Update after Apache Stronghold Court Hearing

Stanley Green, Executive Minister of Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, Katerina Gea (pastor of Wild Church and Coalition organizer), and Sue Park-Hur (Director of racial/ethnic engagement for Mennonite Church USA) stand in prayerful witness in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Thank you to PSMC congregations who joined us in prayer with the Apache Stronghold in the days leading up to their court case in Pasadena! We gathered yours and others’ organized prayers in this short video and this map that shows all the prayers happening across the country as congregations responded to Apache invitations to spiritual unity in “One Drum, One Prayer, One Circle.” The federal appeals court decision about the government’s transfer of their sacred site, Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat), to a multinational copper mining company may take months; in the meantime, we can continue in prayer and action on behalf of sacred land and religious freedom for all. 

PSMC, MCUSA, and Mennonite Mission Network have signed onto amicus briefs in support of Apache Stronghold. I felt deeply encouraged to see conference and denominational leaders such as Stanley Green and Sue Park-Hur, along with representatives from Pasadena Mennonite Church and seven other Mennonite churches sharing prayerful witness in the pouring rain outside the courthouse! You can read more about our Coalition’s presence in Pasadena and ways we were invited into relationship with the Apache Stronghold convoy here. Especially significant was the presence of Rev. Carol Rose, co-pastor of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, who accompanied the convoy in their prayer-soaked journey for 10 days and became “Gramma Carol” to the children along the way!

Leaders of Apache Stronghold are calling all of us in this country to awaken to the ways colonization has made us captive to death and destruction, even the destruction of places of prayer and worship for the sake of profit. I am reminded of Jesus’ actions driving the moneychangers from the holy temple with the words, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:16, NRSV). Wendsler, Apache Stronghold founder, shared that if they lose the case, that is still a “win” in his mind, since the priorities of the government will be exposed for all to see. Will we see the court uphold the Doctrine of Discovery, the underlying reason that Apache peoples don’t have legal rights to their sacred land? Or will we see them create new precedent for the protection of Indigenous spirituality and the land? Please join our Coalition as we pray and advocate with Apache siblings in this pivotal time. Here is a video I created that shares more background and ways to engage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0PvPS3BnZ4

I close with a press release from this week from Wendsler Nosie Sr., founder of Apache Stronghold. He explicitly speaks to us as followers of Jesus. Please take time to read it today and follow Apache Stronghold for updates on Facebook at @saveoakflatarizona.

– Katerina Gea, Coalition Organizer

Naelyn Pike and Wendsler Nosie, Sr. walking to the court hearing in Pasadena (photo by Steve Pavey).

Press Release from Apache Stronghold:
March 28, 2023

U.S. Congress, Religious leaders and People of America:

We call on all people to stand together with the first people to inhabit and steward the land now called the United States of America, to call for an end of the genocide to their sacred lands, religion and people. The government of the United States has clearly recorded the wrongful takeover of Native People’s lands that has been justified by Christian doctrines enshrined in U.S. laws.

We call for an end of the sacrilegious use of any religion to justify the destruction of sacred land including the sacred religious holy grounds of Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) where the Apache and other people practice the oldest religion of these lands to spiritually connect to the same Creator referred to in the Christian bible and all religious sacred texts.

We call on all Christian and religious groups to join the Apache Stronghold to demand of all people and the government of the United States to finally stop this ongoing holocaust. In the sermon on the mountain, the Bible says that Jesus taught his followers to pray asking that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven warning that greed is against God’s will because a person can only serve God or money, not both. May this be our prayer — that God’s will be done on earth to protect Oak Flat against the threat of greed and evil corporate and U.S. interests.

It is now time to heal as one drum, one prayer, one circle and move forward protecting Mother Earth and all future children here and around the world. The spirit of the earth has spoken!

— Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Apache Stronghold