National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Rider – Protect Native Sacred Sites!


As NIGA previously reported, last Thursday, December 4, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1847, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (NDAA). Minutes before midnight on Tuesday, December 2nd, the House attached an omnibus lands package that includes the “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange.” The provision will transfer a known Native sacred site that sits on federal Forest Service lands to a foreign-owned mining corporation. The transfer would set dangerous precedent for all of Indian Country and federal Indian affairs policy. USET (United Southern and Eastern Tribes) has written letters and adopted resolutions opposing this misguided land transfer.

The U.S. Senate will begin consideration the NDAA package this evening – Tuesday, December 9th. We urge you to consider contacting your Senators and Senate Leadership. A draft letter is attached to this alert for your consideration.

Section 3003 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to convey over 2,400 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in southeast Arizona in an area known as Oak Flat to a mining company called Resolution Copper (RC), which is owned by the foreign mining giants Rio Tinto PLC (United Kingdom) and BHP Billiton Ltd (Australia). The mining company seeks to develop and operate an unprecedented large-scale copper mine on this land. The lands have significant religious, cultural, historical, and archeological value to Apache, Yavapai and other tribes in the region.

The SE Arizona land exchange provision would set dangerous precedent by saying that it is okay for Congress to destroy Native American sacred sites, religion, culture, and identity, in the for-profit pursuit of the extraction and sale of minerals and other natural resources by foreign companies. Tribal governments have fought for centuries to retain these core values and set up alternative mechanisms for securing natural resources without disturbing sacred lands. Recognizing this danger, tribal governments and tribal organizations nationwide have adopted resolutions and written letters opposing this provision.

Again, the United States Senate will begin debate and votes on S. 1847 this evening – Tuesday, December 9, 2014.

Attached are a draft letter to Senate leaders for your consideration, a summary of Section 3003, and a list of tribes and tribal organizations opposed to Section 3003. Please contact Veronica Watters at if you have any questions.

December 9, 2014

The Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Carl Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee                                                          

The Honorable Mary Landrieu                        
Chairwoman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee   

The Honorable Joe Manchin             
Chairman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee
     on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

Re:       NDAA Rider Will Destroy Native Sacred Site

Dear Senators:

I write on behalf of the ___ Tribe to express opposition to Section 3003 that is attached to S. 1847, the House amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (NDAA). This provision would desecrate and destroy a place of worship held as sacred by a number of Indian tribes and thousands of Native Americans. 

Section 3003, “the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange,” would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to convey over 2,400 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in southeast Arizona in an area known as Oak Flat to the Resolution Copper (RC) mining company, which is owned by the foreign mining giants Rio Tinto PLC (United Kingdom) and BHP Billiton Ltd (Australia).

The purpose of the land transfer is to operate an unprecedented large-scale copper mine that will result in the destruction of a site that is sacred to Native Nations in the region. Tribal governments have fought for centuries to retain these core values and set up alternative mechanisms for securing natural resources without disturbing sacred lands. 

In addition, Section 3003 is a wholesale giveaway of American taxpayer resources to a foreign corporation that refuses to sever its partnership in a uranium mine with the Iran Foreign Investment Corporation. It is outrageous that this provision is in the must-pass NDAA. 

We urge you to remove Section 3003 from S. 1847 prior to passage of the NDAA. 




Section 3003, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, in S. 1847, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is a sweetheart deal for foreign companies, who jointly own a uranium mine with the country of Iran, giving them Native American holy lands and precious U.S. taxpayer assets. Section 3003 would transfer 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and their subsidiary Resolution Copper for the largest copper mine in North America.

Section 3003 disregards the service of Native Americans in the U.S. military. Native Americans have served in the armed services in higher numbers than other Americans; yet, this land deal ignores their ultimate sacrifices to this country by giving their ancestral sacred areas taken from them at gunpoint by the U.S. Army in the 1880’s to foreign companies whose massive block cave mines will destroy these lands.   

Section 3003 Undermines Legislative Process. This highly controversial provision has no place in this must-pass defense bill. A large bipartisan group of Members of the House of Representatives twice pulled this land deal from House floor consideration in 2013. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has not marked up the bill for this land deal. The deal cannot pass Congress on its own merits. Attaching this deal as a rider to NDAA is the opposite of democracy.

