Event at University focuses on Mount Graham telescope

by Kori Koch

Passionate activists and local supporters gathered Tuesday in Willey Hall to raise awareness of the controversial Mount Graham Telescope Project near San Carlos, Ariz.

“Cultural genocide happens at every level. Sacred sites are being taken away all over the country,” said Jim Anderson, a member of the Mount Graham Coalition.

Anderson said the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is an example of the problem.

“Ninety percent of the airport used to be burial grounds,” he said.

The event, Living Land Sacred Land: Indigenous Rights, Environmental Justice, and the U of M, was sponsored by the Mount Graham Preservation Alliance, a University student group.

Alex Lundberg, a member of the coalition, said completion of the observatory has been delayed every year for four years.

Anderson said developers chose Mount Graham because it was near the University of Arizona, which is one of many investors.

The University of Minnesota has invested $5 million toward the project.

“I believe it’s not supposed to be done, and that’s why they’re having so many problems with it,” Anderson said. “It’s blasphemy, what they’re doing out there.”

Lundberg said the second and final lens of the giant telescope would make its final trek up the mountain in September, which is months after the set deadline.

“The fact that these astronomy departments within the University of Arizona have dedicated this telescope, claiming that it’s finished and operational, is a lie,” Lundberg said.

Roberta Humphreys, University of Minnesota Institute of Technology associate dean and astronomy professor, who did not attend the event, said there are many burial sites across the country. Mount Graham was a prime location, because it’s big, high, dry and near the University of Arizona, she said. The observatory will consume a small portion of the giant mountain, she said.

Lundberg suggested ways in which University of Minnesota students could become involved, including petitioning the Board of Regents and the Student Senate, and signing resolutions urging the institution to divest.

“I’ve seen a lot of students really care about this, but they don’t have the time to get involved,” Lundberg said. “It’s hard, because this issue isn’t as applicable to students here as it is to students out there.”

Lundberg said he was happy people attended the event but disappointed more didn’t show up because of how much the coalition had prepared.

“The issue is controversial. People getting involved might be scared because of the presence it has had on campus,” Lundberg said.

Ola Cassadore and Michael Davis, members of the Apache Survival Coalition, also spoke at the event.

Davis compared the mountain to an open chapel for Apache people to communicate with their creator.

“If man continues to annihilate the world, there’s no reason to aim a telescope at it,” he said.