Native Americans protest proposed Arizona copper mine

By David Schwartz, Reuters

Members of a Native American tribe in Arizona took to the roadways on Monday to protest against a proposal for a massive copper mine at a small town east of Phoenix, vowing to protect sacred lands.

A small group from the San Carlos Apache tribe began a scheduled cross-country caravan to Washington, D.C., to try to persuade the U.S. Congress to save an area known as the Oak Flat campground near Superior, Arizona.

The several dozen protesters hope to garner wide public support and get lawmakers to repeal a land exchange signed last year that paves the way for a $6 billion project by Resolution Copper Mining, a company jointly owned by Britain’s Rio Tinto and Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd.

“This is sacred land to us and what they are doing is a betrayal,” tribal elder Sandra Rambler said in a telephone interview from the caravan. “It’s like someone ripping the guts out of you right when you’re standing there. We will not sit still and allow this to happen.”

Mine supporters tout its expected benefits, including about 3,700 jobs and $60 billion in economic impacts.

Project spokeswoman Jennifer Russo said the company was committed to involving tribal members and has reached out to “open the lines of communication and work cooperatively to address the issues.”

The battle lines were set in December when President Barack Obama approved the exchange of 2,400 acres (970 hectares) deemed sacred to Native Americans and precious to environmentalists.

The exchange was tucked into a defense spending bill and supported by members of Arizona’s delegation including former Republican presidential contender John McCain, who called the bi-partisan bill a “game-changer” for the area.

He also said in a statement last month that no tribal land or land designated as sacred by the U.S. Interior Department was involved and that the legislation includes key concessions to address opponents’ concerns.

Organizers said plans call for the caravan to stop at Native American reservations nationwide, adding to its ranks along the way. The goal is for 1,000 people to descend on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol on July 21, Rambler said.

“We’re the first Americans, and our voices need to be heard and they will be heard,” she said.

 

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

57 Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Urge Senate to Nix Sacred Land Giveaway

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Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today

 

More than 70 tribal nations have urged the U.S. Senate to defeat or remove a section of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would transfer a part of the publicly-owned Tonto National Forest that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe to a giant international corporation for a massive, environmentally devastating copper mine.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians(ATNI), a non-profit Oregon-based organization with 57 member tribes, and the 16-member Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association (GPTCA), have each asked senators not to enact Section 3003, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, of the annual must pass defense bill. The GPTCA’s letter is available here. The tribes’ actions are in solidarity with San Carlos ApacheChairman Terry Rambler, who has launched a grassroots campaign to defeat the land swap measure.

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land

RELATED: Re: Raiding Native Sacred Places in a Defense Authorization: Everything Wrong with Congress

“If such a land transfer provision seems out of place in a defense bill, that’s because it is. If the idea of transferring the ownership of federal forestlands to foreign mining companies seems absurd, it’s because that’s true, too,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nationand ATNI and Area Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians.

The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act is a House bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). It was tacked on to the annual must-pass NDAAalong with several other land-related bills by Sen, John McCain (R-AZ), according to the Huffington Post. The House approved the land swap bill December 4 and sent it on to the Senate for a vote. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the land swap provision will allow Resolution Copper Co., a subsidiary of the controversial international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state. The United Kingdom-based privately-owned global mining corporation reportedearnings of copy0.2 billion in 2013, a 10 percent increase over the previous year.

Resolution Copper plans a massive deep underground copper mine on the San Carlos Apache’s sacred landscape and has already begun drilling the shaft in anticipation of the land swap bill’s approval.

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Would Get Biggest Shaft Ever in Copper Mine Land Swap

Letters were sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chairs and vice chairs of the Senate Armed Forces and Indian Affairs committees December 9, asking that the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act be stricken from the NDAA, ATNI contact Steve Robinson said in a media release.

Sharp noted that the land swap is strongly opposed by tribes, tribal organizations, and other governments and groups from across the country, “and for very good reasons,” she said. “This action, of transferring land out of federal ownership removes it from the Federal Trust Responsibility, which, along with treaty rights, is a primary way the tribes have left to protect our traditional lands from being destroyed.”

Referring to Indian country’s decade-long effort to keep the Apache’s sacred landscape out of the hands of the mining company, Sharp said, “We have had to fight this effort before, and we will keep on fighting it.”

The ATNI passed a resolution opposing the land transfer bill in 2011. There were several efforts to move it last year, but a large bipartisan group of members of the House twice pulled the land swap legislation consideration. “The Land Exchange cannot pass Congress on its own merits,” Sharp said. “Attaching this provision as a rider to NDAA represents the antithesis of democracy.”

Sharp said that the proposed giveaway of tribal sacred areas to foreign corporations “constitutes a violation of trust and a slap in the face of our veterans, past and present. These are sacred lands. All land is sacred to us, but this exchange includes a place of worship known as Oak Flat, which has particularly significant religious, cultural, historical, and archeological value to tribes in the region. The land is eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.”

But once the land is privatized it is no longer protected by federal laws such as the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and Executive Order 13007— Protection of Indian Sacred Sites.

The land swap act also sets a bad precedent, Sharp points out, because it does not allow for any meaningful consultation with tribes and mandates the land transfer within one year of its passage without any studies or environmental impact assessments.

“As if that’s not enough, Resolution Copper would develop a copper mine that will forever destroy the tribes’ religious practices by irrevocably harming the region’s water supply and quality,” Sharp said. “At what point do human rights and justice stop taking a backseat to profiteering in this country?”

