In December 2014, Congress gave away ancient Apache holy land to a foreign-owned mining company.

The 2,400 acres promised to Resolution Copper Mining company includes a sacred site where the Apache people have come for generations to pray, gather acorns and medicine, and hold coming of age ceremonies, especially those honoring girls entering womanhood.

Apache leaders describe the site as “no different to Mount Sinai” in its cultural and spiritual significance to the Apache people.

Oak Flat is where the creator, God, touched the earth for us. These are our ancestral home places.— Wendsler Nosie, Former San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman

The land set to be desecrated is dotted with prehistoric sites and petroglyphs, centuries-old oaks, freshwater streams and canyons. Archeological records have confirmed that the Apache people have been there since “well before recorded history.”

Resolution Copper Mine will open up a pit two-miles wide in the Apache’s sacred ground.

The company itself has admitted their mining operation will completely destroy the land, comparing the end result to a nearby meteor crater. They plan to use method called “block caving” which hollows out a vast underground cavern. Later, the land above just collapses.

Even though the land has been protected since the Eisenhower administration, the giveaway was snuck into the fine print of a must-pass defense bill by Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.

This isn’t the first time Arizona Members of Congress have tried to push through a sale on the mining company’s behalf. Rio Tinto has been trying to get its hands on this plot of Apache land for years. In fact, former representative Rick Renzi spent 3 years in prison for corruption related to the land deal.

But McCain and Flake snuck the giveaway language into the National Defense Authorization Act at the last minute, tying their fellow Members’ hands and evading public scrutiny.

Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history.— Lydia Millet, NY Times

Now, here’s something that’s not surprising: the mining parent company, Rio Tinto, was a huge contributor to McCain’s campaign.

McCain’s contributions from the mining industry nearly doubled in the election cycle leading up to the 2014 Apache land giveaway vote.


Meanwhile, Flake’s campaign contributions from the mining industry soared from $2,500 in 2010 to over $183,000 in 2014.


Both Senators received more money from the mining industry in the election cycle leading up to the vote than in any other election cycle in their careers.

The mining could have been accomplished without privatizing the land. And it’s entirely possible to use a different mining technique that wouldn’t be as destructive—but that’s not in Rio Tinto’s plans. McCain and Flake gave the Apache’s land to the company outright and they can do whatever they please with it.

An impressive new low in congressional corruption, unworthy of our country’s ideals no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. — Lydia Millet, NY Times

McCain claims the mining project will boost the local economy and create jobs. But even the area miners’ group opposes the mine,  saying it won’t benefit the local people or the economy.

No one wins in this deal—not the American people, certainly not the Apache—except the mining company and the two Members of Congress who collected their campaign contributions.

Imagine if this ancient site were a temple, a church, or a mosque. For all the nation’s tough talk about protecting religious freedom, all that goes out the window when money is on the line.

What McCain and Flake did is shameful. But what’s even more shameful is that they broke zero laws to do it.  

It’s like someone ripping the guts out of you.— Apache Tribal Elder Sandra Rambler

Sick stories like this are a symptom of our sick democracy. Legalized corruption—like the kind that sold off sacred Apache land for mining—has to stop. Congress isn’t about to bite the hand that feeds them, so it’s up to us to make the change.

Until we fix our broken political system and hold our politicians accountable to higher standards, the responsibility for this kind of legalized corruption falls on us all of us.

We’re already building a movement to pass Anti-Corruption Acts at the local, state, and federal level to make this kind of behavior illegal (the way it should be). However, we can’t do that unless we educate millions of Americans on our nation’s corruption problem—and the plan to fix it. Please, help us spread the word:

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