The Apache Stronghold Spiritual Convoy to the 9th Circuit Court is underway and made a stop in Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday. A Tohono O’odham blessing took place at the popular overlook on “A” mountain, followed by a gathering at Southside Presbyterian Church. The spiritual convoy is underway in hopes of stopping an international mining company, Resolution Copper, and its parent company, Rio Tinto, from extracting copper from the Oak Flat campground area, 60 miles east of Phoenix. Apache Stronghold has issued a litany of complaints, lawsuits and appeals attempting to stop the project from going through, after advocates said the late U.S. Sen. John McCain underhandedly slipped the measure into the National Defense Spending Bill in the 11th hour in December 2014.
The Pueblo of Zuni would be remiss in this context to remain silent on the recent legal position taken by the Biden-Harris Administration's Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding Chi'chil Bildagoteel (i.e., Oak Flat) and the Resolution Copper mine in Arizona. The Administration's stated position is unfortunate and extremely troubling, as it is in fact little more than a continuation of a policy of containment and erasure of Native peoples that directly contradicts in substance, content, and spirit the Administration's own E.O. 13985. This position is a reinforcement and reproduction of racist legal legacies of Native dispossession in the United States that gives preference to and promotes resource extraction and environmental destruction to the detriment of the capacities Native people indelibly require for any advancement or support of equity.
Washington, DC - Citing the Presidential Memorandum signed by President Joe Biden on Jan. 26 on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has put on hold the transfer of 5,439 acres of high-value conservation land in Arizona to Resolution Copper. The acres include Chich’il Bildagoteel, known as Oak Flat, which is the heart of several southwest tribal religious and cultural beliefs. During the last days of the Trump administration, federal officials attempted to speed up the transfer to Resolution Copper that would mine the land. On January 15, 2021, five days before Trump left the presidency, the Tonto National Forest released the Resolution Copper Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and draft Record of Decision (ROD) for objection.
Phoenix, AZ – This afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan denied Apache Stronghold's request for an injunction preventing the giveaway and destruction of sacred Oak Flat to Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper. Judge Logan said that Apache Stronghold has no right to ask the Court for help because they are not an officially designated a "sovereign nation." Judge Logan said that the U.S. Government has no Trust Responsibility to the Apache even though their Treaty of 1852 says, "the government of the United States shall so legislate and act as to secure the permanent prosperity and happiness of said Indians."
Opponents of a copper mine project that would obliterate an Apache sacred site east of Phoenix asked a federal judge Wednesday to stop work on the project. The group Apache Stronghold filed the first in a series of three lawsuits Jan. 12 to stop Resolution Copper from proceeding with a huge copper mine below Oak Flat, a site deemed sacred to many Apaches and other Southwestern tribes. The suit was filed three days before the Forest Service issued the final environmental impact statement regarding the mine project on Jan. 15, starting a 60-day clock on a land swap that would turn the land over to Resolution. The site, currently a Forest Service campground, sits about 5 miles east of Superior just off U.S. Highway 60.
BHP and Rio Tinto, two of the world’s largest resource extraction companies, have earned themselves a solid reputation for obliterating native lands and communities throughout the world. Leaders in the international mining market, the British-Australian companies are globally condemned for their labor, environmental and human rights abuses. Today, they’re hard at work to expand that reputation to Arizona, where their jointly-owned company Resolution Copper advances toward the destruction of ancestral Apache land Oak Flat. Following the outcry caused by Rio Tinto’s deliberate gutting of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sacred site Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, Rio Tinto and BHP voiced public concessions to work cooperatively with First Nations.
Apache Stronghold, on behalf of traditional Apache religious and cultural leaders, placed a lien on Oak Flat on Wednesday, January 13, with the Pinal County Recorder’s Office. The lien prevents the planned transfer of Oak Flat, or Chi’chil Bildagoteel, to a foreign mining company until the recently filed ongoing Apache Stronghold lawsuit is finalized. The lien and one of the lawsuit claims are based on the Treaty of Santa Fe of 1852 between the United States and the Apache which promises that Apache lands, at the center of which lies Chi’chil Bildagoteel, are to remain in Apache ownership. The Treaty of Santa Fe is still in force.
