Published August 31, 2016
SACATON, ARIZONA – The Gila River Indian Community Council, the governing body of the Community, has voted unanimously to appeal the decision of a U.S. District Court Judge to allow construction of the proposed South Mountain Freeway adjacent to tribal lands – a project that will desecrate lands held sacred by community members for centuries.
The August 26th Council action authorizes the Community’s legal team to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit a ruling by Judge Diane Humetewa denying a pair of lawsuits meant to halt construction of the freeway. The GRIC legal team also will seek an injunction to stop construction while the appeal is pending.
“The Community will continue to challenge the decision allowing this project to proceed in order to protect our borders, our members, and South Mountain, or Muhadagi Doag.” said Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen R. Lewis. “The mountain represents one of the Community’s most important and sacred natural resources. We cannot stand idle while the proposed freeway destroys the mountain and its trails, shrines, and archaeological sites.”
The Community has argued in legal documents that federal and state agencies have violated federal law by approving a freeway location that would desecrate South Mountain and by failing to give proper consideration to the Community’s unique interests.Attorneys for the Community also have argued that the agencies have ignored their obligations to avoid or mitigate harm to the environment and to the public health, safety, and welfare of its members.