Communities across the United States and beyond gather in prayer for Apache Stronghold

From March 19th to March 21st, communities across the United States and beyond answered our call to support Apache Stronghold’s case for Oak Flat through prayer. Fifty groups and individuals directly reached out to us to say they had held prayer services, runs, and walks ahead of Apache Stronghold’s hearing at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That is amazing!! Thank you all who hosted these events. 

The San Carlos Apache believe that prayer is one of the most powerful forces. The court gave no indication of when they would share their decision on the case for their sacred site, but as we wait patiently and hopefully, we know that many hearts held prayers for the protection of Oak Flat. 

People organized prayer walks as far away as Edinburgh, Scotland, and in fifteen different states. To view many of the places that hosted prayer walks or services, check out this interactive map, created by Hallie Liu Rogers. While the prayers were hosted on diverse landscapes, all people were invited to consider what it means to see the land as alive and to ask for the protection of land and water, especially at Oak Flat.

About 100 miles south of Oak Flat in Tucson, AZ, members of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship met as the sun set on March 20th, the night before Apache Stronghold’s case. They walked and reflected on land-based spirituality before finding a clearing with a large saguaro to read an Oak Flat Sunset Prayer, written by Michaela Esau. 

At Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, KS, members prayed a litany adapted from a prayer by Joanna Lawrence Shenk and Sarah Herrera of First Mennonite Church San Francisco. 

“Teach us the power of connection to land, as a holy space to commune with God, as a path of healing away from the distortions of colonization, and as a guide to where we belong within the community of all living things,” they prayed. 

Bethel College Mennonite Church gathered again as the sun set on March 20th to pray and take a photo of the signs they made in support of Apache Stronghold. 

At Goshen College in Goshen, IN, the One Circle GC club hosted three events. Arleth Martinez and Manuel Villanueva, co-founders of One Circle GC, planned a solidarity event, a prayer vigil, and a prayer walk. At the solidarity event, participants made signs, listened to Sarah Augustine speak on Zoom, and watched the Becket Law video about the case. 

“I remember looking over at Manny and feeling proud that we were able to gather so many individuals. This initial moment of realization that many showed up and felt the same way I did about this case gave me hope. I was reassured that Apache Stronghold is not alone, they have support all around the world. Younger voices are powerful, this is our future we are discussing so eyes need to be opened,” Arleth said of the events. 

Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA was another college that participated in prayers of movement. Students gathered for a sunset run/walk the night before the case.

At Hyde Park Mennonite Church in Boise, ID, prayer hikers completed a call-and-response prayer while walking. 

“Today, we pray for Apache Stronghold. Blow the mighty breath of your Spirit into their lungs, filling them with power in the sacred struggle to defend life. Today, we ask that all voices, actions and prayers in defense of land and life, from the past, present, and future may become one,” they prayed.

We thank all of the congregations, colleges, and individuals who organized prayers for Apache Stronghold. May they help to bring about just relationships with the land and our Indigenous neighbors. As we await the court’s decision, we invite you to continue to support Apache Stronghold through prayer, writing letters to your local newspapers about the importance of saving Oak Flat, and contacting your state representatives about the Save Oak Flat Act. 

See more prayer photos in this video:

-Michaela Esau, Communications Coordinator and Indigenous Solidarity Organizer