Press Release

Ninth Circuit to consider destruction of indigenous sacred site Feds say they can bulldoze a roadside burial ground to add a turning lane

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court will hear a case of major significance to Native American tribes today after the U.S. Federal Highway Administration bulldozed a longstanding sacred site near Mount Hood, Oregon in 2008 to add a turning lane to a nearby highway.

Members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde say the government broke numerous federal laws by bulldozing their sacred site, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, and several environmental laws. Hereditary chiefs Wilbur Slockish and Johnny Jackson, and elder Carol Logan, alerted the federal government to their use of the site before construction began. But their pleas fell on deaf ears, and the government destroyed the site anyway. In response to their lawsuit, the government says it has complete authority to destroy sacred sites located on federal land, and the trial court agreed.

Today’s argument comes shortly after the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in a similar case, Apache Stronghold v. United States. There, Becket represents Apaches whose sacred site, Chi’chil Bildagoteel, or Oak Flat, is on the brink of being obliterated by a foreign-owned copper-mining company. If Oak Flat is destroyed, it will render the sacred land unusable by the Native peoples who worship there, just like in the sacred burial ground at issue in this case.

Becket counsel Joe Davis will ask the Ninth Circuit to make amends for the destruction of the sacred burial site and ensure that similar destruction of Native American sacred sites cannot be perpetrated in the future.

Becket is co-counsel in the case, along with Seattle-based law firm Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch and Oregon City attorney James Nicita.

Oral Argument in Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration

Joe Davis, counsel at Becket

Today, November 16, 2021, at 2:00 PM PST and will last approximately 20 minutes.
A press call will be held immediately after.

The hearing will be live streamed in Courtroom 3 here.
James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse Room 307
95 7th Street, San Francisco, California 94103

Press Call Information:
Becket will host a press call at 2:45p.m. PST
Dial 312-626-6799 (Meeting ID: 849 8489 2727) or join

Email questions in advance to

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.