Call/Email your legislators – Protect established sacred land from corporate abuse.
For the San Carlos Apache, Oak Flat is a sacred burial ground, and the site of important cultural ceremonies. Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has likened its importance to that of other religious sites, such as Mount Sinai, where, in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theology, Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is also an ecological and recreational haven.
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated Oak Flat as an area off-limits to mining. However, former Arizona senators, Jeff Flake and the late John McCain slipped a land trade deal with Resolution Copper, a joint venture by two problematic and foreign mining giants, Rio Tinto and BHP, into the must-pass 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. (This immoral act is similar to how the GOP snuck oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into a tax scam.) The mine, in the center of sacred Native land, would eventually collapse into a crater nearly two miles wide and about 1,000 feet deep. There are several other block-cave copper mines in the region, 60 miles east of Phoenix, causing the surface to collapse and crack in some areas. Mining would use vast quantities of water and forever change the flows of local seeps, springs, and streams. Toxic tailings would need to be stored at a nearby facility at a to-be-determined location, posing risks to public health and safety. Native protesters say that not only is a mine dangerous to people, wildlife and the environment, but the 1,300-page draft Environmental Impact Statement published by the Forest Service in August or 2019 ignored Oak Flat’s religious significance.
In 2019, the Save Oak Flat Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, which would repeal Section 3003 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 and keep Oak Flat in public ownership. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced the US House version, HR 665, with 29 cosponsors from both parties. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced S 173, the Senate version of the Save Oak Flat Act with four cosponsors, Senators Warren (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Wyden (D-OR), Heinrich (D-NM), and Booker (D-NJ).
Minimal Script: I’m [writing/calling] from [zip code] to condemn the fast-tracked exchange of sacred Apache land for copper mining. Along with local Indigenous communities and environmentalists, I am denouncing this action between the U.S. government and Resolution Mining. I would like Rep./Sen.[___] to immediately cosponsor the Save Oak Flat Act (S. 173/H.R. 665) to repeal the land swap.
- Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email.(CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
Why Is No One Talking About the Land Battle in Oak Flat, AZ?
“This is a place where gifts were given in this part of the world. To make people understand it, how can anyone destroy a religious place that has significant meaning?” —Wendsler Nosie Sr., former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe
Wendsler Nosie Sr. and the Apache Stronghold at the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s March on Washington, June 23, 2018. Photo by Hope In Focus.
A battle is being waged over sacred land in Oak Flat, Arizona, and no one is talking about it.
Resolution Copper Co. wants to build the nation’s largest copper mine. The issue, however, is that the copper for that mine is located underneath the sacred Apache tribal land of Oak Flat. Not only does this project pose an enormous environmental risk, but it would also destroy places of historical and religious significance to the tribe like Apache Leap and Devil’s Canyon.
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated Oak Flat as an area off-limits to mining. However, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act authorized Resolution to use the land in Oak Flat in exchange for other lands in Arizona. This was supported by former Arizona senators, Jeff Flake and the late John McCain. The land Resolution wants to trade is scattered across the state and wouldn’t offer half the environmental and touristic value that Oak Flat currently holds. In addition to being sacred tribal land, Oak Flat is also a prime destination for climbers, hikers, and campers.
For three years, the Apache Indian Tribe has been fighting back against this land exchange and they are running out of time. This country has already stolen enough sacred tribal land from its indigenous peoples. If a mining company wanted to tear down the Vatican to harvest the minerals underneath its soil, there would be a public outcry around the world. If an oil company wanted to build a drilling rig in the middle of Jerusalem, there would be protests far and wide. So why are these sacred tribal lands any different?
When Resolution is done mining — 50 years from now — it will leave behind a series of pockets beneath the earth from “block cave” mining that could lead to potential ground collapses, a 1,000-foot deep crater, countless destroyed wildlife habitats and environmental damage like deforestation and contaminated groundwater. This damage would take an additional 5–10 years to resolve if it ever got resolved at all. But all the replanting and reconstruction in the world could not replace the centuries of history that will be erased from the Apache tribe.
Why is it that this nation continues to steal land away from its original inhabitants under the guise of being “good for the economy”? And even if the land trade was of equal value, why should the Apache tribe be forced to give up their sacred lands and move for corporate greed? Did we not learn our lesson as a nation after the damage caused by the Trail of Tears? Have we not evolved our moral consciousness as a country enough to be able to determine that seizing land for profit is unjust?
We witnessed what happened after the Keystone XL Pipeline was allowed to drill through Standing Rock after all those promises were made about environmental protection, and we do not want to bear witness to that again.
Copper mining poses its own significant environmental risks. It frequently causes acid mine drainage which can seep into groundwater and require a lifetime of continual treatment. The toxic fumes from mining can also result in severe air pollution in neighboring mining towns. These proposed “economic gains” are not worth risking the health and livelihood of the Oak Flat community.
Thou shalt not steal is one of the clearest moral admonitions in the scripture. We are going to stand with our brothers and sisters of the Apache tribe in Oak Flat and saying that we will not allow native lands to be the subject of corporate exploitation any longer. We support the Congressional efforts to overturn the legislation that allowed this to happen in the first place. We will unite our voices and make sure that we are heard in every corner of this nation until the greed of corporations is no longer put above the sovereignty of this nation’s land and the preservation of our environment.
Make your voice heard. Join us.
Repairers of the Breach is building a moral movement and is a cosponsor of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. To learn more about both, visit www.breachrepairers.org.