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Solidarity with the San Carlos Apache Regarding Mt. Graham

Action of Immediate Witness

The University of Arizona, in conjunction with Ohio State University, the Max Planck Institute of Germany, and the Arcetri Observatory of Florence, Italy, is building the third of a series of telescopes on the summit of Mt. Graham, Arizona, as a foundation for an advanced observatory. On April 15, 1997, the Apache Survival Coalition's attorney asked the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to order an injunction to stop construction of telescopes until the Forest Service conducts a study, in consultation with the tribe, on the cultural and religious significance of the telescope site, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act. Our support of this appeal is based on the following:

The religious importance of Mt. GrahamDzil Nchaa Si An (dzeel nchaa see aan), "Big Seated Mountain," is the Apache name for Mt. Graham in southeastern Arizona. It is the most sacred ground of the San Carlos Apache people, a federally recognized tribe. Violation of the mountain is devastating to the San Carlos Apache people. The mountain is an integral part of their spirituality and healing arts, involving the special herbs, waters, and life of the mountain, all of which are necessary for the performance of certain traditional Apache ceremonies. Also, Mt. Graham is the site of a substantial number of Apache burials. In nine years, there has been no consultation between University of Arizona officials and traditional Apache leaders regarding Mt. Graham, although the San Carlos Apache Council has signed eight telescope opposition declarations and cultural officials from the White Mountain, Mescalero, and Jicarilla Apaches have also signed strenuous protests. As repeatedly stated by the San Carlos Tribal Council, "Any modification of the present form of this mountain constitutes a display of profound disrespect for a cherished feature of our original homeland as well as a serious violation of our traditional religious beliefs."

The ecological importance of Mt. Graham—This is a unique ecosystem, part of the Madrean Archipelago of twelve "sky" islands. Like an island rising from the ocean, Dzil Nchaa Si An rises in a sea of desert grassland. In addition, it contains more life zones than any other single mountain in North America, sustaining over 20 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world and the southernmost spruce/fir forest. The roads and clear-cuts for the observatory will destroy 27% of the best habitat of the endangered Mt. Graham Red Squirrel, once thought to be extinct. The massive human disturbance from astronomy and road construction, maintenance, and user traffic will further degrade the sustainability of the mountain's various ecosystems.

The poor quality of the site for telescope work—The long overdue scientific studies of the University of Arizona, not completed until five years after they had acquired their 1988 environmental exemption from Congress, showed that they chose a site which they described as having "unacceptable" or "unusable" visibility due to its flat topography and dense forestation. These 1993 studies showed that the University of Arizona chose the poorest of all five sites on Mt. Graham.

The poor quality of the University of Arizona's tactics in this matter—Eleven professors and 34 graduate students at the University of Arizona have passed a resolution decrying their own University's ethics in this matter. All other North American universities (over 24), except for Ohio State University, have abandoned this project because superior science could be conducted elsewhere, or because of the project's ethical and human rights problems. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to lobby Congress to evade United States cultural, religious, and environmental laws.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 1997 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon the University of Arizona, Ohio State University, the Max Planck Institute of Germany and the Arcetri Observatory of Italy, to desist from further construction on Mt. Graham unless and until ethical issues are resolved;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 1997 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon the Executive Staff and the Board of Trustees of the Association to join with the Apache in requesting the cessation of new telescope construction on Mt. Graham and the removal of all existing telescopes from Mt. Graham, and in opposing any new or proposed construction or development to take place on Mt. Graham; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the 1997 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon individual Unitarian Universalists to educate themselves about the issues facing their own local First Nations and Native American neighbors, since sacred sites needing protection exist everywhere.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

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