fbpx
facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
 

Members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, along with high school students, protested outside U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s office in Phoenix, Ariz. last Thursday, urging the Arizona Democrat to support legislation protecting, Oak Flat, a sacred site threatened by a proposed copper mine near Superior.

The crowd of about 20 demonstrators carried signs that read, “Save Oak Flat” and “Senator Mark Kelly – Protect Our Religion.”

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

Protesters want Kelly to support the Save Oak Flat Act, sponsored in the Senate by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and in the House by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Neither bill has moved forward since the spring.

The bill aims to protect Oak Flat – considered sacred by Apache and other Indigenous people – from a vast copper mine proposed in the Tonto National Forest about 60 miles east of Phoenix. Mining could lead the land to collapse and leave behind a 2-mile crater.

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

Oak Flat supporter (Photo/Courtesy)

Oak Flat, known to the Apache as Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel, was federally protected until it became part of a land swap approved in a federal defense bill, slipped in by then U.S. Sen. John McCain, in December 2014. Under the deal, the federal government agreed to exchange public land that included Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, a joint venture by Rio Tinto on BHP.

The land holds religious and cultural significance to Indigenous communities, especially the San Carlos Apache, who still hold ceremonies on the land.

Brophy High School senior Aidan Parr, 18, said destroying the land is a cultural attack on the Native American community.

“If there was a huge copper deposit discovered under St. Peter’s Basilica, no one would be like, ‘Let’s mine it even if it destroys the church,’” he said.

Sandra Rambler, a San Carlos Apache, said her ancestors were buried on Oak Flat ground, so she feels strongly about keeping the land sacred and free from mining.

“Leave them alone, leave our way of life alone,” she said.

The bill follows years of uncertainty regarding the status of the land. Arguments in a lawsuit filed in January by the nonprofit Apache Stronghold were made before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in October.

A ruling is expected next year. The group’s website says its mission is “to battle continued colonization, defend holy sites and freedom of religion.”

More Stories Like This

FCC Chairwoman Proposes New "Missing and Endangered Persons" Emergency Alert Code
California MMIP Summit Convenes Tribal Leaders to Address Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples
US Presidents in Their Own Words Concerning American Indians
Native News Weekly (February 18, 2024): D.C. Briefs
Remarks by US Treasurer Chief Lynn Malerba at the National Congress of American Indians

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

 
About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].