Sacred mountains and profane dollars: Discourses about snowmaking on the San Francisco peaks

Ophir Sefiha, Pat Lauderdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This research examines media, interview and legal-historical documentation surrounding the current proposal to manufacture snow using reclaimed water at the Snowbowl ski area located on the San Francisco Peaks mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona. The proposal has drawn sharp protest from both American Indian Nations who call the area sacred, and environmentalists who question the safety of the reclaimed water. We examine the process by which local coalitions attempt to define environmental, spiritual, and economic values that will resonate with others. These highly mediated activities create contested territory whereby groups attempt to package and frame specific definitions of these values. This debate exposes hegemonic assumptions that aid us in deconstructing conflicting understandings of colonialism, racism, and other issues that typically go unacknowledged. Weber's discussion of rationality and commensurability is employed for understanding why sacred justice claims continue to be largely ignored. This research indicates that not only is this a case of epistemological incompatibility, but an active attempt to discredit and disenfranchise a specific group. Two interwoven themes emerged from our analysis: 'Indians as Greedy' and 'Indians as Hypocrites'. These themes are also found in the legal history of sacred site protection in the United States. We argue the fundamental lack of acknowledgement of Indian cosmology persists via a dichotomous conception of religion and civic society, which also suggests a separation of dominant forms of civic decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-511
Number of pages21
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • American Indian
  • Civic decision-making
  • Colonialism
  • Racism
  • Sacred site protection
  • Water
  • Weber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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