Press Release

Native Americans Sue after Government Destroys Burial Site Washington-based tribal members plead for settlement but forced back into court

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, D.C. – Today, three Native American tribal members were forced back into court after years of failed negotiations with the government.  Members of the Cascade and Klickitat Tribes of the Yakama Nation, as well as a  member of the Calckamas tribe, sued the government after it bulldozed sacred burial grounds in 2008, then spent the last two and a half years in dialogue seeking an agreement.

“The government has callously and needlessly destroyed a sacred Native American burial ground, and now it refuses to make things right.” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of Becket and lead attorney in this case. “Although the government left the other side of the highway untouched, it bulldozed the burial site, lost sacred stone markers and removed safe access to the site. All the tribal members ask is that their beliefs and sacred sites be respected.”

For centuries, Native Americans have gathered food and medicine and buried their dead in the forests surrounding Mount Hood. In 2008, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced plans to bulldoze sacred burial grounds, ignoring the pleas of local tribal members (watch video).

“Desecrating these burial sites is in clear violation of federal law,” said Goodrich. “In fact, many of our laws regarding the protection of religious beliefs were passed by Congress precisely to protect the rights of Native Americans.”

Hereditary Chiefs Wilber Slockish and Johnny Jackson sued, together with Carol Logan, a Traditional Practitioner from the Clackamas/Chinook/Kalapooya Tribes, citing federal laws including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Joining Slockish, Jackson, and Logan in their lawsuit are the Cascade Geographic Society and the Mount Hood Sacred Lands Preservation Alliance. They are represented by Becket, together with Oregon City attorney James Nicita and Michael Patterson of the Seattle-based law firm, Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”