O’odham Zombies March Against the 202

June 24, 2013
Contact: Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
(520) 510-3407

On the morning of June 22nd, 2013 a group of about 20 people rallied and marched to a hearing at the Boys and Girls Club in the village of Komadk in the Gila River Indian Community. The hearing was hosted by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) to gather the public’s questions and concerns regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway Extension. The people who attended the march were from all over southern Arizona, including O’odham from the Gila River Indian Community, the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Marching down 51st ave

Marching down 51st ave

As the march went down 51st Avenue to the Komatke Boys and Girls Club, members of the Akimel O’odham Youth Collective were dressed up as zombies. Unlike ADOT’s May 21 hearing held in Phoenix, public comments, signs, and protest banners at the Gila River hearing were banned by ADOT’s ground rules. The zombie protestors used their bodies as visual statements symbolizing the potential fatal effects to their health if the proposed freeway were to be built. Some wore nasal tubing and carried fake oxygen tanks while others wore surgical masks to further show the effects of air pollution from a freeway. During the march, most of the protestors held signs and banners, some playing off the zombie theme such as: Every year freeways kill more people than zombies. “This is what the future holds for us as O’odham if this freeway gets built. We can barely survive as O’odham today, but if this freeway is built and destroys Muhadag Do’ag ,then we are no longer O’odham and we’re doomed to become zombies,” Said Andrew Pedro, 19, an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community and a full blood Akimel O’odham.

Zombies Matthew Allison and Andrew Pedro

Zombies Matthew Allison and Andrew Pedro

When the march arrived at its destination, protestors were first met by Gila River police and personal security hired by ADOT. Due to ADOT’s ground rules against signs, banners, and public comment, which were publicized only a few days before the hearing took place, the group came prepared with messages on their shirts. Those who were made up as zombies wore shirts stating “We want to be O’odham, not zombies. “ Inside the gymnasium of the Boys and Girls Club, there were ADOT banners and poster boards on the edges of the room. These poster boards summarized subjects in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released by ADOT on April 26th, 2013 after a wait of almost two decades. Rachel Charles, 17, an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, stated her reasons for taking part in the zombie protest. “I marched today to let people know that what ADOT is trying to do goes against O’odham culture. I’m not from Gila River, but we are all one people and ADOT hasn’t ever consulted with the Tohono O’odham Nation about this freeway. Our voices need to be heard too. We won’t stay silent and let mimilghan take us over.”

Police preventing signs and banners from going inside

Police preventing signs and banners from going inside

Members of the Akimel O’odham Youth Collective pointed out misinformation on the poster boards. O’odham culture holds all of the South Mountain range sacred, as part of the origins of the O’odham. An example of ADOT’s campaign of misinformation is their poster summarizing cultural resources impacted by the proposed freeway. ADOT’s cultural resources poster portrayed that no traditional cultural property (TCP) would be affected by the western section of the proposed freeway. This contradicts a resolution passed by the Gila River Indian Community in 2007. When the Gila River tribal council passed resolution GR-41-07, it formally recognized all of the South Mountain range as a traditional cultural property, not just the acreage directly impacted by the proposed freeway. The resolution states “Now therefore let it be resolved that the Community Council hereby does acknowledge and recognize that the South Mountain Range in its entirety is a sacred place/ traditional cultural property and must be kept inviolate.”

Claudelle Valencia, 20, a descendent of the Yoeme (Yaqui), Onk Akimel O’odham (Salt River O’odham), and Tohono O’odham tribes stated, “Muhadag Do’ag is a highly significant part of our Himdag (traditional way of life) and we must defend our sacred mountain. As Indigenous people, we are put on this earth to take care of the sacred lands our ancestors have left us. We should not have our civil rights violated, and we are defending what was left here for us.”

In the DEIS, there are two TCPs discussed, both of which would be completely destroyed if the proposed freeway extension were built. These are the prehistoric Huhugam villages, Pueblo del Alamo and Villa Buena. The Huhugam are the ancestors of the O’odham people. When one ADOT representative was asked why the summarization poster was inaccurate from the information in the DEIS, the ADOT representative admitted the poster was outdated. Then another ADOT official stepped in and said the poster was not outdated, and that the poster was factual. When this ADOT official tried to show why the information in the poster was accurate, he was proven wrong by the contents of the actual DEIS, copies of which were circulating in the room. Then a third ADOT official stepped in and stated that the information on the poster was “up for interpretation”. Also not listed on ADOT’s cultural resources poster were other O’odham cultural resources such as petroglyph sites and prehistoric trails rich in artifact scatters.

