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Gila River Community against Loop 202 freeway project, South Mountain, Phoenix, USA

Tribal members consider South Mountain Park to be sacred. They fought to preserve the area from the expansion of the Loop 202 freeway since 2012. However, the damaging project has been approved in 2021.


 "Loop 202" freeway project was proposed by the government and traffic managers because of growing urban area in Phoenix, USA [1]. However, for Native people and activist Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes, the demolition of 33 acres of desert peak due to the freeway project represented the loss and desecration of a sacred place. In fact, the mountain is Indigenous cultural and historical heritage, including petroglyphs or Indigenous rock carvings, sometimes referred to as “The Teaching Rocks”, from several hundred to more than 7,000 years of age [1-2]. Moreover, it is place for rituals, ceremonies, or gathering, and collecting medicinal plants [2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gila River Community against Loop 202 freeway project, South Mountain, Phoenix, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Arizona
Location of conflict:Phoenix
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Loop 202 (South Mountain Freeway) adds 22 miles of freeway to the existing Phoenix metropolitan transportation system. The freeway now connects the east and west valley in Phoenix.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project469,398,7222
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:14,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Connect 202 Partners LLC
Relevant government actors:The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) - construction public company
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Gila river Community: Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes
Resistance to the Freeway
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Because the mountains where the project was proposed was outside the tribal [legal] boundaries, court decided in favor of the freeway construction.
Sources & Materials

[1] AZCentral 2021: South Mountain: After a long fight, a new freeway leaves cultural sites in ruins
[click to view]

[2] 2015: Protesters Fight Loop 202 Extension
[click to view]

[3] Aljazeera 2017: Indigenous tribes: Arizona road a threat to sacred land
[click to view]

[4] 2016: Protesters Plan Run Against South Mountain Freeway Extension
[click to view]

[5] Kronkite News 2015: Gila River Indian Community opposes freeway on sacred land
[click to view]

[6] Phoenix News Time 2017: Ruling Makes Opening of South Mountain Freeway a Reality for Late 2019
[click to view]

[7] 2014: Updates on Resistance to the Freeway
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[8] Resistance to Loop 202 Report
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ksenija Hanacek ICTA-UAB
Last update14/09/2021
Conflict ID:5622
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