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The Urgent Fight to Save Sacred Land

Posted on June 12, 2024, by Christina Manweller

A young indigenous girl with big glasses, long dark hair and a necklace with a shell on it stands powerfully holding a sign that says "Holy Holy Holy Holy Protect Oak Flat."
Naelyn Pike protesting. Photo by Báásé Pike

The San Carlos Apache tribe in Arizona is still trying to save the holy land at Chi’chil Biłdagoteel, or Oak Flat, from destruction. Our April 3 MMM included an Action Alert pertaining to their fight. Since then, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the tribe’s request to rehear the case, which had previously been decided in favor of Resolution Copper Mine, a British-Australian owned mining company that plans to destroy the site, turning it into a two-mile-wide, 1,100-foot-deep crater (one of this company’s parent companies previously destroyed a sacred site in Western Australia and has a history of causing extreme environmental degradation in other locations, including in Indonesia). The next step entails petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case. 

Indigenous Americans have worshiped, prayed and held religious ceremonies at this sacred site in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest since long before Europeans arrived on this continent. In truth, this is land to which the Apache people belong. It is not land that the U.S. government, or a mining company, has a right to desecrate.

This a spiritual battle between good and evil and a battle against colonialism and capitalism according to tribal members. Naelyn Pike, featured in the recently published Loretto Feminist Network booklet (click here to obtain a copy at low to no cost), is a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe. She is one of the youngest persons ever to testify in front of Congress, speaking at age 13 against plans to mine the sacred site. Her family founded Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit organization fighting to save this holy land.

Here are links you may explore:

  • Naelyn Pike is featured in a short article about Chi’chil Biłdagoteel, or Oak Flat, in the March 2024 issue of High Country News. Click here to read the short article.
  • Click here for a video about Oak Flat narrated by Naelyn.
  • Click for a video featuring Wendsler Nosie (Naelyn’s grandfather) of Apache Stronghold, the first in a series of five.
  • Access follow-up videos in the series by clicking here.
  • Click here for the Apache Stronghold website, which features a video of Naelyn. 
  • Take action here.

Christina Manweller

Editor of Loretto Magazine, Christina’s nonfiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. For many years she served as Director of Communications for a Colorado-based peace and justice organization. Her background also includes English and writing instruction at a local community college, digital and print design work, and photography. One of her joys is visiting the Loretto Motherhouse once or twice a year.
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