The comment period for the DEIS ends on July 24th, 2013, only one month away. When the deadline is up, ADOT’s freeway study team has to research and respond to all DEIS comments. These answers will go into the Final EIS to be released sometime in 2014, which then starts a 60 day comment period. After all FEIS comments are answered, the FHWA will make a record of decision, which determines if the proposed freeway will be built.

Rallying outside after forum

Rallying outside after forum

Draft Environmental Impact Statements submitted after the July 24 deadline will not be entered into the federal record.

There is still time to submit your comments. The deadline is very soon, so do not wait. Written comments are best sent as certified mail. All comments, regardless of the method of submission, are treated equally.

Mail: ADOT Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Study
1655 W. Jackson Street
MD 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007
E-Mail: Projects@azdot.gov
Phone: 602-721-7006
Online Comment : http://www.azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective & Gila River Against Loop 202

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Update on Public Hearing and Special Council Meeting

May 23rd, 2013
Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
E-mail: akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com
Phone: 520-510-3407

The Akimel O’odham Youth Collective (AOYC) attended two events this week regarding the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway Extension. The first took place on May 21st 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center. This was a public hearing put on by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The purpose of this event was to hear comments made by the public about the proposed freeway extension and its Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS was a twelve-year study which cost the state $20 million. The study showed a range of effects if the proposed freeway were to be built but there is still a major lack of cultural consideration. This shows in some of the effects yet ADOT is still trying to push the freeway. These affects included loss of plant and wild life including endangered species, loss of Traditional Cultural Property, and isolation of Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) to Moadak Do’ag (South Mountain).

Around 11:00 a.m. members of the AOYC arrived at the public hearing and gave their three-minute comment. Soon after Joseph Perez, CEO of Pangea LLC and GRIC member, arrived and gave his three-minute comment. Toward the end of his comment Perez talks about Himdag (cultural way of life), and tries to explain what himdag is to the panel. When he is finished an AOYC member Andrew Pedro follows Perez out to ask him questions about his comment. As they walk out Christi Perez, partner in Pangea LLC and wife to Joey Perez, is filming her husband talking to an elder. While they are filming in the lobby Pedro walks into the background and gives thumbs up for no 202. Pedro walks away and less than a minute later wife Christi Perez returns pointing at him alongside are Phoenix City Police Officers. She tells them that Pedro was pretending to shoot at them with his fingers and they felt their life was being threatened. Pedro asked to see the video but was told he couldn’t and that he had to leave.

Sgt. Dupra: Badge number 6062 Both are from the South Mountain Precinct

Sgt. Dupra: Badge number 6062
Both are from the South Mountain Precinct

Throughout the day others spoke against the proposed freeway including other O’odham and non- O’odham people. “This mountain is sacred to us as O’odham and myself as Tohono O’odham I may come from southern Arizona but this mountain is sacred to me” said Alex Soto “This freeway is an attack on my civil rights as an indigenous person.” The reason it is an attack on ingenuous civil rights is because of the lack of consideration on the cultural aspect in the DEIS. Some non-o’odham people included members of the Sierra Club and No South Mountain Freeway. The sierra club actually lists the South Mountain Freeway the worst transportation project in the U.S.

The next day Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 the AOYC attend a special council meeting at the Governance Center in Sacaton, AZ. This special council meeting was called for at the last regular council meeting on May 15th, 2013, to hear the findings of the police investigation on the Save the Mountain Initiative put forward by GRIC Landowners LLC who is facilitated by Pangea LLC. Police Chief Alameda motioned that council go into executive session due to the findings of the ongoing investigation. Gov. Mendoza stated that community members should be allowed to be in the executive session. Council voted on the matter in a 15 yes, 0 nay votes, so community members were allowed to be in the meeting to hear the findings.

