by Carol Rose, February 2022
February 17-20 was an annual gathering at Oak Flat. This year runners and walkers arrived with prayer on their sneakers from all four directions, plus a group from the Poor People’s Campaign representing many directions. Prayer runners were high school students and 60+ years old. Prayers pounded an abandoned roadway through the canyon carved by Queen Creek, reservation and city streets and busy highways shared by large trucks. Runners were Apache, indigenous allies from many nations and settler allies. For some it was a 50-mile-long relay. For others it was a 4-mile walk. Responding to a nudge from the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, still others ran or walked prayers far away (see photo from Fresno, California below).
This largest gathering of Oak Flat supporters since pre-pandemic years received the runners at Oak Flat Campground with shouts, water, danced prayer, acorn stew, “Indian tacos,” and plenty of other food. Sharing included updates from Apache leaders and encouragement from indigenous and settler allies including Amber Ortega, an O’odham woman recently found not guilty in federal court because she was exercising her religious rights when opposing the border wall.
This gathering came one week after the representatives of the US government had been present at Oak Flat and on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. This federal initiation of a government-to-government conversation may indicate that they seek to complete the Environmental Impact Study which is a required step before Oak Flat could be turned over to Resolution Copper. On Feb 10 they were met at Oak Flat by San Carlos Apache tribal officials, Apache Stronghold, Indigenous dignitaries from other Nations, Representative Raul Grijalva (author of the Save Oak Flat Act), and other settler supporters. Carol Rose, of the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition was among those invited to speak to why carving out the heart of this sacred land was wrong. Tina Schlabach, also co-pastor of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship was also present. (Carol’s presentation is linked here.)
The San Carlos Apache Nation let the U.S. government officials know that this was a conversation about what a consultation would need to look like; they could not “check the box” of consultation with visit. Consultation should not mean coming and listening to indigenous people and then going and ignoring what they say. Consent is needed for consultation to be real. The Apache do not consent to the destruction of Oak Flat.
For more information, please visit apache-stronghold.com/