Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 26, 2013

Photos: Apache elders protest Resolution Copper, defend sacred Oak Flat

Tribal Elders protest passing of H.R. 687 in Globe and Superior

Claims of cultural and NEPA violations made to Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick

Article and photos by Sandra Rambler

Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel, AZ – On the morning of Aug. 20, tribal elders from the San Carlos Apache Reservation prepared for a trip to the Gila Community College and the Superior High School to publicly oppose the passage of H.R. 687, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill proposed by the “odd couple,” Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (Democrat-Congressional District No. 1) and Paul Gosar (Republican-Congressional District No. 4).  
The odd couple planned to meet with the foreign-owned, Resolution Copper Company just days before the Aug. 27 election between Superior City Council, Soyla “Kiki” Peralta and Mila Lira.  Councilwoman Peralta and members of the Superior Town Council recently voted to oppose the land exchange during a special meeting.
The morning began with picking up the tribal elders from the Bylas community and a stop at the San Carlos Older Adult Center where tribal elders from the San Carlos community joined the protest.  
Immediately following lunch, the tribal elders made their way to the access road leading to the Gila Community College and stood in line with signs that read, “Ann, Creator is watching you,” and “Apache tears,” and “No land exchange, save Oak Flat,” and “Resolution = Pollution,” and “Organizing for Oak Flat,” and “I’m not for sale,” and “Who really runs CD 1?” and “History will not absolve you,” and “Ann, Indian Country is watching you,” and “Ann, who are you going to use next?” and “Water is precious, Water is life,” and “No solution for the environment,” and “Go Sar, Go Far to CD 4,” and others.
About thirty minutes later, several police units drove up to the tribal elders as they were lined up near the road waiting for Congresswoman Kirkpatrick who was expected to arrive around 1:30 p.m., according to her website.  
The police officers wanted to make sure the tribal elders were not on the college property and the tribal elders informed the police officers that, “in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Constitution and By-Laws, they had a right to peacefully assemble anywhere in the United States and freely express themselves.”
The police officers assured them that they wanted to make sure they were okay and left after an approximate three-minute dialogue and thanked the tribal elders for educating them about the proposed mine at Oak Flat.  
The officers were informed by the tribal elders of their concern about the depleting water in Arizona and the water on the San Carlos Apache Reservation was for use by tribal members and their future children and grandchildren and not there for a foreign company to take away from them.  
The mine was proposing to use 25 million gallons of water to operate it which will greatly devastate Arizona especially the San Carlos Apaches.
Since Congresswoman Kirkpatrick failed to show up at the Gila Community College while the tribal elders were there, they left about 2:30 p.m. and headed west towards the town of Miami.
About 3:10 p.m. the tribal elders arrived at Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel (Oak Flat campgrounds) and immediately began scurrying about while hand-picking  ripened acorn nuts which had fallen to the ground.  
“As a ten-year old, I remember being here in this area picking up acorn with my family,” says tribal elder, Valeria Victor, in her native San Carlos Apache language.
“This place brings back many memories for me.  We grew up around this area and I distinctly recall a holy ceremony that was held right there,” pointed out the tribal elder.
After some time, the tribal elders came together and began a holy ritual known to many Apaches and all indigenous people.   
Tears came down the faces of the tribal elders as they prayed in their native San Carlos Apache language.
“Bless the leaders in Washington, D.C., so that their minds will know that they must do what is right, what is just and what is honest and that is not to have this bill passed to desecrate what is holy to us and where we have been picking acorn for decades and where some of the remains of our ancestors are buried,” were some of the words said.
“Protect what is rightfully ours, our water, so that these people will not take it away from us.  We need the water for our beloved children and grandchildren and all those who are yet to be born,” was also said.
“Continue to bless our tribal leaders at home and throughout the United States so that they will continue to fight for us,” was also mentioned.
After the prayers, the tribal elders left Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel and arrived in Superior around 4:30 p.m. and made their way to Superior High School where many were present holding up their protest signs.  
There were groups such as the Oak Creek Coalition, Maricopa Audubon Society, elders from the Navajo Nation,  Retired Miners Association, Concerned Citizens of Superior, Earthworks, Arizona Rockclimbers Association, Peridot STEPP Coalition, Apaches for Cultural Preservation, Apache Mountain Spirit Runners and various other organizations that were also protesting the passage of the proposed H.R. 687.
The meeting between Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and Congressman Gosar was expected to begin at 6:00 p.m. Prior to that time, Congresswoman arrived and made her way to greet the tribal elders.  Some of them refused to shake her hand and nodded their heads.
“You really lied to us,” said tribal elder, Shirley Newman.
“Here, I voted for you because I believed that you would help us. Now, you just turned your head the other way and refuse to listen to us and when are you going to hear us?”
“This is just not right, it’s wrong what you are doing by supporting Resolution Copper to build the mine,” concluded Mrs. Newman.
“You really did lie to us and you know that the Creator is watching you. You are breaking a cultural violation,” said tribal elder, Verna Bond, who was holding a sign that read, “Ann, Creator is watching you!”
