Walking to Save Oak Flat [7 Photos]

On February 27, some 100 indigenous people and supporters gathered for a Walk to Save Oak Flat at the California State Capitol Building.
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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.”

Photo by Marc Dadigan

After arriving at Southside Park in Sacramento, Aztecs dancers prayed, drummed and danced in support of the San Carlos Apache.

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 Bi?dagoteel 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.

Photo by Marc Dadigan

The more than 100 supporters gather for a photograph after marching from the State Capitol Building to Southside Park in Sacramento Feb. 27. They held their arms perpendicular to the ground to signify their support for the San Carlos Apache and their struggle to save Oak Flat from copper mining.

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.

Photo by Marc Dadigan

After arriving at Southside Park in Sacramento, Aztecs dancers prayed, drummed and danced in support of the San Carlos Apache, who are fighting to protect the sacred lands of Oak Flat from the Resolution Copper company’s mining plans.

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.

Photo by Marc Dadigan

Representatives of two different Aztec dance groups marched with other supporters through the streets of Sacramento in support of the San Carlos Apache, who are struggling to protect the sacred lands of Oak Flat from the Resolution Copper company’s mining plans.

“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.”

Photo by Marc Dadigan

After walking through Sacramento to Southside Park, Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Tribe’s Achumawi Band and her daughter Anu spoke to the more than 100 people who marched to support saving Oak Flat from copper mining.

Photo by Marc Dadigan

Amelia Garcia, a member of the Chihene Nde Warm Springs Band of Chiricahua Apache), was one of the organizers of the Walk to Save Oak Flat held February 27 in Sacramento, and she listens as Jamier Sale of the ANSWER Coalition speaks some final words.