Tara Houska: DC rally puts focus on threats to sacred Oak Flat

The Apache Stronghold, mostly members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, traveled 2,000 miles from Arizona to Washington, D.C. for a protest at the U.S. Capitol on July 22, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

Attorney Tara Houska talks with the Apache Stronghold about the importance of sacred Oak Flat to the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona:
The destruction of Oak Flat will signify a continued history of dispossessing lands from Native Americans and disregard for Native religions. Though Oak Flat is part of the Tonto National Forest, it is through no fault of the Apaches that their sacred site was not included in the boundaries of the reservation. Indeed, the nearby Apache Leap is so named for the Apache people that jumped from the mountain to their deaths rather surrender to U.S. troops in the late 1800s.

But there is a glimmer of hope. On June 16, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced H.R. 2811, the Save Oak Flat Act. The legislation would repeal the NDAA rider and prevent the destruction of a sacred site.

“Indigenous people aren’t dust under the carpet, they can’t keep pretending we’ve been swept away and don’t exist,” said 16-year old San Carlos Apache member Naelyn Pike to ICTMN. Her 14-year old sister Nizhoni went through the coming-of-age ceremony last October.

“I know they can hear us and they’re watching,” Naelyn continued, “when we walked here from the White House, we were followed by the CIA, the police, and undercover people…they were afraid of us.”

The gathering at the Capitol was a mixture of Native Americans clad in Oak Flat t-shirts and business suits alike, curious tourists, and watchful security. The Indians were in D.C., and they were angry. The U.S. government was continuing its long history of taking from Native Americans, and it had almost gotten away with it sans mainstream scrutiny.

But the spotlight is on. Despite the efforts of Congressional members to diminish the site to a “campground”, more and more attention is being brought to the rider that quietly passed in December. Environmental organizations, churches, local mining groups, and the media are joining the cause to save a Native American sacred site.

Get the Story:
Tara Houska: Oak Flat Can Never Be Replaced (Indian Country Today 7/29)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
War of words escalates on mine at sacred Apache site in Arizona (7/27)
EJ Montini: Money wins in war to protect sacred Apache site (7/24)
San Carlos Apache Tribe clashes with Rep. Gosar after rally (7/23)
San Carlos Apache Tribe lands in DC to rally for sacred site (7/22)
Interview: San Carlos Apache Tribe fights mine at sacred site (7/20)
Ernie Stevens: Support sacred Oak Flat and the Apache Stronghold (07/08)
Company pushing mine at sacred site gives $10K to Apache youth (07/08)
House adds sacred sites amendment to Interior appropriations bill (07/08)
Save Oak Flat caravan exits Arizona for journey to nation's capital (7/7)
Sen. McCain deemed responsible for land swap at sacred Oak Flat (7/2)
Save Oak Flat caravan plans journey to DC to protect sacred site (7/1)
Bill repeals land swap for mine on sacred Apache site in Arizona (06/19)
Supporters open national prayer days to protect sacred places (6/19)
March planned in nation's capitol over mine at sacred Apache site (06/04)
Steve Russell: Take fight over sacred Apache site to higher court (6/3)
Lydia Millet: Selling off sacred Apache land to foreign interests (5/29)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to challenge Sen. John McCain in 2016 race (5/27)
Wendsler Nosie: US government approves theft of sacred land (02/20)
San Carlos Apache Tribe leads 40-mile march for sacred site (02/06)
San Carlos Apache Tribe to hold spiritual march to sacred site (2/3)
Michael Paul Hill: Saving sacred Apache land from exploitation (2/3)
Opinion: Tribal sovereignty ignored when it becomes unprofitable (01/19)
White House responds to petition against mine at sacred site (01/13)
Steven Newcomb: Sacred lands are Christmas gift for mining firm (12/29)
Apache Messenger: Crowd protests copper mine on sacred lands (12/22)
Congress passes bill with mine on sacred Apache land in Arizona (12/15)
Senate heads to final vote on package with mine on sacred land (12/12)
Rep. Gosar won't apologize for calling Native Americans 'wards' (12/11)
Jon Kyl: Land swap for mine on sacred Apache land isn't unusual (12/11)
Terry Rambler: Defense measure raids sacred places for one mine (12/10)
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians join fight against mine deal (12/9)
Great Plains tribes call for removal of land swap from defense bill (12/8)
Senate expected to approve defense bill for mine on sacred lands (12/8)
Opinion: No sacred Apache lands in swap for copper mine project (12/8)
House approves bill to authorize mine on sacred site in Arizona (12/4)
Apache Messenger: Younger generation returns to sacred site (10/10)
San Carlos Apache Tribe testifies against land swap measure (11/21)
Tribal lobbying halts measure for copper mine by sacred site (11/14)
Trending in News
More Headlines