Several religious groups are urging a federal appeals court to protect an Apache sacred site in Arizona from one of the nation’s largest copper mines.
As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the court will rehear the case in March.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Sikh and Jewish coalitions, and others recently filed what are called friend-of-the-court briefs.
They’re asking the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop a federal land swap that would transfer ownership of portions of Oak Flat east of Phoenix to the international mining company Rio Tinto.
The groups say they if the mine goes forward it would harm the spiritual practices of the Apache people and threaten the religious freedom and civil rights of all faiths.
Oak Flat is located on the Tonto National Forest and is home to key religious ceremonies practiced by the Western Apache.
The group Apache Stronghold is suing the federal government to prevent the land swap.
They and other Indigenous organizations argue the mine would destroy the sacred site and end Apache spiritual practices there.
The company says it’s committed to tribal consultation and protecting cultural heritage, and that such input has informed significant changes in the project’s design.
The 9th Circuit Court will rehear the case in March before a full 11-judge panel.
Alaska Native people are mourning the loss of a North Slope leader, who grew up running sled dog teams to collect firewood along the Arctic coast — and came of age in the time of snow machines, borough governments and Native Corporations, as Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA News reports.
Oliver Leavitt died Sunday at the age of 79.
Leavitt was also a whaling captain and a cultural beacon for his people, fluent in Inupiaq and known for his ability to build whaling boats without a blueprint.
“Without a piece of paper in your hand, to go from dimensional woods, hard woods, to end up with a whaling boat is a skill.”
Richard Glenn says Leavitt was his mentor at the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, where they served together on the board and in management roles.
Glenn says he admired Leavitt for his ability to fight for his region – and to move comfortably from the boardroom, to the whaling camp, to the halls of Washington D.C.
“He was adept at it. He made it effortless. He has a diplomat’s skill, but he also has a hard-won, nuts-and-bolts kind of education.”
An education Leavitt used to help turn ASRC into Alaska’s largest private company.
Willie Hensley, a leader in Alaska’s Native land claims fight.
“I’ve known him for 50 years.”
Hensley first met Oliver Leavitt when he got out of the Army. It was then, he says, that Leavitt dedicated himself to a life of public service – working to form a new borough, teaming up with other leaders to turn ASRC into a company that earns billions in revenues every year.
“He was persistent. And in order to do the things he had to do, he had to work hard and practically camped in Washington D.C.”
Hensley says one of Leavitt’s biggest accomplishments was his battle to help the North Slope Borough take over a U.S. Navy gas field, which enabled the Borough to bring heat and power to homes in the region.
A memorial for Leavitt is planned for Monday in Utqiagvik at the Barrow High School.
A new housing development is in the works for the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota.
The Turtle Mountain Housing Authority recently closed with an investor to begin construction on a $19 million affordable housing project.
It will provide 52 apartments for community members.
The new development includes buildings with a mix of studio, one, and two-bedroom units.
State and federal funds helped with the development.
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