Armed agents desecrate sacred fire on San Francisco Peaks

Forest Service desecrates sacred fire on San Francisco Peaks, after similar abuse of Winnemem Wintu ceremony in California

By Brenda Norrell

Photo: Chief Arvol Looking Horse present as Forest Service desecrates sacred fire on San Francisco Peaks. Photo by Libby Williams

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Armed agents from the Coconino Country Forest Service and Coconino County Sheriffs enforced desecration of the sacred fire of Native Americans holding a ceremony for the San Francisco Peaks on Friday.

Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, was among the medicine people present when the sacred fire was desecrated.

Speaking on the importance of the sacred fire, Native medicine people gathered said, "We have been placed on our lands as Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People with sacred instructions and responsibilities placed within us by the Creator to follow the Laws of the Creator." 

Although the ceremony had received a permit, apparently the head of Coconino Forest Department changed his mind. Law enforcement agents arrived armed with a K-9 unit and one person was issued a citation.

The action of the Forest Service in Arizona was similar to the abuse and trickery of Forest Service agents just days before, during a ceremony of the Winnemem Wintu in California. A permit issued for a river closure to protect the sacred Coming of Age ceremony, was used against the Winnemem Wintu, who were cited. (Photo left: Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk is cited by Forest Service.)

"Acting Regional Forester Becki Heath told us before the ceremony that law enforcement wouldn't use our river closure against us. Instead, our chief received two citations for holding ceremony like we always have," Winnemem Wintu said in a statement today.  More at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2012/07/forest-service-issues-citations-to.html )   

On San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, U.S. Forest Service officials threatened Indigenous spiritual leaders, medicine people, and elders with legal implications if they kept alive the sacred fire at a ceremony on San Francisco Peaks, sacred to 13 area Native American Nations, including Navajos, Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi and Pueblos.

Native Americans gathered issued a statement about the desecration. The desecration violated Native American religious freedom laws.

“Although a voluntary closure order for the Traditional Cultural Gathering was previously granted by Coconino Forest Supervisor M. Earl Stewart, Stewart apparently changed his position and issued the threat as the four day ceremony was initiated on July 4, 2012."

“When confronted by Forest Service officials, members of the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council, the group hosting the Traditional Cultural Gathering, invited Forest Service officials to sit with elders to resolve the Forest Service’s concerns with the ceremonial fire. Coconino Forest Supervisor Stewart stated in a letter dated July 5, 2012, ‘non-compliance will result in citations for having a fire during restrictions and/or camping in a closure area without a special use permit.’”

Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council had worked to inform the Coconino National Forest of this ceremony since December 2011 and again met with Coconino Tribal Relations on February 27 and June 21 of 2012 to answer questions and to make sure the Forest Service was fully aware of the Council’s activities.

On May 17, 2012, the Forest Service was notified that a sacred fire was central to the Traditional Cultural Gathering.

More photos at: http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

Native Americans and medicine people issued this formal statement about the ceremony:

“The Creator gave the Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People Laws to follow and responsibilities to care for all Creation. These instructions have been passed down from generation to generation from the beginning of Creation. It is the Law that no one can overpower the Creator’s Law, you are a part of Creation, thus if you break the Law, you are destroying yourself.

“The Creator gave the Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People Laws to follow and responsibilities to care for all Creation. These instructions have been passed down from generation to generation from the beginning of Creation. It is the Law that no one can overpower the Creator’s Law, you are a part of Creation, thus if you break the Law, you are destroying yourself. 

We speak on behalf of all Creation: the four legged/those that swim/those that crawl/those that fly/those that burrow in the Earth/the plant and tree Nations. This one life system includes the elements of fire, water, earth and air, the living environment of “Mother Earth”.


The Sanctity of the Creator’s Law has been broken. The balance of life has been disrupted. You come into life as a sacred being. If you abuse the sacredness of your life then you affect all Creation. The future of all life is now in jeopardy.

We have now reached the crossroads. As Aboriginal Indigenous People we ask you to work with us to save the future of all Creation.”


The Holy/Sacred Ceremonial Fire unites us as Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People on our threatened Holy/Sacred Mountain (San Francisco Peaks) on July 4-7th 2012.

The holy/sacred ceremonial fire renews our connection to all Creation, it carries our prayers and represents all life. When it pertains to our ceremony or ceremonial fire it is imperative for the Forest Service to acknowledge that the Indigenous Peoples are the sole authority on our culture and way of life and any decisions that do not attain our free, prior and informed consent are not consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A great urgency is in our midst with the wind, water and fire showing it’s power because of the imbalance from over management. As these fires burn, throughout the west and around the world, they are forever disrupting and destroying not only homes of the two-legged, but also many lives and homes of the animal, plant and tree Nations.

After much time spent on educating the Forest Service on the importance of our role as the Original Caretakers of this Land. We feel great sadness for the Forest Service as they have given the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council no choice. The choice to violate our own cultural protocols or face legal implications is not consistent with creating a working relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The holy/sacred fire will continue. We refuse to participate in this atrocity; it is up to the Forest Service to determine whether they will disrupt these prayers. We will have no part in this act! Our prayers are to protect the sanctity of the threatened sacred/holy mountain including forgiving those that continue to desecrate life. We are spiritual people and we maintain peace through our ceremonies.

We are united under the Creator’s Law. We are from various Indigenous Nations and are spiritually related. We have been placed on our lands as Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People with sacred instructions and responsibilities placed within us by the Creator to follow the Laws of the Creator. Federal agencies use terms like federally recognized and federally unrecognized. We see this as your way of dividing the Indigenous Peoples. We are united under the Creator’s Law, as United Indigenous Nations, to protect and extend Life for all future generations.


REPRESENTATIVES OF THE COUNCIL

Chief, Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Spiritual Leader
Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations
Bobby C. Billie
Clan Leader and Spiritual Leader
Council of the Original Miccosukee
Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People

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Contact to repost this article in full: 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

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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.