OAK FLAT: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West – by Lauren Redniss
Naelyn Pike, a skateboard aficionado and teenage Apache activist, arrived in Washington in 2013 to testify before Congress. When she passed through the metal detector in the Capitol, the tin jingles on her traditional dress set off the alarm.
She was speaking that day to a Senate subcommittee about the fate of Oak Flat, a vast plot of southeastern Arizona that is sacred to the San Carlos Apaches and lies above one of the largest known untapped veins of copper in the United States.
Since 2005, members of the San Carlos Apache tribe have been battling both a mining company and the federal government to keep the copper untouched. Not only would building the mine entail the collapse, or subsidence, of the tribe’s ceremonial land, but since the group’s spiritual identity is tied to that land, its members viewed the prospective demise of Oak Flat as a larger act of erasure and a violation of their religious freedom.
In exchange for the land, Resolution Copper — the subsidiary formed by two foreign conglomerates in order to lobby Congress for access to the ore — has promised employment opportunities, an attractive gambit for a region that has long struggled economically.
“Will there really be that many jobs?” Pike asked the Senate subcommittee that day. “For a long period of time?” Pike, whose great-grandfather Paul worked in an asbestos mine, is well versed in the boosterish projections made by extractive industries. She, like many members of her community, no longer believed in the trade-off between the economy and the environment, which has justified extraction in Arizona, as elsewhere, for centuries.
For the rest of this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/books/review/oak-flat-lauren-redniss.html