On Tuesday, 9 January, we went on a prayer walk. We went a different way than usual, continuing up the old East Oak Flat Road instead of turning to stay on 2438. As we veered from our path to say our prayer at Gaan Canyon, we passed a sign that said “National Forest Boundary.” The sign indicates that the land behind the sign, Gaan Canyon, is National Forest Land. Were John McCain and Jeff Flake intending to trade all this to the foreign mining company? Is this the land to be subsided to one thousand feet deep by “block cave mining”?
I remembered reading that this National Forest Service (NFS) land, Oak Flat and Gaan Canyon, was set aside to be protected by the NFS in 1955 by President Eisenhower for its natural and cultural significance. In 2014, John McCain took away that protection by threatening to swap Oak Flat with some other, as far as I know, culturally insignificant land.
This land has cultural significance, not just to many Apache peoples, but also many people of various backgrounds from nearby towns.
The snow came two days before our prayer walk, and families came too. As many as 100 people or so. They came to introduce their dogs to snow for the first time; they came to “cold weather cook” at snow-covered concrete tables; they came to take pictures of their children dressed for the cold; they came to try out their new 4x4s; they came to build snow persons, and at least 15 still linger two days after the snow. They also came to slide down the hill and let their children slide down the hill. One woman, watching her 3-year-old playing in the snow, told me through a huge smile that her father used to drop her and her brother at school only to come back 30 minutes later saying with a wink, “You want to go play in the snow?” And they’d come to Oak Flat.
When we stand for Oak Flat, we’re not only standing with Apache Stronghold, we’re standing with and for everyone who enjoys and respects this very culturally significant place. If you also want to stand with us, here’s a way: review and sign the ‘I Support the Sacred’ petition for Oak Flat.
Thank you, and please share the petition widely!