Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Ninth Circuit to consider destruction of indigenous sacred site

Feds say they can bulldoze a roadside burial ground to add a turning lane


November 12, 2021

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court will hear a case of major significance to Native American tribes on Tuesday, after the U.S. Federal Highway Administration bulldozed a longstanding sacred site near Mount Hood, Oregon in 2008 to add a turning lane to a nearby highway.

Members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde say the government broke numerous federal laws by bulldozing their sacred site, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, and several environmental laws. Hereditary chiefs Wilbur Slockish and Johnny Jackson, and elder Carol Logan, alerted the federal government to their use of the site before construction began. But their pleas fell on deaf ears, and the government destroyed the site anyway. In response to their lawsuit, the government says it has complete authority to destroy sacred sites located on federal land, and the trial court agreed.

Tuesday’s argument comes shortly after the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in a similar case, Apache Stronghold v. United States. There, Becket represents Apaches whose sacred site, Chi'chil Bildagoteel, or Oak Flat, is on the brink of being obliterated by a foreign-owned copper-mining company. In both cases, the destruction of the indigenous sacred site would end longstanding Native American religious practices forever.

On Tuesday, Becket counsel Joe Davis will ask the Ninth Circuit to protect the ability of Native Americans to continue their traditional faith practices.

Becket is co-counsel in the case, along with Seattle-based law firm Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch and Oregon City attorney James Nicita.


Oral Argument in Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration


Joe Davis, counsel at Becket


Tuesday, November 16, 2021, at 2:00 PM PST and will last approximately 20 minutes.

A press call will be held immediately after.


The hearing will be live-streamed in Courtroom 3 here.

James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse Room 307

95 7th Street,

San Francisco, California 94103

Additional Information:

 Photos for press use (Credit: Becket)

 Video for press use (Credit: Becket)

 Becket's Opening Brief at Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (May 3, 2021)

 Case page for Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration (all legal docs, press releases, background, pictures)

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).


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