Angela Aleiss: San Carlos Apache Tribe battles for sacred site

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

Professor Angela Aleiss looks at the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona and its fight to protect sacred Oak Flat from a copper mine:
The San Carlos Apache Nation, with a community of just 15,000, lies adjacent to Oak Flat, which they consider sacred land. This small tribe has taken on not only Resolution's behemoth multinational parent companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, but also U.S. Sen. John McCain and his cadre of Arizona politicians, along with a reticent Obama administration.

The tribe's fight to save Oak Flat has faced much opposition from leaders whose pockets are lined with hefty PAC contributions from Rio Tinto and its subsidiary, Kennecott Holdings. According to the Federal Election Commission, Rio Tinto contributed plenty to McCain’s campaigns, and company PACs helped support President Obama's 2008 and 2012 national elections.

Resolution Copper also has been pumping hefty philanthropic contributions into communities near Oak Flat — more than $280,000 in 2014, according to its Web site.

The San Carlos Reservation is barely a dot on the United States map. But even with its limited financial resources, the Tribal Council remains undeterred. In turn, Resolution has sent numerous letters soliciting the support of Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, all to no avail. The company even invited Rambler to meet with Rio Tinto's CEO Sam Walsh.

So far, Rambler has resisted. He has wisely explained that, as a sovereign nation, the Apaches' relationship and trust responsibility lies with the federal government and not corporate America.

But a frustrated McCain launched his own attack. In a recent 2,000-word diatribe on his Facebook page, McCain scolded tribal leadership for high unemployment, alcoholism and poverty. The senator never mentions the tribe's Gold Casino Resort and Hotel, health-care corporation, golf course, Cultural Museum and the newly established San Carlos Apache College.

Get the Story:
Angela Aleiss: The mouse that roared — the San Carlos Apache Nation seizes the spotlight (The Eastern Arizona Courier 9/16)

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