indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala student makes name as young writer (4/23)
Mark Trahant: Budget predictions at the Indian Health Service (4/23)
Zoltán Grossman: Cowboy Indian Alliance rides in Washington (4/23)
Steve Russell: Indians often seen an obstacle to government (4/23)
Malcolm Benally: Some Navajo leaders clueless on mascots (4/23)
Jacoby Ellsbury makes strong debut with New York Yankees (4/23)
Washington team owner says he 'understands' Indian issues (4/23)
Gathering of Nations ready for annual powwow and pageant (4/23)
Supreme Court allows ban on affirmative action in Michigan (4/23)
Native Sun News: Sisseton Wahpeton fighter gets big chance (4/22)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge man behind Revolution Couture (4/22)
CDC reports show high death rates among Native Americans (4/22)
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell delivers keynote at tribal summit (4/22)
DOI Deputy Secretary Mike Connor hosts Earth Day webchat (4/22)
Winona LaDuke: Tribes won't see benefits from Keystone XL (4/22)
Photos: Cowboy Indian Alliance rides to National Mall in DC (4/22)
Alray Nelson: Bring marriage equality to the Navajo Nation (4/22)
Steven Newcomb: UNDRIP falls into domination framework (4/22)
DaShanne Stokes: 'Indian' mascots carry harmful impacts (4/22)
Wendell George: Little Joe connects with his tribal heritage (4/22)
Peter Twitchell: Stop passing the buck on our Yup'ik culture (4/22)
Murray Sinclair: Effects of residential school era will linger (4/22)
Wyoming tribes share per cap from $157M trust settlement (4/22)
Navajo Nation Council reconsiders higher tax on junk foods (4/22)
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle set to retire after 17 years (4/22)
Opinion: Maps represent destruction of Native people in US (4/22)
Oneida Nation to host PGA championship at resort in 2016 (4/22)
Blog: Climate change impacts Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations (4/22)
Supreme Court holding onto ruling in Bay Mills casino case (4/22)
Paskenta Band says leadership issues won't affect casino (4/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe on track with casino hotel (4/22)
Deadline approaches for commercial casinos in New York (4/22)
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline foes headed to DC (4/21)
Native Sun News: Shoni Schimmel is a role model for youth (4/21)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on energy (4/21)
Supreme Court takes no action on Indian tobacco petition (4/21)
Linda Capps: Citizen Potawatomi Nation is a good neighbor (4/21)
Bryan Brewer: Supreme Court discriminates against tribes (4/21)
Michell Hicks: Eastern Cherokees return to gardening roots (4/21)
Lisa Charleyboy: Still looking for love under the Indian Act (4/21)
Kiara Imani Williams: Tribal ID dismissed in nation's capital (4/21)
Henry Louis Gates: The myth of African and Indian ancestry (4/21)
DOI looks to spend $2.55M on Makah Nation land buy-back (4/21)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe faces a test of jurisdiction under VAWA (4/21)
State Department needs more time to review Keystone XL (4/21)
Fracking trucks take water from North Dakota reservation (4/21)
Lens Blog: An Indian from India meets Indians from the US (4/21)
Alaska Legislature passes Native language recognition bill (4/21)
Alaska Natives seek return of property for museum at Yale (4/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | 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.