Likins: Most Apaches don't mind Mt. Graham desecration
Accusations that the university is flagrantly trampling over Apache religious grounds on Mount Graham are unfounded, UA officials yesterday.
Wednesday night, a labor union leader and parliament members from Italy spoke out against the construction of University of Arizona telescopes on Mount Graham, saying development of the area is desecrating an Apache holy site.
But UA President Peter Likins said the issue is not so cut-and-dry as protesters describe it, adding that some American Indians don't mind the intrusion.
"Not all Apaches agree on the issues," Likins said.
Apache leader Raleigh Thompson said Wednesday that UA officials never contacted his people about the telescope project, and members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition claim Likins has failed to meet with offended San Carlos reservation Apaches.
Still, Likins said yesterday that in his many conversations with Apache people, hardly anyone has expressed concern about the telescope site.
"Probably most Apaches are too concerned with other issues to worry about this," he said, adding that he scheduled one meeting to discuss the Mount Graham issue, but the Apaches canceled.
The Italian leaders traveled to Arizona this week to attend a forum sponsored by SEAC Wednesday, in which they blasted UA administrators for building on land the Apaches claim has historically been considered sacred.
Workers for the Sindacato di Base labor union make parts in Italy for the UA's Large Binocular Telescope. A third of the union members have gone on strike to protest the Mount Graham construction.
But the Italian protesters are in the minority, Likins said.
Astronomy department head Peter Strittmatter pointed to long-standing good relations between the Apaches and the university. He said some American Indians are so unconcerned about Mount Graham that they are employed at the telescope site.
Strittmatter was dubious about the Italian motivation in coming to Arizona.
"I think they mainly came over to make TV shots," he said. "I am surprised that if they did want to gather information that they did not talk to us."
Strittmatter said he extended an invitation to the Italian delegation to discuss the telescope project, but they declined to speak with him.
Sarah Spivack can be reached via e-mail at Sarah.Spivack@wildcat.arizona.edu.