Flagstaff & Northern Arizona Land Struggles

One of the reasons I first came to Flagstaff, Arizona was to teach card weaving, an ancient form of technology for weaving straps, at the Taala Hooghan Infoshop, an indigenous founded collective resource center.  I have been hanging around Infoshops on and off since November of 2002, and have tried to find them as I travel since then.  The second time I had come to Tucson was to volunteer for No More Deaths and to teach a series of card weaving workshops in March and April ’11 at the Dry River Radical Resource Center, an Infoshop that was then located in the Dunbar Spring neighborhood, when a volunteer from the Taala Hooghan, Mark, who was on tour with his bands Let The World Die and Towardis invited me to Flag to share my craft.
I couldn’t go then, but after five months of farming in Iowa, I came back to Arizona via Flag and was able to teach a workshop at the Taala Hooghan.  When I was still in Iowa doing the ground work to return, much to my horror I had found out that the struggle over the San Fransisco Peaks was still going on.  I had first heard of this during my second visit to Tucson in January ’06, when I was able to see The Snow Bowl Effect at Dry River at its first space on St. Mary’s.
According to the website, protectthepeaks.org, “Right now Arizona Snowbowl is expanding development on the San Francisco Peaks by clearcutting 74 acres of rare alpine habitat, with an estimate of approx. 30,000 trees, that is home to threatened species, making new runs and lifts, more parking lots and building a 14.8 mile buried pipeline to transport up to 180 million gallons (per season) of wastewater to make artificial snow on 205 acres.
“Snowbowl would be pumping 1.5 million gallons per day, that’s approximately 300,000 flushes from your toilet, storing and spraying this wastewater on a mountain that is held holy by more than 13 Native American tribes.” (1)
A comrade of mine from Protect the Peaks has written to me “they’ve clear-cut all 30,000 acres and are now digging out the 3 square acres for the reclaimed wastewater reservoir and are building the pumphouse. I’m aware that’s what it says on the website, but it hasn’t been updated in awhile, as far as I’m aware.”
Though I came to Flag to teach card weaving, I learned a great deal about the current struggle over the San Francisco Peaks, and came back this year to volunteer for Protect the Peaks. I spent a fair amount of time going door to door talking with people about the Peaks, helped organize a teach-in, attended City Council meetings to support those who spoke out against the use of reclaimed waste water both on the Peaks and in the city, and participated in a couple of demonstrations and a lockdown to defend a tree sit to block construction of the waste water pipeline going to the Peaks.  Originally I was only there to support our comrade doing the tree sit, but after witnessing a couple company goons messing with the life lines that was holding James’s platform in a tree, I volunteered to lockdown to one of the life lines with another comrade to help ensure no one else would mess with it.  This is the sort of networking that I participate in the Infoshop Movement for!
During my first visit to Flag, at the Taala Hooghan I also learned about the land struggle on Black Mesa.  According to the Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) Collective’s website, “SINCE 1974, federal relocation policy has forced 14,000 Dine’ (Navajo) people from their ancestral homeland in Arizona.
“This genocidal policy was crafted by government agents and energy company representatives in order to gain access to the mineral resources of Black Mesa – billions of tons of coal, uranium and natural gas.
“For over 30 years, traditional Dine’ at Black Mesa have lived in resistance, steadfastly refusing to relocate as strip-mines rip apart their sacred lands and generating plants poison the desert air.” (2)
One of my comrades from the BMIS Collective has told me the number of people who have been displaced is probably much higher, in the tens of thousands.  This year I was also able to go out to Black Mesa to help shear and herd sheep and goats in May, then just to herd again in September. 
One of the other groups that’s very active in town is the Repeal Coalition, which according to their website “is an organization committed to repealing over 60 anti-immigrant laws and bills that have been passed or considered by Arizona politicians in the past few years.”  That “demand the repeal of all laws—federal, state, and local—that degrade and discriminate against undocumented individuals and that deny U.S. citizens their lawful rights.” (3)
At the Taala Hooghan there have been a few different discussion groups going on, that I attend for clarification of thought.  Both to learn and to let people know where I’m coming from with things.  The first such discussion I attended was a Root Beer and Revolution discussion about an upcoming meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in suburban Phoenix, while drinking root beer.  ALEC is a right wing think tank that connects corporations and their model legislation with legislators.  You can learn more about it at alecexposed.org.
This year though, spending far more time in Flagstaff I participated in a number of informal Anartea discussions, pretty much just hanging out and talking politics while drinking tea.  The Root Beer and Revolution discussions, like the one I attended last year more focus, and have been on such subjects as how part of confronting colonialism now is by decolonizing ourselves, and Green Anarchy, Spirituality, and Cultural Appropriation.  Sometimes such discussions can be pretty painful and frustrating, but I think they are critical for people who want to do any kind of political organizing to help people understand each other, and the things we struggle with and against.
I also taught card weaving a couple more times, attended shows, film screenings, and helped prepare and clean up after meals and ate my fair share, especially of the pizza from Dumpster Wars in June when there was a meeting of the Arizona Radical Coalition (ARC) there.  ARC was formed for networking purposes between the three cities that had Infoshops at the time, Tucson, Prescott and Flag; and Phoenix, the sixth most populous city in the U$.  Right now the Taala Hooghan is the only Infoshop in Arizona, but the relationships that have been formed through ARC remain, as do the quarterly meetings held in turn by the four cities.
Also in the same building as the Taala Hooghan Infoshop is Outta Your Backpack Media, which according to their website has since 2004 “has empowered Indigenous youth through free movie making workshops and resource distribution.”  (4)  Though I wasn’t personally involved at all, I enjoyed the films they made and meeting the folks who were.
Written for POCO!

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