Call to Action: Protect Sacred Apache Land
Last December, we reported on the battle for Oak Flat — a place on the Arizona landscape where the riches beneath the ground have put the cultural richness of the Apache people at risk. Despite a federal land order making Oak Flat off-limits for mining operations, Congress promised to give the sacred Indian site to a foreign mining company as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. But the Apache have vowed to fight.
In February of this year, three hundred people, mostly Apache, marched 44 miles from tribal headquarters to occupy Oak Flat. They see the congressional act as sacrilegious — a selloff of a place where Apaches go to pray, hold coming-of-age ceremonies, and gather acorns. The federal government has protected the holiness of the site since 1955, when President Dwight Eisenhower closed the area to mining. The ban was renewed in 1971 by President Richard Nixon.
But Rio Tinto, the foreign mining company who received teh congressional grant, got the federal government to change its mind.
Next month, tribal leaders are planning to travel to Washington, DC to defend their holy site. They are asking for the country to stand with them and help them build a groundswell of support for their fight. To do that, they have launched a petition on Avaaz.org to urge Congress and the Department of the Interior to protect their land. The petition states:
“As people across the United States, we believe the recent rider to the National Defense Authorization Act that opens up National Forest land in Arizona to copper mining, land held sacred by the San Carlos Apache, is an outrage likely tied to campaign spending by the mining industry. We the undersigned demand immediate repeal or amendment of this rider, and an apology to the local Apache whose cultural heritage is being put up for sale.”
As of this writing, the petition has received 68,908 signatures and EdenKeeper.org plans to add one more. This is a call to action. Please add your name and show Congress that our sacred sites — whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Native american — are not for sale.
Photo of Oak Flat by Patrick Dockens available on Flickr
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