Numerous Indigenous Peoples representing multiple nations from all over the southwest joined members of the Akimel O'odham Youth Collective at Arizona Department of Transporation’s (ADOT) pre-bid contractor’s meeting Tuesday morning for the proposed Loop 202 Freeway extension. The group, whose aim was to remind ADOT and the contracting bidders that this isn’t a done deal, did so by gathering together just outside the Mesa convention center and singing traditional O’otham songs in protest. The collection of community members, who police barred from entering the meeting or receiving any of the information, reminded potential bidders before they entered through the doors that they were “on stolen land” and this “Loop 202 freeway is a doomed financial failure” still in current ligation with the Gila River Indian Community. Protesters urged contractors to reconsider participating in something that would tie them up in years of litigation and ultimately end in economic disaster, as both O’otham and Pii Paash nations expressed an unwillingness to give up defending the sacred land that the proposed highway plans to desecrate.
The proposed freeway route will cut through South Mountain, a sacred site known as Moahdak to the O’otham (Pima) and Vii-Kwxas to the PiiPash (Maricopa), the two nations of the Gila River Indian Community. The people of GRIC have been battling ADOT for decades, urging them to look at alternatives to one of the most poorly crafted transportation projects in the region. The proposed ADOT route will desecrate countless sacred sites to the Akimel O’otham and Pii Paash people who still hold ceremonies and have historical and cultural sites within the mountain and along other proposed freeway routes. The nearly $2 billion freeway which has been in the planning process since the early 80’s has never had the support of the Gila River Indian Community and despite GRIC’s continual objection and lawsuit, ADOT plans to build the highway just feet from Reservation boundaries, carving through large portions of the mountain. This desecration will disrupt sacred land/sites, burial grounds, migratory routes for mammals, reptiles, and birds, destroy traditional vegetation and eco-sensitive plant-life, and bring in mass pollution transforming the air quality between the Estrella Mountains and the South Mountain range from fair to health threatening.
WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN
As caretakers of the land, the O’otham and Pii Paash hold the responsibility to defend all threats against the land, water and people for current and future generations. We encourage alliances and collaboration with all who believe that access to fresh water, clean air and land is a human right and needs protection.
We welcome all those who care about the land, air, mountains and life to stand with us as we voice our decision and say No Loop 202!
REUBEN CRUZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
RENEE JACKSON (email@example.com) from
The O’otham and Pii Paash Collective.