On July 21, 2015 a convoy from out west calling themselves the Apache Stronghold traveled first to New York City and then to DC to protest the giveaway of their sacred lands - National Forest land - for copper mines. It is very important to understand the historical importance of this event. The American Indian Movement took hold among student groups in the 1970s but it took until now for the message to go forward, regarding indigenous rights and protection of the environment.
Photographer Kimora Merritt Brass took an iconic photo of a native woman wielding a traditional bow and arrow in Times Square, standing up for the sacred Oak Flats.
Members of the Apache Stronghold marched from Lafayette Square on Tuesday morning to the West Lawn of the US Capitol to mark the end of a spiritual journey across the country to protest a bill snuck in as a rider in the National Defense Authorization Act by Senator John McCain, and Arizona's junior Senator Jeff Flake, which was approved by Congress in the closing hours of its last session. That rider traded away Apache sacred land to allow a massive copper mine.
The caravan left Arizona in early July, traveling some 2,000 miles as part of a growing movement to save Oak Flat, where native people have held religious and coming-of-age ceremonies for generations. The copper mine would leave a huge crater - 1.8 mile wide and wipe out streams, springs and wildlife habitat. The caravan was in New York City's Times Square on Friday and arrived in Washington this Monday evening. The Apache Stronghold caravan arrived at the U.S. Capitol to conclude their spiritual journey on July 21, 2015.
Tuesday's event marks the final destination of the convoy's journey from Mt. Graham to Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to Washington, DC. Apache Stronghold stopped at Native American reservations along the journey gathering prayers and strength, arrows and eagle feathers, building awareness of the Oak Flat issue as well as recognizing that many Tribes have the same or similar issues with the protection of their sacred sites. More than 480 Tribes and many environmental organizations, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, animal rights groups and religious congregations support saving Oak Flat. The group hoping to Save Oak Flat is supporting a bill introduced by Congressman Raul Grijalva to repeal the awful bill passed in December.
On July 22, Wednesday, a group of women including grandmothers went to the capitol building to talk to Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who has "a record of intolerance and saying vicious things against Native Americans," about statements he made in a letter.
The group of women journeyed to Washington, DC to voice their displeasure on the add-on legislation tugged into the $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 that gives land at Apache Leap and Oak Flat in southeastern Arizona to Rio Tinto, foreign mining company, to mine. Part of a larger group called Apache Stronghold, the women earlier rallied on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol to call for the reversal the add-on legislation.
Rather than speak with Mrs. Cassadore and the other ladies and Apache Stronghold members with her, Rep. Gosar responded by hiding behind a locked door and calling the Capitol police, threatening to have Mrs. Cassadore and her friends immediately arrested.
Apache Stronghold spokesperson Wendsler Nosie, Sr. told the press, "There is no excuse for his mistreatment of the Apache grandmothers and young ladies who came to his office. Cowering behind a locked door, refusing to come out, and then calling a squad of policemen to sweep those gentle ladies away is just terrible. Rep. Gosar should apologize for that, as well as for his strange and insulting 'Dear Colleague' letter."