Center for Biological Diversity Conservation Advocate Randy Serraglio discussed two key Arizona environmental campaigns and sacred indigenous lands that are under even more pressure as the Trump administration comes to an end. At stake are Oak Flat and construction on the border wall. He says that government agencies are bowing to political pressure to expedite controversial actions in favor of mining interests. According to the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, on January 4th, the US Forest Service announced that they would be publishing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on January 15, 2021, which would trigger a land swap that would trade Oak Flat away to international mining company Rio Tinto for its proposed Resolution Copper to build a large underground copper mine.
Randy Serraglio discussed steps that the Biden administration can take with newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo and a 35th-generation New Mexican. When confirmed, she will become the first Native American to run the Department of the Interior and the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
He also discussed policies that are rooted in racism and white supremacy and how we must dismantle racism and white supremacy in the dominant culture, in our own organizations, and in ourselves.
Randy Serraglio, Southwest Conservation Advocate, works on a variety of public-lands and other conservation issues in Arizona and the Southwest. He joined the Center in 2007 and currently leads the Center’s effort to stop proposed copper mines at Rosemont and Oak Flat, advocates for the jaguar and other protected southwestern species, and works to stop the border wall and destructive militarization of the border region. A veteran of many environmental and human rights campaigns, he holds a bachelor’s in Latin American studies from the University of Arizona.
Read more about Apache-Stronghold and their efforts to save Oak Flat.
Apache Stronghold, San Carlos, Arizona, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit community organization of individuals who come together in unity to battle continued colonization, defend Holy sites and freedom of religion, and are dedicated to building a better community through neighborhood programs and civic engagement. We work from San Carlos, Arizona connecting Apaches and other Native and non-Native allies from all over the world. Chi’chil Bildagoteel (also known as Oak Flat) is a sacred site for our Apache people and many other Native Americans. This is a place that has special significance— a place where we pray, collect water and medicinal plants for ceremonies, gather acorns and other foods, and honor those that are buried here. We have never lost our relationship to Chi’chil Bildagoteel, though the U.S. Government, at times in our history, has imprisoned us on our Reservations and not allowed us to come here. We have established an encampment to protect the Holy Ground at Chi’chil Bildagoteel with its four crosses, representing the entire surrounding sacred area, including its water, animals, oak trees, and other plants central to our tribal identity. The four crosses are now part of the body of Chi’chil Bildagoteel. See Spiritual Significance
Oak Flat is an area about an hour east of Phoenix that is a sacred site known to Apaches as Chi’chil Bildagoteel. Home to a diverse desert ecosystem, it’s also currently federal land within the Tonto National Forest. In December 2014, in the 11th hour, Arizona Senators, John McCain, and Jeff Flake attached a land-exchange rider to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act Bill. The bill included the Oak Flat land exchange which gave multinational mining company Resolution Copper this area, located in Tonto National Forest, to build one of the world’s largest copper mines, the largest in North America. The mine is slated to permanently decimate Oak Flat and surrounding desert features. Apache and mining-reform activists had been successfully fighting the proposal for nearly a decade before this “backroom deal” was made in Congress. Currently, the Forest Service is undertaking an environmental impact statement, a legally mandated assessment that must be completed before the land exchange is finalized. We are fighting to repeal this land exchange.
For more information see: Legislative Info Page
“They declared war on our religion. We must stand in unity and fight to the very end, for this is a holy war.” –Wendsler Nosie Sr., long time opponent of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and former Chairman and Councilman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
Recorded and produced by Amanda Shauger.