In 1629, a group of Franciscans stationed at the village of Oraibi named the giant mountains they saw San Francisco, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi . Opinions over the use of the peaks by Native tribes and this new influx of culture are as far apart as the names they call the mountain itself. At over a mile high, the San Francisco Mountains tower over the predominantly Anglo town of Flagstaff to the south. The mountain range was actually formed by a volcano that is now inactive. These peaks have long been considered sacred ground by thirteen Native American tribes, including the Hopi and the Navajo. As the importance of the use of the peaks has intensified among both recreationally and economically for the city of Flagstaff so too has the controversy generated more heat among Native tribes. Opening in 1937, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the oldest running ski resorts in the country. Since that time the Snow Bowl has created adversity everywhere from environmentalists to Native Americans. The only way to understand the legitimacy of these Native American claims is to take a closer look at how the peaks relate to their religion and way of life. This will be done through the two most dominant voices of the battle, the Navajo and Hopi. This comprehension is necessary in order to fully understand the hardships and tribulations many spiritual Natives have endured in trying to protect their sacred land, even when the law is seemingly on their side.
Evidence produced by archeologists suggests that the Hopi have inhabited their sacred mountain for well over a thousand years. These mountains hold sacred spirits to the Hopi called kachinas. These spirits are essential in the Hopi religion serving as a medium between the Hopi and their deity. These kachinas are responsible for the bringing of moisture to the mountains, accounting for the rain and snow that resides there. The Hopi have stated that desecrating the mountain by blowing sewage water to create more snow would disrupt the sacred spirits and put everything out of balance. Hopi beliefs in the peaks have also been well represented and preserved through the use of song . Here is a rough translation of one;
They are preparing themselves (for a journey)
Over there at the snow-capped mountains.
From there, they are putting on their endowments of rain power
To come here.
With their religion rooted in the peaks it is no wonder the Hopi have continually fought for the sacred grounds. The pressing issue at hand is how companies have continually been able to expand construction of the Snow Bowl in lieu of backlash from Native tribes who have legitimate gripes, and are supposed to be supported in their religious endeavors by the government.
The Navajo are another group that has been crucial in the Native fight against intrusion on the peaks. The San Francisco Mountains play an essential role in the creation story of the Navajo called the Diné Bahaneʼ. The peaks which are...