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

Native News Weekly (June 16, 2024): D.C. Briefs
25th Navajo Nation Council Honors the Service of All Women Veterans
Photographs of the Homecoming of the Three Fires Powwow
Zuni Youth Enrichment Project Prepares to Kick Off Second Annual T-Ball League
Justice Dept. Scathing Report: Native Americans Face Discrimination by Phoenix Police

Join us in celebrating 100 years of Native citizenship. On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans US citizenship, a pivotal moment in their quest for equality. This year marks its centennial, inspiring our special project, "Heritage Unbound: Native American Citizenship at 100," celebrating their journey with stories of resilience, struggle, and triumph. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive.

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].