Making Business Proposals with Ancestral lands- The Fight For Oak Flats

Phillip Standin... - Posted on 17 February 2016

“Paha Sapa, The heart of everything that is” at least that is what my people, the Lakota Sioux Nation, say about our homeland.  The dark black rolling hills filled with the smell of pure oxygen thanks to the pine trees, sticky with sweet smelling sap made by my peoples as a syrup source, small clear creeks filled with minnows. Hot and green during the summer and cold and snowy during the winter.The tall majestic pines are a testament to the Earths' fertile, dark pungent soil, which I think of when thinking of the struggle of Oak Flats. The Lakota creeks were clean enough to drink from, the sky always blue and clear, even when a storm rolled through, the Paha Sapa changed any fearsome storm to a calming downpour with the smells of the pines only amplified with the rain. Any snowstorm was well welcomed with the thought of being suurounded by “Christmas Trees” as children. Paha Sapa, like any land as gracious as that, would be considered sacred lands, but as we say here at Deecolonize Academy, nothing left is sacred.


As a young Lakota warrior, I find the theft of land today still appaling. My name is Phillip Standing Bear, super baby daddy and young Lakota warrior here to inform you of the atrocities of land theft. I can atest to the wrongful act of land theft through my own Lakota peoples Paha Sapa, or the Black Hills of South Dakota. Just like Oak Flats, the Black Hills was uprooted of First Nations Lakota peoples for the fact that gold resided in the depths of the land. Treaties were broken or never held, for the sake of profit. Even today treaties long been ignored are still uprooted for the sake of profits. The only way we get that land back is when it is destroyed and is no longer the place we once called home.


Oak Flats is a recreational park, and is used by the Apache and surrounding tribes as a sacred ceremonial site. This is where coming-of-age rituals were and still are performed. Now Oak Flats is in danger, of being given off to a foriegn mining company, Resolution Copper. What happens next are three things. First, First Nations losing more land, yet again, for the sake of profits. Second, rock climbing, camping and fishing will no longer be able to occur, for the sake of profits. And third, you lose the natural beauty and wonder of such a sacred site, for the sake of profits. And for those of you who believe they have a job coming their way, this is a foreign mining company, which means they have their own workers at their own wages. Which means while you sit on the sidelines with your hopefullness in getting a job, someone, not from here, comes along getting paid terrible wages for a job they likely don't even want to have. You therefore condone slavery on a deeper level without even realizing it.


Lets start with a look into how treaties held between First Nations and the U.S. Federal Government were broken. Treaties usually were made to protect First Nations peoples, sacred sites, and religious freedoms, however with a slight catch, land-ownership. Land-ownership was not something we, as First Nations, understood. What we understood was that we, as people, NEVER owned the land around us, rather that the land owned us. We were as much a part of this landscape as the rocks, plants and animals we shared that space with. So with every treaty, there came a “business opportunity”. This wherein lies the problem. While promising our peoples a better land, The U.S.Federal Government was making business proposals.


Every year, thousands of avid rock climbers, campers and fishermen, come to this region for it's natural beauty, and even more First Nations come here for their sacred ceremony. There is no justice for Oak Flats, just another battle. This is Phillip Standing Bear, young indigenous warrior, super baby daddy and Indigenous Peoples Media Project correspondent from Deecolonize Academy, Homefullness, and POOR Magazine, signing out.


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