US Senate Passes Defense Bill that Gives Tribal Ancestral Land to Foreign Company
WASHINGTON — Over objections of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the U.S. Senate voted on Friday to pass the $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, which includes a provision that gives 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining giant Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto will now be able to mine the area for copper.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe maintain the mining by Rio Tinto will be on sacred ancestral lands where tribal members have historically performed ceremonies and buried their ancestors.
“Since time immemorial people have gone there. That’s part of our ancestral homeland,” We’ve had dancers in that area forever — sunrise dancers — and coming-of-age ceremonies for our young girls that become women. They’ll seal that off. They’ll seal us off from the acorn grounds, and the medicinal plants in the area, and our prayer areas,” Chairman Terry Rambler, San Carlos Apache Tribe, told the Huffington Post last week.
San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler with friend Kim May prior to introducing President Obama last week
The provision was inserted in legislation the House of Representative bill last week at the last minute. The bill was sold as a “must do” bill in order to fund the military. Rio Tinto has worked on getting the land for the past decade, but up until now the bill failed. Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake pushed for the insertion of the provision into the Act.
Chairman Rambler, who introduced President Barack Obama, last week to his fellow tribal leaders at the White House Tribal Nations Conference was in Washington this week seeking to have the provision removed from the legislation.
Rio Tinto has publically stated it will work with tribes in the area to make sure their concerns are recognized and will work the U.S. Forest Service to ensure the environment is protected.