San Carlos Apache Tribe Protests Land Exchange Act
About 30 people gathered on the San Carlos Apache reservation near Globe today to begin a four-day protest against the passing of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Authorization Act. The demonstration began with a 45-mile walk from the tribal administration building to an area known as Oak Flat campground.
The land exchange passed on a bipartisan vote under a larger legislation known as the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that sets the budget for the department of defense.
Under the act, the federal government agreed to transfer about 2,400 acres of land in the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper in exchange for about 5,000 acres of the company's land in Arizona.
The San Carlos Apache tribe opposes the deal because some of the land being transferred, especially the Oak Flat campground, is considered sacred to many tribal members. Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler compares the area to a church.
"And ours is not a more formal structure the way we go pray, but we go pray within the environment," Rambler said. "You know that’s our church, that’s our connection. Our connection is to our creator god with what he provided to us."
Supporters of the exchange include Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. They say the deal required concessions from all parties involved, but contend copper mining in the area would result in about 3,700 jobs and $60 million in economic activity.
A spokesman for Resolution Copper said its permitting process requires consultation with tribes and the company hopes to establish long lasting partnerships with Native Americans.