From hip hop dancers to churches, universities to a flash mob in Times Square, add a stop in New Jersey to drum in a Neil Young concert, and the grassroots caravan called Apache Stronghold has blazed a path through America. Their goal is to educate the public about the loss of Oak Flat, their sacred homeland which has been handed to Resolution Copper, a British/Australian company that intends to drain the mountainous region of the country's largest source of copper. In so doing, the Oak Flat area within the federally held Tonto National Forest will become a toxic waste pit.
Apache dancers made a stark contrast against the New York City backdrop at the Apache Stronghold flash mob on Friday, July 17.
Not taking the loss of their homelands lightly, the Apache Stronghold has taken to the streets, and on Friday, July 17, they held a flash mob in Times Square, creating an opportunity for New Yorkers to participate in a protest with the traditional Apache people. Wendsler Nosie, former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman, is leading the Apache Stronghold to educate the country about how Oak Flat ended up in the hands of Resolution Copper, and how the same situation could threaten other national parks, and federal land, including reservations throughout the country.
Wendsler Nosie, one of the main organizers of the Apache Stronghold caravan and former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman, stands among supporters in New York City.
Their journey began in the Southwest states before they made their way to the reservations of South Dakota; on to Chicago and New York City, then to Philadelphia where they were received by Chinese officials and African American church leadership who came in from North and South Carolina to meet with them. The big event, which will be the last leg of the journey, is a protest on the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. “We have different tribes here and people are flying into D.C. from different tribes. We are getting calls from New York that people are making their way to Washington,” Nosie said.
Ed Becenti, Navajo, who has been traveling with the caravan since Window Rock, Arizona, said support has come from both urban and suburban areas. “We have been given first-class treatment at every stop. We are not out to criticize or condemn, but to unite as one voice, to come together to protect sacred sites.”
The Stronghold arrived in Washington on Monday, July 20. “It’s been phenomenal. We are far more blessed than I thought we would be,” Nosie said. “The fact that people are paying attention, that’s what we have been striving for.”
Apache Stronghold made it to Washington, D.C. on July 20. Today, they will hold a rally on the Capitol West Lawn.
Nosie said the education process has been an eye-opener, not just for Americans, but even for Congress. “We thought Americans knew everything that Congress does. We have learned that Americans didn’t know about late-night riders, exceptions to federal laws, how policies are set, or how Congress looks at issues around the country.”
The Oak Flat deal didn’t receive much attention until questions about the environment and the truth about jobs in Arizona became clear, and it became an Arizona issue. “They [Congress] didn’t realize Oak Flat was federal land, and they didn’t realize they have a say on federal land, so the education process has had to take place in Congress,” Nosie said. “All Americans, all the congressional people, have a say on federal land. This is an American battle. The only way we can correct this is if Americans stand up to repeal this land exchange.”
The Apache Stronghold met with “our brothers and sisters that complete the four sacred colors on the medicine wheel. We had Asian American United, Philadelphia Student Union, white allies, and Apache Stronghold,” Nosie said. “Finally, the ceremonies will be strong now that earth, fire, water, and wind will have their rightful dignitaries.” All are making the hand sign for Oak Flats, the sacred Apache homeland in Arizona.
Resolution Copper has been trying to acquire Oak Flat for 10 years, but was always defeated in Congress. Then, at the midnight hour, a rider to a must-pass Department of Defense Bill was added, leaving the door open for Resolution to snag Oak Flat with promises of jobs and billions in the economy. Nosie wants people to realize that if the rider remains, “it makes it easy for the feds to sell and deal with more companies.”
“It applies to federal land and all tribes who live on federal land. This is what tribal leadership is understanding now. It’s a lot bigger than what everybody thinks. There is nothing in there that protects our land anymore, so this is why tribal governments are making resolutions,” to support the repeal of the rider, Nosie said.
“We've garnered nationwide attention,” Becenti said. “We consider this a historic journey and milestone, not just for the Apache tribe but for all people coming together as one voice. We are doing it through prayer. We are traveling on prayer.”
Apache Stronghold Flyer
The protest today, July 22, will take place on the West Lawn of the Capitol, 1st Street, S.W., Washington, D.C., between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information visit Apache-Stronghold.com.