Environment | Opinion | Politics

Steven Newcomb: Sen. McCain to blame for shady land swap

Adriano Tsinigine, a young member of the Navajo Nation, with his Save Oak Flat card and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). Photo from Facebook

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute accuses Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) of carrying on a colonial legacy by authorizing a swap of sacred Apache lands in Arizona:
The people of the United States have yet to come to terms with the reality of domination that the U.S. has constructed as a way of holding our original nations in a form of semantic captivity, in the name of political and legal precedent.

An example of the manipulations made possible by metaphors and such semantic captivity is a shady deal struck last December by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and some of his congressional colleagues. They snuck a legislative rider, Section 3003, into the National Defense Authorization Act at the last minute in the dead of night. The rider permits a land swap giving Sacred Apache Lands in Arizona to a huge foreign mining corporation known as Rio Tinto, and to its subsidiary, Resolution Copper. Focusing on such “colonizing” corporate bodies leads to the root term “colon,” which can be thought of as the digestive tract of an invasive body (corpo) that intends to devour, assimilate, and digest (profit from) the territories of the original nations of the continent.

The word colon breaks down to “colo,” which leads to a metaphorical imagery “to filter out impurities in the process of mining (digesting).” Metaphorically speaking, a “digestive” process of mining—the extraction of minerals from the soil for the accumulation of wealth and power—is the background context and purpose of colonizing operations engaged in by corporations such as Rio Tinto and Resolution Copper.

Regarding the sacred lands at Oak Flat, which Resolution Copper mining will destroy and “digest” for profit, it comes down to who has the right to control (subdue and dominate) the soil, and extract wealth from it. Tracing the political and legal systems of the United States and Arizona back to the Spanish empire reveals the extent to which dominating and dehumanizing metaphors from centuries ago continue to be maintained by the United States against original nations in the present. Ancient ideas about the relations between “the soil” and original nations continue to be deeply influential in our time, especially in terms of judicial, congressional, executive, and corporate attitudes and behaviors toward our original nations.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: Sacred Apache Lands, Metaphors, and Senator McCain (Indian Country Today 8/17)

Also Today:
Protesters Confront John McCain During Visit To Navajo Capital (The Huffington Post 8/17)
John McCain Confronted by Oak Flat Protesters and Chased Off Navajo Nation (The Phoenix New-Times 8/17)

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