The Apache Stronghold is taking additional steps, after filing a lawsuit this week, to halt an Oak Flat land transfer that will open the door for a massive copper mine.

The group filed a lien and a restraining order Thursday, a day before the Tonto National Forest is expected to release a key environmental impact review that directly affects the future of the sacred land known by the Apache as Chi'chil Bildagoteel.

(Related: Apache group sues over land swap for Arizona mine)

Apache Stronghold leader and former San Carlos Apache Chairman Wendsler Nosie has been fighting to protect Oak Flat and against land transfer for years. He held a virtual news conference on Thursday, and roughly 90 minutes later, Oak Flat supporters held a prayer vigil outside a Tonto National Forest office in Phoenix.

Oak Flat supporters held a prayer vigil outside a Tonto National Forest office in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

Friday “is a real critical day for us, and I’m here on pins and needles because it’s a life’s work that I’ve been on,” Nosie said. “But it’s not mine, it belongs to everybody.”

The Apache Stronghold filed a lien on Oak Flat with the Pinal County Recorder’s Office in Florence, Arizona, to prevent the land transfer to Rio Tinto and its subsidiary, Resolution Copper.

It also filed a restraining order, asking a U.S District Court judge to forbid the Forest Service from publishing the final environmental impact statement until the group’s lawsuit is resolved. The release starts a 60-day clock for the land to be transferred to the mining company regardless of what the review finds.

Nosie said if a restraining order is given, it could last up to 10 days and into Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency and when the Senate begins to favor the Democrats, potentially meaning the land swap could be stopped.

Oak Flat supporters held a prayer vigil outside a Tonto National Forest office in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

Nosie has requested prayer and says if anyone plans to visit Oak Flat, now is the time.

“The bottom line is that this is a sacred place,” Nosie said. “You can’t tamper with a sacred place.”

Oak Flat supporters held a prayer vigil outside a Tonto National Forest office in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Taté Walker)
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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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