Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
My name is Rosalba Nattero. I have been nominated as Representative in Italy for the Apache Survival Coalition and I am here to speak on behalf of Ola Cassadore, Chair of the Apache Survival Coalition. This group has led the opposition to astrophysical development on their sacred mountain, Dzil Nchaa Si'an, also known in English as Mt. Graham. Dzil Nchaa Si'an is within traditional Apache territory. It is currently U.S. Forest Service land. Two telescopes have already been constructed, and a third, the Large Binolcular Telescope (LBT) is under construction. Ultimately as many as seven telescopes may be constructed on this holy mountain. This totally unappropriate development has been opposed by traditional Apache people since they learned of its possiblilty some fourteen years ago. There has been organized Apache opposition to the project before a single tree was cut or the ground cleared. The San Carlos Apache Tribe, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Apache Survival Coalition, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Council of Churches, and many other national and international groups have opposed this development.
Just as I did during the 20th WGIP, I am appealing once again against the violation of a sacred site and the religious rights of a People. I refer to Mt. Graham, the Apache sacred mountain, which is threatened by construction of an astronomical observatory by the University of Arizona, and also by the Vatican, and the Arcetri Observatory, which is financed by the Italian Government. Only one telescope active at the moment. Italy is also involved in the project through the Arcetri Observatory, who still refuses 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. The purpose of this testimony is to provide an update of events.
The project has gone ahead in spite of such oppostion and in spite of environmental and historic preservation laws because of legislative exemptions to existing laws in the United States which were passed by the U.S. Congress by burying them to other important legislation.
The Apache Survival Coalition sued in Federal District Court to prevent the construction of a large powerline to the top of the mountain to provide electric power to the telescopes. In the Spring of 2002, the ASC asked a Federal judge to issue an injunction to stop construction until the merits of the case could be heard. This was denied and construction continued. By the time the case was heard, the suit was moot because the construction had already been completed.
After denying for many years that Mt. Graham was a sacred site, in the summer of 2002, the U.S. Forest Service finally released a report completed by their own experts which showed that the entire mountain was a site worthy of nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, a Federal Registry of protected sites of historic and cultural significance to the nation as a whole. In spite of this, the Forest Service has not actually nominated this site to the Register, although it is their responsibility.
Over the last year and one half, the ASC led a fight to prevent two more universities from joing the project as partners, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Virginia. All of the tribes in Minnesota, which has a significant indigenous population, opposed the entry of the university, as did the Social Concerns Committee of the Faculty. In spite of this, the Board of Regents of the University made the decision to join the project. The University of Virginia also joined the project, but asked that the University of Arizona consult with the Apaches and provide them assistance in education and health. Although, education and health are very important to the people, this effort is widely viewed as an attempt at bribery.
On the 26th March this year, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on Basic Human Rights of the Indigenous People, met Ola Cassadore and the ASC team in Arizona who reviewed and explained their concerns.
Violation of an Indigenous Peoples' Sacred Site means the survival of their identity is at risk. Every People has the right to maintain its traditions and its religious beliefs. We call on this Commission to help us protect the religious rights of the Apache People and defend their Sacred Mountain.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
Representative of the Apache Survival Coalition
Vice Chairperson of the Ecospirituality Foundation