San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler has written the open letter below inviting tribal leaders and citizens to join the Apache people in a day of prayer and ceremony to protect Oak Flat, the Apaches’ sacred land in southeast Arizona. The 2,400-acre ceremonial ground, which includes ancestors’ burial sites, was given away to a foreign mining company for a massive underground copper mine in a land swap bill that Sen. John McCain slipped into the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December. The NDAA is the annual military funding bill. President Barack Obama signed the bill on December 19. Although the bill is technically in effect, the San Carlos Apaches plan to fight the transfer of their sacred place through grassroots, legislative and legal actions and by an educational campaign to raise awareness about the irreversible damage such mining excavations cause to Mother Earth.
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 7. 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.
Terry Rambler, Chairman San Carlos Apache Tribe