indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Falmouth Institute - December in Las Vegas
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Group's challenge to sacred site policy rejected
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A group of non-Indians who challenged government policy aimed at protecting a sacred site in Utah saw their lawsuit thrown out by a federal appeals court last week.

On March 23, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that non-Indian visitors to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument failed to show how they were harmed by being asked to stay away from the sacred Rainbow Bridge. As a result, they can't sue the National Park Service for allegedly violating their constitutional rights, a three-judge panel concluded.

"They fail to identify any personal injury suffered by them as a consequence of the alleged constitutional error," wrote Judge Robert H. McWilliams for the majority, quoting precedent set by another sacred site case.

But in dismissing the case, the court left open the question of whether workers at the monument can tell nearly 300,000 visitors a year not to approach and walk under the world's largest natural bridge. By determining that the non-Indian plaintiffs lacked standing, McWilliams said "we do not reach the merits" of this policy.

Several tribes, including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, consider Rainbow Bridge to be an important religious site that people should not approach for fear of upsetting the balance of life. The concern was so great that at one time the Navajo Nation sued to stop all access to the bridge. The case was eventually thrown out.

As far back as the 1980s, the monument posted signs asking visitors to respect these religious beliefs. But it wasn't until the mid-1990s, with the adoption of an executive order on sacred sites by then-President Bill Clinton and the signing of an agreement with five area tribes, that the policy became an issue.

The Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative group that represented the non-Indian visitors, contends the policy promotes Indian religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs say the monument allows tribal members to go to the bridge to hold ceremonies but bars everyone else.

In response to last week's ruling, William Perry Pendley, the group's president, said it "ignores both the facts of this case and the law of the Tenth Circuit as to when users of public land may demand compliance with the Constitution's Establishment Clause." He added: "We will file a petition that the entire Tenth Circuit review the panel's ruling.

Mountain States, which formerly employed Interior Secretary Gale Norton, has represented other non-Indians in a variety of cases affecting sacred sites and treaty rights. In one significant case, the group representing climbers who challenged a voluntary ban on climbing at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, which is used by area tribes for Sun Dance ceremonies.

The group's track record is not positive. Almost every case, including the Devils Tower one, has been decided in favor of tribal rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to accept the group's appeals.

Currently, Mountain States is challenging Indian-teacher training programs at several universities. In letters to school officials, Pendley said the programs are illegal in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in an affirmative action case.

Get the Decision:
Natural Arch and Bridge Society v. Alston (March 23, 2004)

Relevant Links:
Rainbow Bridge National Monument - http://www.nps.gov/rabr
Rainbow Bridge Case, Mountain States Legal Foundation - http://www.mountainstateslegal.org/legal_cases.cfm?legalcaseid=53

Related Stories:
Norton aides silent on sacred sites (7/18)
Group bolsters argument with Indian law (06/12)
Zuni Pueblo takes mine fight on the road (7/17)
House clears sale of sacred site to church (6/18)
Input sought into sacred sites (6/5)
Congress considering sacred sites (5/21)
Supreme Court rejects property-rights claim (04/24)
Victory on sacred site case (04/19)
Tribes push action on sacred sites (3/21)
Tribe prevails on sacred site case (3/19)
Norton denies politics played role in drilling (6/7)
Norton hit on exploration of sacred site (6/6)
Myers reversing sacred site opinion (10/25)
Bush nominee has no 'agenda' on Clinton decisions (6/21)
Babbitt denies Calif. gold mine (1/19)
BLM recommends mine rejection (11/10)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Urban Indian organization seeks new center (11/26)
Tentative schedule for White House Tribal Nations Conference (11/26)
White House invites youth to DC for Tribal Nations Conference (11/26)
Leslie Wheelock: Touting nation-to-nation trading and tourism (11/26)
Kevin Abourezk: A mystery of Indian agents with same name (11/26)
Michael Allen: My ancestor took part in Sand Creek Massacre (11/26)
Dean Suagee: EPA's Clean Power Plan affects Indian Country (11/26)
Mark Rogers: Finding something to be thankful for this holiday (11/26)
Former convicted leader of Crow Tribe seeks to clear his name (11/26)
Blackfeet Nation denies political motive in arrest of ex-leader (11/26)
Appeal set in dispute over Navajo Nation presidential hopeful (11/26)
Judge allows NFL team lawsuit against young Native activists (11/26)
NPR: Alaska Natives put traditional spin on Thanksgiving meal (11/26)
Column: Group helps rescue dogs from Pine Ridge Reservation (11/26)
First Nation offers reward for information about missing man (11/26)
First Nations face loss of funds over failure to submit salaries (11/26)
Santa Ysabel Band responds to state lawsuit over online bingo (11/26)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation to meet over liquor sales at casino (11/26)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe could lose casino's liquor license (11/26)
Mashantucket Tribe looks to shift revenues away from gaming (11/26)
Agua Caliente Band selects planner to revamp land near casino (11/26)
Washington gaming panel cuts jobs as non-Indian revenue falls (11/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe to issue IDs at tournament (11/25)
James Giago Davies: Polygamy and shunning in Lakota culture (11/25)
Ben Shelly: There's a lot to be thankful for on the Navajo Nation (11/25)
Cara Cowan Watts: Share the blessings of the Cherokee Nation (11/25)
Joe Sexton: BIA's 'ugly' land policies stuck in the 19th century (11/25)
Jenny Durkan: Cop who killed Native man wasn't charged either (11/25)
Oklahoma claims Citizen Potawatomi Nation must collect taxes (11/25)
Divided court won't extend Seneca Nation immunity to business (11/25)
Vice: North Dakota tribe sees $25M a month in energy royalties (11/25)
Members of Lumbee Tribe proud to carry on tradition of service (11/25)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe donates $10K to local food pantry (11/25)
Slate: Non-Indians were encouraged to move to tribal territory (11/25)
Column: Remains of Dakota man hanged in 1862 kept in home (11/25)
Family members plead guilty to thefts from reservation town (11/25)
Authorities investigate fatal crash involving Bad River officer (11/25)
Editorial: Yakama Nation must disclose plans for clean water (11/25)
Roy Burton: Montana tribe puts its people at risk with gaming (11/25)
Lawmaker asks BIA to wait on Cowlitz Tribe casino acquisition (11/25)
Gaming compacts on agenda for 2015 session in New Mexico (11/25)
Quapaw Tribe faces even more competition for Kansas casino (11/25)
Pala Band wins final approval for online gaming in New Jersey (11/25)
Mashantucket Tribe still thinking about Massachusetts casino (11/25)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.