Roundtable on Protecting Tribal Land Chaired by Ranking Member Grijalva on Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, is hosting a roundtable with Native American leaders this Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss federal efforts to protect sacred tribal land. The roundtable will focus on the dangerous precedent being set in Arizona at a location called Oak Flat, which is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe, by a mining company called Resolution Copper.

A Republican-sponsored bill became law late last year – after being attached to unrelated legislation – mandating a federal land trade that facilitates Resolution Copper’s mining efforts at the expense of the San Carlos Apache. The Tribe’s campaign to protect Oak Flat has been profiled in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Indian Country Today and many other publications.

Two panels of speakers at Wednesday’s event will discuss why this case raises serious concerns across Indian Country and opens the door to further congressional breaches of trust and treaty obligations. The event is free and open to the media.

More information is available below.

Save Oak Flat: The Fight to Protect Sacred Apache Land

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
2226 Rayburn House Office Building

  For centuries, the Oak Flat area in the Tonto National Forest has been considered sacred to Apaches, Yavapais, and other Native Americans. Located about an hour due east of Phoenix, Arizona, this unique land has long played a vital role in Native ceremonies, religion, tradition, and culture. Oak Flat has always been a place where Native Americans in the region have gone to pray, to conduct ceremonial dances, to gather acorns for sustenance, to collect medicines and ceremonial items, and to seek and obtain peace and personal cleansing.

Public lands, like Oak Flat, are carved out of the ancestral homelands of Indian tribes, and the historical and spiritual connections of Native Americans to these lands have not been extinguished. The United States has legal and moral obligations to provide access to Native Americans and to protect these traditional territories in a manner that respects the cultural, historical and religious importance to Indian tribes.

For over a decade, tribes across the country, working with me and many other Members of Congress fought the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, which transfers the Oak Flat area to foreign-owned mining companies for the largest copper mining project in North America. The Land Exchange authorizes devastating block-cave mining, which would destroy the sacred Oak Flat area. However, last year, the land exchange was forced into a must-pass bill, subverting the will of the majority of the Members of the House and the Senate.

The forum will examine the dangerous legislative precedent this Land Exchange sets for the destruction of tribal sacred areas located on public lands, examine the spiritual and cultural importance of Oak Flat, and build national momentum to save Oak Flat.

Witness Panels

Panel I
The Honorable Paulette Jordan, Secretary, National Indian Gaming Association
The Honorable Brian Patterson, President, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.
The Honorable Fawn Sharp, President, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
The Honorable Terry Rambler, Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe

Panel II
The Honorable Shan Lewis, President, Inter Tribal Association of Arizona
The Honorable Ruben Balderas, President, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
The Honorable Wendsler Nosie, Councilman and Member of Apache Stronghold
Naelyn Pike, San Carlos Apache Youth Tribal Member and Member of the Apache Stronghold

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Bertha Alisia Guerrero, Director of Public Engagement for the House Natural Resources Committee Democrats, at Bertha.Guerrero@mail.house.gov.

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Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626