Navajo Klee Benally locks down to Snowbowl equipment

Navajo Klee Benally chained himself to heavy equipment to protect sacred San Francisco Peaks

By Brenda Norrell

Update: Protect the Peaks police liaison files charges against arresting officer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Navajo Klee Benally chained himself to heavy equipment on Snowbowl Road on Saturday, Aug. 13, as an excavator continued destroying sacred San Francisco Peaks during a morning prayer gathering of Native Americans and supporters.

The destruction is part of the development of Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, which is tearing into the earth and clearcutting the forest for a pipeline to carry sewage water for snowmaking on the sacred mountains.

Peaks police liaison Rudy Preston was arrested and filed charges and a complaint against the officers.

While Klee Benally was chained to an excavator, he said, "Here we draw the line, here we say no more!"

"You are criminals. You allow the desecration of our sacred. You threaten our cultural survival.

"What part of sacred don’t you understand," Benally said. His words were repeated by supporters gathered at the site as police arrived and a forest service officer emerged from the woods who had been videotaping them.

Benally, chained to the excavator, said, "This is not a game. This is not for show. This is not for media. This is to stop this desecration from happening."

"What is at stake is our prayers, our ways of life, our cultural survival, this is why this has to stop. This is why we say, 'No desecration for recreation, protect the peaks!'"

Benally has written an account of why he chained himself to the Snowbowl excavator:

http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/08/klee-benally-direct-action-to-protect.html 

Those words were resounded by other Native Americans gathered for prayer.

Flagstaff author Mary Sojourner and Preston were arrested at the scene. Preston was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of trespassing. Sojourner was charged late on Saturday. Both were bailed out of Coconino County Jail. Benally was cited for disorderly conduct and released.

Preston wrote an article about his arrest. He has now pressed charges.

Preston writes, "The Sheriff's officer then grabbed me by my arms and attempted to drag my limp body, but decided not to drag me because of the outcry from the people watching. After he put me down, I was able to speak to the Forest Service Officer (name not known) and explained I was willing to forget the whole thing if Dale would do likewise, otherwise I insisted on pressing charges against Dale for driving his car at me. My dog was at home alone and I had no intentions of going to jail that day.
Officer O'Ferrell said, 'you can press charges when you get out of jail.'" Read his statement at: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/08/rudy-preston-coconino-county-sheriff-im.html

In the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff on Sunday after Benally chained himself to the excavator, the editors make pitiful excuses for their censorship of the week of protests and coverage of the 19 arrests. Read more in the article, "Arizona Daily Sun's pitiful explanation for censorship," and the ongoing censorship at the newspaper at: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/08/arizona-daily-suns-pitiful-explanation.html

Now, protests are planned nationwide at US Forest Service offices to protest the Forest Service permits for destruction of the forest and land on San Francisco Peaks: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/08/nationwide-forest-service-protests-for.html

Klee Benally is internationally know as the lead singer of the Navajo family band Blackfire and longtime organizer of efforts to save San Francisco Peaks from destruction.

Mary Sojourner is the author of two novels, Sisters of the Dream and Going Through Ghosts; the short story collection, Delicate; essay collection, Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest; memoirs, Solace: rituals of loss and desire andShe Bets Her Life.

In Flagstaff, Russell Crawford said the Protect the Peaks movement resonates around the world.

"There are lots of folks in Flagstaff right now supporting the efforts to stop destruction and desecration on the Holy San Francisco Peaks. Some are camping in the woods, bearing witness to the pipeline excavation, and some are in town providing legal and other forms of support. Additionally, there are thousands of people from around the world who are also acting in solidarity with those in Flagstaff. Last but not least, there are also all those who are struggling to protect sacred sites and the environment, who are directly connected to those in northern Arizona. From Australia to the Arctic, Appalachia to the fields of Ireland, liberated Zapatista territories to occupied O'odham lands, Big Mountain to Yucca Mountain, and beyond," Crawford said.

Before Saturday's action, 17 people were arrested in the past eight days, as Navajo, Hualapai, Hopi, O'odham and other Native Americans have been protesting the destruction of the sacred mountains.

Tourists are being asked to boycott the Arizona Snowbowl, which is owned by Eric Borowsky of Scottsdale.

During a week of action, Protect the Peaks protested outside the US Forest Service, Flagstaff City Hall and High Desert Investment Company. High Desert Investment Company, responsible for the clearcutting San Francisco Peaks, is owned by G Allen Ribelin, who also owns High Investment Logging in Flagstaff.
 
The Arizona Snowbowl plans to make snow for tourists on the sacred mountain using recycled waste water. Thirteen Native American Indian Nations hold the mountains sacred. Medicine men gather healing plants and conduct ceremonies on the mountains.

Already, there is clearcutting of the old growth forests for the pipeline and tourist developments. Native American youths have been willing to be arrested to halt the destruction.

More information:

http://www.indigenousaction.org

http://www.truesnow.org

Also see:

Media Watch: Newspaper cheerleads for rape of Mother Earth:

http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/08/media-watch-newspaper-cheerleads-for.html 

For permission to reprint article and photos, please contact: brendanorrell@gmail.com

About Brenda Norrell

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 32 years. She is publisher of Censored News, focusing on Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the US border. Censored News was created after Norrell was censored, then terminated, by Indian Country Today after serving as a longtime staff reporter. Now censored by the mainstream media, she previously was a staff reporter at numerous American Indian newspapers and a stringer for AP, USA Today and others. She lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, and then traveled with the Zapatistas. She covered the climate summits in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.

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About Brenda Norrell

Personal Website
http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com/

Biography

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 32 years. She is publisher of Censored News, focusing on Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the US border. Censored News was created after Norrell was censored, then terminated, by Indian Country Today after serving as a longtime staff reporter. Now censored by the mainstream media, she previously was a staff reporter at numerous American Indian newspapers and a stringer for AP, USA Today and others. She lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, and then traveled with the Zapatistas. She covered the climate summits in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.