Wendsler Nosie: US government approves theft of sacred land

Baase Pike and Qualiyah Nosie enjoy the natural springs at Oak Flat over the weekend. This water flows down from Oak Flat into Gaan Canyon on its east side. Photo by Anna Jeffrey

Since the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange was included in the National Defense Authorization Act and it was signed by the President, there have been many opinions out there.

The land exchange has impacts on many components but what they all tie to is theft. The taking of property without the laws that apply normally. Isn’t that called stealing? And what is bad is that this theft has been approved by the U.S. government.

Why are some people for it, why are some people against it, that all depends on what issue it is and what the different arguments are. It affects water, social injustice, religious freedom, environmental protection, repatriation, water for the area, economic boom or more economic loss for the communities of Miami or Superior, so there's very many components, each one has its own argument.

But what it all boils down to is all these components are affected because there was a theft. A theft choreographed by the U.S. Congress and our own Congressional delegation led by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).

The Department of the Interior with the U.S. Forest Service was in charge of the trust property or federal lands protections and that responsibility was taken away by Congress. Congress allowed Resolution Copper to take the land and now they turn around after the exchange has been signed and give the responsibility back to the departments. The exchange totally bypasses all the rules that every other mine in the area had to follow.

They pushed job creation as a reason and the need for more copper but if you look at the mines in the area, they are not running at full capacity to fill a demand for copper.

We need to be aware! They are coming. When the National Defense Bill was up for a vote, a presentation in the Senate showed a map of the United States. They explained that the western part of the United States had a lot of resources and economic potential but all of this was on federal land, trust land and park land. They stressed that it was a great opportunity for America. The lands they spoke of and showed on the maps included all the tribal lands and reservations along with the federal lands.

If you look at the use of natural resources, the industries come up to the borders of the reservations, and in our history, we have watched parcels of land be taken by executive order for copper, minerals and timber. They are at our borders. Congress has an established system that they use to take property, and this is by bypassing their own rules that protect the land and environment.

The passage of the NDAA is not the only time this has happened. It happens with riders attached to all must pass legislation.

We stand for religious freedom, what the U.S. military is supposed to be protecting across the world. But within the U.S.’s own military funding bill, they ignore religious freedom, they ignore environmental protection, they ignore repatriation and create injustice.

It reminds me of the last Apache battle in Cibecue, where Apaches were gathering for Holy Ground and religious freedom was ignored and the Medicine men were killed. Since then, its happening again, the battle for religion. Never before have 400 tribes joined together with Religious groups and environmental groups, rock climbers and others who enjoy Oak Flat.

Together, we battled to protect the Area and we won against 13 attempts to push the legislation through. Now, we Occupy Oakflat.

Wendsler Nosie Sr. is a sitting council member and former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona.

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