Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 12, 2000 - Issue 03

Mt. Graham
Largest Binocular Observatory Telescope Causes Controversy in Chucala Apache land
by Nate Lewis-
18, U of MN student, and Red Cliff Anishinaabe
and SihaSapa Teton Lakota--
my friend and my brother
The Mount Graham Observatory project, home of the largest Binocular Telescope lens, may end after years of strong opposition from many different organizations. The German scientists who are working with the project are most likely going to be withdrawing by the year 2002. The Southwest Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release January 13th stating the German Scientists believe the conditions are not optimal for the Observatory. Only 212 days out of the the year are observable, throughout the year, due to the relative humidity, within the atmosphere, surrounding the observatory.

Another reason the Mount Graham Project may be cut off is the surrounding ecosystem, or the interaction of plants and animals


Telescope on Mt. Graham

within an area. United States District Judge Carl A. Muecke imposed a logging ban in the proposed building area on Mount Graham in October 1995, but then later lifted the ban because the Mount Graham Project was an academic venture. The Mount is home to eighteen different animal and plant species that are found only within the vicinity of the observatory's site.

One of the main reasons the project has gained a lot of attention in the American Indian Media is the Observatory is built on San Carlos Apache sacred ground. The San Carlos Apache are indigenous to Arizona. Peter Strittmatter, directory of the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, said that an interview with the San Carlos Apache was held, and no one designated that Mount Graham was sacred ground.

“Nobody I have met said it was sacred,” Strittmatter said, even though letters written to the Arizona Wildcat, the University of Arizona’s newspaper, said that the Mountain has always been considered sacred and will always be considered sacred by the San Carlos (Chucala) Apache.

In a letter, dated August 1990 written by Buck Kitcheyan, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache, he said, “The proposed construction of an astronomical observatory on Mt. Graham threatens to destroy Apache ancestral burial grounds, medicine plants used in sacred Apache ceremonies, and other religious sites.”

Wendsler Nosie, SR., leader of the Apaches for cultural preservation, said, in a phone interview, on January 20th, “This site has been there since the beginning of time If our identity, our home, our roots are lost, then we are lost. As a Native people, we can not loose our identity.”

In 1992, more than 200 university students protested the observatory due to the fact that the scientist's presence violates the ecosystem and the sacredness of the mountain to the San Carlos Apache. Only time will tell if the San Carlos Apache Nation will recover their sacred mountain, but until then, they will keep their traditions alive, and make sure the next seven generations know what the truth, about their people, is.

If you would like any more information on the Apaches for Cultural Preservation, you can write to:

Apaches for Cultural Preservation
PO Box 706
San Carlos, AZ 85550

For websites about Mt. Graham and the San Carlos Apache, visit these sites

San Carlos Apache and Mt. Graham

San Carlos Apache Cultural Center

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