Calling for the end to the pre-construction of a six-lane highway that will parallel and cut through the southwestern part of a sacred mountain, the Ahwatukee and the Gila River Indian community hopes to deliver a message to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) that the fight to protect Moadag Do’ag (South Mountain) in Phoenix, Arizona is far from over.
However, before they could share their views with the agencies involved, local authorities told community members -- which included the Protecting Arizona Resources and Children organization, approximately 20 O’odham runners from the Gila River Indian Community and others -- that their sacred prayer items would not be allowed into the ADOT community meeting.
Protectors of the sacred Moadag Do’ag Mountain - Photo Amanda Blackhorse
Prior to the meeting, the community, which is also concerned that the highway is set to parallel the community of Ahwatukee and the Gila River Indian Community reservation boundaries, hosted a 10-mile prayer run from an encampment at the sacred mountain Moadag Thadiwa to Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee, Arizona.
The public meeting, sponsored by ADOT and Connect 202, was a preliminary design meeting to gather feedback and the opinions of community members.
The peaceful group arrived for the meeting Tuesday evening, but were denied entrance to the facility by police. At first, the police stated the prayer staff carried by the O’odham runners was not allowed in the meeting because it could be considered a weapon. But when members of the group volunteered to leave their staff and prayer sticks outside, the police allegedly changed their rules.
Another runner who was holding a single eagle feather was then told the group was not allowed to attend the public meeting because Desert Vista High School doesn't allow religious items onto their campus.
The group attempted to explain the items were for prayer but the police officers rdid not allow passage.
One member of the group went into the ADOT planning meeting without a prayer staff and announced the purpose of the prayer run and the need to protect Moadag. The police immediately escorted the speaker and others out of the building.
Outside, a runner sang the traditional O’odham song of Moadag and then it rained. The police then announced the group had to leave school property.
Group members left and reiterated this wasn’t a protest, this was a time of prayer and a time to deliver the message to ADOT that their fight to save Moadag is not over.
To read more about the fight to save Moadag and the current encampment at Moadag visit their Facebook page.