Contesting Sacred Peaks
Cases: Navajo Nation et al. v. USFS et al., 408 F. Supp. 2d 866, 905 (D.AZ.2006); Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service, 479 F.3d 1024 (2007); Navajo Nation et. al. v. United States Forest Service, 535 F.3d 1058 (2008).
US Forest Service Southwest Region Tonto National Forest, “Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI), Decision Notice and Non-significant Plan Amendment. Payson Ranger District Administrative Site Sale and Facilities (August 09, 2013).
Case Synopsis: Despite the longstanding recognition that Hopi religion demands an ethic, practice, and commitment toward stewardship of lands both on and off the contemporary Hopi Reservation, repeated attempts by Hopi to practice their religion on US National Forest lands have been thwarted by US officials. Two recent examples of conflict between Hopi and federal officials over the use of public lands reveal how the very laws and policies designed to protect Hopi religion may in fact hinder it. One of these conflicts involves the litigation initiated in the last decades of the 20th century by Hopi and other tribal nations in the region to stop the US Forest service from approving artificial snowmaking at a ski resort in the Coconino National Forest, outside Flagstaff, Arizona. Another conflict considers the circumstances surrounding the 2013 sale of lands in the Tonto National Forest near Payson, Arizona, and the efforts by the Hopi tribe to consult with US Forest Service officials about the significance of archaeological sites discovered within the sale lands. This case module originated in the work of Justin Richland.
Image of Nuvatukya’ovi (San Francisco Peaks, lit trans. “Snow-on-top-of-it”) by Brady Smith, courtesy USDA Forest Service
This opinion reverses the decision in Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Serv., 408 F. Supp. 2d 866, 907 (D. Ariz. 2006), which held that the expansion of the Snowball’s facilities did not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
This opinion holds that the expansion of the Snowball does not violate RFRA.
Justin B. Richland, “Paths In the Wilderness?: The Politics and Practices of Hopi Religious Freedom in Hopitutskwa,” Maryland Journal of International Law 31, no. 1 (2017): 217-243.
2001 film that documents efforts on the part of different Indigenous American groups to protect sacred sites
Digital resources related to the “Save the Peaks!” efforts of the 1970s
Website with documentation concerning the 2013 Tonto National Forest land sale