Calling Faith Leaders to Help Protect Oak Flat

We, the undersigned, are calling on President Biden and the U.S. Congress to stop the destruction of the Apache sacred site of Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat).

Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) is where the covenant between divine and human was established. It is comparable to Mount Sinai, where Christians and Jews believe Moses received God’s promise of life-abundant and came to know God’s will for how humans should live in this world.

Apache Oak Flat is where the Ga’an spirits, or angels, reside. It is a corridor or direct connection to pray to Ussen (Creator of Mother Earth). It is also where generations of Apache girls have had their coming of age ceremonies and where they gather acorns for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Chi’chil Bildagoteel is a place of beauty and abundance where the Apache honor and offer prayers to the creator and to their ancestors. It is a place deeply tied to who they are as a people.

"The foundation of our spirituality is connection to the land. . . Without Oak Flat I would not know what it means to be Apache and I wouldn’t have the understanding of what life is and all that Ussen has given us." “prayers go to the Creator there... and that can’t happen anywhere else,” said Naelyn Pike, the granddaughter of Wendsler Nosie, founder of the Apache Stronghold.

The multinational mining companies Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and their joint venture, Resolution Copper, have spent nearly $2 billion to develop a mine at Oak Flat that they estimate will yield 40 billion pounds ($64 billion) of copper over 60 years. The mining process, known as “block-caving” will also create 1.6 billion tons of mining waste and leave a 2-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep crater where Oak Flat stands. In addition to the permanent damage that will occur to Oak Flat, the mining would cause air and water pollution and irreparable devastation to the land.

The U.S. government granted permission for this project, and it has the power to stop it. With a single stroke of the pen, President Biden can reverse the land transfer.

We, as moral and religious leaders, stand with the Apache Stronghold in calling on the president and the U.S. government to immediately stop the land transfer to Resolution Copper. We demand that Oak Flat be returned to Apache stewardship and recognized and protected as a sacred place of worship.

In doing so, we as a nation will be making a hopeful turn away from an unholy, destructive way of being in this world that seeks to dominate and violate life in order to profit a few. Stopping the destruction of Oak Flat is a step toward a better way, a way that the Apache and indigenous groups have been pleading with us to see for hundreds of years; a way where we see our essential relationship to other life and to the land; a way that leads us to act with care and love toward all life and that seeks to ensure we all enjoy the abundance of creation.

We stand with the Apache Stronghold and ask that President Biden protect this sacred land and put a stop to all mining efforts at Oak Flat.