I recently returned from about three and a half weeks of travel through the southwest and beyond, including three days spent at the 4th annual March to Save Oak Flat. The San Carlos Apache tribe is fighting back against plans to develop the continent’s largest copper mine on land considered sacred in the mountains of central Arizona. The path of the march traverses the desert between the town of San Carlos on the Apache Reservation, through the mining towns of Globe and Miami, and up to the beautiful Oak Flat campground, ground zero for the Resolution Copper Company’s plans to gouge an enormous block-cave copper mine into the red rock and soil of the mountains.
The mine plans to annihilate the valley where the campground and the sacred Apache territory is located, using robots to remove the ore from below ground, crush it, and send it to the surface until the ground above collapses, leaving a crater and a pile of tailings. The Apache encampment at Oak Flat is in its fourth year, and the resilience of the community of people that are ready to fight back against Resolution Copper is growing.
The march was inspiring, a combination of spirited protest and spiritual ceremony, consecrating efforts to preserve an ancient landscape. The three-day transect passed through the towns of Globe and Miami, both of which sit in the shadow and in the poisoned slackwater of massive copper mines visible in the ranges above them (visible in the maps screenshot at the head of this post, which shows San Carlos on the right and Oak Flat at the yellow marker on the left) and was followed by dancing, feasting, and further ceremony at the Oak Flat Campground. Turn your attention towards this fight, and put this walk on your calendar for next year.
Mural by Tomahawk Greyeyes, painted live at Oak Flat during the afternoon’s music.
I traveled to Oak Flat as part of a delegation with the Signal Fire wilderness arts organization, whose main organizers including Amy Harwood took most of the photos in this post. Follow their amazing programming here.