You’ll likely remember reading that in 2014, Senators John MCain and Flake (plus a couple House allies) inserted a last-minute land swap measure, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, into the Defense Authorization Act, knowing that it was a ‘must pass’ bill. The provision was that 2400 acres of land at Oak Flat and nearby areas in Southeastern Arizona would be ‘traded’ (read: sold) to Australian-British mining conglomerate Resolution Copper (parent company Rio Tinto) and BHP Copper (BHP Billiton subsidiary) for 5300 acres owned by Resolution Copper. There was no public debate, of course, and it was called ‘an outrageous sneak attack’ and worse, by many. According to tucsonweekly.com:
“It was a big-time sneak attack that (Apache or Ndeh Wendler) Nosie called “the greatest sin of the world” and the New York Times termed “a sacrilegious and craven sell-off … an impressive new low in congressional corruption.” From the East Coast to the West Coast, dissention began to fester. The Los Angeles Times reported “the long fight over access to the federally-protected land has ignited a feud that has split families and ended lifelong friendships.”
A group called the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition also publicized: “This is the first and only act of Congress that gives a Native American sacred site to a foreign corporation.”
‘...and Conservation Act’ is rich, given that the pit that will be dug to reach the ‘largest copper reserve in the U.S. will be two miles across, and from 5000 to 7000 ft. deep according to different sources. Estimates cite toxic tailings piles 500 feet high covering ten square miles, to mine the estimated billion tons of copper, leaching god knows what into the river system. But the company swears they will reclaim it, and be sensitive to Apache concerns. Question: would any state or federal safety/reclamation/environmental standards be enforced on private land? Nah.
Well, yes, of course the mining companies were healthy contributors to Flakes’ and McCrankyPants’ campaigns, but it’s really about the imaginary 3700 jobs for however many decades that are important, and of course the filthy lucre it will bring to the local economy by increased tax revenues, including state and federal! Oh, John McCain: you are indeed an American Patriot!
Obama, of course, signed the bill, but mentioned how grieved he was to do so, given the perfidy perpetrated upon the Apaches. So said Sally Jewel, his Secretary of the Interior.
Fancy the tailings piles, the dust, the noise, the water grabs; in short: the ruination of land sacred to the Ndeh (the People) since before history in this nation was recorded, praying, gathering herbs and acorns, and holding ceremonies.
“”At the heart of this is freedom of religion, the ability to pray within an environment created for the Apache. Not in a man-made church, but like our ancestors have believed since time immemorial, praying in an environment that our creator God gave us. This is where Apaches go to pray and the best way for that to continue to happen is to keep this place from becoming private land. We’re against this specific project because it’s going to desecrate and destroy this whole area and the Apache way of life. We must stand together and fight—and we’re drawing a line in the sand on this one.”
“It’s atrocious the way this has been handled,” says tribal elder Sandra Rambler. “I came to Chich’il Bildagotell for my coming of age ceremony and that of my granddaughter’s. This is ancestral land used for ceremonies, graduations, funeral gatherings’—my great-great grandmother is buried here. It’s my turn to fight for it to be passed on to my children and the unborn yet to come.”
But lets listen to Wendler Nosie, Sr., Peridot district councilman and former chair of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, speak in an msnbc original. Good on MSNBC.
“The greatest sin of the World has been enacted by Senator McCain, Senator Flake, Representatives Kirkpatrick and Gosar of Arizona by including the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange in the National Defense Authorization Act. We are calling on all religious faiths, & military veterans, for this country was founded on freedom of speech, religion and worship which has been given away to a foreign mining company.
“They declared war on our religion, we must stand in unity and fight to the very end, for this is a holy war.” Wendsler Nosie Sr., long time opponent of Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Councilman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
“We remember those who sacrificed and defended our people-we recognize our great leaders and their respect for those who know freedom. We must guide our people to, once again, hold our destiny in our own hands, so I challenge each of us to overcome the oppression and begin the process of believing in ourselves. This must be the first step…”Usen, we ask for your blessing to guide our current and future leadership so that our children and the unborn will inherit our Apache Way of Life…”
~ Wendsler Nosie Sr.
Youtube wouldn’t cough up Nosie and his grand-daughter’s interview on Democracy Now! on July 17, but a few salient points of background and *from the video transcript:
““The land in question includes parts of Tonto National Forest, including Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and could also impact nearby Apache Leap, an important historic site where a group of Apache who were being pursued by U.S. cavalry plunged off a cliff to their deaths rather than be captured.”
Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, has long sought ownership of the land. But the battle is not over. Earlier this month, a group called the Apache Stronghold began a caravan from Tucson, Arizona, to Washington, D.C., to call for this land to once again be protected.”
Nosie reminds listeners that the issue failed many times in Congress (he names the number thirteen), but this is another key part of the resultant outrage, or should be:
“WENDSLER NOSIE SR.: Well, what we’re asking people to do is that, again, coming back to federal land, is that every American, every congressperson, has a say on federal land. And when we first—when they first initiated this bill, what we found out was Congresspeople were saying, “Well, it’s in Arizona. You know, we don’t have anything to do with it.” But then we reminded them that this was federal land and that the federal government has a responsibility to all Indian tribes. There’s a trust responsibility. And even when they were mentioning to us that we needed to talk to Resolution Copper, why are we going to talk to them when they’re a foreign company? The United States has a responsibility to the tribes of America and to us, and it’s called consultation. And none of that ever took place between our senators of Arizona.”
