Native Americans Need Prayer Permits on Mt. Graham

August 15, 1998

Source: The Arizona Republic

On August 15, 1998, The Arizona Republic published an article about the new University of Arizona policy to require prayer permits of Native Americans if they want to cross near the university's $200 million telescopes on Mt. Graham, a 10,700 foot peak which is a part of the Pinaleno Mountains. The San Carlos Apaches and other native peoples hold the Pinaleno Mountains of southeast Arizona as sacred. Many Native Americans feel the permits are an attack on their religious freedom and some have planned unauthorized ascents of Mt. Graham in protest. Michael Cusanovich, University of Arizona vice president for research and graduate studies, defends the permit policy: "We made a policy to make it clear to the public...that if they want to come in, we encourage that, but that we would make permits available to them....It's not meant to be restrictive. It's meant to be inclusive." Plagued by what Cusanovich calls "monkeywrenching" of construction efforts by environmentalists, the telescope project on Mt. Graham was only allowed because of special exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. Wendsler Noise, a noted opponent to the telescope project and a San Carlos Apache, was arrested for trespassing on Mt. Graham while praying, but was later acquitted. He stated: "I don't think I should have a permit. We are the original inhabitants of this land. We are not going to vandalize their telescopes. They know that for all these (hundreds) of years, the Apaches have gone there to pray. I can't see why we need permits now."