The Gila River Indian Community has officially filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed route of the South Mountain Freeway through South Mountain, land that is sacred to Community members.
The lawsuit alleges federal and state agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Department of Transportation Act by failing to consider the harm the freeway would inflict on the environment and on historical and cultural resources. The lawsuit also alleges that the agencies ignored their obligations to avoid or mitigate harm to the environment and to community members.
"South Mountain, or Muhadagi Doag, is one of the Community’s most important and sacred natural resources,” Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said in an official statement. “It is a prominent part of the Community’s oral traditions and ceremonial activities, all of which are tied to the natural environment. The proposed freeway would destroy parts of three ridges of South Mountain and also would destroy or alter many trails, shrines, and archaeological sites that constitute significant cultural resources for the Community and its members."
This lawsuit was filed separately from the lawsuit filed by Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) and its partners, but the community has filed a motion to consolidate its action with that lawsuit. The case is pending in District Court before Judge Diane Humetewa, with oral arguments set for July 22.
“I’m very excited they have filed a lawsuit,” said Pat Lawlis, president of PARC. “It’s indicative of how many people would be affected by this ill-planned South Mountain Freeway… I believe they can make the case about the sacred land more effectively than we can.”