Apaches pay tribute to memorial gathering on Dzil Nchaa Si An
Article and Photos by Sandra Rambler
Dzil Nchaa Si An, AZ – While the pine and ponderosa trees stood tall and firm with a cool breeze in the air, on Saturday, Sept. 28, tribal elders were joined by Peridot District Councilman, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., and prestigious leaders from various organizations as they gathered to pay tribute on top of Dzil Nchaa Si An, also known as Mount Graham, to honor San Carlos Apache tribal member, the late Phillip Cassadore and his sister and tribal member, Ola Cassadore Davis, the late Michael Davis, the late Keith Basso and the late Peter Warshall, all whom actively fought to prevent destruction and desecration of sacred sites on Dzil Nchaa Si An.
The memorial tribute began with an opening prayer by spiritual leader, Gladys Hinton accompanied by Audrey Johnson and immediately following the luncheon, all those present gathered in a large circle. The tribal elders stood in the center of the circle. Songs were sung by spiritual leaders and tribal elders, Arthur Longstreet, Wheeler Grimes, Sr., Adam Rope and Belmont Jordan. Guests and friends from Europe, Germany, England and Italy and from the United States were present.
“We are gathered here today to pay our respects to those who stood before us and helped paved the way to protect our sacred sites and for restoring our spirituality to what it is today,” pointed out Councilman Nosie.
“A lot of time, dedication, commitment and prayers were extended by our late spiritual leaders, the late Phillip Cassadore and Ola Cassadore Davis and her husband, Mike Davis and those that helped along the way, the late Keith Basso and the late Peter Warshall.”
“Ola had talked to us many times and stressed the importance of preserving our Apache culture and to always extend our prayers here on Dzil Nchaa Si An. Recently, this year, we had a sunrise ceremony for our granddaughter and it was so special because we can exercise our right to freely practice our Apache religion here. We have our annual sacred runs each year which ends here on top of our mountain and we are teaching our Apache youth about what we were taught.”
“The fight to save our sacred sites doesn’t end here, it continues and now we are fighting to save Chi’Chil’Bagoteel which is also known as Oak Flat. We are fighting H.R. 687 in Washington, D.C. because Resolution Copper is trying to build a mine there which would destroy a sacred site, destroy the acorn that our people gather and may infringe upon our water which belongs to our Apache people.”
“On behalf of the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council, I would like to present a plaque to the families of the late Ola Cassadore Davis and her husband, Michael Davis, Phillip Cassadore and Keith Basso which reads, ‘Ahi’yihe for your courageous and unselfish contribution for decades in the fight for preservation of sacred sites at Dzil Nchaa Si An (Mount Graham), presented September 28, 2013, from Terry Rambler, Tribal Chairman, Dr. John Bush, Vice-Chairman, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Peridot District Councilman, Fred Ferriera, Peridot District Councilman, Tao Etpison, Gilson Wash District Councilman, Simon Hooke, Gilson Wash District Councilman, Bernadette Goode, Seven Mile Wash District Councilwoman, Mitchell Hoffman, Seven Mile Wash District Councilman, Alicia Cadmus, Bylas District Councilwoman, Hugh Moses, Jr., Bylas District Councilman, Jonathan Kitcheyan, Bylas District Councilman.’
“It’s indeed an honor to be here today to be part of this and say thank you for all the hard work that was done on behalf of Dzil Nchaa Si An,” concluded Councilman Nosie.
Dwight Metzger, an activist from Tucson, Arizona and active participant with the Apache Survival Coalition and close friend to the late Ola Cassadore Davis, read a letter sent from the Italian supporters, “Dear Friends—How hard it is not to be there with you today on our dear mountain to remember very dear people. Even harder it was not to see our friends for one last time before they left us. Hardest not to be at their funerals to pay our respects.
We wish to send Edison Cassadore our love and wish to see him again. Peter Warshall was our biological point of reference, the squirrel man and not least, for us Italians, he was part of the first Apache delegation to our country in 1991. Ola and Mike Davis and Franklin Stanley wee on that first of so many Apache delegations to Italy.
Ola and Mike Davis continued to come, even twice a year, very often accompanied by Dwight Metzger, just as Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Raleigh Thompson and Edison Cassadore and others from White River while meeting with so many Presidents of the Republic or of the Parliament of the Regions and countless other politicians and public officials.
