February 17, 2015
For Immediate Release
Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Vernelda Grant
(928) 475-2930 (928) 961-3380
Stills and video are available from the event.
An historic meeting took place today between Apache spiritual organization and the US Forest Service at Chich’il Bildagoteel (Oak Flat).
Representatives from Spirit of the Mountain Runners, Apache Stronghold, and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council met with Tonto National Forest Service Supervisor Neil Bosworth. The organizations requested a joint partnership between the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the US Forest Service to protect sacred Oak Flat.
Chich’il Bildagoteel is under attack because of a midnight rider attached to a federal defense spending bill that would allow the two largest mining companies to gain title to Chich’il Bildagoteel. Oak Flat is federal public land managed by the US Forest Service and President Eisenhower protected the campground from mining.
The Apache organizations made four demands of the US Forest Service:
- Chich’il Bildagoteel remains under federal protection.
- That the U.S. Government recognize that responsibility for this site belongs to the native tribes to which it is sacred, to be protected jointly with the U.S. Forest Service, and that the Federal Government, working closely with effected Tribes, develops a plan by which all Sacred Sites are similarly protected.
- We recognize that it will take time for the Forest Service, on behalf of the United States, to negotiate a joint plan for the protection of Chich’il Bildagoteel. We expect that the Forest Service not sign any agreements or permits with Resolution Copper while these negotiations are taking place.
- We expect a reply from the US Forest Service within 7 business days from the delivery of this statement.
The Forest Service has agreed to allow the holy ground to remain and to work with the Apache people to protect the sacredness of Oak Flat and begin a meaningful dialogue.
Naelyn Pike, spokesperson for the Spirit of the Mountain Runners, said, “Being here today gives me more hope that the people will realize Chich’il Bildagoteel can’t be destroyed. Usen was here with us today.”
Wendsler Nosie, Sr., San Carlos Apache Tribal Councilman, said, “We were looking for good people that we can work with. Through the Forest Service, we want Congress to tell us how much of our religion they are willing to protect. I hope we are not witness to the death of this place. “
Carrie Reede, spokesperson for Apache Stronghold, said, “it was a very beautiful day today to have us gather at Chich’il Bildagoteel. Usen is still moving.”
The groups feel that this new partnership with the Forest Service could set the example of the relationship between the United States and the Apache people. They feel that this meeting is the first step in a long way back for the protection of Chich’il Bildagoteel.