Hundreds Gather at Oak Flat to Fight for Sacred Apache Land

Resistance to American Fascism grows.  We in Deep Green Resistance share the outrage of the San Carlos Apache tribe over the attempted incursion on their land, conspired to by clever duo of the American government and mining interests. We hope you will join those who have committed to protecting the land, and all the life it hosts.

Protesters Continue to Gather at Oak Flat

Protesters Continue to Gather at Oak Flat

By Lee Allen, Indian Country Media Network

As the morning sun rose high enough to burn off the chilly overnight temperatures, mesquite fires scattered throughout the Oak Flats Campground offered a warm welcome to a special day for Arizona’s San Carlos Apache tribe.

Michael Paul Hill/Facebook Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.
Michael Paul Hill/Facebook
Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.

Some 300 tribal members and supporters from across the country had gathered to protest the infringement of traditional Apache holy lands. There were Chippewa, Navajo, Lumbi, Pauite, Havasupai, and representatives of the National American Indian Movement and the National American Indian Veterans group, as well as non-indigenous supporters representing myriad concerns including those of environmentalists and other lovers of nature. All were furious at Congress’s sneaky transfer of sacred Apache land to a mining company and vowing to do what they could to see that it didn’t happen.

“What was once a struggle to protect our most sacred site is now a battle,” said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, organizer of the grassroots movement aimed at stopping transfer of hundreds of acres of ceremonial land to those who would dig a mile-wide hole in the ground in a search for copper.

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Would Get Biggest Shaft Ever in Copper Mine Land Swap

San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land

Arizona’s Apache Tribe represents a culturally rich society with heritage tied to Mother Earth. As a people, they extend a Hon Dah welcome greeting to all who wish to share their culture and history. But now they are fighting to keep their holy lands culturally sacrosanct.

“Our homelands continue to be taken away,” said former San Carlos Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., decrying what he termed the dirty way in which a land-swap rider had been attached to a must-pass bill that sailed through Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The amended legislation, with the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, was “an action that constitutes a holy war, where tribes must stand in unity and fight to the very end,” according to Nosie.

The legislation that the former chairman termed “the greatest sin of the world” is the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which gives a 2,400-acre tribally sacred site to a global mining entity, Resolution Copper, that wants to destroy its natural state with a massive mine intended to extract an ore body located 7,000 feet below ground level. That ground is hallowed to the Apache peoples whose reservation border is just east of the proposed mine at Oak Flat, home to Indigenous Peoples since prehistoric times, a place where acorns and medicinal herbs are gathered and coming-of-age ceremonies are held.

Kicked off by earlier protests in both Tucson and outside Senator McCain’s Phoenix office, the multi-pronged awareness approach to mitigate the potential fate of Oak Flat picked up momentum via a two-day, 44-mile, march from the San Carlos tribal headquarters and culminated in a weekend-long Gathering of Nations Holy Ground Ceremony, “A Spiritual Journey to a Sacred Unity,” at Oak Flat.

Following a holy ground blessing, the morning was filled with traditional, cultural and religious dances, with Rambler dancing and Wendsler joining the group of drummers. The weekend of solidarity was epitomized by guest speaker and activist preacher John Mendez.

“What the system doesn’t know, what Resolution Copper doesn’t know, is there is nothing that can break our spirit and keep us from moving forward to victory,” Mendez told the assembled. “This is a protracted struggle, but if we stay true to task, we will win. A single flame can start a large fire, and we’ve created a fire that cannot be extinguished.”

The Apache struggle has become part of the ongoing battle worldwide for Indigenous Peoples protecting sites that are sacred to them because of the places’ importance to both spiritual and physical survival.

“This issue is among the many challenges the Apache people face in trying to protect their way of life,” Chairman Rambler toldIndian Country Today. “At the heart of it is freedom of religion, the ability to pray within an environment created for the Apache. Not a manmade church, but like our ancestors have believed since time immemorial, praying in an environment that our creator god gave us. At the heart of this is where Apaches go to pray—and the best way for that to continue to happen is to keep this place from becoming private land.”

