Oak Flat is an area about an hour east of Phoenix that is a sacred site known to Apaches as Chi’chil Bildagoteel. Home to a diverse desert ecosystem, it’s also currently federal land within the Tonto National Forest. In December 2014, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake attached a land-exchange rider to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act Bill. The bill included the Oak Flat land exchange which gave multinational mining company Resolution Copper this area, located in Tonto National Forest, to build one of the world’s largest copper mines, the largest in North America. The mine is slated to permanently decimate Oak Flat and surrounding desert features. Apache and environmental activists had been successfully fighting the proposal for nearly a decade before this “backroom deal” was made in Congress. They continue to fight tirelessly to repeal the land exchange.
Apache Stronghold is a community organization of individuals who come together in unity to battle continued colonization, defend Holy sites and freedom of religion, and are dedicated to building a better community through neighborhood programs and civic engagement. They work from San Carlos, Arizona connecting Apaches and other Native and non-Native allies from all over the world. Chi’chil Bildagoteel (also known as Oak Flat) is a sacred site for Apache people and many other Native Americans. It is a place that has special significance— a place where we pray, collect water and medicinal plants for ceremonies, gather acorns and other foods, and honor those that are buried here.