But Oak Flat hits close to home for the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Both consider the spot, in the high desert outside the former mining town of Superior, to be holy ground. They have conducted sacred ceremonies there since forever.
And since early February, a group called Apache Stronghold has also staged a gritty, ongoing occupation at the site.
As it happens, the Apaches aren't the only ones who care about Oak Flat. Multi-national mining companies likewise harbor deep affection for this place, since it's perched atop a huge copper deposit. Arizona Sen. John McCain cares, too. For years, legislation that would trade away Oak Flat to the mining companies felt flat from lack of support. So in 2014, McCain finally slipped it into an unrelated military spending bill. Subsequently, Oak Flat now belongs to the Resolution Copper Co., which is jointly owned by international mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
Thus, the fight continues—and now it's getting a bit closer to home for all of us. Apache Stronghold will bring its message to Tucson this Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Gloo Factory Ink, 238 E. 26th Street. This block party will feature hip hop performances by Standing Fox, Indigenize, Quese IMC, Chee Christ and Escape Goat. San Carlos Apache Councilman Wendsler Nosie, Sr. and activist Naelyn Pike will also speak. There will be a climbing wall and kids activity area, live silkscreening, and plenty of chow. For more info, visit the Facebook page.
You may not have heard much about Oak Flat, and that's no surprise. After all, this patch of natural beauty sprawls across federal forest land, out in a rural corner of Arizona. It's way off the radar for most major newspapers, and far from the hum of metropolitan life.