hopi spiritual practitioner Bill Preston. “This law was enacted by Congress to protect religious freedoms and should apply to Native Americans who have land-based religions and sacred sites in the same way that it applies to everyone else,” Trope said. Read article ...

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