Thank you Mr. Chairman.
My name is Rosalba Nattero. I am the delegate of the Committee for the Defence of Mt. Graham, within the Ecospirituality Foundation based in Turin, Italy and I am the nominated Representative for the Apache Survival Coalition.
I am here to speak for Ola Cassadore Davis, Chairperson Apache Survival Coalition, to draw attention to the violation of religious rights of the Apache people, resulting from the work on an astronomical observatory, which the University of Arizona, together with other partners, is building on the Apaches' sacred mountain, so destroying the part held to be most sacred and denying the Apaches access to the summit.
Since time beyond our memory Mt. Graham has played an important role for the Apache community and is held to be their most sacred site. For the Apache it is a site of devotion and healing. In this mountain they find the herbs, waters and plants to practice their therapies.
The Apache have always used the mountain for their collective religious ceremonies and for individual spiritual practice, so it is fundamental to Apache culture and religion.
The San Carlos Tribal Council has passed several official resolutions against the observatory project, seen as a genuine desecration. These resolutions have been supported by other Apache Nations and by the majority of other Indian Nations. The major movement in defence of the sacred mountain is the Apache Survival Coalition, founded by Ola Cassadore Davis under the directions of the Tribal Council of the San Carlos Apaches.
The Apache People have at their side a number of Tribes and Native movements, including the International Indian Treaty Council, the National Congress of American Indians, the American Indian Religious Freedom Coalition, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, the White Mountain Apache Heritage Program, the Navajo Nation, the Tohono O'Odham and many more.
Mt. Graham represents a unique inheritance of biological diversity in N.America, as one of the rare examples of unaltered ecosystems in the desert of the South West United States and Mexico. It is unique in being the only remaining example in the area of an ecological habitat in existence since the last Ice Age.
This mountain alone contains 5 of the 7 vegetation types of N. America, ranging from desert to mountain forest. The highly rare large pine species, the Spruce, can be found here. The mountain is also the home of the Mt. Graham Red Squirrel, a species in danger of extinction, and no less than 17 other endangered animal and vegetable species indigenous to the U.S.
Many environmentalist and other international support groups have come to the aid of the Apaches.
Several sponsors have withdrawn from the project. The second telescope is builded by the Max Planck Institute of Germany, but they abandoned the project because of the bad telescope's site. Although the project is not yet been completely halted.
Besides the University of Arizona, the Vatican is involved as an important sponsor and its telescope is the only one active at the moment. Italy is also involved in the project through the Arcetri Observatory, who still refuse to listen to the repeated appeals of Ola Cassadore and all her supporters.
Over the last ten years, several Apache delegations have come to Italy to ask the Government to deny funding for the construction work on Mt. Graham, but the appeals remain unheard. Proposed legislation to deny funds for the Observatory has been presented to Parliament, but has made no progress.
A motion was presented to the Chamber of Deputies of Italian Parliament, asking the Government to stop funds for the observatory. The motion, signed by 35 members of all the parliamentary groups, was debated in the Chamber on January 28 2002, but was adjourned until a later date.
Mt. Graham stands as a vital symbol of the social unity of the San Carlos Apaches and the survival of their culture. How many more times must we stand and observe the violation of the sacred territories of native Americans, or of Indigenous Peoples in general, threatening the survival of their cultures and traditions?
For several years now, we have been working side by side with Ola Cassadore trying to stop a project destroying a site that is sacred to the Apaches.
The aim of our work is to spread the word in Europe about the violation that is going on and to persuade the partners to withdraw from a controversial project.
We urgently request this Commission to take the problem of the San Carlos Apaches into consideration and help us defend their cultural and religious rights.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Representative of the Apache Survival Coalition
Vice Chairperson of the Ecospirituality Foundation