Police Chief Alameda presented how the investigation was done, and the findings of it. Alameda explained that going over each of the 1509 signatures would be a huge under taking. So a sample of 175 signatures that were thought to be suspicious were taken to be looked into. What the investigation found was that some of the signatures were obtained by fraud. Reasons varied from some of the signatures were from people who claim they never signed; others said they didn’t know what they were signing. On some of the signatures that were looked into the address was at abandoned homes and others refused to talk to them.

After the Alameda’s report community members came up to comment some these included elders bussed in by Pangea LLC to support the landowner initiative most made statement saying the freeway is going to be built no matter what, Ignoring the fact that No build is a federally mandated option. Nathanial Percharo who acts as spokesperson for GRIC landowners stated in his comment that they were aware of illegal activities like those the investigation found. Secretary Linda Andrew stated that the integrity of the initiative was compromised because of the finding of fraud and deception. Chris Morago, who is part of the Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment (GRACE), had corrected Pangea in saying that the Save the Mountain initiative was not the first initiative by the people. GRACE had an initiative to stop a medical waste incinerator that was on community land but the initiative was thrown out because they didn’t have the correct wording. Some community members said they want the initiative thrown out because the wording was misleading and to correct it and go back into the community for signatures. This was supported by council women Janice Stewart of District five. Council

After all comments by community members Gov. Mendoza called for a fifteen minute break. During that time Andrew Pedro community member confronted Joey and Christi Perez about the events that took place at the public hearing the day before. The two were accusing Pedro of pretending to shoot at them with his fingers. When asked why they had Pedro removed from the hearing they refused to answer. The response from Christi Perez was “I refuse to answer that.” Joey Perez called Community Manager David White and Security telling them that Pedro was harassing them and at yesterday’s hearing that he threatened an elder. At the hearing and at the council meeting Pedro asked them to release the video with him in the background but they refused to do that as well. At that time others around him were recording the video can be seen here.970723_10201084039853870_947337446_n

At the end of the council meeting Councilman Myron Schurz stated, direct the council secretary/election judge to coordinate with the Gila river police to return the petition to the secretary office and begin the process of determining whether there are a sufficient number of signatures after excluding the alleged questionable or forged signatures identified by the police department and process the initiative petition through the legislative standing committee for forwarding to the community council for consideration pursuant to the tribal constitution, article XIV, section (a) or (b). The directive is to be heard at the first regular council meeting of July 2013; second by councilman Anthony Villareal, Sr.

The comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement ends on July 24th, 2013. This means people can still submit their comments; all comments go into forming the Final EIS to be release in 2014. Please submit your comments before the deadline. Also for those of who live on Gila River, there is now a public hearing to be taken place in the community information and flyer below.

Comment information:

Mail: South Mountain Study Team
Arizona Department of Transportation
1655 West Jackson Street, MD 126F
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Phone: (602)712-7006
Email: projects@azdot.gov
Comment on page: azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway

GRIC Public Hearing:

June 22nd, 2013
9:00 a.m.
Komatke Boys & Girls Club GRIC  public hearing flyer flyer

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective

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O’odham protesting 202 in Flagstaff

May 13th, 2013
Contact: Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
E-Mail: Akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com
Phone1: (520)-510-3407
Phone2: (520)-350-0603

On Friday a group of about 30 people were protesting the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 freeway extension in Flagstaff, AZ. There were about eight Akimel O’odham from Gila River along with others from Flagstaff, Prescott, and Phoenix. Although the threat of the proposed South Mountain freeway is in downtown Phoenix, they rallied in Flagstaff in front of city hall at an Arizona Department of transportation (ADOT) meeting. ADOT’s meeting was a public hearing for their five year plan.



ADOT’s five year plan discusses how their money will be distributed over the next five years. There are three scenarios that can be chosen, scenario A: the majority of money is allocated to preserving existing roads and freeways. Scenario B: The Majority of money is allocated to building new roads and freeways. Scenario C: is a combination of both. The proposed South Mountain Freeway counts as a major project and is included in all scenarios. Those who spoke against the Proposed South mountain freeway expressed the frustration that a two billion dollar project that threatens the cultural integrity of O’odham culture as well as health and environment of the Gila River Indian Community is shown to be built anyway.

Some of those protesting the proposed South Mountain Freeway started around 8:00 a.m. and soon after more came to stand in solidarity with them, the rally went on for about four hours. During that time they held signs and banners saying “Wrong Way on South Mountain” and “Defend the Sacred, Save South Mountain”. Some of these same people have been following ADOT around the state for all the five year public hearing from Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, and soon to be in lakeside in June.

