Celebrate Earth Day 2022 by Protecting Oak Flat


By BJC Associate General Counsel Jennifer Hawks

Too often, the ring of religious freedom has sounded hollow to our Indigenous neighbors. For centuries, their religious freedom has been ignored or denied.

It’s time we stand for the religious freedom of our Indigenous neighbors and help them protect their sacred land. We can start by supporting the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the other tribes who hold sacred the land of Chí’chil Biłdagoteel, loosely translated as “Oak Flat” in English. Right now, the federal government is poised to give that sacred land to a mining company, and their plans include mining practices which will destroy the land, creating a crater 1.8 miles in diameter.

A section of Chí’chil Biłdagoteel, loosely translated as “Oak Flat” in English

There are numerous reasons to protect Oak Flat, but the religious freedom community must be clear: The sacredness of holy ground is not lessened because the Indigenous do not have a tradition of building a steeple to mark the spot.

Earth Day is April 22, and it provides a great opportunity to work together to #SaveOakFlat. BJC has a list of 18 ways you can take action to support Oak Flat for Earth Day. Whether you need to educate yourself on the issue, are ready to be an advocate or want to recruit others to the cause, there’s something for everyone!

Educate Yourself:

  1. Watch “Save Oak Flat, Arizona (2021)” from Elias Butler Photography
  2. Read “Save Our Church from Destruction” by Terry Rambler, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe
  3. Listen to the LifeQuest Liberty podcast episode titled “The Battle to Save Oak Flat”
  4. Read the resolutions from various tribes supporting Oak Flat
  5. Read congressional testimony from Dr. Wendsler Nosie, founder of Apache Stronghold
  6. Read congressional testimony from Naelyn Pike, Apache Youth Leader
  7. Watch The Guardian’s video: “The Apache war against copper mining
  8. Watch the Sierra Club video featuring Dr. Wendsler Nosie: “The Fight for Oak Flat
  9. Listen to the Dirtbag Diaries podcast episode on Oak Flat for the perspective of outdoor enthusiasts

Be an Advocate:

  1. Register to vote, and VOTE.
  2. Ask your Representative to co-sponsor the Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 1884). Email, call, tweet, and/or send a postcard to the office
  3. Ask your Senators to cosponsor the Save Oak Flat Act (S. 915). Email, call, tweet, and/or send a postcard to the offices
  4. Create a video on why you support Oak Flat and post it on social media with the hashtags #SaveOakFlat and #BJCAdvocacy (And tag BJC: @BJContheHill)

Recruit Others:

  1. Share BJC’s Instagram slideshow of reasons groups support Oak Flat
  2. Take the #OakFlatChallenge to get a sense of the size of the crater
  3. Share “The Battle to Save Oak Flat” article from Liberty magazine
  4. Share the Sierra Club video featuring Naelyn Pike: “The Fight for Oak Flat: A Spiritual Battle for Sacred Land
  5. Give a friend a copy of the visual novel Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West by Lauren Redniss

Want to do more? Many organizations have joined forces to support the Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 1884/S. 915). The global mining companies we hope to stop expect the mine to generate billions of dollars, and they will not be defeated easily.

Consider buying merchandise from Apache Stronghold (one of the Indigenous groups leading the fight) or consider donating $18 (representing the 1.8 mile diameter crater that will consume Oak Flat) to BJC or another organization working to pass the Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 1884/S. 915).

Only Congress can permanently save this sacred land, but we must do our part to raise awareness across the country, explain the massive destruction this would cause, and support our Indigenous neighbors’ holy land. A threat to anyone’s faith freedom is a threat to everyone’s faith freedom.

The Rev. Jennifer Hawks is the associate general counsel of BJC.