House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States: Legislative Hearing – H.R.1844 – April 13, 2021
Bill to permanently protect sacred Apache site up for first hearing
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Indianz.Com

A bill to permanently protect a sacred Apache site in Arizona from development is up for its first hearing on Capitol Hill.

The House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States will take testimony on H.R.1884, the Save Oak Flat Act, next Tuesday. Witnesses include tribal leaders who want to protect the site from a massive copper mine.

“Oak Flat, or Chi’chil Bildagoteel, is of significant cultural importance and considered sacred by many tribal communities in Arizona, including the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which has resisted a years-long effort by Resolution Copper – owned by international mining conglomerates BHP and Rio Tinto – to mine the region,” the House Committee on Natural Resources said in announcing the hearing.

nizhonipike
Nizhoni Pike of the Apache Stronghold addresses a Save Oak Flat rally at the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Congress paved the way for the controversial project more than six years ago with the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act. Section 3003 of the law created a process in which federal forest land — including Oak Flat — would be transferred to the foreign mining corporations.

Though the Biden administration has since put a hold on the project, citing a lack of tribal consultation, the land transfer remains on the table. The Save Oak Flat Act, should it become law, resolves the situation once and for all by repealing Section 3003.

“Mining corporations from other countries want to destroy our holy land, destroy our religious beliefs and destroy our religious freedom,” Naelyn Pike, a young leader from the Apache Stronghold group, said earlier this year. “Oak Flat, or Chi’chil Bildagoteel, is a God-given gift that our creator has given to us for sacred purposes and it must be protected for that reason.”

Though the federal review process began years ago, the process picked up speed after Republican Donald Trump lost the presidential election last November. The U.S. Forest Service issued the final environmental statement (FEIS) and the draft record of decision on January 15, barely five days before Joe Biden came on board.

Both documents have since been rescinded by the new Democratic administration. Chairman Terry Rambler of the San Carlos Apache Tribe called the decision a step in the right direction.

“We look forward to continuing our work to permanently protect Oak Flat,” Rambler said after learning of the news last month.

Indianz.Com Video: Save Oak Flat | Naelyn Pike | US Capitol

The hearing on H.R.1884 takes place at 1pm Eastern on April 13. The witness so far includes:

The Honorable Shan Lewis
President
Inter Tribal Council of Arizona

The Honorable Fawn Sharp
President
National Congress of American Indians

Dr. James Wells, Phd
Chief Operating Officer
L. Everett & Associates

The hearing will be live-streamed on YouTube and on Facebook.

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Cronkite News: Biden administration puts halt to mine at sacred Apache site (March 4, 2021)
San Carlos Apache Tribe cheers ‘right move’ to protect sacred site from copper mine (March 1, 2021)
Cronkite News: Deb Haaland shares her vision for Interior Department (March 1, 2021)
Cronkite News: Judge won’t stop copper mine on sacred Apache site (February 15, 2021)
Cronkite News: Apache Stronghold fights to protect sacred site from foreign mine (February 9, 2021)
Cronkite News: Republican pardoned in connection with Oak Flat land deal (January 21, 2021)