By Anne Minard
Jessica Beasley, a Navajo tribal member and Northern Arizona University nursing student, and her partner, Joseph Sanders, are keeping vigil during daylight hours at Flagstaff City Call; a city-wide camping ordinance prevents them from staying overnight.
They say their approach differs from recent demonstrations during which protestors chained themselves to an excavator and were arrested for trespassing on the property of Arizona Snowbowl, the controversial ski resort.
“A hunger strike is a non-violent form of protest, and we’re committed to that,” Sanders said.
Tribal and environmental activists have been protesting Snowbowl’s use of the sacred mountain since the 1970s, and have consistently lost in courts. Protestors suffered another disappointing loss earlier this year, when Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by the Save the Peaks Coalition against the Forest Service. Beasley and Sanders say they were partly inspired to begin their hunger strike when Coral Evans, then a candidate for Flagstaff City Council, said in campaign interviews this spring that snowmaking on the Peaks was a “dead issue.” The pair began their hunger strike on June 5. They say they don’t intend to injure themselves; they’ll be taking in fruit juices, tea and water to stay hydrated and somewhat nourished.
They’re hoping to call attention to what they believe is a human rights violation against people who hold the Peaks sacred. The U.S. Forest Service should rescind Snowbowl’s permit to build the infrastructure that will deliver reclaimed wastewater to the ski slopes, they say–or the city of Flagstaff should rescind its contract to deliver reclaimed water for the project.