Giveaway to Foreign Companies Partnered with Iran. Section 3003 fleeces Americans by giving taxpayer lands and $billions in U.S. assets for pennies on the dollar to Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Section 3003 is a jackpot for these foreign companies and grossly skews the normal appraisal in their favor. The bill provides no guarantees that the copper will be used in the U.S. The top shareholder of Rio Tinto is Chinalco, owned by the Chinese government. China will unfairly profit from U.S. taxpayer-owned copper from the land deal and more so if another mining giant Glencore acquires Rio Tinto, doubling China’s stakes in Rio Tinto.

National Security Threat from Rio Tinto’s and Iran’s partnership in African Uranium Mine. Section 3003 threatens America’s security. Rio Tinto/Chinalco and Iran are partners in a uranium mine in Namibia. Rio Tinto refuses to cut its ties to the Iran Foreign Investment Company. Rio Tinto will receive windfall profits from Section 3003 at taxpayer expense by giving it precious U.S. taxpayer-owned minerals that it would sell to the highest bidder. Enriching Rio Tinto/Chinalco strengthens their global dominance and operations at its other mines, including its uranium mine with Iran. The U.S. is gravely concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. However, passing Section 3003 would help Iran in its efforts to acquire uranium it jointly owns with Rio Tinto. 

Destruction of Native Place of Worship. The land that Section 3003 would transfer encompasses Oak Flat, Apache Leap and surrounding National jewels, currently protected by President Eisenhower’s Public Lands Order 1229 (1955). Resolution Copper seeks to extract 1 cubic mile of ore (1,400 stadiums) from 1-mile beneath the earth’s surface without replacing any of the earth removed. This mine will destroy the area, causing the ground to subside and eventually collapse. The area is a place of worship for Native people and a place of ancient settlements and burial sites. For centuries, Native Americans have gone to the area to pray, conduct ceremonies, and for peace and personal cleansing.

Land Deal Fails to Address Tribal Opposition. Despite what the mining companies claim, the land deal mandates a pre-determined federal land swap regardless of NEPA process and tribal consultations. By privatizing the land, Section 3003 enables these foreign corporations to circumvent federal laws designed to protect Native sacred sites, cultural areas, burial grounds, and religious freedom; would not require the mining companies to mitigate impacts on tribal sacred areas after conveyance; and contains no repercussions/penalties on these conglomerates for harm/destruction to tribal sacred areas.

Tribes and Tribal Organizations Opposed to Section 3003, SE AZ Land Exchange in NDAA, S. 1847, as of December 9, 2014:

Tribal Organizations:

•         National Congress of American Indians - the oldest and largest organization representing tribes across the country
•         National Indian Gaming Association – represents 184 tribes across the country
•         Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona - represents 20 tribes in Arizona
•         Apache Coalition – represents Apache tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma
•         United South and Eastern Tribes- represents 26 tribes in Maine, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas and based in Tennessee
•         Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes – represents 35 tribes in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa
•         Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians - represents 57 tribes located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Southeast Alaska, Northern California, and Western Montana
•         Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association - represents 16 tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska
•         Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council – represents 11 tribes in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho
•         Coalition of Large Tribes – represents 14 tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Washington