Within the first hour a matinence worker was harassing the group, telling them they couldn’t walk on the stairs. Those who were speaking were going in and out, waiting outside because the ADOT panel put their comments at the end so it took almost two hours until they spoke. Others were only sitting on the stairs with their children. From this the worker said he would call his supervisor and cops if they didn’t move.

Finally after a long wait the name of those were called to the podium to say their comments. Ana Morago member of Akimel O’odham Youth Collective also one of the o”odham who made the trip from Gila River had to say this during her comment, “this freeway is like me coming into your house or church and telling you and your family you need to get out so I can save time on my way to work.”

During that time those outside were marching around the building sing traditional songs carrying banners and sings. Along with a symbolic bulldozer labeled ADOT and Pangea (Pro – Freeway Tempe Based Corp.) Around that time the police came, due to the worker calling them. The police said they got call saying “the protesters are keeping people from going in and out, blocking the stairs.” One of O’odham from Gila River, Mathew Allison said “Im sure they felt our presence, we were peaceful the whole time yet they feel threated enough to still call the police.”

With the release of the Draft environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released about two weeks ago there are many upcoming events. One of these events is the DEIS public hearing at the Phoenix Convention Center on May 21st, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. please join us in another rally that day from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We need all the support and comments against the Proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway. to leave
comments send them to
Letters:ADOT Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Study
1655 W. Jackson Street
MD 126F
Pheonix, Arizona 85007
E-Mail: projects@azdot.gov
Phone: 602-721-7006
Comment on page: azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective

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On April 21st, 2013 the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team (SMCAT) held a public meeting at South Mountain Community College. The meeting was a panel discussion about air quality before the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is to be release April 26, 2013 on the proposed South Mountain Freeway. The panel was made up of representatives from Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Maricopa Associations of Governments (MAG) Somona technology and Professor Hyden from Arizona State University. SMCAT is made up of residents from the surrounding Phoenix area communities that will be impacted by the freeway such as Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC). Although the representative for Gila River was Nathaniel Percharo, a pro freeway supporter who acts as spokesperson for GRIC landowners.

The meeting was “open” to the public but was not open for public comment. We were informed that we could ask questions if we fill used the yellow question cards and that at the end of the meeting they would be answered. The questions we asked were those of concerning GRIC members if the freeway were to be built on or near GRIC. Later we were told that our questions were not going to be answered at that meeting but possibly at an upcoming meeting in June.

The panel gave their presentations on air pollutions effects on health and where the Phoenix metropolitan area ranks nationally on air pollution. The panel stated that communities living next to or near freeways have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses due to the level of cancer causing agents caused by the exponential rate of traffic. The panel provided air pollutions studies from Las Vegas and Los Angeles but not in Arizona.

We felt they did not present any direct and current facts about the impact the South Mountain freeway would have on the environment, air quality, public health and the mountain itself. We felt SMCAT was not fully informed on the overall health impacts and not receptive to any of the various environmental and public health concerns the public has raised about this freeway. Questions were asked about asbestos in the air caused by traffic and the panel dismissed the question stating cars do produce a substantial amount of asbestos for them to study. Additionally, there was very little mention of GRIC. At one point GRIC was mentioned by the ASU Professor Hyden. In his presentation he referred to a study about air pollution in the Phoenix metropolitan area. A question was asked about testing sites in a study if they were actually near freeways. Some were as close as 20 feet from existing freeways and others points were too far away that he was unsure.. Hyden clearly mentioned the residential areas around the testing site in the city but not when it was in GRIC. Hyden stated “[At] 51st Avenue and Pecos Road. there’s nothing going on there”.

(Check SMCAT presentation here at this link: http://www.azdot.gov/valleyfreeways/Loop_202/South_Mountain/PDF/042213_SMCAT_Meeting_Slides.pdf)
Overall the meeting was not very informative. Multiple times I heard others who attended that their questions weren’t answered, and our questions were ignored.
With the Draft EIS coming out Friday April 26, 2013 there will be a public hearing for comments on May 21st 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Please join us in another rally outside the convention center on that day for info coming soon
-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective

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