SACRAMENTO—Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) today denounced the Trump administration’s-transfer of a tract of Arizona land known as Oak Flat, sacred to Apaches and numerous regional tribes, to the Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. The transfer was conducted at an accelerated pace by Trump’s U.S. Forest Service, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The text of the Rendon and Ramos letter follows:
This trade of the 2,422-acre parcel known as Oak Flat represents a betrayal of the Apache people who have described the sacred site as their Mount Sinai.
It is ironic and outrageous that the birthright of the Apache and other Native people be traded to the Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto Group in exchange for recreational areas. It is foolish and shortsighted to forfeit one’s birthright, but it is immoral to barter another being’s heritage. As you know, ownership of this parcel is questioned. Also at issue is whether the U.S. Forest Service has violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and an 1852 treaty between the United States and Western Apache tribes.
Although the Rio Tinto conglomerate purports to engage with Native American tribes on decisions about developing the site, just last May the multi-national corporation came under fire for destroying a 46,000-year-old indigenous site in Australia. Rio Tinto’s chairman reportedly pledged that the company would “never again” destroy sites of “exceptional archaeological and cultural significance” during mining operations, according to The Guardian, even as it was looking to mine copper at a sacred site in Arizona. Oak Flat is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance to an estimated dozen area tribes. The location is reported to include Apache burial grounds, petroglyphs, medicinal plants, and other revered locations.
It is indefensible for the Trump administration to rush through in its waning days what amounts to a grave betrayal of Native American spiritual and cultural legacy.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature.