Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 11, 2014

Apache elders words on theft of sacred lands for copper mining

The US House has passed legislation to steal Apache sacred land for Resolution Copper mining. Sen. John McCain is pushing for this theft of Apache land in the Senate. Censored News is reposting these photos and words of Apache elders about Oak Flat. Articles and photos by Sandra Rambler, San Carlos Apache. Testimony to Congress:"If this land is transferred to Resolution Copper where it would become private land, federal protections would disappear and this sacred area will be destroyed."
The legislation is here, search by Oak Flat within bill. Also see coverage here by RT.

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
Censored News
August 2013

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).
Top 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.

Traditionally Speaking
Article and photo by Sandra Rambler
Censored News
March 2013

A big round of applause goes out to the Superior Council for recently voting NO to the Oak Flat land exchange in H.R. 687.  I am so glad that Superior is not being used as a pawn to get this bill passed in Washington, D.C.  These leaders should always remember that they represent the people of Superior and this is more than a money making deal and that Superior is not bartering land that is not only sacred to the Apaches, Yavapais and other Native American Indians in the region, but land that is valuable to the people well beyond Superior’s city limits.
Superior needs to look are more sustainable ways for economic development and that depending on a single source of industry like copper mining is a thing of the past.  We all know what it does to our health and many residents of Superior have paid for the price of mining with their lives.
There is potential for joint partnership including the San Carlos Apache Tribe who just announced they will be opening their second casino with over 300 jobs in the local area.  Eco-tourism is on the rise and the benefits from it are real and contributes to their economy but they never acknowledge the benefits.  Now is the time for Superior to  think about the long term effects of Resolution Copper’s project at Chi’chill Ba’go’teel (Oak Flat).
We all know water is important in Arizona and in order to develop their project, Resolution Copper needs millions of gallons of water for their project to be realized.  Who will they get water from?  No one has water but the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other tribes in Arizona.  We definitely don’t want our water to be contaminated from the chemicals and waste from the mine because more lives of our Apache people will be gone.  We can certainly make a difference and stand up to them and tell them one word, “NO!”
In this day and age, advanced technology can provide us information that would be critical to the decision makers of this project including effects on environmental, ecological, cultural, archaeological and social and economic impacts.
We will know this information only if NEPA is completed prior to any land exchange.  These laws were made to inform and educate the public and decision makers about any given project on public land so that decision makers can make the most informed decision.
Resolution Cooper should not be allowed to circumvent this process altogether through a bill that was created and written specifically by them!
There is an established federal process that protects public lands for public use and why should Resolution Copper, who deals directly with Iran and mostly owned by China, be allowed to bypass laws created by our federal forefathers?
Our fight for our land, our water and our religious beliefs continue today.   The Apaches were the last tribe to surrender to the United States government and just like our ancestors--we shall remain stronger than ever!  Ahi’yihe to Chairman Terry Rambler for his testimony and Peridot District Councilman, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council and all the tribal leaders that attended the recent hearing in Washington, D.C.   Remember, united we stand, divided we fall!  

Photo by Sandra Rambler

On March 23, Brianna Hopper dances with her God-mother, Tabitha Sneezy, at the Bylas ceremonial grounds within the San Carlos Apache Indian Nation in the Bylas District during Brianna's coming-of-age traditional ceremony.  Brianna is the daughter of Carolyn Williams Hopper (San Carlos Apache/Hopi) and Marlin Hopper (White Mountain Apache).

By Sandra Rambler
San Carlos Apache
Feb. 2012
Censored News WASHINGTON -- On Feb. 8, Shan Lewis, President of the Inter-Tribal Council provided testimony to the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in Washington, D.C. regarding opposition against H.R. 1904, also known as the proposed Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange Act.  President Lewis was accompanied by Terry Rambler, Tribal Chairman, Steve Titla, Tribal Attorney, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Peridot District Councilmember, Vernelda Grant, Tribal Archaeologist, Tanayia White, Executive Assistant to the Chairman, Desirae Rambler, Miss San Carlos and some members of the Youth Council and their parents including Lanea Burdette, Youth Council President.  Other various tribal leaders from tribes within the U.S. were also present, namely Ben Shelly, President of the Navajo Nation.
Mr. Lewis began his testimony, “Good morning, Chairman Bingaman, Ranking Member Murkowski and other member of the committee.  My name is Shan Lewis, President of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and Vice-Chairman of the Fort Mojave Tribe.  On behalf of the 20 member tribes of ITCA, thank you for letting me testify.”

“I would like for all of the tribal leaders here today to stand.  We are here to bring a united front in strong opposition to H.R. 1904.  Tribes from New Mexico, the Great Plains, the Northwest, California, the South, the East, the Midwest, the Navajo Nation, and many other tribes join us against the bill.”

“With the Committee’s permission, I would like to include in the record tribal letters and resolutions opposing this bill.  Also, I would like to include a statement from a San Carlos family about its upcoming sunrise dance t Oak Flat, celebrating a young woman’s coming of age.  This is just one example of great significance of Oak Flat to families who have held ceremonies there for centuries.”

“I have three fundamental points in my remarks, destruction of sacred sites, federal protections that no longer apply if this land becomes privatized and regional water resources that will permanently be altered, depleted and contaminated.”

Since 2004, Resolution Copper has done everything it can to pass this legislation that would direct the Forest Service to transfer sacred land in the Tonto National Forest so that it can develop a massive block cave copper mine.”

“To protect our holy places, it saddens us that we have to defend their legitimacy.  Oak Flat is one of the holy places of Western Apache and Yavapai tribes where Gaan, or spiritual beings reside.  The Gaan are considered Angels.  Just as a Church is a special place to Christians, Oak Flat is the equivalent for Apaches, Yavapais and others.  Many tribes go to these special for prayer, ceremonies, to gather ceremonial items, or for peace and personal cleansing.  These places are holy.”

“Federal laws and policies that protect sacred sites currently protect Oak Flat.  But, if this land is transferred to Resolution Copper where it would become private land, federal protections would disappear and this sacred area will be destroyed.  To give you an idea of the federal land that would be conveyed to the company, I have some maps.  The first map shows the Tonto Forest in relation to the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona.  These lands are ancestral tribal lands.  Here, the second map shows Oak Flat in the Forest outlined in red.  The black outline shows land withdrawn from mining by President Eisenhower.”

“Resolution Copper wants these sacred lands to extract one cubic mile of ore located over one mile beneath the surface.  To give a mental picture, it would take over 1400 Cowboys Stadium to hold a cubic mile of ore.  The company plans to use the block cave method to extract this ore because it is far cheaper than other methods.”

“Here, this diagram depicts what the block cave mining process is.  The company would dig a tunnel downward over a mile long and then dig another tunnel to the ore body.  Once at the ore, they would blast away and extract massive amounts of ore using robotic technology a mile deep – technology that has not been developed.”

“The next diagram shows what happens once they start pulling out all this ore.  At some point, the surface starts to cave in – this is called the “intact zone.”  Given the massive amounts of earth that the company plans to extract, the surface will eventually collapse and the area will become an open pit.  This is called the “cave zone.”  We think the cave zone would be about 2 miles in diameter.  This open pit will be visible from outer space.  We have requested federal or independent studies on this project since 2005 without success.”

“Another grave concern is the permanent damage to surface and ground water.  This mine will deplete enormous quantities of water and pollute it, which will devastate our communities.  This water is a sacred element in tribal religious ceremonies.  Arizona is a desert, and we all have a right to know what happens to our water.  Again, there have been no federal or independent studies on this issue.”

“Here is a picture of a perennial spring at Oak Flat.  Mining here will dry up or contaminate this spring and other water sources at Oak Flat.  Here is a picture of the Oak Flat Campground and an ancient oak tree that has nourished us for centuries with its acorns.  This area is protected under the Eisenhower Withdrawal Order.  This area is in the cave zone and would be destroyed.”

“I would like to make three last points, this bill is a special deal or earmark for one company is foreign-owned.  The company claims that this project will create many jobs.  However, no money can replace the loss of sacred sites.  The company claims that this mine will be an extension of the old Magma mine in the area.  This is not true.  Magma was developed in the 1880’s with a much smaller blueprint.  Nevertheless, Magma destroyed our holy places.  Back then, we were POW’s until the early 1900’s and didn’t have the right to vote in Arizona until 1948.  We can’t turn back the clock, but we can say “NO” to this mine.”

“This bill would violate our government-to-government relationship and result in the destruction of a holy place.  Senators, you simply will not be able to mitigate that this mine will destroy,” concluded President Lewis.

Some of the tribes and national organizations that support the San Carlos Apache Tribe include the largest Indian National Organization, the National Congress of American Indians, which comprises of over 560 federally recognized Indian tribes, the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, the United Southern and Eastern Tries, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Pueblo of Tesuque, Pueblo of Zuni, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Susanville Indian Reservation, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Arizona Mining Coalition, Concern Citizens and Retired Miner’s Coalition, Religious and Human Rights Organization, Concerned Climbers of Arizona, Mescalero Apache Nation, All Indian Pueblo Council, Eight Northern Indian Pueblos, Hopi Tribe, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Association, Tohono O’Odham Nation, Azee Bee Nahagha of Dine Nation, Karuk Tribe, Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, Navajo Nation, Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, Picuris Pueblo, Ramona Band of Cahuilla and others.

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