150,000 signatures reached
To: U.S. Congress
Tell Congress To Give Native Americans Back Their Sacred Land
Oak Flat - a centuries-old sacred site for Native Americans - was handed over to an international mining conglomerate by Congressional Republicans earlier this year. Pass the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act to repeal this shameful land trade immediately to protect this sacred Native American land.
Why is this important?
Last year, Republicans in Congress secretly gave away sacred Native American lands to a multinational mining conglomerate. If this deal is finalized, these sacred Native lands could be destroyed permanently.
It’s true: National Defense Authorization Act – a bill President Obama could not easily veto – included a non-germane and shameful provision mandating a land swap long favored by a mining firm called Resolution Copper. Congress gave this international mining conglomerate, which is co-owned by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and have “dismal human rights and environmental records,”(1) exactly what they wanted at the expense of sacred and religious sites connected to these public lands.
On June 17, I introduced the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act to repeal the land trade while leaving the defense law intact. Congress should not be in the business of helping big corporations at the expense of others, and it certainly shouldn’t break faith with Native American communities.
For years, Resolution has sought access to a copper deposit in eastern Arizona at a site called Oak Flat, which has been home to the San Carlos Apache Nation’s traditional acorn and medicinal herb collecting and religious ceremonies for centuries. Oak Flat itself is a significant cultural site for the San Carlos Apache. The mountain's waters feed Gaan Canyon, a significant cultural and religious site. The location also includes Apache Leap, an escarpment of equal cultural importance. The San Carlos Apache fear their sacred lands will collapse or be damaged by the intensive block cave mining Resolution proposes.
However, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Last Congress, Republican House leaders had to cancel a vote on their bill forcing the Forest Service to trade the land to Resolution due to overwhelming opposition in congress. Undeterred, Arizona’s Republican Senators snuck a swap provision into the defense bill during conference, knowing it could not be removed by the House – or easy for President Obama to reject. Now the San Carlos Apache are facing the imminent prospect of permanent damage to their sacred sites.
The line on treating Indian Country(2) with disrespect must be drawn. It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and uphold its commitment to Native Americans and protect their sacred lands. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan fight, and I’m asking for your help to get the word out!
1. Dina Gilio-Whitaker, “Resolution Copper: 6 Egregious Examples of Parent Rio Tinto's Rights Violations Worldwide," Indian Country, July 23, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/23/resolution-copper-6-egregious-examples-parent-rio-tintos-rights-violations-worldwide
2. "Indian Country" defined at 18 U.S.C. § 1151, epa.gov.