There are many ways sacred land can be under fire. For many years Chich’il Bildagoteel, sacred land also known as Oak Flat, has been threatened with destruction by being hollowed out and collapsed by a copper mine. This season the threat of fire has also been literal.
During the first week of June 2021, the “telegraph fire” raged up Apache Leap and crested the ridge to the west of Oak Flat. Firefighters told Wendsler Nosie that the firestorm was so fierce that they expected it to wipe Oak Flat out. The fire quickly raged down the slope towards an area where creation lines up in an ancient pictograph and marches across red stone, all living beings, including humans, headed somewhere together.
Then the fire turned and went out, though the area is rich with vegetation. One of the firefighters said that there are now 80 firefighters who believe from experience that Oak Flat is sacred. They have no other explanation for what happened. Other areas were damaged, but most of Oak Flat is unsinged. The ancient oaks in the campground are alive and well, rooted deep into the underground water flow and covered with acorns.
Here’s what I think…
When we pray, we put the power at God’s disposal, the power with which God has imbued us from creation and through our life partnering with God’s sacred struggle. There are times when what we long for does not come about in the short run. The physical and political powers allied with evil have their way for the day.
When we pray, we join power entrusted to us into God’s hands as allies together with the angels and spirits of the land. There are times when what is holy is protected. The fire stops and turns. Life has its way. The land transfer is delayed or even stopped. Those days are a foretaste of where all creation is going, together.
CPT has been supporting the Apache Stronghold to protect Chich’il Bildagoteel, sacred land also known as Oak Flat, through online action and prayer and the presence of trained CPTers, Carol Rose, Martin Bates and Janie Stein. We have been organizing prayer and action both online and in-person at Oak Flat and in Tucson. Congregations and individuals have joined in prayer and in the call for the U.S. government to repeal the land swap with Resolution Copper (owned by Rio Tinto) that threatens Oak Flat and honour religious freedom and the integrity of creation.
In March 2021, we celebrated a huge, though temporary, victory when the US Department of Agriculture withdrew the Environmental Impact Statement that the previous administration had rushed through Congress. This victory postponed the land transfer to the mining company. It came the week following an intertribal prayer run and annual gathering at Oak Flat.
Since then, there have been more gatherings in person and online. Apache Stronghold is back home after a recent time advocating in person with congress in Washington DC regarding the Save Oak Flat Act. The House may consider the Act as soon as later this month if we continue to gather co-sponsors successfully. There is an interfaith gathering being planned soon in Washington DC. Stay tuned!
The Apache Stronghold continues to lead the struggle. We are grateful to be welcomed into it.
- Keep praying for Oak Flat and for those struggling to defend it.
- Learn and share. We recommend the recent 8-minute film The sacred Battle for Oak Flat and many other resources shared by the Apache Stronghold.
- Put spiritual and political pressure on the US Senate and House of Representatives to pass the Save Oak Flat Act.
- Are you from the United States? Have your people in congress co-sponsored yet? Thank them, or persistently invite them to do so! (find lists of co-sponsors at HR 1884 and S-915)
- Pray for the Arizona Senators as their support will set free other senators. Particularly pray for and invite Arizona Senator Mark Kelly to cosponsor even if you are not his constituent. Loop everyone you know in Arizona into the effort!