The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe has appealed to the Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation and the FAA to uphold their trust obligation by introducing flight restrictions over sacred Snoqualmie Falls.
The sacred site, which is listed on the National Register as a Traditional Cultural Property has experienced a sharp increase in low altitude and unregulated air tours in the past year. Representatives from the tribe say air traffic is disrespectful, distracting and dangerous to residents and visitors to the Falls.
“The airspace above Snoqualmie Falls is being continuously violated by low-flying helicopter tours that infringe upon our right to enjoy our sacred site,” said Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Chairman Robert de los Angeles. “These private aviation companies are capitalizing our sacred site and violating our rights as Snoqualmie people to practice our cultural beliefs at the falls in peace. It is our obligation, as Snoqualmie people, to do everything we can to protect our sacred site from continued harm.”
Snoqualmie Falls lies on the Snoqualmie River within the Snoqualmie Tribe’s ancestral lands and is a sacred site central to the tribe’s creation story and religious practice, according to a tribe spokesperson. Tribal members have been holding religious and cultural ceremonies at the Falls since time immemorial. Preservation of the falls and the surrounding area is of the utmost importance, according to the tribe spokesperson, and in 2019 the Tribe purchased the Salish Lodge & Spa and adjacent acreage to stop what they call irresponsible development.
According to a statement from the tribe, since Spring 2020, the Snoqualmie Tribe has expressed its concerns to the helicopter tour operators that advertise flights above Snoqualmie Falls, including Atomic Helicopters and Helicopters Northwest. They say those concerns have been ignored. Now, the Tribe has urged United States governmental agencies to step in and develop ways to mitigate and abate ongoing harms to Snoqualmie Falls.
“We urge members of the public, including residents who live in the area, to report complaints to the FAA via their online complaint tool,” said Tribal Councilmember Christopher Castleberry in a written statement. “The Tribe recently made an appeal to the public through its Snoqualmie Tribe Ancestral Lands Movement for individuals to file complaints with the FAA. “We need a solution that will protect the airspace above Snoqualmie Falls, similar to the airspace restrictions in place over National monuments. We need immediate action in order to ensure that the 2 million plus individuals who visit our sacred site each year are kept safe.”