Northwest tribal members plan to appeal a decision by a federal judge in Oregon over the destruction of a spiritual site near Mount Hood.
Tribal members say that the government violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during a construction project a decade ago when it expanded part of Highway 26, destroying burial grounds, a stone altar and own-growth trees.
The decision to appeal comes after a second federal judge on Monday ruled against tribal members in a lawsuit against the federal government.
It’s the second time a federal judge has ruled against the tribal members.
Now, members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, as well as members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, say they’re taking their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to ensure Native American sacred sites are protected under federal law.
“All we want is the return of our sacred artifacts, the rededication of the area for our ancestors, and the promise that we can continue to worship as our tribes have done for centuries,” said Carol Logan, member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
“This ruling is heartbreaking. To hear that the court would say this completely preventable destruction was okay is unthinkable.”
The tribal members argued they could no longer practice religious ceremonies at the site because it no longer exists. They asked a federal court to find that the government violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, though attorneys for the federal government argued that law did not apply.
In the first of two rulings against the tribes, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You said the tribal members failed to show their rights to practice religion had been “substantially burdened.” The decision on Monday seconded that ruling.
“The Court has reviewed the pertinent portions of the record de novo and finds no other errors in the Magistrate Judge’s Findings & Recommendation,” District Judge Marco A. Hernandez wrote.