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Native Americans Fight Mining on Sacred Land

Tribes in Washington, D.C., protesting mining in Oak Flat, Ariz. Credit: Apache Stronghold
Tribes in Washington, D.C., protesting mining in Oak Flat, Ariz. Credit: Apache Stronghold
November 5, 2015

OAK FLAT, Az. - A group of Native American tribes called Apache Stronghold delivered petitions with more than a million signatures to Washington DC on Wednesday in a show of support for a bill to save the Oak Flat area from copper mining.

The federal government agreed to sell the land in the Tonto National Forest to a private developer as part of an amendment tucked into last year's defense bill by Senator John McCain.

Wendsler Nosie, a council member and spokesman for the San Carlos Apache tribe, says Oak Flat is a sacred place that must not be disturbed.

"For us, it's a religious place," says Nosie. "These are the places that God has touched and our identity, our character, who we are as a person has resonated from these places. So it's embedded in our language and our songs, in our ceremonial ways to where our people would return."

U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Act in June, which would repeal the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, the deal that transferred the land from the feds to the Resolution Copper company.

Nosie says members of the Apache Stronghold are now camping out at Oak Flat 24/7 to make a point.

"The way they robbed it from all Americans is a nasty way of doing things, so no way are we gonna let them touch this land," he says.

The Save Oak Flat Act has been referred to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs but has not gotten a hearing or a vote.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