A group of Native Americans from the United States protested in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. against a proposed copper mine worth US$6 billion that would be operative on lands they consider sacred in Arizona.
The Apache Stronghold group organized a caravan from their home state all the way to Washington D.C. in order to draw attention to their cause demanding the government reserve a bill allowing the seizure of their land, known as Oka Flat, in favor of mining operations.
The mine will run by Resolution Copper Mining, a company owned by Australian miners Rio Tinto Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd.
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The group of 100 Native Americans and supporters marched from the White House to the Capitol, where they drummed, sang and performed prayer ceremonies for nearly three hours.
“Today is our day. Today is our ceremony. We’re not here looking at this Capitol like it’s in charge of us,” said Wendsler Nosie, the councilman leading Apache Stronghold.
They had also staged a similar celebratory protests in New York city Friday. In February a group of activist also set up a camp in the mine area and said they would stay until the land exchange is struck down. The mine would be located near the Apache Leap cliffs, a site where Apaches jumped to their death to avoid capture by US troops in the 1870s.
Nosie told the Guardian Friday Oak Flat is “a central part of our religion, our ceremonies, our upbringing for our children”. He added that it signified the same religious value to his people as is Mount Sinai to the people of the bible and yet authorities dismiss their claims as less important.
“It’s like Mount Sinai. Tell the people who believe the Bible that,” he said. “What would they say? It’s no different. Why do we treat it different?”
The groups is trying to draw attention to a bill labeled “Save the Oka Flat” introduced by Congressman Raul M. Grijalva and aims a repealing the bill giving the title of Oka Flat to the mining company.
The land exchange was a provision that U.S. Senator McCain added to a defense appropriations bill in December that traded away sacred Native American tribal land in the Tanto National Forest to build a copper mine.