Will Congress Use Defense Bill to Turn Apache Ceremonial and Burial Grounds Over to Mining Company?

Share this with your friends

The news coverage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (the 2014 NDAA) almost reads like a history book. Congress, ignoring treaties and promises of keeping Native American reservation lands with cultural significance under the control of Native Americans, may soon vote to give 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to Resolution Copper last Wednesday. That acreage includes lands that are considered by the San Carlos Apache tribe to be ceremonial, burial and medicinal grounds.

This was basically a sneak attack. After a decade of efforts including a bill handing the lands over to the company that twice failed to pass Congress last year, language granting the lands to the for-profit company was tucked away on the 1,105 page of the massive bill late last Tuesday night, according to The Huffington Post. They quote the Chairman of the tribe, Terry Rambler, as saying,

“Since time immemorial people have gone there. That’s part of our ancestral homeland. We’ve had dancers in that area forever — sunrise dancers — and coming-of-age ceremonies for our young girls that become women. They’ll seal that off. They’ll seal us off from the acorn grounds, and the medicinal plants in the area, and our prayer areas.”

Those who support the move, such as Arizona Senator John McCain, cite economic reasons for the land-grab (the creation of jobs, the sale of copper etc). The lands, however, have great cultural significance to the Apache people.

Additionally, the process of copper mining would completely degrade and destroy the land above the area being mined. The lands being mined include the mountains that feed the aquifers that provide water to the tribe and lands as close as 1,500 feet to Apache Leap, a peak where Apaches once leaped to their deaths instead of being killed by settlers in the 1800s. This tragic massacre is the inspiration for the legend of Apache Tears, which is a common name for a transparent form of black obsidian. The legend says that the grieving and weeping of the women over the massacre was so powerful and strong that the Great Father turned their tears into stones that, when held to the light, are translucent like tears despite being black.

The final vote could be held as early as this week. Consider contacting your Congressperson and advising of them of your disapproval. Encourage them to vote against the “must-pass” bill until the language appropriating sacred Native lands has been removed.

For previous Ladybud Magazine articles that cover topics related to environmentalism, click here.

Photo Credit: By Pierce, C.C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946 under public domain via Wikimedia Commons