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Ahead of Thursday Hearing, Chair Grijalva Speaking at Wednesday Capitol Hill Rally on Ariz. Mining Project That Threatens Native American Sacred Site

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will speak at approximately 2:15 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, March 11, at the Save Oak Flat rally on the southeast lawn of the U.S. Capitol, across the street from the Cannon House Office Building. The event will feature Native American tribal leaders, advocates and lawmakers united in opposition to the proposed Resolution Copper mining project east of Phoenix, which would destroy the Chí’chil Bi?dagoteel (Oak Flat) Historic District and Apache Leap areas held sacred by tribal members in the region, including the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Tonto Apache Tribe, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Hopi Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni.

The event comes a day ahead of this Thursday’s Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States hearing on the issue, titled The Irreparable Environmental and Cultural Impacts of the Proposed Resolution Copper Mining Operation. Witnesses scheduled to testify at that hearing – including former San Carlos Apache Chairman Wendsler Nosie and his granddaughter, Naelyn Pike – will also speak at the Wednesday rally.

Chair Grijalva earlier this Congress introduced the Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 665), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Senate companion (S. 173). The bills reverse the land swap, effectively canceling the project.

The mining proposal is advancing only because a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 transferred 2,422 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Tonto National Forest directly adjacent to Apache Leap – where tribal warriors jumped to their deaths to avoid capture by U.S. cavalry – in exchange for other land the company owned that did not include mineral deposits.

Since the passage of that law, Resolution Copper has faced years of mounting criticism over its refusal to consult with Native Americans who overwhelmingly reject the project on environmental, cultural and economic grounds. As Sandra Rambler, sister of current Chairman Terry Rambler, pointed out at a protest last November:

Resolution Copper had bought up parcels of land scattered across southern Arizona to trade for Oak Flat. The company paid a few million dollars for them, but it stands to make tens of billions from the mine.

But there are no ceremonial sites on those other lands. “There’s no holy ground there, so how can we worship?” Rambler said, her voice trembling.

Hundreds of members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other Native American communities marched approximately 45 miles last month in their sixth annual gathering to oppose the Resolution project. Nosie’s daughter Vanessa Nosie told the Reuters news agency, “What's happening at Oak Flat can happen anywhere.”

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