Apache Stronghold, on behalf of traditional Apache religious and cultural leaders, sued the Trump administration today in U.S. District Court in Phoenix to stop the transfer of Oak Flat, or Chi'chil Bildagoteel, to British-Australian corporate mining giant Rio Tinto and its subsidiary, Resolution Copper. The lawsuit seeks to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s publication on January 15, 2021, of a final environmental impact statement that will trigger the transfer of Oak Flat to Resolution Copper. The Forest Service is rushing publication to help Rio Tinto take possession of Oak Flat before the end of the Trump administration, despite opposition by Apache Stronghold, San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe and hundreds of other Native American tribes.
The Alliance for Global Justice stands in solidarity with Apache Clans and over 300 Native Nations who seek to protect the Oak Flat site of south-eastern Arizona from devastating copper mining extraction. For over ten years, the San Carlos Apache and neighboring tribes have mobilized to prevent the destruction of this sacred land, which for centuries has been revered as a holy site by the Apache. Oak Flat holds the history, lives and prayers of at least eight Apache Clans and two Apache Western Bands, is home to a wealth of medicinal and edible plants, burial grounds and water sources rising from the Apache Leap Tuff aquifer.
Resolution Copper, owned by two foreign companies, has been maneuvering for years to acquire and destroy the oasis of Oak Flat. Traditionally the Apache have come here for edible and medicinal plants. Various native bird species live here, and there’s lots of water. According to Roy Chavez who once served as mayor of Superior, an ocelot road-carcass was found nearby, indicating that Oak Flat is evidently within the range of this rare and elusive cat. The huge rocks and ancient oaks are treasures that must be protected for their environmental and their sacred value. They are part of the culture that has flourished here for thousands of years. It would be infinitely horrible to destroy this site.
By George Pauk for Popular Resistance. Oak Flat, Arizona - We are back at the mountain campsite that is the prime example of the persistent greed of our empire. The shame of us “whites” is palpable here in the beautiful high desert. Again, we find the Native Americans already here, ---we are visitors. They welcome us, but we know it is long past due that we need to decolonize this land. It has been one year since a group of people of the San Carlos Apache tribe called out the dastardly actions of our Arizona Senators (McCain and Flake). The senators, joined by other politicians, slyly “gave” this sacred land of the Apaches to foreign corporations. The politicians have benefited financially for their campaigns. They blatantly continue their charade of pretend that the rape of this land and waters will benefit us. They wish to create another huge pit of rubble where the beauty of ancient, historic trees, wild animals and sacred culture now lives.
By Kelsey Erickson for Popular Resistance, Three people have been occupying and fasting at Oak Flat in protest of the land exchange bill that Senator McCain attached to a must-pass military appropriations bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill essentially gave Oak Flat away to one of the largest copper mining corporations in the world, Resolution Copper. This absurdity of this land exchange is not only evident in the fact that Oak Flat is part of federally protected Tonto National Forest, but also in the fact that it denies rights of the Apache Nation to practice cultural traditions at this sacred site. Though the land exchange bill was passed, the Apache-Stronghold is determined to keep the mining megacorporation off their sacred land. They plan to occupy the Oak Flat campground indefinitely to ensure it's protection.
By María Inés Taracena in Tuscon Weekly - About 30 people gathered outside the Tucson Electric Power headquarters this morning to protest U.S. Sen. John McCain's role in the Oak Flat giveaway to foreign mining company Resolution Copper. Some of the protesters also wanted to raise awareness on a bill McCain sponsors—SB 750—which would waive laws on all federal public land and all tribal land within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Simultaneously, the Republican senator was inside in a private meeting with TEP representatives. "He's having three private meetings this week, private town halls, while he refuses to meet with his constituents," says Cyndi Tuell, an attorney, conservation advocate and a volunteer with the Sierra Club's Borderlands campaign. "We are ashamed of him for that and ashamed of him for giving away the sacred Apache land of Oak Flat in a midnight deal in Congress."