Government Bulldozes Sacred Native American Burial Site

Hereditary Chiefs Slockish and Johnny Jackson and tribal leader Carol Logan are fighting to protect their tribe's sacred lands.

Hereditary Chiefs Slockish and Johnny Jackson and tribal member Carol Logan are fighting to protect their tribe’s sacred lands.

Washington-based tribal leaders plead for settlement but forced back into court 

Published August 4, 2015; Updated August 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today, three Native American tribal members were forced back into court after years of failed negotiations with the government.  Members of the Cascade and Klickitat Tribes of the Yakama Nation, as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, sued the government after it bulldozed sacred burial grounds in 2008, then spent the last two and a half years in dialogue seeking an agreement.

“The government has callously and needlessly destroyed a sacred Native American burial ground, and now it refuses to make things right.” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney in this case. “Although the government left the other side of the highway untouched, it bulldozed the burial site, lost sacred stone markers and removed safe access to the site. All the tribal members ask is that their beliefs and sacred sites be respected.”

For centuries, Native Americans have gathered food and medicine and buried their dead in the forests surrounding Mount Hood. In 2008, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced plans to bulldoze sacred burial grounds, ignoring the pleas of local tribal leaders (watch video).

“Desecrating these burial sites is in clear violation of federal law,” said Goodrich. “In fact, many of our laws regarding the protection of religious beliefs were passed by Congress precisely to protect the rights of Native Americans.”

Hereditary Chiefs Wilber Slockish and Johnny Jackson sued, together with tribal elder Carol Logan, citing federal laws including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Joining Slockish, Jackson, and Logan in their lawsuit are the Cascade Geographic Society and the Mount Hood Sacred Lands Preservation Alliance. They are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, together with Oregon City attorney James Nicita and Michael Patterson of the Seattle-based law firm, Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch.


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