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
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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:
Lakota Country Times: Not guilty verdict after Lakota 57 trial (9/1)
President Obama meets Native leaders after landing in Alaska (9/1)
Rhonda Pitka: Alaska Natives put priority on subsistence rights (9/1)
Transcript: Obama remarks following Native leaders roundtable (9/1)
94-year-old Alaska Native elder greets Obama with Denali song (9/1)
Politicians in Ohio oppose return of Alaska Native name for peak (9/1)
Passamaquoddy Tribe takes a step toward marijuana cultivation (9/1)
Center for Native American Youth seeks new executive director (9/1)
Supreme Court takes up petition in Kialegee Tribal Town dispute (9/1)
NCAI pushes for court rehearing in tribal labor sovereignty case (9/1)
Education Department awards $50.4M in grants to tribal colleges (9/1)
Native Sun News: Teens attacked on Rosebud Sioux Reservation (9/1)
Clara Caufield: Cheyenne brothers and sisters share language (9/1)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Shutting down a new generation of hate (9/1)
Jennifer Fielder: Tribes struggling to break free from bondage (9/1)
Brian Pierson: Big decision in Seminole Tribe's taxation case (9/1)
Navajo Nation hires firm to pursue Gold King Mine spill lawsuit (9/1)
Young tribal members cited for wild rice harvest in Minnesota (9/1)
Lake named for war secretary who pushed for removal of tribes (9/1)
Tribal college students participate in NASA challenge in Virginia (9/1)
La Jolla Band welcomes visitors to longest zip line in California (9/1)
Chukchansi Tribe still aiming for reopening of casino this month (9/1)
Cherokee Nation contributed $11M to upgrade road near casino (9/1)
President Obama restores Alaska Native name of highest peak (8/31)
BIA announces $1.75M in grants fot tribal education programs (8/31)
Multiple Capitol Hill hearings set into disaster at Gold King Mine (8/31)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux counselor combats youth suicide (8/31)
Native Sun News: Lakota 57 parents seek counseling for incident (8/31)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: I remember I am alive and a survivor (8/31)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women betrayed in violence fight (8/31)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Blood quantum used to judge Indian people (8/31)
Sally Jewell: Native youth serve as Ambassadors for the Arctic (8/31)
Turtle Talk Poll: The enduring legacy of Supreme Court decision (8/31)
First Native woman Ashley Callingbull wins Mrs. Universe title (8/31)
Native boy lands role as son of Leonardo DiCaprio in new film (8/31)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers petition to legalize hemp (8/31)
Spirit Lake Nation declares state of emergency to fight drugs (8/31)
Mississippi Choctaws pick Phyllis Anderson as chief once again (8/31)
Former Pokagon Band leader to leave Michigan civil rights post (8/31)
More executives targeted in Chippewa Cree Tribe criminal probe (8/31)
Pueblo water system held hostage by county in trespassing spat (8/31)
Kootenai Tribe to create recovery plan for last wild caribou herd (8/31)
Chair of Duwamish Tribe presses Secretary Jewell on recognition (8/31)
Opinion: Islamic extremists are making inroads on reservations (8/31)
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.