Arizona - A federal appeals court will rehear Apache Stronghold’s case against the United States to save the sacred site of Oak Flat, a 6.7-square-mile stretch of land east of Phoenix that a private venture is seeking to turn into an underground copper mine. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced Thursday (Nov. 17) that it will rehear the case in front of a full 11-judge court instead of the original three-judge panel. Earlier this summer, the divided federal appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, held that the government could proceed with the transfer of Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, a company owned by the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. It ruled that Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit working to protect Oak Flat, failed to show a substantial burden on its religious exercise.
It was a dark, cold Saturday morning in late February 2020, and pandemic lockdowns were less than a month away. Leanna Young was lying in bed, still sleepy. On days like this, her husband would get picked up by her brother, Daren, who worked security at a Gayogo̱hó:nǫ’ (Cayuga) community center on Cayuga territory. Her husband worked there, too. Most of the adults in her family did—it provided them with jobs, with financial stability. But by 6:05AM on Feb. 22, Leanna could still hear her husband in the kitchen. “Jesus, why is he still here?” she wondered. “He’s supposed to be clocked in by now.” Many of the kids in the community had spent the night at Grandma Wanda’s. For Leanna’s eight-year-old daughter, Evee, it was her first sleepover.
In 2014, Congress used a midnight rider added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to hand the Indigenous Sacred Land at Oak Flats in Arizona over to a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, Resolution Copper, to mine, which would destroy the land and pollute the local water. Apache Stronghold and its allies are fighting to protect the land and with it, their cultural identity and religious freedom. A new Bureau of Land Management report and conflict within the Ninth Circuit Court are promising for them. Clearing the FOG speaks with Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr. about the significance of Oak Flats and how it exposes the ways colonization and capitalism harm and threaten the existence of most people in the United States, not just the Native American population. Dr. Nosie discusses spirituality, ancient prophecies and the urgent need to work together to change course.
The state of Hawaii has set up a new way to manage the mountain Maunakea, the summit of which is home to many world-class astronomical observatories. A law signed by Hawaii’s governor on 7 July removes the University of Hawaii from its role as the main authority overseeing the land on which the telescopes sit, and gives that responsibility to a newly established group with much broader representation of the community, including Native Hawaiians. Many hope that the shift will mark a path forwards for astronomy in Hawaii, after a years-long impasse over the future of telescopes on Maunakea. Since 2015, some Native Hawaiians have intermittently blocked the road to the summit, primarily to prevent the start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) — a next-generation observatory that will have a huge light-gathering mirror to make astronomical discoveries.
Native nations and citizen watchdogs were prepared to take action against the permitting, because this is not the first time the federal agency has moved to allow the renewal of large-scale mining at these headwaters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Four toxic Superfund sites are the result of water pollution from the mining over the past 70 years. Two generations of Lakota and settler descendants have worked across and through cultural differences to prevent any more of the same. Taxpayers already are footing the bill for the cleanup of hazardous heavy metals used in modern mining: cyanide, arsenic, chromium III and VI, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, and zinc. About $100 million of public money has been spent on runoff at just one of the sites, which generates approximately 95 million gallons of poisonous acid rock drainage a year.
A group of Indigenous activists and their allies will run from the San Carlos Apache Reservation to the summit of Mount Graham starting Thursday to honor one of their most sacred sites and to commemorate the beginnings of a local Native grassroots movement to preserve Indigenous sacred places. The 31st Annual Mount Graham Sacred Run begins at the Old San Carlos Monument, the site of the original Indian agency and military post, dating to when Apache people were first restricted to the San Carlos Reservation. It will continue along state and local highways to the summit of Mount Graham, one of the Southwest's Sky Islands. "We're headed back to where we started," said Wendsler Nosie. The longtime tribal rights activist and former San Carlos Apache Tribe chairman is also the head of grassroots group Apache Stronghold, which is organizing the event.
Flagstaff, Arizona - Hopi farmer Bucky Preston talks to the clouds that form atop Arizona’s tallest mountain. And they talk back. For 2,000 years, communication with the sky has been an important traditional farming method of the Hopi and their Puebloan ancestors. The clouds drift with Hopi prayers from the mountain they call Nuva’tukya’ovi – “place of snow on the very top” – to the tribe’s villages, providing life-giving rain and spiritual sustenance to the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. But last fall, the sacred conversation fell silent. “I did not have a harvest,” says Preston, 72. “It was the first time in my life that happened.” He says other farmers, who grow without chemical fertilizer or irrigation, experienced the same.
Phoenix – Tourists speeding toward Grand Canyon National Park rarely notice the rocky protuberance that juts above the flat expanse of Arizona's Coconino Plateau. But to the Havasu 'Baaja, known to the world as the Havasupai Tribe or "People of the Blue-Green Water," the isolated hill forms the center of their lands and spiritual life. Red Butte (Wii'I Gdwiisa or "Clenched Fist Mountain") is the abdomen of Mother Earth. Mat Taav Tiivjunmdva, a meadow about 3 miles north of the distinctive mountain close to the Canyon's South Rim, is her navel. But Red Butte and Mat Taav Tiivjunmdva are part of the Kaibab National Forest and do not lie within the trust land borders of the Havasupai, who were evicted from Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.
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.
"This place is very holy and religious to us." Wendsler Nosie Senior, an elder of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, is describing his people's land, Oak Flat or Chi'chil Bildagoteel, in the Arizona desert in the US south-west. The site in the Tonto National Forest is a popular camping and hiking ground and contains sacred cultural heritage locations that include rock carvings, burial sites and the Apache Leap, where Apache warriors jumped to their death after being driven to the edge of the cliff by the US cavalry. But earlier this month, in the dying days of the Trump administration, the US Government handed over Oak Flat to two of the world's biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP.
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.