Tribes listed by State:
•         Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Alabama
•         San Carlos Apache Tribe, Arizona
•         Hopi Tribe, Arizona
•         Ak-Chin Indian Community, Arizona
•         Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation, Arizona
•         White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona
•         Colorado River Indian Tribes, Arizona
•         Cocopah Indian Tribe, Arizona
•         Hopi Tribe, Arizona
•         Hualapai Tribe, Arizona
•         Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Arizona
•         Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona
•         Quechan Indian Tribe, Arizona
•         Tonto Apache Tribe, Arizona
•         Yavapai--‐Apache Nation, Arizona
•         Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe, Arizona
•         Havasupai Tribe, Arizona
•         Ft. Mojave Indian Tribe, Arizona, California, and Nevada
•         Navajo Nation Council, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah
•         Susanville Indian Rancheria, California
•         Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, California
•         Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, California
•         Hopland Band of Pomo Indians, California
•         Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, California
•         California Valley Miwok Tribe, California
•         Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, California
•         San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California
•         Mohegan Tribe, Connecticut
•         Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
•         Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho
•         Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Idaho
•         Kickapoo Indian Nation, Kansas
•         Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, Louisiana
•         Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, Louisiana
•         Penobscot Indian Nation, Maine
•         Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, Massachusetts
•         Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Massachusetts
•         Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, Michigan
•         Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, Michigan
•         Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota
•         Prairie Island Indian Community, Minnesota
•         Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Indian Community, Minnesota
•         Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
•         Santee Sioux Tribe, Nebraska
•         Moapa Band of Paiutes, Nevada
•         Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Nevada and Idaho
•         Walker River Paiute Tribe, Nevada
New Mexico
•         Jicarilla Apache Nation, New Mexico
•         Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Tesuque, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico
•         Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico
New York
•         Seneca Nation, New York
•         St. Regis Mohawk, New York
North Carolina
•         Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina
•         Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
•         Ft. Sill Apache Tribe, Oklahoma and New Mexico
•         Osage Nation, Oklahoma
•         Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians
•         Coquille Indian Tribe, Oregon
Rhode Island
•         Narragansett Tribe, Rhode Island
South Carolina
•         Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina
South Dakota
•         Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota
•         Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington
•         Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Washington
•         Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington
•         Quinault Indian Nation, Washington
•         Hoh Indian Nation, Washington
•         Samish Indian Nation, Washington
•         Suquamish Indian Tribe, Washington
•         Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Washington
•         Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Wisconsin
•         Ho-Chunk Nation, Wisconsin
•         Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Wisconsin
•         Oneida Nation, Wisconsin
•         Sokaogan Chippewa Community, Wisconsin
•         Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians, Wisconsin

Other Groups Opposing H.R. 687/S. 339, SE AZ Land Exchange:
•         Peridot Strategic Tribal Empowerment Prevention Plan
•         Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
•         American Lands
•         Access Fund
•         Arizona Mountaineering Club
•         Arizona Native Plant Society
•         Arizona Wildlife Federation
•         The American Alpine Club – Golden, CO
•         Center for Biological Diversity
•         Chiricahua-Dragoon Conservation Alliance
•         Comstock Residents Association – Virginia City, NV
•         Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition –Superior, AZ
•         Concerned Climbers of Arizona, LLC
•         Earthworks
•         Endangered Species Coalition
•         Environment America
•         Environment Arizona
•         Friends Committee on National Legislation
•         Friends of Ironwood Forest – Tucson, AZ
•         Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
•         Friends of The Cloquet Valley State Forest
•         Friends of the Kalmiopsis – Grants Pass, OR
•         Friends of Queen Creek
•         Gila Resources Information Project
•         Grand Canyon Chapter - Sierra Club
•         Great Basin Mine Watch
•         Groundwater Awareness League – Green Valley, AZ
•         High Country Citizens' Alliance – Crested Butte, CO
•         Information Network for Responsible Mining – Telluride, CO
•         Keepers of the Water – Manistee, MI
•         League of Conservation Voters
•         Maricopa Audubon Society – Phoenix, AZ
•         Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem, North Carolina & Vicinity
•         The Morning Star Institute – Washington, D.C.
•         Mount Graham Coalition – Arizona
•         Natural Resources Defense Council
•         National Wildlife Federation
•         Progressive National Baptist Convention
•         Religion and Human Rights Forum for the Preservation of Native American Sacred Sites and Rights
•         Rock Creek Alliance – Sandpoint, ID
•         San Juan Citizens Alliance – Durango, CO
•         Save Our Cabinets – Heron, MT
•         Save Our Sky Blue Waters – Minnesota
•         Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
•         Sierra Club
•         Sky Island Alliance
•         The Lands Council – Spokane, WA
•         Tucson Audubon Society
•         Water More Precious Than Gold
•         Western Lands Exchange Project – Seattle, WA
•         Wilderness Workshop
•         Wisconsin Resources Protection Council – Tomahawk, WI
•         Yuma Audubon Society