My name is Reverend William J. Barber II, of the Poor People’s Campaign. I’m a preacher—and I’ve dedicated my life to the pursuit of social and economic justice as part of my faith and a moral obligation to counter injustice.
I’m writing to you because, unless we act, one of the most sacred places of the Apache Nation in Arizona will be destroyed by Resolution Copper, a corporation that is planning to create a crater below Oak Flat two miles wide and 1,000 feet deep.1 To Christians and Jews, this would feel like a desecration of Mt. Sinai.
When I first visited the Apache Nation in Arizona years ago, I heard how the Apaches, a people who had lived in the hills, were forced onto a reservation down in the river basin. And then the Army, at night, opened the dam and flooded the river basin, in an attempt to wipe them out.
Their story—and their trauma—is not isolated. First Nations, the indigenous peoples who once populated this land, were almost wiped out in the Indian Wars of the first two hundred years of what would become the United States. And these attacks, despite the resiliency of First Nation tribes, continue today.
Oak Flat is a sacred place to the Apache people. But the U.S. Forest Service has moved forward with an environmental impact statement on this proposed plan from Resolution Copper—and has refused to consider the Apaches’ religious freedom claim, which would stop this destructive mining project.2
I’m writing to you as a preacher, hoping you will join me in demanding Congress stop this sale and condemn this immoral, racist, and unconstitutional seizure and sale of Oak Flat.
–Rev. William J. Barber II, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
1. “The Forest Service Ignored Apache Religion in Its Review of Oak Flat Copper Mine,” Phoenix New Times, October 15, 2019