Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) is a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache—a place to pray, collect water and medicinal plants, gather acorns, honor the people who are buried there, and perform sacred ceremonies. In 2014, the United States government promised the land to a copper mining company to excavate a mountain of material under this area where water flows year round in the desert. The site would then subside into a crater wasteland.
Apache leader Wendsler Nosie Sr. returned home to this space in November 2019 and asks us to join him in prayer and action to prevent the destruction of Oak Flat.
In the months leading up to Earth Day (which also coincided with Lent), Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, Ariz., prayed for Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) each week as a congregation and more often at home. Member Carrie Nelson also designed a prayer card. When we asked our local print shop, The Gloo Factory, how much we owed, they told us “no charge.” These prayer cards are now in our homes as reminders of prayer and action, which is particularly lovely through the pandemic when the ones placed throughout the church building are not seen by many.
Shalom also paid half of its yearly restitution budget to Apache Stronghold shortly before they held a sacred run and gathering of Apaches and allies at Oak Flat, and before key San Carlos Apache leaders traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the Save Oak Flat bill.
Ways to stand with the Apache:
- Print the oak flat prayer card and use it.
- Find a prayer practice that fits you—take a walk, light a candle, sit quietly…
- Pray for Wendsler’s safety, the San Carlos Apache Nation, the fresh water that runs at Oak Flat, action in Congress, the trees, plants, and animals in danger.
- Organize a viewing of the 12-minute documentary, Fight for Oak Flat produced by the Sierra Club.
- Visit apache-stronghold.com to learn more. Donate or pay restitution that will support resistance to this crucial eco-injustice. Sign the petition on the website.
- Contact your Senators and Representatives in support of the Save Oak Flat bill.
- Visit Oak Flat