Gila River tribe considers vote on different Loop 202 alignment

By Sean Holstege

The Arizona Republic

Last December, members of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) showed their opposition to the proposed 202 freeway by holding the Sacrificing Against the Freeway gathering, a two day spiritual relay run and march.
Last December, members of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) showed their opposition to the proposed 202 freeway by holding the Sacrificing Against the Freeway gathering, a two day spiritual relay run and march.

No issue has polarized the Gila River Indian Community quite like the proposed South Mountain Freeway and efforts to move it onto tribal land.

The prospect of moving the Loop 202 extension south of the current proposed route has pitted a would-be developer and his landholding allies against a group of activists and environmentalists who do not want the freeway built at all.

Backers who want to reroute the freeway onto tribal land have lined up support with $50 cash payments and promises the state will pay every man, woman and child in the Indian community $2,000 if a proposed ballot measure wins. They have bused people to community meetings and entered them in a raffle to win $500.

Opponents have held concerts and charity walks to raise money. They have showed up at state and regional meetings wearing breathing masks and “No Loop 202” T-shirts. They are urging a no vote on the expected referendum, saying it’s the only way to preserve the environment and save South Mountain, which they consider sacred.

The Gila River Tribal Council is expected to decide at an upcoming meeting, perhaps as early as Feb. 20, whether to call for a referendum that would ask voters to decide whether to move the freeway alignment onto tribal land.

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