Every time they spoke in public they filled any place they were given. When they marched in Florence, Italy, they had thousands behind them. When they came to the Alps, to Valcamonica, they said that Giovanni was an idiot for having left such beautiful mountains from Arizona. They also addressed a full church and had a huge lunch with the old anti-fascist partisan of World War II.
Today, the group Amici della Natura, who hosed many Apache delegations in the mountain village of Saviore dell’Adamello, are still holding the Italian Sacred Run on the same weekend it is held on Mount Graham. They are now at their 14th Sacred Run.
Ola and Mike Davis addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg and went to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and to Germany and to other parts of Europe. These Apache raids went on unabated for a good ten years and the media always reported these incursions. The Apache myth had become flesh and these two fearless oldies were held back by no one and struck the attention of everyone. The powers that be whom Ola and Mike Davis, along with us all, took on, were too great to beat. History repeated itself as with what happened in the 1800’s. Like Geronimo, Ola and Mike Davis, put up a hard fight until the end and history will show no sympathy for the white eyes.
The astronomers will be remembered for the virulence with which they forced their self-interest on others. Ola and Mike Davis will go down for having stood up for a sacred mountain and a people’s culture. There is no doubt who retained their dignity in this struggle.
We, Italians, failed to stop our government and our Church from this desecration and we learned how racist our scientists and Pope really are. However, as the Apaches jumped the pond and made us their brothers in arms, they lent us Apache eyes and changed our way of looking at nature and the spirit world.
We can still hear the voices of Ola and Mike Davis. We can still see their trailer in Peridot, Arizona. We can still feel all the Apache ceremonies held with them on the mountain, on the reservation and in Italy. We can still laugh at their Apache jokes and teasing.
Ola and Mike Davis, we thank you. Peter Warshall, we thank you. Phillip Cassadore, we thank you.
Your Italian friends forever, Giovanni Panza and Patrizia Codenotti, Emilio and Tina Molinari, for Coordinamento per Mount Graham, Corrado Baccolini, for Amici della Natura Saviore dell’Adamello, Italo Bigioli, for Cerchio, Theresa Bortone, Vittorio delle Fratte, Massimiliano Galanti, for Kiwani, Toni Ventre, Luisa Costalbano for Nativi Americani, Allessando Profeti and Bianca Frassi.”
In August of 1985, at 53 years old, the late Phillip Cassadore passed away. He announced his run for the U.S. President in 1972 and campaigned on the Geronimo Ticket calling attention to the economic problems faced by American Indians. He later withdrew. His fight to protect sacred sites began early in his life.
Ola Cassadore Davis passed away at 89 years old in November, 2012. Just several months later, her husband, Michael Davis passed away in early 2013. They fought endlessly to save Dzil Nchaa Si An from destruction. They formed the Apache Survival Coalition.
In April, 2013, Peter Warshall passed away. He was an ecologist, activist and essayist and conducted numerous studies regarding Mount Graham and devoted his life to saving the world. He worked with the San Carlos Apaches and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
In August, 2013, Keith Basso passed away. He was described as a major figure in American Anthropology and American Indian Studies and at one time lived in Cibecue on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. He worked with the NAGPRA groups from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Tonto Apache Tribe and the Yavapai Apache Nation. He wrote numerous books and was an Apache linguist as he spoke Apache fluently.
Audrey Johnson, tribal elder, tearfully said, “Ola was a dear friend to us and spoke up for us to help protect our sacred sites. That is what we are taught, as Apaches, is to always stand up for what our Creator gave to us. I will always thank her and her family for their dedication.”
Tribal Chairman, Terry Rambler, added, “The wise words of our elders should always be respected. We will remember those who fought to protect the beliefs of the San Carlos Apaches and thank you to the families of the late Ola and Mike Davis, Phillip Cassadore, Keith Basso, Peter Warshall and Ernest Victor, Jr. for their staunch efforts in protecting Dzila Nchaa Si An.”
At the close of the memorial tribute, the tribal elders whispered among themselves in their native San Carlos Apache language, “Did you hear the drum? Did you hear the bells of the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers?”
And there was complete silence.