From Bishop William J. Barber II, DMin and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and over 40 state coordinating committees, our 2500 prophetic religious leaders council, and hundreds of partners stand in solidarity with the Apache Stronghold in the fight to protect the sacred land of Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) from being stolen by a multinational company.
The struggle at Oak Flat is not just for Indigenous people, as former chairman Dr. Wendsler Nosie of the Apache Stronghold reminds us, but a struggle impacting all people. From the vantage point of the long and terrible history of violence committed by the United States against Indigenous people, we see that the distorted moral narrative —used to justify it in order to protect corporations’ wealth and power — is the same one that continues to inflict violence on all 140 million poor and dispossessed of this nation.
This land to the Apache people is as important as the national cathedral is to Americans, the Vatican is to Catholics, Jerusalem and the holy mount is to the Jewish people and Mecca is to Muslims.
We stand in support of the Apache Stronghold in their appeal to the United States government to put a final end to the land theft by Resolution Copper. If allowed, this land transfer will lead to the complete destruction of their sacred land and will devastate the Apaches’ religious life — all because of the pure greed and profit driven motives devoid of conscience and the basic first amendment religious rights of the Apache people.
The Poor People’s Campaign along with the Apache Stronghold issues a moral call to begin healing our nation. We have called on President Biden and the Congress to end this egregious ordeal and still call on them now.
What Resolution Copper and their political operatives are trying to do by policy trickery and gamesmanship is a clear example of racism, classism, ecological devastation and religious intolerance. In 2014, the late Senator John McCain snuck a late midnight rider into appropriations legislation for military funding that would turn over the sacred lands of the Apache at Oak Flat to the foreign mining company Rio Tinto. The mining for the massive deposits of copper underneath will create a subsidence over 2 miles wide destroying the sacred lands of the Apache where ancient religious Sunrise ceremonies are practiced and their deities are worshipped.
If the current Biden administration is serious about healing the national it must address and undo systemic racism, ecological devastation, and religious intolerance so clear in this issue. The fact that the Apache people have had to resort to nonviolent civil disobedience at Oak Flat trying to protect is another tragedy. It falls in a long history of tragedy where Native Americans have had to do everything they could to resist dehumanization as a people and destruction of their sacred land.
This is why the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call to Moral Revival will stand with Oak Flat until justice comes. We will spread the truth about what’s happening and bring as much media and moral attention to it as possible.
This struggle is at the core of what the Poor People’s Campaign is fighting for. The Apache people have already been abused and exploited by the United States government throughout our history, and now corporations are being allowed to violate the place where Apache ancestors received their covenant with God. In addition to the horrific genocide of Indigenous people and the long history of ongoing systemic disenfranchisement, the Apache people must now battle corporations claims to entitlement to exploit their most sacred lands.
We stand in solidarity with the Apache people as they fight for the right to worship. The Poor People’s Campaign is committed to a Third Reconstruction, one which rights the wrongs of this nation’s past, including its treatment of Indigenous populations.
We call on the President and congress to act to put a final end to this land theft.