How Laws Keep Indigenous People From Protecting Sacred Spaces

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.

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USDA Pauses Land Transfer Of Oak Flat To Mining Company

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.

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Judge Refuses Injunction To Stop Sacred Oak Flat Destruction

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.” 

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Emotional Court Hearing Over Proposed Copper Mine At Oak Flat Sacred Site

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.

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Corporations Battle Apache Tribes To Build North America’s Biggest Copper Mine

“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.

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Indigenous Land Grab On The Horizon

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. 

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Apache Stronghold Lawsuit Over Oak Flat Halts Transfer To Mining Company

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.

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Apache Sue To Protect Religious Freedom

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.

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Statement On The Defense Of Chi’chil Bildagoteel, Oak Flat

The Alliance for Global Justice stands in solidarity with Apache Clans and over 300 Native Nations who seek to protect the Oak Flat site of south-eastern Arizona from devastating copper mining extraction. For over ten years, the San Carlos Apache and neighboring tribes have mobilized to prevent the destruction of this sacred land, which for centuries has been revered as a holy site by the Apache. Oak Flat holds the history, lives and prayers of at least eight Apache Clans and two Apache Western Bands, is home to a wealth of medicinal and edible plants, burial grounds and water sources rising from the Apache Leap Tuff aquifer.

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Our Fight For Quitobaquito

Border wall construction is destroying the Sonoran Desert’s most sacred spring.

Growing up as a Tohono O’odham woman on my ancestral homelands taught me one thing above all: Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.

When the federal government ramped up border-wall construction in Arizona, I knew I had to fight for my homelands, which are split in half by the U.S-Mexico border. I knew that meant activating my community, facing construction workers and opposing the U.S. Border Patrol and its long history of brutalizing O’odham tribal members.

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Native Americans Tear Gassed, Arrested On Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Twelve people, including at least eight Native Americans, were arrested near an immigration checkpoint in Southern Arizona on Indigenous Peoples’ Day after United States Border Patrol agents and Arizona law enforcement officials violently repressed a peaceful action held Monday morning by roughly 30 land and water protectors.

The O’odham Anti Border Collective—a group of Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, and Hia Ced O’odham tribal members that seeks to promote the cultural practices and protect the homelands of all O’odham nations “through the dismantling of colonial borders”…

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College Chastised For Dumping On Sacred Land

A state department tasked with preserving historic landmarks recently criticized Cal State Long Beach for depositing soil and debris from a construction zone on a parcel of land called Puvungna that is sacred to local Native American tribes.

Construction to expand student housing near the site sparked outcry, protests and a lawsuit from tribal leaders last year. And in an August letter, the California Office of Historic Preservation, which reviews construction projects near archaeological landmarks, weighed in on the controversy.

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Tribes Sue Over Border Wall

Washington – A group of federally recognized tribes sued the Trump Administration on Wednesday over construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, saying the controversial barrier impinges on tribal members’ ability to practice their religious beliefs and cultural traditions. 

A group of five Kumeyaay Nation tribes filed the lawsuit in federal D.C. court against three government agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, U.S Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — and their top executives.

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Stop The Desecration: Flowers For Moses Protest This Friday

A self storage facility is being built on the grounds of what is believed to have been an African cemetery where first there were slave death camps and industrial slave breeding operations and then a thriving community of freed slaves that was displaced through gentrification. Residents of the community have been calling for archaeological investigation and the erection of a museum to teach this local history, but they have been denied even having their own black archaeologist allowed in to examine the soil.

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People Are Protesting The Desecration Of A Historic Black Cemetery

This summer, on an industrial and commercial section of River Road near the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda, you can regularly find area musician Brian Farrow in the roadway playing “Potter’s Hornpipe,” a song written by Black composer Francis Johnson in 1816 in honor of a destroyed African American cemetery. Nearby, protestors hold signs that say “Black Ancestors Matter” and “Black Lives Matter from Cradle to Grave,” while Marsha Coleman-Adebayo of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition and Macedonia Baptist Church leads chants of “Save Moses Cemetery!”

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