In December 2014, House and Senate leadership struck a last minute back room deal to include the South East Arizona Land Exchange as Section 3003 in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015. NDAA passed the House on Dec. 4, 2014, passed the Senate on Dec. 12, 2014, and was signed into law as Public Law No. 113-291 by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2014. However, the battle is not over.
As NIGA reported, Section 3003 directs 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.
This provision sets 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. NIGA wrote letters and adopted resolutions opposing this misguided land transfer.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe and other area tribes are holding an "All Nations Spiritual Gathering" on February 7, 2015 to educate the public and urge repeal of this misguided land transfer. We urge you to consider attending this important event. Below is a message from the San Carlos Apache Tribe's Chairman with additional details and information on the Gathering.
FROM SAN CARLOS APACHE TRIBAL CHAIRMAN TERRY RAMBLER
Dear Tribal Leader:
As you may know, Congress recently passed the Southeast Land Exchange and Conservation Act as part of the national defense budget that facilitates the take away of Oak Flat, a most holy and spiritual area known to us as Chich'il Bildagoteel to Resolution Copper, a foreign mining conglomerate. We are not done fighting. What was a struggle to protect our most sacred site is now a battle. On behalf of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I call upon you and all nations - tribes, natives and indigenous people - to a spiritual gathering where we will commence our fight to take back Oak Flat.
Join with us on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at Oak Flat for our Holy Ground Ceremony. Through the power of prayer and the strength of unity, we will demonstrate to Resolution Copper that the land exchange is not yet an accomplished fact. We expect that this will be the biggest demonstration of tribal force that Indian Country has seen in a long time. We need you there.
We must come together and show that no one will stand for the nightmare posed by Resolution Copper. We have successfully struggled for the past eight years to keep this dastardly legislation from passing through Congress. You stood with us with countless others - tribes, environmental organizations, churches, even many in Congress, Republican and Democrat alike. But under the cover of darkness, this legislation was buried deep within a must pass bill for the benefit of the military that provided no review, no choice.
We have a dream that one day our children and their children to follow may freely practice the religious ceremonies that come from our Creator. We must stand together and fight those, like Resolution Copper, that seek to take our religious freedom, our most human right. If we do not, our beliefs, our spiritual lives, the very foundation of our language, our culture and our belief will no longer be in balance, and we will become undone. If we do not, the taking of one people's human right threatens all human and religious rights.
We have a dream that united we can defeat Resolution Copper and take back Oak Flat. To us, Resolution Copper represents a dark and pernicious force of foreign interests. They seek to justify their mine as a matter of economics and jobs, but they cannot justify the spiritual harm the mine will have. Not only will the mine destroy a sacred site, it will destroy the environment and pose a long-term economic harm, while taking away water that the region needs, some 630,000 acre feet of water.
We have a dream that together, the world will see that our fight to take back Oak Flat is a cause not just for a sacred site, but also for Mother Earth itself.
Join with us. I look forward to seeing you on February 7th. Through the power of prayer and our Holy Ground Ceremony we will realize our dreams.
Please contact Valerie Key at 928.200.5479, Sandra Rambler at 928.951.6939 or Wendsler Nosie, Sr., at 928.200.5045 for more information. (See attachment for additional details).
Terry Rambler, Chairman
SAN CARLOS APACHE TRIBE