Published March 1, 2016
SAN CARLOS INDIAN RESERVATION – As the Longest Walk 5 – War on Drugs stopped at the San Carlos Reservation, a celebration of resistance, beauty and family took place at Oak Flat in southern Arizona on February 28. There were Pomo dancers, crown dancers and California Bay Area People helping to protect the land.
Oak Flat, Chi’chil Bildagoteel. is an Apache sacred site in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona which is threatened by a proposed copper mine. President Eisenhower had protected this site, but John McCain (AZ) traded this sacred land to a foreign mining company.
In June 2015, Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ) introduced the save the Oak Flat Act (H.R. 2811). This would repeal the land exchange and return it to public ownership.
Several people at the celebration of reistance spoke with different people at Oak Flat:
My Name is Naelyn Pike. I’m sixteen years old and I go to Globe High School. I am an enrolled member in the San Carlos Apache Tribe, but I am Chirachua Apache.
Ceremonies have been conducted here (Oak Flat) since I can remember. I would come here with my family and they would teach me how to pray and about my Apache way of life. They taught me who I am and what I needed to know being an Apache girl. My sister had her sunrise ceremony here, which is a “coming of age” ceremony, where she as a young girl transforms into a woman. We were blessed to have these ceremonies here. Now we have ‘the holy ground ceremony here, which we had for years. But the one thing people don’t understand and they say we don’t have our ceremonies here anymore, is because we were forced on the reservation (and not allowed to come here). So for a period of time we were forced not to have our ceremonies here. Because the US government wanted us to be assimilated, but in our old stories the stories come from the ceremonies we have done.
Over hundreds of years our people have been here and so if someone were to hike around Oak Flat, they would see petroglyphs, intricate petroglyphs that that our people have actually written a long time ago – “the ancient ones.”
Our people were taught through oral history; not through paper and not writte books. So for me, our people have always been here. Our people have always touched this place and used this place for ceremonies and sacred things . And so our Apache people have been here, always and forever.
Professor James Riding In introduced himself and explained how he felt:
My name is James Riding In and I am a professor at Arizona State University. I teach American Indians studies and I’m here at Oak Flat. I feel we’re all interconnected, all us indigenous people through these sacred places. So it’s a real honor to be here. Such a tranquil feeling to be with everyone, just enjoying the serenity of the day.
Carry Sage Curly expressed herself with these words:
Hello my name is Carry Curly. And I come to you from Oak Flat and I’ve been here and I stay here. I occupied and I been coming back and forth. I am from the San Carlos Apache Reservation and this is all very important for many purposes. One for Mother Earth, the destruction that they want to do to her. That mining and.all the beauty that’s going to crumble down with it, if that were to happen, but I know it’s not going to happen.
To the animals, to these plants, to these trees right now that I’m sitting under this acorn tree. I know it has seen my ancestors and they have picked acorns from her. This is a place of life. It has waters, it is a place of giving. And yes, it’s always giving to us and we always take what we need. It has taken care of us and I know it will in the future. For my kids, for my friends and their kids and for the future kids to come. I want them to see this beauty, just like my grandpa has come up here and prays. That’s how strong our prayers are, in that we’re going to win this battle.