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Apache group visits Carlisle Indian Industrial School
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Apache group visits Carlisle Indian Industrial School

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CARLISLE — The Apache-Stronghold group from San Carlos, Arizona, made its way through Carlisle Thursday en route to Washington D.C., where the group will take part in a “spiritual movement” to address issues of concern that are taking place 11 miles away from the Apache reservation in Arizona.

Apache-Stronghold is scheduled to arrive in Washington around Monday or Tuesday, the group’s website states, but before it converges on the capital, the group stopped in Carlisle Thursday to visit the Carlisle Indian School Cemetery that sits on the property of the Carlisle Barracks.

There was a silence as members of the Apache-Stronghold walked among the graves of Native Americans who died while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Tears emerged and hugs were exchanged as the group silently observed each grave.

Some more than others were able to contain their reactions, but a few couldn’t help but let emotion take over, which resulted in one woman dropping to the ground with tears streaming down her face.

“This is a part of our history, this is a part of who we are,” said Wendsler Nosie, council member for the San Carlos Apache Tribe and leader of Apache-Stronghold.

Many of the members of Apache-Stronghold who were present Thursday, including Nosie, have relatives who are buried in the cemetery on post, and it was said that the tears that flowed during Thursday’s visit weren’t tears of joy.

It is somewhat a source of closure, Nosie explained, but also a confirmation that the stories that were passed on by relatives were in fact true.

“It’s all coming full circle,” he said. “It’s confirming what we know.”

Caravan to Washington D.C.

The biggest concern for the group is the copper mining that could potentially take place at a federally-owned park in Arizona known as Oak Flat. It isn’t a part of the reservation, but Nosie explained that Oak Flat holds a lot of value in the eyes of the Apache, both religiously and in an educational aspect, and that those values would be depleted if copper mining were to commence.

“It’s our indigenous home,” Nosie said, noting that if the land at Oak Flat were to subside due to mining, the tribe would lose a place that could be used as a way to revisit the tribe’s heritage and religion, such as many other religious entities have the ability to exercise across the world.

The cause goes deeper than the Apache tribe, though, Nosie explained.

In December, Sen. John McCain tacked a land-swap bill on to the national defense bill for the U.S. Military, Nosie said, which gave the company, Resolution Copper, the right to mine on federal land.

The problem, according to Nosie, is that the bill was never properly addressed by Congress and intentionally added to the defense budget in order to avoid a lot of attention.

Nosie said that doing this took the voice and right away that every American “that calls themselves an American” has when it comes to federal land.

“There are a lot of different components (to this cause) and that’s why it was an Apache fight, then it became an Arizona fight, and now it became an American battle,” he said. “We all have to stand together, and if this land exchange stays as is, then it’s the example for the future.”

The most important thing for Apache-Stronghold is that their protest is a spiritual movement that will have the ability to reach out to every American and show them that what is happening to Native Americans in Arizona is wrong, Nosie explained. “If we don’t do that, then your children, my children, everybody’s children are affected from here on.”

Nosie mentioned that his thoughts on the Carlisle Indian School are that he wishes the school, which was in operation from 1879 to 1918, never came about.

He went on to say that if colonization was going to take place like it did, that he wishes the government would have given Native Americans the ability to work with them and have a nation within a nation rather than pushing assimilation and war among Native people, because all of the events that occurred in the past are coming back to haunt Native Americans now.

“Today we are still fighting to defend what we have left, and so, at least America can give that back to us. Give us the fact that we can be who we are comfortably,” Nosie said.

Email Adrian Sipes at asipes@cumberlink.com

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