indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Comanche Nation battles Army over sacred site
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Filed Under: Environment | Law

A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Army from starting a construction project at Fort Sill in Oklahoma out of concern for the religious rights of the Comanche Nation.

The tribe says it wasn't consulted about the development of a training service center near the foot of Medicine Bluffs, a sacred site at Fort Sill. Work was scheduled to begin on Monday until Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti issued a temporary restraining order.

"The court finds that, given the nature of the interests which plaintiffs in this case seek to protect, irreparable harm will result if the construction project commences," DeGiusti wrote in the five-page order.

The decision only blocks work until September 1 so the tribe still has to plead its case for a permanent injunction. Briefs from both sides of the dispute are due today.

Medicine Bluffs is one of the more prominent landmarks within Fort Sill, which was built during the Indian wars of the late 1800s. The site a place of immense healing and spiritual medicine for the Comanche people.

"As a Comanche man, Medicine Bluffs is the spiritual center of my religious beliefs and the heart of the current Comanche Nation," Jimmy Arterberry, a tribal member, said in a court declaration. "The Medicine Bluffs site is an extremely important sacred place to me as a Comanche man."

The Army plans to build a warehouse for the training service center at a place where Arterberry goes to pray and hold ceremonies. He believes any development would stop him from viewing Medicine Bluffs and practicing his religion.

In an August 2006 environmental assessment, the Army says it contacted nine tribes, including the Comanche Nation, about development but didn't receive a response. "The construction will have no adverse effect on Native American traditional, cultural, or religious sites," Fort Sill said in a statement to KSWO-TV last month.

The tribe's briefs cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Congress wrote after a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving practitioners of the Native American Church. The law bars a federal agency from taking actions that "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless the agency can cite a "compelling governmental interest."

A recent case involving RFRA shows that meeting the test can be difficult for tribal practitioners. In an August 8 decision, a full panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the presence of artificial snow at a sacred site in Arizona doesn't violate RFRA because tribal members aren't prevented from going to the San Francisco Peaks for ceremonies and other activities.

According to the court's 8-3 ruling, the artificial snow only impacts the tribes' "feelings" about their religion and the "fervor" in which tribal members practice their religion.

In court briefs, attorneys for the Comanche Nation acknowledged the ruling in Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service. But they said the Fort Sill case is different because construction of the warehouse would physically impair tribal members from practicing their religion.

The tribe also notes that the Army could build the warehouse elsewhere in the 94,000-acre Fort Sill without affecting Medicine Bluffs, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Fort Sill itself is a National Historic Landmark.

Temporary Restraining Order:
Comanche Nation v. US (August 18, 2008)

9th Circuit Decision:
Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service (August 8, 2008)

Related Stories:
Appeals court reverses course on sacred site (8/12)



Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Study confirms high rate of violence against Native women and men (5/5)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules meeting and hearing (5/5)
Native Sun News: Group aims to bring positive change to Rapid City (5/5)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud Sioux Tribe updates education code (5/5)
Mark Trahant: Native candidates being left behind in big money race (5/5)
Brandon Ecoffey: Governor's comments harken back to painful era (5/5)
Ivan Star Comes Out: White domination in America is under threat (5/5)
Jennifer Denetdale: Navajo Nation panel examines gender violence (5/5)
Leader of Navajo Nation Council criticizes coverage of girl's death (5/5)
Sen. Rounds to seek system-wide review of Indian Health Service (5/5)
Elouise Cobell being considered for Presidential Medal of Freedom (5/5)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band to prosecute non-Indians under VAWA (5/5)
Gathering of Nations must find new venue after end of agreement (5/5)
Brothers awarded $450K for anti-Indian beating at New Mexico bar (5/5)
Eastern Shoshone Tribe pays $1.7M to acquire land on reservation (5/5)
Nambe Pueblo pays off remaining funds owed to gaming developer (5/5)
States with less Indian gaming presence rank higher for addictions (5/5)
Cowlitz Tribe hosts forums on casino construction and related work (5/5)
Editorial: New commercial casino won't hurt St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (5/5)
Navajo Nation reeling after arrest made in 11-year-old girl's death (5/4)
Bureau of Indian Affairs adds names to memorial for fallen officers (5/4)
Bureau of Indian Affairs updates list of federally recognized tribes (5/4)
Bureau of Indian Affairs finalizes rule for burial assistance program (5/4)
National Indian Gaming Commission selects first vice chair in years (5/4)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe assists vets with housing (5/4)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe pushed to hold election (5/4)
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune: Tribes fight coal mine in Texas (5/4)
Jim Kent: Governor of South Dakota blissfully ignorant about tribes (5/4)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Who made the decision to kill Anna Mae? (5/4)
Suzan Shown Harjo: Delete 'off the reservation' from our discourse (5/4)
Simon Moya-Smith: Donald Trump sees Indian people going 'wild' (5/4)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native issues are afterthought for candidates (5/4)
Blackfeet Nation to see $107M from Cobell land buy-back program (5/4)
Nooksack Tribe fires judge and loses attorney in enrollment crisis (5/4)
Democrat Bernie Sanders staying in race as last Republicans quit (5/4)
Choctaw Nation offered settlements in fatal casino bus accident (5/4)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community fails to sell governor on casino (5/4)
Shakopee Tribe starts work on casino hotel and convention center (5/4)
Editorial: Work with Cloverdale Rancheria rather than fight casino (5/4)
Lakota Country Times: Governor lectures tribe about sacred lands (5/3)
Native Sun News: Navajo Nation chapter sues tribe over water deal (5/3)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux Reservation plagued by abuse and assault (5/3)
James Giago Davies: Propaganda machine protects racist mascot (5/3)
Cronkite News: Sports teams turn to tribes for naming rights deals (5/3)
Steven Newcomb: Tricking the original nations into reconciliation (5/3)
Rosebud man selected as leader of South Dakota State University (5/3)
Klamath Tribes report results of election for leadership positions (5/3)
Leaders of Louisiana tribes in conflict over $48M relocation grant (5/3)
Choctaw Nation ordered to pay $11M for casino bus crash deaths (5/3)
Arizona reports 5.1 percent decline in casino revenue from tribes (5/3)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe casino up for discussion at city meeting (5/3)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation hoping to keep gaming lawsuit going (5/3)
Blackfeet Nation welcomes Interior Secretary Jewell to homeland (5/2)
Native Sun News: Family confronts man linked to woman's death (5/2)
Lakota Country Times: State shows cards in fight over sacred site (5/2)
Clara Caufield: Living in a state of emergency on my reservation (5/2)
Mark Trahant: Native newspapers and presidential endorsements (5/2)
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.