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Navajo Nation Files Petition Against U.S. Over Sacred Mountain

San Francisco Peaks
fs.usda.gov
In 2008, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that making snow out of reclaimed waste water, while offensive, posed quote “no substantial burden” on the tribes’ exercise of religion on the San Francisco Peaks.

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Navajo Nation Files Petition Against U.S. Over Sacred Mountain

Navajo Nation Files Petition Against U.S. Over Sacred Mountain

fs.usda.gov

In 2008, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that making snow out of reclaimed waste water, while offensive, posed quote “no substantial burden” on the tribes’ exercise of religion on the San Francisco Peaks.

The Navajo Nation has filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the United States government for allowing a Flagstaff ski resort to make snow out of reclaimed waste water on what they consider a sacred mountain. 

Arizona Snowbowl has been pumping treated effluent up the San Francisco Peaks for the past two winters. In 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the ski resort to make snow out of reclaimed waste water.

With no legal remedies left in the United States, the Navajo Nation filed a petition March 2 with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It has heard more than 12,000 cases and published dozens of reports on human rights abuses in the western hemisphere.

“It’s very important across the world in today’s events that the world community has become more advanced in respecting, protecting and remedying where necessary indigenous human rights,” said Leonard Gorman, the executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

The Navajo people, along with 13 other indigenous nations, believe the San Francisco Peaks to be sacred. Navajo medicine men say making snow out of reclaimed wastewater “threatens, desecrates and exploits” their religious freedom.

The city of Flagstaff recently approved a 20-year agreement with Arizona Snowbowl allowing the ski resort to use its reclaimed wastewater.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.