Apache Messenger: Crowd protests copper mine on sacred lands

The following story appears courtesy of The Apache Messenger, the independent voice of the Apache people. Visit The Apache Messenger at apachemessenger.com and on Facebook.

Protesters lined Camelback Ave toward Senator John McCain's office and the Rio Tinto Mining offices at the Arizona Biltmore. Photo by The Apache Messenger

Once Again, The Fight for Religious Freedom in America Begins
By The Apache Messenger

A protest was held in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday in front of the offices of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and the offices of Rio Tinto to show that the fight over Resolution Copper is not over.

People from all over the state -- Native and non-Native -- came to support the effort and to bring awareness to the public of a controversial land swap that affects sacred Apache sites. The protest came on the day President Barack Obama signed H.R.3979, the National Defense Authorization Act, into law.

San Carlos Apache Councilman and Former Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr. addresses the crowd. Photo by The Apache Messenger

“It just shows we can’t trust anyone in politics," said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a council member and former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. "I see the world no different than my father’s father before me. The fight begins.”

H.R.687, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House and the Senate earlier this month. The land swap was pushed by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona), along with Sen. McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who have not been able to secure enough votes for passage in either chamber in the last 10 years.

“This is Congressional politics at its worse, a hidden agenda that destroys human rights and religious rights," Nosie said. "You want to talk about transparency, well, McCain and his counterparts, Gosar and Kirkpatrick, definitely took the unethical road attaching the land exchange to the NDAA bill."

"That will forever destroy religious and cultural rights as well as prime real estate," Nosie continued. "To claim victory on the passage of the bill in public is their continuing effort to mislead the public. This bill by itself had no legs to stand on. The administrative process would have revealed the contents which would destroy their efforts."

Coleen Begay and Ida Mae Clark with their mother, Delores Clark from Seven Mile District, San Carlos Apache, joined Friday's protest. Photo by The Apache Messenger

The last time the bill came up for vote in the House, it was shut down by Rep. Ben Lujan (D-New Mexico) who proposed an amendment to address tribal concerns on sacred sites. Because Gosar and Kirkpatrick did not want the amendment, the vote was delayed and the bill never moved forward.

If the bill was to go to a vote again, the Lujan sacred sites amendment could have been added and it could have kept the exchange from taking place.

Madison Fulton, Navajo from Rough Rock, AZ, Tina Anderson, San Carlos Apache are joined with Anne Jefferies, Superior and Queen Creek residents opposing the Southeast AZ land exchange. Photo by The Apache Messenger

"It would have clearly outlined that Resolution Copper and Arizona Congressmen failed to implement the federal policies that are required before any land exchange is approved," Nosie said. "The public would have learned the loss of water and groundwater and the destroying of religious and human rights. What is to be mined is leaving to China and Iran. Jobs will be left to robotics and contamination will destroy the area for miles. Mining in our area has brought many illnesses having only 15,000 tribal members should be a concern of Congress. If anything unknown should be airborne, it could wipe out a whole tribe."

"The passage of this bill will set precedence throughout the United States against Indian Country with holy sites," Nosie added. "One hundred years ago, our presence and because of their need for ownership, the newcomers forced Apaches into Old San Carlos as prisoners of war, today they are isolating our voices not to be heard.”

Protesters lined Camelback Ave toward Senator John McCain's office and the Rio Tinto Mining offices at the Arizona Biltmore. Photo by The Apache Messenger

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