Representatives from the Repair Network gathered on Zoom Oct. 4th for their quarterly meeting. Vanessa Nosie, member of Apache Stronghold, spoke with the Repair Network about the struggle to protect Oak Flat from Resolution Copper, a mining company that plans to destroy the sacred land.
In June of 2022, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided against the Apache Stronghold with a 2-1 decision in Apache Stronghold vs the United States of America. However, this September, the court announced that they would hold a vote on whether or not to rehear the case – this time, in front of eleven judges. The vote is expected to take place this month. The case will go to the Supreme Court if either of the following outcomes happen: 1) the court does not choose to rehear the case; or 2) the court does rehear the case, and again sides against Apache Stronghold.
“Whether we win or we lose, the truth will come out,” Vanessa said to the Repair Network. If Apache Stronghold loses, it will highlight the fallacy in the United States’ religious freedom laws. It will prove that the courts only protect some religions, such as Christianity, and offer no protections for the religions of the Apache and other Indigenous tribes. If Apache Stronghold wins, it will set a precedent for future court cases, protecting the religious rights of all people.
Vanessa spoke on the devastating spiritual and environmental consequences of Resolution Copper mining the sacred site. In Western Apache tradition, girls have a sunrise ceremony at Oak Flat to mark their transition into womanhood. This ceremony permanently ties a woman to the land, and the land then guides her throughout her life. Vanessa expressed her worries that her older daughters will lose this connection once Resolution Copper mines the land, and that her youngest daughter will never experience the ceremony at all.
“We won’t have a world that our future children can live in,” Vanessa said, referring not just to Apache children but to all children. If Resolution Copper mines Oak Flat, they will use water that Arizona doesn’t have. The climate impact, as was outlined in a report by the Bureau of Land Management, would be devastating. The project will amplify Arizona’s water crisis.
“We’re witnessing a murder, because we believe this land is alive,” Vanessa said of Oak Flat’s potential destruction. She urged the Repair Network to call their congresspeople and persuade them to support the Save Oak Flat Act, to pray, and to consider signing onto an Amicus brief as congregations and communities.
During the second hour of the Repair Network call, Carol Rose of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship discussed the steps for signing onto an Amicus brief, which is a “friend of the court” brief that shows support for Apache Stronghold. The Repair Network took time in small groups to discuss how to get their communities involved in saving Oak Flat. Those interested can see this blog post for more information about signing onto the Amicus brief in support of the Apache Stronghold, and all interconnected life.
The Repair Network also welcomed two new members, Raleigh Mennonite Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and Silverwood Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana. If your congregation or community has interest in joining the Repair Network, you can find more information here.
To watch Vanessa’s full talk with the Repair Network, you can visit our YouTube channel.