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Leader: ‘What Was a Struggle to Protect Our Most Sacred Site Is Now a Battle’

Yavapai-Apache Chairman: ‘Oak Flat Holy Sites are Central to Apache Spiritual Beliefs’

Spiritual Unity Can Save Sacred Apache Land From Mining

Despite Obama’s signature on the measure, the administration has expressed displeasure as to how the legislation flew under the radar to become law.

“I am profoundly disappointed with the provision of the bill that has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The passage has created numerous schisms.

“The nearly decade-long fight over access to the federally protected land has ignited a feud that has split families and ended lifelong friendships,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

It also has united those who oppose Rambler, and the ongoing, nearly 10-year-old struggle has garnered support from more than 500 tribes, many who face similar situations with mining or development proposed in areas that other Native Americans consider holy. If this can happen to the Apache nation, it can happen to any other nation was the general feeling.

“We have a similar situation with an effort to build a tramway down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon,” said Lorenzo Robbins, a Navajo from Northern Arizona.

“We’re fighting a strong battle to protect Mother Earth from uranium mining,” said Uqalla, a member of the Havasupai tribe. “The responsibility of all indigenous spiritual carriers is to protect the earth.”

Rambler, welcoming the support, said it is indeed everyone’s battle.

“We must stand together and fight,” Rambler said. “We’re drawing a line in the sand on this one. We’re against this specific project because it’s going to desecrate and destroy this whole area and the Apache way of life we are accustomed to.

“This gathering and our direction in the future is to keep an awareness of the situation in the public mind, in the mind of Congress, and to let everyone know this issue is not going to go away,” Rambler said. “We need to stay on top of it every day to make sure our voices are heard. We’re praying to our creator god, asking him to guide us throughout this whole process so that we can win in the end and preserve what he created for us.”

Video: What Resolution Copper Wants to Inflict on Apache Sacred Land

Deep Green Resistance Stands with the San Carlos Apaches in Protecting Oak Flat from Copper Mining

San Carlos Apache Ceremony

Image Credit: Ryan Martinez Lewis

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is dedicated to the fight against industrial civilization and its legacy of racism, patriarchy, and colonialism. For this reason, DGR would like to publicly state its support of the San Carlos Apache tribe and the residents of Superior, AZ in the fight to protect Oak Flat from the destructive and unethical practices of foreign mining giant Rio Tinto.


For over a decade the San Carlos Apache tribe and supporters have been fighting against profit-driven attacks on their land by the Superior, AZ based company Resolution Copper (RC), a subsidiary of the international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. The foreign Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian mining company with a shameful history of environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and consorting with oppressive regimes around the globe.

Resolution Copper plans a massive deep underground copper mine in the Oak Flat area using a technique called block caving, in which a shaft is drilled more than a mile deep into the earth and the material is excavated without any reinforcement of the extraction area. Block caving leaves the land above vulnerable to collapse.

Despite this, Resolution Copper is set to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state. The 2,400-acre land, part of San Carlos Apache’s aboriginal territory, includes Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and nearby Apache Leap – a cliff where Apaches jumped to their death to avoid being killed by settlers in the late 19th century. The San Carlos Apaches and other Native people hold this land as sacred, where they conduct ceremonies, gather medicinal plants and foods, and continue to build connections with the land. The now public land is held in trust by the federal government and is also used by non-Native nature lovers for hiking, camping, bird watching and rock climbing, and is used for field trips by Boy Scout groups.

Recent Activity

On December 4, 2014 the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included the Oak Flat Land exchange as an attachment to the annual must-pass defense bill. This particular version of the land exchange included in the NDAA (the “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013”) is the 13th version since the bill was first introduced in Congress in 2005 by former Congressman, Rick Renzi (later convicted in 2013 of multiple counts of corruption, including extortion, racketeering and other federal charges). AZ Senators McCain and Flake, responsible for sneaking this unrelated attachment into the NDAA, subverted the will not only of Native American Tribes, conservation organizations, the Superior Town Council, and others, but the will of the United States Congress which has forcefully rejected the land exchange for nearly 10 years. Flake, who previously worked for Rio Tinto at their uranium mine (co-owned by the Iranian government) in Namibia, acknowledged the bill could not pass the US Congress on its own merits.

Shortly after passing through the House, the NDAA was signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2014, exactly 5 years after he signed the “Native American Apology Resolution,” a little-noticed expression of regret over how the U.S. had abused its power in the past.

