Update: USDA Comes Out Strong in Favor of Oak Flat Copper Mine: Time for Senators Sinema and Kelly to Step Up
Hope that the Biden Administration would reverse course and prevent the sacred lands of the tribes of the Apache Stronghold from being destroyed was diminished this week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture urged the Ninth Circuit to allow a land swap to proceed.
If enacted, the Apache’s sacred land, Chi’chil Bildagoteel – recognized as theirs in an 1852 treaty with the U.S. government – will be transformed into a copper mine by a foreign mining consortium. The result will be a two-mile-wide sinkhole, a thousand feet deep.
The Department of Agriculture, which includes the U.S. Forest Service, has jurisdiction over the land. Protect The First has joined with a number of other organizations dedicated to civil liberties and religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to urge the Ninth Circuit to protect the Apaches’ sacred land.
“We disagree that destruction of our sacred land and stopping our ability to practice our religion are not a ‘substantial burden,’” said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Dr. Wendsler Nosie Sr. “And we disagree that giving away Chi’chil Bildagoteel to a private company, thus subjecting us to criminal trespass arrest for praying on our sacred grounds, is not coercion.”
While the court deliberates, the House Natural Resources Committee has passed legislation introduced by its chairman, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-AZ, that would protect this sacred land.
It is now incumbent upon Arizona’s two U.S. Senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, to take a stand for their constituents and support Representative Grijalva’s bill in the Senate. This is down to the wire – in Congress and in the court. Protect The 1st urges Arizona’s senators to come down on the side of religious liberty, First Amendment rights that are sacred to Americans of all faiths.