Tag Archives: Oak Flat

Apaches Rally At Capitol, Vowing To Continue Fighting For Sacred Oak Flat

Naelyn Pike at Apache Stronghold Rally

Naelyn Pike at Apache Stronghold Rally

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Apache protesters completed their cross-country journey from the San Carlos reservation in Arizona to Washington, D.C., with a Wednesday rally on the lawn of the Capitol building, protesting Congress’ sale of their sacred Oak Flat to foreign mining conglomerates.

The area known as Oak Flat is part of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, and the Apache have used it for generations in young women’s coming-of-age ceremonies. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower removed it from consideration for mining activities in recognition of its natural and cultural value. But in December 2014, during the final days of the previous Congress, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) added a rider to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act that opened the land to mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

That change led to this week’s protests in Washington. Wendsler Nosie Sr. and his granddaughter, 16-year-old Naelyn Pike, led the Apache Stronghold coalition with speeches, prayers and songs, vowing to save land that is holy to them. At a separate rally Tuesday, they were joined by over 200 supporters — many representing faith groups in solidarity with the Apache — as well as Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who introduced legislation in June that would once again protect the land from mining. The bill has received support from the Sierra Club, National Congress of American Indians and tribes throughout the country.

“I’ve been fighting Congress on this issue in my life for, God, over 40 years,” Nosie told The Huffington Post. “Now everybody has that great sense that the American Indians, with the religions that we have, need to come to the forefront.”

“This is a violation of sacred sites and a violation of trust responsibility, and continues a historic pattern of neglecting and overlooking and ignoring the rights of Native people across this country,” Grijalva told The Huffington Post.

Oak Flat was originally part of the old San Carlos reservation, which was called “Hell’s 40 Acres” by the soldiers stationed there in the 1800s. It functioned as a prisoner-of-war camp for the Apache during their decades-long struggle against the United States and Mexico. Not far from Oak Flat is a place called “Apache Leap,” where Apache warriors plunged off a cliff to their death rather than surrender to the United States cavalry in 1870. This is the land of Geronimo, Cochise and Mangas Coloradas.

The protesters say the proposed Resolution Copper mine would destroy all that history.

“John McCain opened up the worst history in America,” said Nosie. “He opened it by attacking us, he opened it by attacking our religion and approving [a bill] to destroy it.”

In the tradition of leaders and generations past, the organizers of the Apache Stronghold are fighting to protect their rights to pray, worship and come of age in their sacred homelands.


Apache Stronghold Rally

“It’s like taking away a church,” Pike said. “But the thing about Oak Flat is it’s worse, because you can rebuild a church. Oak Flat will be completely destroyed and it could never come back.”While many are pushing to save Oak Flat, the fate of Apache holy land rests on the success of Grijalva’s bill — a long shot.

Although the bill has 17 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, the congressman is concerned that it will be difficult to get a hearing in the natural resources subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, which is chaired by Don Young (R-Alaska), a representative that some view as hostile to Native rights.

“It’s Don Young’s way or the highway when it comes to that committee,” Grijalva said.

Young’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But it has been even more difficult for Grijalva to convince members of the Senate to take on McCain, an influential senator who chairs the Armed Services Committee and sits on the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Grijalva is still looking for a senator to introduce companion legislation, although he listed a number of potential allies.

Although Native Americans have been guaranteed the protection of their sacred sites for decades through the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, opponents say the sale of Oak Flat tramples over that law and sets a precedent for Congress to let big business undermine Native rights to land and worship.

Apache Stronghold Rally

Apache Stronghold Rally

“This is a precedent setter, because if we do not repeal this portion of [the NDAA bill], then sacred sites and religious burial sites — all the things that are by law protected — are suddenly expendable, which sets a precedent for other parts of Indian Country,” said Grijalva. “If we are to protect sacred sites, and with this fight on Oak Flat build the profile and the significance of sacred sites to Indian people, then we are setting a precedent in other places as well.”A group of Native Hawaiians are currently fighting to protect Mauna Kea from a massive telescope proposed on their sacred mountain. And on Monday, the Pit River Tribe in California won an appeal to protect their sacred Medicine Lake from geothermal developers.

“This coalition — this awareness — is building,” said Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Nation, in his closing remarks at Wednesday’s rally. “It keeps building every day. So let’s keep together. Let’s stay united. And let’s show the world out there that in the United States of America, freedom of religion still lives!”

“We’re not going to stop fighting,” said Pike. “If they take Oak Flat away, they’re taking a piece of my heart away. They’re taking my identity away — but I’m not going to let that happen.”

“If I die, I die a proud Apache woman because I fought like my ancestors,” she continued. “I fought for those future generations.”


4 Sacred Native American Sites In Danger Of Being Destroyed By Corporations



By Paul Brammer / Blue Nation Review

The days where Native American tribes were forced to give up their land are far from over.

Here are four sacred Native American sites in danger of being destroyed in the name of corporate greed.

Badger-Two Medicine

The Blackfeet Tribe calls the land of Badger-Two Medicine “the Backbone of the World,” the place where the story of their people began. But now the mineral-rich land, located in modern day Michigan, is in danger of being drilled for oil.


Solenext, LCC, the last of the 47 leaseholders of the land, filed a lawsuit so that drilling could begin. Earl Old Person, a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council since 1954, is fighting to preserve what he calls “an altar to the Blackfeet Confederacy.” He wrote a letter to Obama urging the president to intervene.

