The tribal drums began beating outside the Capitol at noon. Dozens of activists from the San Carlos Apache tribe were gathered on the West Lawn, flanked by hundreds of supporters, with a clear message for Congress: Our sacred land is not for sale.
For many it was the last stop on a weeks-long cross-country journey to save a stretch of land in southeastern Arizona, revered by the Apache, from a massive mining project. One by one, Apache, Navajo and other tribal representatives took the stage, many of them in ceremonial camp dress. The procession was punctuated by calls to “Warrior up Apache,” and “Save Oak Flat!”
“I am not afraid to stand up for who I am,” said 16-year-old Naelyn Pike, “because I am Apache, because I believe in the creator, because I want to protect the mother earth.”
Last December, the Senate passed the $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act. Tucked deep inside the 697-page bill, which covered everything from military pay to training programs for Iraqi security forces, was a land exchange provision handing over 2,400 acres of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper. The land exchange rider, introduced at the last minute, went largely unnoticed—but not by the San Carlos Apache.