Thursday, January 14, 2021

Apache Leaders Sue To Prevent Forest Service Transfer of Religious Site

Suit was filed this week in an Arizona federal district court on behalf of traditional Apache religious and cultural leaders seeking to prevent the U.S. Forest Service from transferring to mining companies a parcel of land used by the Western Apache Peoples for traditional religious ceremonies. The complaint (full text) in Apache Stronghold v. United States, (D AZ, filed 1/12/2021) alleges in part:

The deliberate and direct effect of the Defendants’ publicly stated plans and planned actions is to illegally annihilate the religious freedom rights of the Western Apache Peoples at a sacred and actively utilized religious place and traditional Western Apache cultural property known to the Apache since time immemorial as Chi’chil BiƂdagoteel [or] as it is commonly known: “Oak Flat.” ***

[T]he Forest Service ... has suddenly publicly stated for the first time its intent to publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement ... on ... January 15, 2021.  That ... will immediately enable the Forest Service to attempt to convey a 2,422-acre parcel of “Forest Service land” to an entity owned entirely by foreign mining corporations, pursuant to a mandate in Section 3003 of the “Cromnibus” National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 ... slipped in at the 11th hour with a total federal government operational shutdown looming....

Apache Stronghold issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.