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Tribal Elders say no to the Oak Flat Land Exchange

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 27th, 2011

Sandra Rambler / Courtesy photo
Tribal elders Ruth Rogers, Audrey Johnson, Charlotte Buck and Delores Jordan gathered at Oak Flat on April 12 for an interview and expressed their opposition against the Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange proposal.

SUPERIOR — Tribal members Ruth Rogers, Audrey Johnson, Charlotte Buck and Delores Jordan gathered on April 12 at the Oak Flat campgrounds for an interview with an independent journalist, Aaron Lavinsky.

In her native San Carlos Apache language, Ruth Rogers pointed out, “When these mine people come in and talk about building a mine, they should realize that there is not enough water to satisfy a mine that will be the size of one of our sacred mountains, Mount Turnbull.

“My question is, where are they going to get the water? There is not enough water and I surely don’t want them to be getting any of our water from our San Carlos Apache reservation land.

“All that water is for our children and we are doing whatever we need to in order to protect our water for our children and grandchildren and those yet to be born.

“This is why we come here and object to the mine. This whole area is sacred to our people. The mine people should not disturb this land and just leave it alone.”

Audrey Johnson, added in the Apache language, “We keep telling this company that we don’t want any mine to be built in this area. This is where our people come and gather acorns in preparation of our ceremonies that are held year round.

“Twenty to 30 years down the road, our people will still be protesting against any proposed mine in this area. The teachings that we get about our culture come from our elders and our parents and grandparents.

“As an elder, this is what I am teaching my children and grandchildren. They know and understand the importance of protecting our Apache culture and continuing our Apache way of life.

“This area has Apache names given to them since time immemorial. We were all here before anyone came her and started ripping up our Mother Earth for selfish gains. All this mine company wants is money and the people that they bring in to work will be their own people that they travel with.

“I am opposed to the mine and will continue to be.”

Delores Jordan, also added in the Apache language, “How much more do we have to say in order for them to get the fact that we say no to the mine proposition?

“I am really proud of our San Carlos Apache Tribal Council, and our Tribal chairman, Terry Rambler, and our vice-chairman, John Bush, for continuing our opposition against the land exchange.

“It’s not fair what the mine people are doing to us. They think they can just come and desecrate our sacred land and tear up the land just to make a quick buck.

“Where are their values? I am glad that President Dwight E. Eisenhower and President Richard B. Nixon had signed Executive Orders not to allow mining in the Oak Flat region. Maybe President Barack Obama should do the same thing, and continue that Executive Order.

“We met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, when he came from the White House some time ago and we told him in his face that we didn’t want no mining. So, today, I am still here telling these mine people, we don’t want no mine here. Go somewhere else and leave us alone.”

Charlotte Buck, the daughter of the late Dora Buck and Apache Medicine Man, the late Chester Buck, shook her head in disbelief. She concluded, “This is just wrong.”

Aaron Lavinsky, an independent journalist, has written for several publications.

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