Oak Flat

After lawmakers slipped in a clause in the National Defense Authorization Act that swapped 2,400 acres of copper-containing land for 5,300 acres of substandard land, the San Carlos Apache tribe has been fighting to preserve Oak Flat.

The land is located in Arizona and contains Apache Leap, a place where 75 Apache men, women, and children were massacred.

In response to the controversy, the international mining corporation, Resolution Mining Inc., said that the mine could be a good thing because it could employ Native Americans.

The Black Hills

The Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota peoples, who suffer from systemic poverty, turned down $1.5 billion offered to them for the Black Hills, land the Keystone XL Pipeline would intersect. That’s how much this land matters to them.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott has called the Keystone XL Pipeline “an act of war.”

The Osage Mounds

The Chahokian Mounds are the artifacts of an ancient, complex civilization. The modern Osage consider themselves to be descendants of these mound builders, the architects of the most important city to the Mississippians.


But the NFL’S St. Louis Rams are planning on paving over what’s left of it to build a new stadium. Indian Country Today Media Network reports that the project has a $1 billion price tag and that its construction is still in its early development.

Hopefully the mound can still be salvaged.

H/T: St. Louis Public Radio, Indian Country Today Media Network


Occupy Oak Flat Refuses to Back Down in Protest Against Resolution Copper

Wendsler Nosie, leader of the Oak Flat Occupation, says he's "not scared." Miriam Wasser

Wendsler Nosie, leader of the Oak Flat Occupation, says he’s “not scared.” Miriam Wasser

By Miriam Wasser | Phoenix New Times

Leaders of Occupy Oak Flat say they won’t give up until the U.S. government repeals the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, leading a three-week protest at the Oak Flat Campground, vows to remain there until the federal government bends.

The controversial exchange gave Australian-British mining company Resolution Copper (a subsidiary of the largest mining company in the world, Rio Tinto) access to a vast underground copper reserve under Oak Flat. The deal trades 2,400 acres of previously federally protected land for 5,300 acres of company property. The land exchange was attached to the 2015 United States National Defense Authorization Actas a midnight rider after it failed to pass as a stand-alone bill multiple times during the last decade.

“There was never any transparency in how the bill passed, and now people are outraged,” says Wendsler Nosie, San Carlos Apache district councilman and leader of the protest. He calls the land exchange a violation of human rights and religious freedom.

“People don’t seem to realize how this will affect Indians all across the United States,” he says. If the government can give away this land, what’s to stop them from doing it again in the future? “It sets precedence.”

Miriam Wasser

Miriam Wasser

Oak Flat, part of Tonto National Forest, is a well-known rock-climbing and camping spot, and a sacred area for many Native American tribes. The rich body of copper ore sits 1.25 miles below ground, very close to historically significant land — including the site of the Apache Leap.

Vernelda Grant, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the San Carlos Apache, explains that she and other members of her tribe pray, forage for wild edibles, and collect medicinal plants there. “This feels like an affront on religious freedom,” she tells New Times.

Dave Richins of Resolution Copper says his company has tried on many occasions to reach out to the tribes, maintaining that they haven’t responded. “We really want the benefit of this project to be felt throughout the region,” he says.

According to the company, Resolution Copper will do a thorough Environmental Impact Statement before official exchange of the title to the land, provide extraordinary protections for the historic Apache Leap, and guarantee safe access to the Oak Flat Campground for as long as possible.

Members of the tribe and environmentalists around the world are skeptical of any promised benefits, especially when the ecological risks are so great.

Of particular controversy is the mining method Resolution Coppers plans to use. It’s called block caving and involves digging deep underground and blasting the ore body into pieces from the bottom before removing the copper. Environmentalists across the world oppose the method, and Sandy Bahr, executive director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, says it will result in land subsidence and could damage much of the surrounding eco-system.

Watch an explanation of how Resolution Copper Plans to Mine Oak Flat

While in the past Resolution Copper has said its plan won’t create subsidence, Richins tellsNew Times that “there will be an impact to the surface: it will subside. But the extent of that we’re not sure.” He explains that they’re “still doing a lot of geological studies to understand everything that’s there,” and that it will be at least 10 years before any ore is removed — five years for the permit process, and five to build the mine. “We are looking for a win-win situation,” he adds.

Miriam Wasser

Miriam Wasser

The company has started drilling for samples, and according to Anna Jeffrey — who lives in Superior and follows the issue closely — it’s also pumping out an incredible amount of ground water. She tells New Times that she’s seen how this “hot water” laden with minerals is pumped and then dumped on the ground, saying it’s wasteful and poses a toxic threat to the environment. Copper Resolution says it’s testing the water flow in the area.

According to a recent press release from the protesters, the Forest Service will “work with the Apache people to protect the sacredness of Oak Flat and begin a meaningful dialogue.” The Forest Service’s Carrie Templin says only that “determining whether land is sacred will be considered during an environmental impact statement.”

The protest began on February 6 with a 44-mile march from San Carlos to Oak Flat, and occupiers have rotated in and out of the encampment since. In the last three weeks, people from all over the county, and as far away Peru and Brazil, have visited to express solidarity. Last weekend, more than 400 supporters came, and this past Saturday, there were more than 50 people partaking in prayer, sweat lodges, dancing, and speeches.

“We’re going to stay here and continue to occupy. We’re going to continue camping here until they repeal it,” Councilman Noise told a crowd of cheering supporters. “We’re going to live, we’re going to stay, and they’re not going to chase us off!”

Miriam Wasser

Miriam Wasser