United Southern and Eastern Tribes Approves Resolution to Repeal Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Act
San Carlos, AZ – On Tuesday May 19, 2015 San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler and Vice Chairman Tao Etpison traveled to Ledyard Connecticut to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to present at the United Southern and Eastern Tribes, INC (USET) 2015 Semi - Annual Meeting.
The United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. was established in 1968. The vision of USET’s four founding Tribes (Eastern Band of Cherokees, Mississippi Band of Choctaws, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and Seminole Tribe of Florida) was to build strength by working in unity with one another and to ensure that there was a strong voice for Tribes east of the Mississippi River. This vision developed into USET’s organizational mission “to enhance the development of federally recognized Indian Tribes, improve the capabilities of Tribal governments, and to assist USET members and their governments in dealing effectively with public policy issues and serving the broad needs of Indian people.”
Today, USET has grown to become an inter-tribal organization with 26 federally recognized Tribal Nation members. While defined as a regional organization, USET has developed into a nationally prominent and respected organization due to its broad policy platform and influence on the most important and critical issues facing all of Indian Country. According to the USET website, “supporting all of its issue specific advocacy is a foundation built upon the goals of promoting and protecting the inherent sovereignty rights of all Tribal Nations, pursuing opportunities that enhance Tribal Nation rebuilding, and working to ensure that the United States upholds its sacred trust responsibilities to Indian Country”.
Chairman Rambler thanked the USET Tribal Leadership for their warm welcome and the opportunity to speak about the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council action to repeal the Oak Flat Land Exchange Act. Chairman Rambler gave a brief history of the 10-year opposition and legislative battle between Resolution Copper Company and the devious tactics used to get the bill passed by attaching it to the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. “We have had overwhelming support from Indian Country all across the United States” said Chairman Rambler.
The Chairman shared portions of a letter written by the San Carlos Apache Elders Cultural Advisory Council on why Oak Flat is considered sacred and told the USET Tribal Leadership, these reasons plus many more is why we continue to oppose the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Act. Chairman Rambler quoted from the Elders Council letter the following of why sacred areas are important, “The strength of our prayers and ceremonies depend on the land’s health, and our ability to treat everything with respect. We have always lived by these prayers. To this day our lives depend on them.”
Chairman Rambler further explained, “Resolution Copper plans to go a mile deep below the Oak Flat area to clear out an area equivalent to 1,400 Dallas Cowboy stadiums to extract ore. They will start blasting from down below moving upwards and will get close to the surface. They have no plans to fill the huge hole they will create. The temperature a mile deep will be around 169 degrees Fahrenheit. You can get an idea of how hot this is if you turn your oven to this temperature. The sheer weight of the dirt, giant boulders, trees, water, and animals above this huge hole will cause the earth to collapse two miles in diameter, forever altering the perfect environment created by our Creator God. This will negatively impact the water sources, both surface and aquifers, in the immediate and surrounding areas. The west end of our Reservation, where our biggest water aquifer sits, is only 15 miles from the Oak Flat area”.
A slide show presentation was used to outline the area and plans that Resolution Copper Company has to extract the ore from deep underground. “This type of block cave mining is very destructive to the land and will harm the environment causing lasting negative impacts to the entire region. This project will destroy the natural ecosystems of the area and thereby the religious and cultural integrity of the Oak Flat area which includes Gaan Canyon and Apache Leap. My people will no longer be able to harvest acorns in the area, an important staple of our traditional diet, or medicinal plants and herbs that are essential to ceremonies, curing rites, and rituals of our people”, said Chairman Rambler.
“We humbly come here today to seek your support in reaffirming your commitment to the protection of not only Oak Flat but all Native sacred and cultural sites and that USET reach out to your congressional representatives to enact legislation to repeal the Land Exchange Act. I am also asking that individual member Tribes consider passing their own resolutions to make our voice stronger and send a clear message to Congress. Thank you for this opportunity to speak and for all the support USET has given over the past several years on this issue”, said Chairman Rambler.
Various Tribal Leaders from within the USET organization rose to speak in support of passing a resolution to repeal Section 3003 - Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act. President Brian Patterson from the Oneida Indian Nation said “we must keep our arrows in a bundle in order to be stronger, which is a saying from our people because there is strength in unity. I like the language used, reaffirming, that is what we will do, reaffirm our stand with our brothers and sisters from Arizona and tomorrow this resolution will go through the formal process. USET stands with the Apache Nation. Thank you for this important information.”
The following day on Wednesday May 20, the USET Tribal Leaders voted on and passed a resolution to support repeal of Section 3003 of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange. The Chairmen’s, Chiefs and Presidents of the entire member Tribes were in attendance.