The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act demonstrates a total disregard for Native American concerns. Resolution Copper has also openly admitted to the fact that their process of mining would create significant land cracking and eventually subsidence. Another grave concern is the permanent damage to surface and groundwater. This mine will deplete enormous quantities of water and pollute it, which will devastate local communities.

Oak Flat is also a rare desert riparian area. Less than 10% of this type of habitat remains in Arizona. The land exchange would allow mining companies to avoid following our nation’s environmental and cultural laws and would bypass the permitting process all other mines in the country have followed. Since this mining would, by design, lead to the complete destruction of the Oak Flat area and potentially impact both Apache Leap and Gaan Canyon, the San Carlos Apache Tribe (along with over 500 other tribes across the country) strongly opposes it and the illegal land exchange.

San Carlos Apache Ceremony 2

Call for Solidarity

Indigenous peoples have always been at the forefront of the struggle against the dominant culture’s ecocidal violence. Beneath the violations of US law lies the glaring threat of sacred Apache land being further harmed and colonized. If RC is allowed to follow through with its mining plan, not only would this land be stolen from the Apaches, but it would be rendered unrecognizable.

There is a monumental need for solidarity work to save Oak Flat. The only acceptable action on the part of Resolution Copper is immediate cessation of any and all plans to mine in the ancestral home of the Apache people; anything else will be met with resistance, and DGR will lend whatever support it can to those on the front lines. The time to act is now!

For more information or to lend support, please visit the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.

**DGR recognizes that members of settler culture are living on stolen land in the midst of a current and ongoing genocide of indigenous people and culture. We encourage those who wish to be effective allies to indigenous people to read our Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines.


“Apache Resistance to Copper Mining in Arizona.” <>
“Cultural and Religious Concerns.” <>
McAuliff, Michael. “Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill.”<>
McKinnon, John D. “US Offers An Official Apology to Native Americans.” <>
“President Obama signs land exchange into law signaling new phase in the protection of Oak Flat.” <>
“Resolution Copper.” <>
“Rio Tinto: A Shameful History of Human and Labour Rights Abuses And Environmental Degradation Around the Globe.” <>
Toensing, Gale Courey. “San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land.” <>
Wagner, Dennis. “Arizona’s ex-Rep. Rick Renzi gets 3-year prison term.” <>

Support Production of a Documentary on The Crisis at Oak Flat


Arizona Senator John McCain has slipped a controversial land bill into the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that hands over 2400 acres of protected and sacred land to mining corporation Rio Tinto, completely dismissing the religious and cultural beliefs of the San Carlos Apache Nation who consider the area sacred. Although tens of thousands of citizens have voiced outrage over this selling-out of indigenous people and their land, so far money is trumping concerns for the people and the land.

Deep Green Resistance shares in the outrage over this conspiracy to rape the land and the culture of the people and all who live with it. We stand with the San Carlos Apache people in resisting this latest incursion of industrial civilization into the land, and offer our help in this resistance effort.

We solicit your help, too, in supporting this work. We would love for you to join us in stopping the Rio Tinto land grab, and one way for you to contribute is to help get out the word about what is happening in Arizona. Director Ezekiel Kelly is working with the San Carlos Apache Nation to communicate the beauty and heritage of Oak Flat as a foundation for mounting its defense.

Ezekiel Kelly and his film crew have filmed interviews with many of the main players in this fight. They have documented the public events surrounding the controversy and accumulated footage showcasing the beauty of Oak Flat. In the process, they also learning of the challenges the Apache people face in an effort to preserve their traditions. Their goal is to get this film into festivals such as Sundance by next year.

To contribute to the fund for this film, please head to the Kickstarter site:

McCain Sells Out San Carlos Apache Tribe to Copper Mining Interests

Oak Flat Panorama.img_assist_custom-801x259

OAK FLATS- video of “15 year-old Naelyn, of the San Carlos Apache tribe in Arizona speaks to defend her federally-protected ancestral tribal lands against a giant copper mine proposed by two foreign-owned mega corporations. Rio Tinto and BHP have struck a highly lucrative deal with Senator McCain of Arizona. He has offered to give them this land to do with as they wish.”

For more info, please check out: