Sacred Hypocrisy

Navajos say making Snowbowl snow from reclaimed water is "genocide." Please!

Their respective tribal governments are holding secret negotiations with California Edison to keep both the power plant and the Black Mesa mine open for decades to come.

Shirley and Taylor can't have it both ways.

They can't claim that the fate of their culture rests on stopping the expansion of the Snowbowl when at the same time they are willing to sacrifice their own tribal lands in exchange for cold, hard cash.

Most skiers at the Snowbowl (above) hail from the 
Phoenix area.  Expansion of the facility is long overdue.
David Smith
Most skiers at the Snowbowl (above) hail from the Phoenix area. Expansion of the facility is long overdue.

Environmental groups have long exploited the Native American tradition of sacred places to fight their battles to preserve wilderness areas. This was vividly displayed in the pitched struggle to build telescopes on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona.

And it has become a rallying cry in this latest skirmish over the San Francisco Peaks. It's always the soulful Native American who steps forward as the high priest of sacred geography. In the background lurks the environmentalist, equipped with charts and data on tree-trunk diameters and spotted-owl nesting sites.

Together, they wield a powerful sword that is needed to fight the corporations and politicians willing to destroy practically every inch of this land for profit.

But the idea is offensive to me that places like the San Francisco Peaks can be hallowed only to Native Americans. That somehow we interlopers will never understand the sacredness of place.

Every year my parents travel from northern Virginia to the San Francisco Peaks to say their prayers.

They go to the mountain alone.

I often wonder what tremors must ripple through their hearts on these annual pilgrimages.

My father's a retired sailor and says little about certain things. And my mother has been by his side for nearly 51 years, since the day they were married a week after my dad graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1954.

They carry their pain in stoic silence. Their generation was born in the Depression, grew up during World War II, saw their heroes of the 1960s slain by assassins and their academy classmates butchered in rice paddies.

Now in their 70s, they go each Sunday to the Methodist church down the street in Fairfax, Virginia. It's a way to bide time before they come back once again to the San Francisco Peaks to be with their dead son, the youngest and brightest of five children.

I know they must listen for him in his eternal home tucked deep into the stands of ponderosas and aspens. I imagine that now and again a timeless voice emerges from Arizona's volcanic crown and drifts across the heavens and slips into their souls.

I pray they feel a moment of peace and joy.

My brother, Don, lived on the San Francisco Peaks in the last years of his life. He knew his time was short, and when he passed away at age 33, his ashes were taken to the top of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona.

Nine years have passed since that mournful November day, and, by now, his dust has seeped deep into the porous rocks at the heart of the Peaks.

Like my parents, I too go to the Peaks at least once each year. It's become a family ritual to take my two sons to enjoy the snowy wonderland and savor our fleeting time together.

They snowboard.

I ski.

I've watched the kids grow up on the mountain. From the first time they tumbled down the bunny hill as youngsters, to today, as they carve down black diamond runs, gracefully shifting their weight from heel to toe and back again, broad smiles stretched across their fearless faces.

As I rode the lift last week with my 15-year-old, we laughed and joked while watching a steady stream of ballsy athletes grinding their boards across rails and catapulting over jumps carved into the terrain park below our dangling feet.

We were thankful for a moment when we were moving slowly above the trees with a magical landscape before our eyes. We talked about the beauty of the mountain and marveled how far we could see.

As we approached the top of Agassiz, I grew silent, hoping to hear Don's spirit whispering from above the tree line.

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Check your facts. You're not allowed to consume the snow, according to ADEQ, and many, many studies have come out that expose the danger of the snow made from sewage effluent. The snow was yellow last year, and SB saying that it's due to rust in the pipes is rubbish. New pipes meant to carry water don't oxidize that quickly. This article is more or less you trying to rationalize your desire to support SB.

Defend human rights, protect sacred sites. and

ExpertShot topcommenter

John, you might want to revisit this issue - when you wrote this article, the science was non-existent on the development of antibiotic resistant organisms from the use of treated wastewater.  Now, there is quite a bit of research which shows that the possibility of such dangerous organisms being created in ecosystems which are treated with wastewater is very good.  You're a good reporter John, but sometimes, as the science evolves, we have to evolve also.


*reclaimed* sewage effluent, which is only tested for a minute amount of possible contaminants, contaminants from residents, industry, and others.

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