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Protecting the mountain

Protecting the mountain

Despite losses in court, demonstrators oppose development on Dook’o’oosłííd

Navajo Times | Krista Allen
Klee Benally, a volunteer with Protect the Peaks organization, stares down the head of security for Arizona Snowbowl during a late December “mountain protector” demonstration at the ski resort, which uses 100 percent effluent to make artificial snow, in Flagstaff.


People standing outside Hart Prairie Lodge slandered demonstrators as they marched across grounds held sacred by the Diné, Kiis’áanii, and other tribes.

“Go get a job!” yelled one man as Frankie Tso Jr. led a chant in protest of the Arizona Snowbowl, the ski area.

Directing his fire at the man, a demonstrator calmly replied, “I have a job. This is my job.”

Irritated, the man yelled back, “Who is paying your social assistance?”

The demonstrator said, “You.”

“That’s right! Remember that!” the man exclaimed violently.

Turning a blind eye at those speaking, some in a contemptuous and mocking manner, the protesters continued marching.

“I wish I could turn around,” said A.C. Rockwell, as he observed and guarded the protesters in a protective way. “I wish I could turn around! I will do it, too. Come on!”

Rockwell, who is originally from Aneth, Utah, was one of more than a dozen demonstrators who came to Dook’o’oosłííd in late December to continue to resist development on the sacred mountain.

“So, we’re not just here in vain,” said Klee Benally, a volunteer with Protect the Peaks. “We’re not just here standing by ourselves. I’ve stood up here in demonstrations, in action resistance with only five people … But, the other part of the goal is to carry the message forward.

“Because a lot of people aren’t educated on what’s going on here – or as it’s been stated before – they really just don’t care,” he said.

Skiing operations began here nearly 80 years ago when the U.S. Forest Service permitted the construction of a road and ski lodge on the western slopes of the San Francisco Peaks, according to the alpine ski resort’s history.

The Snowbowl covers approximately 1 percent of the mountain – operating under a 777-acre special use permit issued by the Forest Service – and renewed every 40 years.

Full-scale development, with shops, restaurants and lodges, were first proposed in 1969 but the opposition of several environmental groups and 13 Native American tribes (that use mountain for ceremonies and religious activities) delayed further construction.

The opponents, however, lost the case and Snowbowl was allowed to expand. Since then, the tribes have lost all five lawsuits they have filed.

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