Tribal elder and spiritual leader, Audrey Johnson, firmly told Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, “I did vote for you. Now, you listen. We prayed at Oak Flat when we stopped there to say our traditional prayers. Your mind is so scattered right now, you don’t even know what you are doing. You are confused. You need to do the right thing and just walk away from Resolution Copper Company while you still have a chance. They are using you and here you are a Democrat, and we voted for you because we are Democrats, too.”
Some tribal elders pointed out to the Congresswoman that there were no cultural or NEPA studies made which is required by law and these lawmakers were violating the laws made to protect the U.S. citizens.  Another significant point made to her was also the fact that this foreign company provided military aid to Iran and Iraq and that the San Carlos Apaches did not fight and join the military for nothing.  They fought to protect their natural resources especially for the rights of their people.
Reference was also made to the “robots” that would be working in the mine that was going to be as deep as the Empire State Building in New York or Shgla’sha (Mount Turnbull) in Bylas, Arizona.  That so-called jobs were promised but yet the company is not revealing that the “robots” would actually be working in those extremely high-temperature areas due to safety factors.
Congresswoman Kirkpatrick was reminded that she represented seven tribes within the Congressional District No. 1 which included the San Carlos Apache Reservation and that she should work in the best interest of her constitutes.  She was told, “Mining causes cancer and cancer has killed many of our people.”
Several media crews were present including a reporter from the Arizona Republic and television stations.  
While the tribal elders were making it clear to Congresswoman Kirkpatrick that they did not want her to be part of the proposed land exchange, Congressman Gosar quietly walked by into the entrance of Superior High School.
After Congresswoman Kirkpatrick left to join those present inside the gymnasium at Superior High School, a television crew immediately began interviewing Wendsler Nosie, Sr., former Tribal Chairman and presently the Peridot District Councilman for the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
“We keep telling them that we don’t want the land exchange and the cultural and NEPA studies were never done,” pointed out Councilman Nosie.
“We have our holy ceremonies there at Oak Flat, which is a place of great cultural and historical significance, but they will not listen.”
“Time and time again, we have been telling them, no land exchange.  We have tribal members here and others that are opposed to it and we want them to take all this back to Washington, D.C. and let them know of our opposition.  The Superior Town Council opposed it, too,” concluded Councilman Nosie.
Tribal elder, Helen Phillips, made her way to stand behind Councilman Nosie while holding a sign which read, “I’m not for sale!”
Tribal elders present included Helen Phillips, Valeria Victor, Leon Early, Gladys Hinton, Belmont Jordan, Adam Rope, Audrey Johnson, Wheeler Grimes, Sr., Arthur Longstreet, Shirley Newman, Verna Bond, Lillian Irving, Carlos Nosie, Sr., and others.
“It’s all about money.  What people will do for money is just plain stupid.  They don’t think,” said tribal elder, Gladys Hinton.
“As Apaches, we hold true to our tradition and our beliefs and we are taught not to trust anyone that will take away our land and sell our water.  That makes me so sad.  That’s why I came today to continue to stand up for what I believe and that is to protect the ways of our Apache people and help save our water. That’s ours. It doesn’t belong to nobody else.”
The tribal elders left about 8:00 p.m. from Superior and during the trip home, discussions were held in their native San Carlos Apache language about Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and Congressman Gosar. They remembered how when Arizona Senator, John McCain and Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, worked as a Republican team to try to win the U.S. Presidency but failed. These tribal elders speculated that the same will occur with the Democratic Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and the Republican Congressman Gosar.  They said, “You can’t mix salt and sugar together.” They were referring to the intent by the “odd couple” to refurbish what has now failed several times in Washington, D.C., the passing of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill to become law. They even talked about how much money this foreign company must have spent during those years trying to lobby in Washington, D.C. and their unsuccessful attempts on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
As the tribal elders entered their homeland, they pointed out the full moon and smiled as they said, “Creator heard our words.  A’hii’yii’e! (thank you).
Photos by Sandra Ramber

On Aug. 21, San Carlos Apache Tribal elders joined with various citizens of Superior, Navajo Nation elders, and several organizations and conservation coalitions that oppose HR 687. The bill is the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill proposed by Arizona Congressional Delegates, Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD 1) and Paul Gosar (R-CD 4).  The tribal elders posted signs and verbally confronted Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for disregard for cultural and NEPA violations and expressed concern for the depleting water in Arizona and demanded that the groundwater from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation is not tampered with through the Resolution Copper Mine proposed near Chi'Chil'Ba'Goteel at the Oak Flat campgrounds. It is protected by administrative orders by the President Eisenhower and reaffirmed by President Richard B. Nixon.
On Aug. 21, tribal elders gathered acorn at Chi'Chil'Ba'Goteel (Oak Flat) after a prayer ceremony asking the Creator to bless the tribal leaders, all indigenous people and to stop the passage of HR 687, Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill proposed by AZ Congressional delegates, Ann Kirkpatrick and Paul Gosar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Miss Kirkpartick,
We are stonger than you think. WE are smarter than you think. We were here before you came so dont be acting like you have the right to act like you saw the land first.
Think twice before you do something like this because we all know that this isnt going to turn out the way you want it to.
Sincerely(Not Yours),
The New Generation of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. :)