The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 3979) has passed in the House and is up for vote in the Senate on Thursday, December 11, 2014, or Friday, December 12, 2014. While generally, the NDAA bill addresses the national defense budget, embedded within the bill is an unrelated, 2,400-acre federal land exchange in Tonto National Forest, placing the sacred Apache lands of Oak Flat & Apache Leap in the hands of foreign-owned Resolution Copper (subsidiary of the Australian-English company, Rio Tinto; 10% of which is owned by China). This rider, which can be seen at H.R. 3979, section 3003, was snuck in last week, unbeknownst to the Apache Peoples who have been fighting this land exchange for nearly a decade. The bill was not released until Tuesday, December 2, of last week. (For more information, See “Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands with Defense Bill.”)
To the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other Apache tribes, Oak Flat and Apache Leap are an irreplaceable place, central to Apache belief and religious freedom. “Since time immemorial, people have gone there. That’s part of our ancestral homelands […]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…,” stated Terry Rambler, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The San Carlos Apache Tribe has prayed in this sacred place for thousands of years.
Rio Tinto (Resolution Copper) counters with arguments suggesting money as more important than Apache religious freedom and religious rights. They claim that the company will generate $61 billion in economic activity and 3,700 jobs over nearly 40 years. But, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Apache people are unwilling to give up their religious freedom and sacred places.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe is asking for your help and assistance to stop this rider by calling your local Senators (http://www.senate.gov/) to oppose this bill, and to consider signing their petition at: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-apache-land-grab/rnMfH0WL.