PANA Endorses Efforts to Protect Oak Flat
Since time immemorial, Western Apaches have come to Oak Flat for their most important and longstanding religious ceremonies that cannot take place anywhere else. The sacred site is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been protected from mining and other destructive practices for decades. In 2014, however, the government ordered Oak Flat to be sold to Resolution Copper, a foreign-owned mining company that plans to turn the site into a two-mile-wide and 1,100-foot-deep crater. Apache Stronghold—a coalition of Apaches, tribal leaders, faith leaders, the National Congress of American Indians, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and grassroots organizations—sued the federal government to halt the demolition of Oak Flat.https://www.becketlaw.org/media/apache-stronghold-back-in-court-fighting-for-oak-flat/
WASHINGTON —On Thursday, November 17, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided it would rehear Apache Stronghold v. United States after ruling earlier this year that a private mine can proceed with operations while a lawsuit is pending.
The Apache Stronghold is arguing that efforts to develop an underground copper mine in the Tonto National Forest will destroy Oak Flat, a site considered to be sacred by the Apache and other tribes.
“Apache have gathered at Oak Flat to connect with our Creator for millennia, and we want to continue this sacred tradition,” Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr. of Apache Stronghold, said in a statement. “The government protects historical churches and other important religious landmarks, and our site deserves no less protection. We are glad the Ninth Circuit is going to take a closer look at this decision, and we hope it will do the right thing and protect Oak Flat.”
Oak Flat is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places, and its religious significance has been compared to that of Mount Sinai or St. Peter’s Basilica.