Protecting the San Francisco Peaks

Project: Native Women Leaders and Advocates Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest

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On the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona lies a sacred mountain called the San Francisco Peaks. It is a place of profound spiritual significance to Dine, Hopi, Apache, Havasupai and others, who consider it one of the four sacred mountains of this region of the Southwest. Native people from around the region come to the mountain to harvest medicinal and sacred herbs, as well as to heal and pray.

In 2004, a coalition of Indigenous communities, concerned citizens, agencies, business people, religious and spiritual leaders, skiers, snowboarders, conservationists, students, teachers and taxpayers joined together to prevent Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort from unnecessary expansion and use of 180 million gallons of “reclaimed wastewater” for snowmaking. This coalition became known as Save the Peaks Coalition and they committed to protecting the San Francisco Peaks. Save the Peaks Coalition advocates for respect and the protection of the sacred mountain by holding prayer vigils and gatherings, raising public awareness, as well as supporting lawsuits by tribes and environmental groups to stop the expansion and snowmaking with wastewater.

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Jeneda Benally is a Dine leader and daughter of World champion Hoop dancer and traditional Navajo consultant Jones Benally. Jeneda is one of the core members of Save the Peaks Coalition, along with her two brothers, Klee and Clayson Benally. She serves as spokeswoman for the Navajo Nation Tribal Employee Program and is one of the founders of Indigenous Youth Network. Jeneda Benally is also the bassist in the Alter-Native rock band, Blackfire along with her two brothers. Blackfire lyrics focus on government oppression, relocation of Indigenous people, eco-cide, genocide, domestic violence and human rights. Jeneda is also an accomplished storyteller, actress, model, artist and jewelry maker. Some of the dances she performs include Northern Fancy Shawl, Changing Woman, Feather, Corn Grinding and many more.

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