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Apaches urge rehearing in struggle to protect sacred website in Arizona

(RNS) — Members of Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit working to guard the Apache sacred website in Arizona generally known as Oak Flat, are requesting a rehearing of their case in opposition to america as they search to cease a non-public enterprise from turning the land into an underground copper mine.

They’re doing so after a choose of the ninth U.S. Circuit Courtroom of Appeals, in August, known as for a vote — which is predicted to happen in early October — on whether or not to rehear the case in entrance of a full 11-judge courtroom as a substitute of the unique three-judge panel. 

Earlier this summer time, the divided federal appeals courtroom, in a 2-1 ruling, held that the federal government may proceed with the switch of Oak Flat to Decision Copper, an organization owned by the British-Australian mining large Rio Tinto.

It dominated that Apache Stronghold failed to indicate a considerable burden on its spiritual train.


RELATED: Mine can be built on Apache sacred site, Oak Flat, federal appeals court rules


“The federal government doesn’t considerably burden faith each time it ends a governmental profit that at one time went to non secular beneficiaries: there have to be a component of coercion,” in keeping with the ruling.

Apache Stronghold launched into a religious convoy that started in Arizona late final week and on Tuesday (Sept. 6) arrived on the San Francisco Civic Heart for a day of prayer as members urged the courtroom to rehear their case. They had been anticipated to file their request for a rehearing on Tuesday. Apache Stronghold has vowed to attraction to the U.S. Supreme Courtroom if judges determine in opposition to rehearing the case.

To Apache Stronghold founder Wendsler Nosie Sr., the potential of having the case reheard indicators the importance of this challenge. Decision Copper’s mine, Apache Stronghold stated, will swallow the positioning in a large crater and render “longstanding spiritual practices not possible.” The mine may additionally devour and contaminate 250 billion gallons of Arizona’s restricted water sources, they stated.

Nosie has likened Oak Flat to Mount Sinai — “our most sacred website, the place we join with our Creator, our religion, our households and our land” — and has underscored how an assault on Indigenous faith — the oldest faith of this a part of the world — is a risk to all religions.

Wendsler Nosie Sr., chief of Apache Stronghold, addresses supporters of Oak Flat, together with folks from different Native American teams and runners who participated in a protest run in help for Oak Flat, Feb. 27, 2021, in Oak Flat, Arizona. RNS picture by Alejandra Molina

“It impacts Indian nation in addition to all spiritual organizations,” Nosie advised Faith Information Service on Tuesday. “When you will have companies and congressional leaders that may supersede a faith … and we’re the oldest, what does it imply for all the remainder of them?”


RELATED: Why Oak Flat in Arizona is a sacred space for the Apache and other Native Americans


Jim Lichti, with First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, attended the prayer gathering in help for the preservation of Oak Flat.

“I feel it can assist us all to grasp higher as peoples of many religions and nations the sacredness of land, and the way we have to reclaim the sacredness of land and our relationship to it,” Lichti said.

Oak Flat, recognized in Apache as Chi’chil Biłdagoteel, is a 6.7-square-mile stretch of land east of Phoenix that falls inside Tonto Nationwide Forest.

The Apache folks maintain plenty of vital ceremonies at Oak Flat that, in keeping with their courtroom filings, can happen solely on the positioning, which might be destroyed by mining. The Apache consider Oak Flat is a “blessed place” the place Ga’an — guardians or messengers between the folks and Usen, the creator — dwell.

Congress permitted the switch of the land to Decision Copper in 2014 as a part of the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act in alternate for six,000 acres elsewhere. 

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