Indeed, no federal Environmental (or Cultural) Impact Study; no public hearings or citizen testimony: just a massive corporate smack at more Indigenous, not to mention the planet, brought to us by some Major Fooking Priests of the Golden Bull (Buffy St. Marie):
‘Third-worlders see it first:
The dynamite, the dozers, the cancer and the acid rain
The corporate caterpillars come into our backyards
And turn the world to pocket change
Reservations are the nuclear frontline;
Uranium poisoning kills
We’re starving in a handful of gluttons
We’re drowning in their gravy spills
Their tongues are silver forks
There’s a lack of wisdom,
You can hear it on their breath…
But back to Amy Goodman:
AMY GOODMAN: “I’m reading from a column of Lydia Millet, and she says, “If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, or for that matter Jewish or Muslim, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill—no matter what mining-company profits or jobs might result. But this is Indian religion. Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation isn’t afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.
“The truth is that for Mr. McCain, Mr. Flake and others who would allow this precious public land to be destroyed, it’s not only the Indians who are invisible. The rest of us are also ghosts, remnants of a quaint idea of democracy.”
Yes, it’s a David and Goliath battle, but there may be one snowball’s chance in hell of Repealing the Deal.
Azcentral.com reported on June 17:
“U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, with the support of fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego, introduced a bill Wednesday to block the federal land exchange sought by mining company Resolution Copper to open the mine.
Leaders of the San Carlos Apache Tribe pushed for the bill, called “Save Oak Flat.” The legislation says the mine would destroy or endanger sacred sites and bypass environmental restrictions.
“Congress shouldn’t be in the business of helping big corporations at others’ expense, and it certainly shouldn’t break faith with Native American communities,” Grijalva said in a statement.
Co-sponsors include three Republicans and 11 Democrats. At least one of the Republicans, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, previously helped stall the land exchange over concerns from tribes in his state who had joined with the San Carlos tribe.
The bill also claims the Senate approved the deal without proper debate.
“What this unpopular corporate giveaway was doing in the national-security bill is anyone’s guess,” Grijalva said. McCain at the time defended the mine as important to national security, because copper is used in technology and other industries, and the mine has the potential to supply as much as 25 percent of the nation’s copper demand.
Apache Stronghold has a ‘how you can help’ page, whether signing a petition, calling your CongressCritters to either Repeal the Deal, or ask that Oak Flat be declared a National Monument, or both, of course.
“On June 24—exactly a week after Grijalva introduced his bill—the National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, which annually spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. Oak Flat is one of them.
Being placed on the National Trust’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places is the first step toward permanent preservation as a national treasure. The list, which has identified more than 250 such places to date, has been so successful in galvanizing preservation efforts that only a handful of sites have been lost.”
The Save Oak Flat Act has 17 co-sponsors: Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Mark Wayne Mullin (R-OK), Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-NC), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA), Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Rep. Chellie Pingree [D-ME], and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA).
The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs on July 1.
In just in case you want to feel the heartbeat of Indigenous drums, and hear their war cries: Apache Stronghold Sacred Oak Flat flash mob @ NYC in Grand Central 7/17/2015
McCain has also sponsored SB 750—which would waive laws on all federal public land and all tribal land within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Think of that power; it includes “surveillance” and more soul-searing civil liberties suspensions.
Closer to home, in early August, a contractor for the EPA accidentally broke a dike holding back heavy metal toxic sludge at the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Co. while attempting to stabilize it. 3m gallons of the mustard-colored gluck poured into Cement Creek, entered the Animas River, then hit the San Juan, and eventually a diluted toxic plume hit Lake Powell three hundred miles downstream. The Guardian has a slideshow here.
The spill released heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, turning the river sickly yellow and raising concerns about long-term environmental damage.
The spill affected rivers that supply water for drinking, recreation and irrigation in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah as well as the Navajo Nation. The Diné chose to shut off their irrigation systems rather than pollute their crops, livestock, and land. Lawsuits against the EPA are apparently underway, especially by the Southern Utes and Diné (Navajo).
And yes, Mother Earth herself, and her people are under assault from current and past extractive metals and fossil fuels mining in too many places to name. But also on Ute land on the Colorado/Utah border is this debacle in the Little Book Cliffs area. Our FDL friend pastfedup is heavily involved with the Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and issued this alert in August: ‘BREAKING: US Oil Sands is at this moment bulldozing the beloved Children’s Legacy Camp–a site where we’ve held multiple Intergenerational Campouts and other events over the past three years!’
I’ll see if he might be able to come and fill us in on the current situation, both legally, and at the vigil resistance camp they’d set up.
‘Upon suffering beyond suffering, the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world of broken promises, selfishness and separations, a world longing for light again.
I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colours of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole earth will become one circle again….
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that centre within you, and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.’
~ Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux, 1877