Photo by Marc Dadigan
After gathering at the California State Capitol February 27, more than 100 walkers including Native supporters representing several tribes and allies marched through the streets of Sacramento to honor the one year anniversary of the San Carlos Apache’s occupation of the sacred lands at the Oak Flat campground. Under the terms of a deal approved by the U.S. government in December, Phoenix-based Resolution Copper will take control of 2,400 copper-rich acres in and around Oak Flat. In return, the company will transfer about 5,400 acres of privately owned parcels of conservation land throughout Arizona to the U.S. Forest Service.

Walking to Save Oak Flat [7 Photos]

Marc Dadigan

Amelia Garcia’s tribe, the Chihene Nde of New Mexico, are neighbors to the San Carlos Apache, and they too have traditional ties to the sacred land at the Oak Flat campground in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest.

“We went there and gathered acorns, gathered medicine plants and they had sunrise ceremonies,” Garcia said. “So when they passed that bill, we also filed a repeal against it because we know what the (San Carlos Apache) are fighting for.”

RELATED: Lawmakers Challenge Proposal to Have Oak Flat Listed as Historic Site

Thus Garcia and a few other grassroots collaborators organized the Walk to Save Oak Flat, which drew more than 100 indigenous supporters and allies to the California State Capitol Building Saturday, February 27 to honor the one year anniversary of the occupation of Oak Flat to protect it from a proposed mining project.

Known as Chich’il Biłdagoteel to the San Carlos Apache, the sacred lands of Oak Flat were sold to international mining conglomerates HP Billiton and Rio Tonto in December 2014 through the Southeast Land Exchange and Conservation Act. This act, which transfers 2,400 acres of Oak Flat to the mining companies in exchange for 5,400 acres of corporate-owned land, was sneaked in as a rider on the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act.

The passage of the bill led to protests and condemnations of the rider’s sponsors Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and in February 2015, members of the San Carlos Apache nation and other allies began an occupation of Oak Flat, declaring the planned copper mining as a threat to their religious practices and access to sacred lands.

After gathering at the Capitol, the supporters, including members of two local Aztec dance groups, walked to Southside Park in Sacramento for prayers, speeches and dancing. Speakers urged the people to continue to mobilize, educate themselves and get out the vote, noting that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has co-sponsored a bill that would repeal the sale of Oak Flat.

“All these other religions are from somewhere else, not here. The only religions that have sacred sites in this country are the Native people, which means destruction of places like Oak Flat is discrimination on a religious basis,” said Francisco Dominguez Tarahumara. “We don’t have the political power or the legal power, but we have people power, and we’re in the right in this situation.”

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
As I said in another comment about Capitalism - White men with suits have stolen more from minorities in American than White men with guns. It's no surprise that Repuglicans (a combination of Republican and Repugnant) are behind this. I'm convinced they would sell their own mother if they could make a profit.