Target: John Barrasso, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs
Goal: Stop selloff of sacred Native American lands for copper mining.
Culturally important Native American lands may soon be sold to a foreign-owned mining company thanks to a provision snuck into a 2014 defense bill. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill into the Senate that would repeal the land exchange and protect the area, known as Oak Flat, from destruction.
Oak Flat, which lies within Tonto National Forest in Arizona, has been used for Apache young women’s coming-of-age ceremonies for centuries. It’s also a place steeped in dark history. The site was originally part of the Old San Carlos Reservation, where the Apache were imprisoned by the U.S. military in the late 1800s during the Apache Wars.
Due to the extensive copper reserves in the area, mining activities in Oak Flat would dig a crater two miles wide and 1000 feet deep. The site also lies dangerously close to the Apache Reservation’s aquifer. Mining could cause serious contamination to groundwater through acid runoff, threatening not just the reservation but neighboring towns that rely on the aquifer as well.
Though they have a wholly legitimate claim to the land, the Apache people simply want to maintain public access and forbid mining in Oak Flat. They fear the destruction mining will cause and the inability to visit the land to perform rituals or collect herbs—important parts of their way of life. Urge the Senate to support Sanders’ legislation and protect Oak Flat from corporate greed.
Dear Senator Barrasso,
A provision snuck into a 2014 defense bill would allow the selloff of sacred Native American lands to London-based mining company Rio Tinto. The company plans to open up a crater two miles wide and 1000 feet deep in the area known as Oak Flat within Tonto National Forest. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the “Save Oak Flat Act” to stop this inappropriate land exchange from occurring.
Though currently public land, Oak Flat was once part of Old San Carlos Reservation. It was here that the Apache people were imprisoned during the Apache Wars in the late 1800s. The site also has deep cultural significance. Apache young women have engaged in coming-of-age ceremonies here for centuries. Though they have a legitimate claim to the land, the Apache simply want Oak Flat to remain open to the public and protected from destructive mining activities.
Beyond the cultural and logistical problems with selling off oak flat, there are serious environmental concerns. The site lies close to the Apache Reservation’s aquifer, and contamination via acid runoff during mining is a likely possibility. The neighboring towns of Miami and Globe also rely heavily on this groundwater.
Furthermore, this exchange deliberately violates an executive order by President Eisenhower in 1955 that forbid future mining projects in Oak Flat. There is just no excuse for this land exchange to occur other than corporate greed. I urge you to please consider the rights of the Apache people and support Senator Sanders’ legislation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Wendy Kenin