Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 14, 2023

Apache Stronghold Back in Court Fighting for Oak Flat March 2023


Apache Stronghold back in court fighting for Oak Flat

Ninth Circuit to rehear the appeal of Native Americans and their allies 

By Apache Stronghold

March 15, 2023 

A group of Western Apaches and their allies are headed back to federal court to protect their most sacred site from complete destruction by a foreign-owned mining company. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments again in Apache Stronghold v. United States after the court decided last fall to hear the case “en banc” — meaning in front of a full panel of eleven judges. Becket, along with attorneys Michael V. Nixon and Clifford Levenson, are defending the Apaches’  right to continue their longstanding religious practices at Oak Flat. 

Since time immemorial, Western Apaches have come to Oak Flat for their most important and longstanding religious ceremonies that cannot take place anywhere else. The sacred site is on the  National Register of Historic Places and has been protected from mining and other destructive practices for decades. In 2014, however, the government ordered Oak Flat to be sold to Resolution  Copper, a foreign-owned mining company that plans to turn the site into a two-mile-wide and  1,100-foot-deep crater. Apache Stronghold—a coalition of Apaches, other Native peoples, and non-Native allies—sued the federal government to halt the demolition of Oak Flat.  

After the Ninth Circuit ruled against them last summer, the court then decided to reconsider its decision—giving Oak Flat another chance. Apache Stronghold asks the court to protect Oak Flat just as it would protect any church, mosque, or synagogue from government destruction. 


Oral argument in Apache Stronghold v. United States 


Luke Goodrich, vice president & senior counsel at Becket 

Attorneys Michael V. Nixon and Clifford Levenson 


Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. PDT 


Listen to the live stream here:  

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - YouTube 

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 

125 S Grand Ave 

Pasadena, CA, 91105 

Courtroom 3

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

Additional Information

Case profile video: Sacred Lands and Copper Ore: Apaches Fight for their Ancestral Lands Case Page: Apache Stronghold v. United States (B-roll, images and legal documents)  

Legal Doc: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion in Apache Stronghold v. United  States (June 24, 2022) 


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win rate before the United  States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus,  Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).

Media Contact: Ryan Colby | |

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