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The religious importance of Mt. Graham—Dzil 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
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Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.
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