On Wednesday April 7, 2021 at its regular Council meeting, the White Mountain Apache Tribal Council reaffirmed its opposition to the destruction of Oak Flat by supporting the repeal of the Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange Act (the area encompassing Oak Flat), supporting the Save Oak Flat Act recently introduced in Congress, and requesting the USDA to withdraw publication of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which it published and recently withdrew from publication. Tribes and organizations across the United States demanded the withdrawal of publication from President Biden and President Biden responded.
Chairman Rambler stated, “We are thankful to the White Mountain Apache Tribal Council for its action in its opposition to the destruction of Oak Flat by Resolution Copper Mining Company. We arrived at 10:00 am on Wednesday to the Council meeting and met with the White Mountain Council at 1:00 pm after they fed us lunch. We provided a power point presentation that explained the history of the Oak Flat land exchange, the freedom of religion to continue practicing prayers and ceremonies in the Oak Flat area, the negative impact to the water resources in the area, the negative impact to the Emory oak trees that produce acorn in the area, the destruction to the environment that will be caused by the cave in of approximately two miles in diameter including the swallowing up of Oak Flat, and the massive waste dump that will be left behind by Resolution Copper.”
Chairman Rambler continued, “After about four-hours of discussion and deliberation, the White Mountain Council approved the resolution by a vote of 6-1-4. Councilman Travis Tessay made the motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Councilman Kasey Velasquez. Six members of the Council voted Yes, one member voted No, and four members voted to Abstain (the four members were present at the meeting but did not vote Yes or No).”
Chairman Rambler concluded, “I want to thank Vice Chairman Etpison, Councilwoman Valerie Key-Cheney and our Attorney General for joining me to present the Oak Flat issue to the White Mountain Council. It was and always is a team effort.”
White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood stated of her Council’s decision, “ Indigenous Peoples – our culture is the essence of who we are, who we belong to, where we come from, how we relate to one another. Culture is the accumulated teachings of ancestors. It is the basis of traditions, customs, protocols, values, spirituality, ceremonies, languages, ways of knowing and being, and connections to the land and the life-sustaining resources of the land. Culture permeates all aspects of life and is essential to the overall well-being of Indigenous communities and individuals. What is sacred cannot ever be replaced with money or other material things.
Our people use San Carlos’ health facility for medical services, we support one another in times of ceremonies, San Carlos heavily supports our annual Rodeo & Fair as they help bring in revenue to our Tribe, and much more. We truly are a family. In Solidarity we stand with our sister Tribe – the San Carlos Apaches.”
Oak Flat is a sacred place and an important traditional cultural property for ten tribes, which includes the San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, Salt-River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni Tribe.