Arizona case may redefine sacred land

Aug. 12, 2007 at 1:45 PM

YUMA, Ariz., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A legal fight begun by a small Native American tribe over a construction project in Yuma, Ariz., could potentially redefine the concept of sacred land.

While current federal law protects tribes' religious or burial sites, a lawsuit introduced by a Quechan Indian leader is seeking to include potential tribal sites to that protected list as well, The New York Times said Sunday.

Mike Jackson, whose tribe has about 3,300 members, is attempting to stop the creation of a $4 billion oil refinery by alleging tribal artifacts may exist on its construction site.

In his suit, Jackson demands a lengthy and costly archaeological investigation be launched at the site to determine if his claim has merit. The demand comes despite claims by officials at Arizona Clean Fuels, the company behind the refinery, that no tribal artifacts have been found near the site.

The Times said if Jackson is successful in his efforts, his case could redefine what is considered sacred tribal land and open the door for additional lawsuits from other U.S. tribes.

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