On Tuesday the Apache Stronghold activist community arrived in Washington D.C. for two days of ceremony and protest in front of the White House. The Apache Stronghold is made up of members of the San Carlos Apache tribe as well as supporters from across the country.
The tribal members are protesting the sale of 2400 acres of sacred land at the Oakflat campground in Arizona. The sale was done under the Southeast Arizona land exchange, a bill that has failed several times over the last few years but was ultimately attached to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. The NDAA 2015 was passed into law by the U.S. House and Senate with the support of Arizona Representatives Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick, as well as Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Under the NDAA 2015 a land exchange was approved which will allow a new project by Australian company Resolution Copper Mining. The Apache Stronghold is determined to stop the sale and destruction of land that they consider to be sacred to their people and way of life. The group says the copper mine would leave a crater nearly 2 miles wide and threaten streams, springs and wildlife habitats.
Earlier this month the activists began a cross-country caravan from Arizona to New York and Washington D.C. The group stopped at Native reservations along the way to drum up support for their cause.
On Tuesday they gathered in front of the White House and marched to the capitol for a “spiritual run” and ceremonial prayers and songs. Wednesday morning a second round of protests and demonstrations were underway.
“Today is our day. Today is our ceremony. We’re not here looking at this Capitol like it’s in charge of us,” tribe councilman Wendsler Nosie told Reuters.
Resolution spokeswoman Jennifer Russo told Reuters that they are committed to working with tribal members. The company claims the project will bring about 3,700 jobs to the area.
The Oakflat area is especially important to the San Carlos Apaches as it is near the Apache Leap cliffs where Apaches jumped to their death to avoid capture by American troops during the 1870’s. Protesters set up camp on the site in February, promising not to leave until the deal is repealed.