The ATNI was formed in 1953 and is the largest regional Indian organization in the country dedicated to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. ATNI represents tribal governments from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Northern California, Southeast Alaska, and Western Montana.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/12/12/57-affiliated-tribes-northwest-indians-urge-senate-nix-sacred-land-giveaway-158266

Rep. Paul Gosar Calls Native Americans ‘Wards Of The Federal Government’

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) | Tom Williams via Getty Images

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) | Tom Williams via Getty Images

 

By Felicia Fonseca, AP

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s reference to American Indians as “wards of the federal government” has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts in the days following a discussion about a controversial Arizona land deal that would make way for the country’s largest copper mine.

The Arizona Republican was responding to concerns from Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe when he made the comment that stunned people at the round-table talk.

Stago said the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs and seeking equal representation when it comes to projects proposed on land they consider sacred.

“He kind of revealed the truth — the true deep feeling of the federal government: ‘Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,'” Stago told The Associated Press.

Gosar spokesman Steven Smith said that wasn’t the intent of the congressman, whose constituents in the 4th Congressional District include Apache tribes. He didn’t respond to requests to elaborate further.

“If that’s what he got out of that, I think it’s misconstrued,” Smith said. “If you look at the work the congressman has done, that’s far from the truth.”

Smith said Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening the relationship between tribes and the federal government. He pointed to legislation he sponsored this year that would do so.

Gosar held the discussion Friday in Flagstaff with Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who grew up with Stago on Arizona’s Fort Apache Reservation.

Dozens of people attended the meeting to discuss land, mining and forest issues with the representatives.

One topic they addressed was a proposal to swap 2,400 acres of southeastern Arizona’s Tonto National Forest for about 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout the state controlled by a subsidiary of global mining giant Rio Tinto. Stago said the proposal was disrespectful to tribal sovereignty.

Gosar said: “You’re still wards of the federal government,” according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

While former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall described tribes’ relationship with the federal government as that of a ward to its guardian in the 1830s, that characterization has long been irrelevant, experts in federal Indian law said.

Tribal members once seen as incompetent in the Supreme Court’s eyes became U.S. citizens in 1924, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 pushed the concept of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, said Troy Eid, a Republican and former U.S. attorney in Colorado.

Congress maintains control over Indian affairs.

However, the Interior Department is moving away from archaic paternalism when it comes to relationships with tribes, a spokeswoman said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ website notes the federal government is a trustee of Indian property — not the guardian of all American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Eid said the language that defines core concepts of Indian law is old and often ethnically offensive. “Wards of the federal government” is no different, he said.

“That’s just not appropriate,” Eid said. “In the heated context of what this represents, it’s especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting.”

The trend has been for tribes to take more control over their affairs while holding the federal government to promises generally born out of treaties. In exchange for tribal land, the government promised things like health care, education and social services in perpetuity for members of federally recognized tribes.

Some tribes are taking advantage of federal laws that allow them to prosecute felony crimes and assert jurisdiction over non-Natives in limited cases of domestic violence. They also have the authority to approve trust land leases directly, rather than wait for BIA approval.

Sam Deloria, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who served for 35 years as director of the American Indian Law Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said tribes welcome discussion about policy matters.

But when someone makes a comment like Gosar’s, “it doesn’t contribute much to the debate,” he said.

Congress Giving Sacred Apache Lands To Foreign Mining Company

 

PHOTO: Arizona Hike

PHOTO: Arizona Hike

 

By Reverb Press

 

In a late night addition to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill, Congress slipped in a provision that will hand off 2,400 acres of land sacred to the San Carlos Apache to a foreign mining concern. The ancestral and ceremonial lands, a part of the Tonto National Forest, includes the site, Apache Leap, where Apache warriors jumped to their deaths rather than be captured by US troops.

“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,”  said Terry Rambler, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The measure which has failed several times in the past but was inserted into the must-pass defense appropriation bill thanks to the efforts of Arizona Republican Senator, John McCain. On passage of the NDAA, the land will be given over to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto, a massive mining concern based in London, England and Melbourne, Australia that has been salivating over the prospect of mining the area for years.

Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell was critical of the way the provision moved forward. Speaking of the numerous land bills being considered, she said, I’m happy to see public lands bills make progress. The preference on public lands bills is that they go through a typical process of public lands bills and they get debate and discussion.” 

Of the way Tonto National Forest land was handled, she said however, “I think that is profoundly disappointing.”

Perhaps ironically, tribe Chairman, Terry Rambler was in Washington DC at the time for the White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Leaders from the 566 federally recognized Native nations engaged with the President, Cabinet Officials, and the White House Council on Native American Affairs on key issues facing tribes including, respecting tribal sovereignty and upholding treaty and trust responsibilities.

Rambler had been concerned that the long sought land deal might be inserted into the NDAA. When the latest version of the bill was read on Tuesday evening, (Dec 2) there was no mention of the Apache land. On Wednesday morning, there it was. He is asking that the Senate not vote on the appropriation until the measure is removed.

Rambler is organizing grass-roots opposition and is circulation a White House petition, STOP APACHE LAND GRAB

“It may seem impossible but our elders have taught us not to lose faith in the power of prayer and of course prayer will be there to help guide us through, but as far as a strategy, we know it’s going to take a grassroots effort and a lot of awareness in the public eye to see our side of the story and that’s what we need to get out there,”

Beyond the symbolic and spiritual importance of the lands involved, Rambler is also concerned about the potential ecological aspects of the mine and how it will affect his people in years to come. The company plans to us a mining technique called block cave mining which digs under the ore and then lets it collapse into the hollow for recovery. Eventually, the land above it will subside as well. Rambler explained,

What those mountains mean to us is that when the rain and the snow comes, it distributes it to us,” Rambler said. “It replenishes our aquifers to give us life.”

He’s not sure how that will happen once the land starts subsiding. Resolution Copper promises to monitor it.

Overall, the land deals being considered for inclusion with the NDAA are a compromise. There is bipartisan support for the give and take process and there are benefits in most of them, but somewhere, a line must be drawn.