“I am who I am. I was a Hopi when I was born. I can never be a white man.” Elliott Selestewa, Jr. said during two Forest Service presentations held Dec. 9 in Tuba City and Kykotsmovi. “You remember who you are. When I die I will be a Hopi.
“I will go home to the mountain as a spirit to bring rain to my people.”
In his view, skiing benefits very few people, and he said that the proposal to expand the ski area did not address the seriousness of the impacts such a project would have on the Hopi people.
“Today there is no rain, no snow. We are taught there is a reason for that. The white man doesn’t understand the way things work. Maybe the Creator is saying it is high time I speak to everyone on the planet,” Selestewa said.
The Forest Service held these two meetings at the request of the Hopi Tribe. Although two meetings had been previously held in Flagstaff, the current meetings were scheduled in order to allow reservation residents a chance to express their opinions.
The Forest Service offered a brief slideshow and presentation outlining proposed changes, which will include the realignment or lengthening of three ski lifts, an additional chairlift and four surface lifts. It also includes the development of 66.5 new acres of skiing terrain, a new guest service facility and additional parking all within the existing Snowbowl boundaries.
Then there is the proposal for artificial snowmaking from reclaimed water — which would see the City of Flagstaff providing 1.5 million gallons of reclaimed water each day of a skiing period extending from November to February. Now the length of the ski season is subject to the whims of Mother Nature.
The reclaimed water will be piped to the Snowbowl via a 14-mile long underground pipeline, requiring three booster pump stations located along the route.
Many wonder what effect this water will have on human and plant life.
Raleigh Puhuyaoma compared the use of wastewater in the making of snow to “pumping dirty water on somebody’s face. The Katsinas and other people are living over there.”
He suggested that anyone supporting the use of wastewater for snow consider drinking that water for three months before declaring it safe for use.
Raymond Maxx, Councilman for Tuba City and Coal Mine on the Navajo Reservation, said that the Navajo people have many shrines on the San Francisco Peaks.
“Just the other day my father was out there gathering herbs,” he said.
Maxx views the recycled water as nothing more than sewer water.
“That’s what it is to us,” he said. “If you allow this to happen, our people will heavy hearts.”
Further, Maxx said, people think of the Forest Service as an entity that must protect and preserve. He was surprised, he said, to find the government agency involved in a clearly recreational matter.
Wayne Taylor, Jr., Hopi Tribal Chairman, said that tribe opposes the expansion and is working to have Nuvatukyaovi (the Peaks) put on the National Register of Historic Places. He promised that the tribe would send a formal written statement outlining its objections to the Forest Service within the next few weeks.
Klee Benally considers the Arizona Snowbowl indicative of “intolerance against our people.”
The lease for skiing, he pointed out, does not make it any less a sacred place.
“New facilities will just compound the desecration that is already occurring,” Benally said.
Adair Klopfenstein, a teacher at Tuba City High School, underscored the significance of the mountain to Native Americans.
“If you knew what the mountain meant to our people, you wouldn’t be thinking of desecrating it,” he said. “I don’t even go on that mountain without proper preparations and guidance.
“If you go through with this project, you will be desecrating and destroying the mountain.”
Lisa Talayumptewa from the Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman’s Office expressed her concern about the long-term effects of wastewater on the archaeological sites on the mountains and on rivers and streams.
“Our elders tell us everything has life,” she said.
She also spoke against the installation of lighting for night skiing and snowplay.
“We all need private time. The beings on the mountain need private time, not noise all day and all night,” she said.
Tim Begay from the Navajo Nation President’s Office reiterated to the Forest Service that the Navajo people hold Dook’o’oosliid (the Peaks) to be sacred, and that in 1998 the Navajo Nation Council passed a resolution opposing the expansion of the Snowbowl. It also called for the removal of the existing ski resort. In that context, he said, he could not see how the Forest Service could be considering the proposal for expansion.
The Forest Serviced has asked the 13 tribes that consider the peaks sacred to consider accommodations in trade, such as the building of a cultural center or the provision of trees thinned during the process for use in kivas or hogans.
“You say you can accommodate our views,” said Talayumptewa. “We don’t need accommodations.”
She and many others share the view that the Arizona Snowbowl should not be allowed to expand — and many insist the existing resort be removed.
Although the formal period for written comments on the plan ended Nov. 15, Gene Waldrip, Peaks District Ranger, said the Forest Service is still accepting comments.
For more information, contact Jim Golden, Coconino National Forest, Supervisor’s Office, 2323 E. Greenlaw Lane, Flagstaff, AZ 86004-1810 or call 928-527-3600. The proposal is posted at www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconion/nepa.
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