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Apaches Discuss Arizona Land Grab At PIELC

Apache Tribal members rally in Washington D.C. to save Oak Flat from Mining. Photo: Wendy Kenin.
Apache Tribal members rally in Washington D.C. to save Oak Flat from Mining. Photo: Wendy Kenin.

Late on a December night in 2014, Sen. John McCain attached a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act, swapping 2,400 acres of federally owned land for 5,300 acres of land owned by Resolution Copper Mining. San Carlos Apache Tribe Councilman Wendsler Nosie, Sr., and his granddaughter Naelyn Pike will be keynote speakers at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the UO this week talking about their efforts to regain the land that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

Nosie says that amendment, which passed along with the rest of the bill, “gave away our holy mountain.” 

The area, known as Oak Flat, just outside the Apache reservation border, is “home to Indigenous Peoples since prehistoric times, a place where acorns and medicinal herbs are gathered and coming-of-age ceremonies are held,” according to Indian Country Today.

Resolution Copper is a subsidiary of mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, Nosie says. He adds that the Resolution Copper mining plans “have never been in the public” and the company has played up jobs and money. Instead, he says the mining will bring devastation.

Nosie says the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act was “dirty politics,” and the Apache tribal members are coming to PIELC to call attention to the Save Oak Flat Act, which would repeal the land exchange. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Act in the House as HR 2811 and Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin introduced the bill in the Senate as S. 2242.

The bill says, “Once Resolution Copper owns the Oak Flat area, it plans to use the highly destructive block cave mining method to remove one cubic mile of ore that is now 7,000 feet beneath the surface of the Earth without replacing any of the earth removed because that is the cheapest form of mining.” It adds that the company “admits that the surface will subside and ultimately collapse, destroying forever this place of worship.”

“I’m asking people throughout the country for support, and to get with their congressional leaders in the House and Senate,” Nosie says. 

Wendsler Nosie, Sr., and Naelyn Pike, who are members of the group Apache Stronghold, which is fighting the land grab, will speak at PIELC’s closing ceremonies, 12:10 pm Sunday, March 6, in the UO’s EMU ballroom on campus. 

For a full schedule of conference events, go to PIELC.org. For more on Oak Flat go to Apache-Stronghold.com.