Immediately following a powerful week of prayer and action, including runs from the four directions by Indigenous nations to Oak Flat and danced prayers in that sacred land, the United States Department of Agriculture instructed the Forest Service to withdraw the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (DROD) related to Oak Flat. As per a recent Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships, “the Department is taking this step to provide an opportunity for the agency to conduct a thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public since these documents were released,” according to a statement from Acting Forest Supervisor Tom Torres.
I intended to submit this article reporting on the large groups of migrants that the United States Border Patrol was sending back to Mexico – all along the border – but specifically in Agua Prieta, Sonora, and the increased efforts of the volunteers at the Migrant Resource Centre (CRM for its acronym in Spanish) to assist those migrants. In December, with no advanced notice, Border Patrol began sending migrants – both Mexicans and Central Americans who had crossed to the US in other places – back to Agua Prieta
Last December the United States Border Patrol began sending migrants who had been recently apprehended in the US—both Mexicans and Central Americans—back to Mexico. The Centro de Recursos para Migrantes (Migrant Resource Center) currently receives 40 to 60 migrants every day.
As I travelled to Oak Flat for the vigil on 15 January, I stopped to pray as Wendsler suggested. It was a very different way of arriving. I noticed the land so much more and the birds and the plants. There is a section of desert where there are ancient elders, grandparent saguaros with so many limbs that you can't count them at a glance. I needed to stop and give thanks for safe passage and then ask permission to enter the next area.
We ask for prayers first for our Mother Earth and our sacred water which is our life blood. We ask for prayers for a cessation to the raping, murdering and killing of our mother by a "wendigo spirit" of greed and corruption which is manifesting itself in the development of an oil pipeline. This pipeline will carry tar sands oil through sacred water, wetlands, wild rice beds and forests to increase the profits of a Canadian corporation.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Healing Our Borders Vigil in Douglas, Arizona. The vigil remembers the people who have died in the Cochise County desert – where Douglas is located – while attempting to enter the United States. There are now over 300 crosses representing these lost lives. Mark Adams, one of the co-founders of the vigil, has said that the spiritual discipline of calling the names of those who have died is one way that we remain hopeful while living and working at the US/Mexican border.
We are at a critical moment. In the next couple months, Oak Flat will be under Resolution Copper. So we need to make a stand. I am asking you to make a stand. Do not be a bystander to the continued genocide of Native people. Call your Congress people. Pray. Go to Oak Flat. It's for everyone. Don’t let this be another project that passes and destroys our way of life. We are asking you to stand with us.”
Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company with headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, operates the world’s longest and most complex crude oil and liquids transportation system with pipelines across North America. Among other fossil fuels, it ships tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest forms of oil, responsible for extraordinarily high CO2 emissions increasing global warming and exacerbating the climate crisis.
At the entrance to the womb-like valley of Oak Flat, near the deeply rooted ancient oaks, Wendsler Noisie, San Carlos Apache leader, spoke with me about some questions raised by an official of the U.S. Forestry. The official had asked why the Apache included non-Apache/settler voices regarding the sacredness of Oak Flat in their response to the Environmental Impact Statement.