Last year, demonstrations nationwide and through the Goshen College campus and broader community, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Though this was a major success for One Circle, the campus affinity group for Indigenous students and an advocacy club, they continue to fight for other issues affecting Indigenous communities. 

One of the main issues One Circle is presently raising awareness for is the land conflict in Oak Flat, Arizona. Manny Villanueva, one of the co-founders of One Circle, shared what exactly is happening at Oak Flat. 

“Resolution Copper is a mining company … [they’re] currently trying to obtain the land in Oak Flat, Arizona. They want to mine all the natural material: copper.” Villanueva also explained what the consequences of this new mining venture could entail. “If they were to follow through, it would leave a two-mile wide crater that’s a thousand feet deep. … It would leave the land in ruin.” 

Not only would the land itself be destroyed, but the lives of those living around it as well. “The drinking water would be unsafe to drink, the foundation of the land would not be as strong, and the Apache Stronghold would be taken off of their land. They wouldn’t be able to go on the land to practice their rituals or utilize the land for food,” he said. 

Arleth Martinez-Vargas, the other co-founder of One Circle, elaborated further on the potential environmental harms. “There would be arsenic in the water, because of the extraction of resources, and because of how the land is left … Arizona would get three degrees hotter, especially in Phoenix since that’s the nearest big city.”

Martinez also emphasized what Wendsler Nosie, an Apache leader, shared during a visit to Arizona in 2022. “This issue does not only affect the San Carlos Apache, but it affects everyone in the United States because it affects the animals, it affects the leaves … eventually we will have nothing left.”

One Circle has also been working with Sarah Augustine and the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition in coordination with Apache Stronghold. Martinez attends meetings with the Coalition, and decided that she will be flying out to Arizona to be a part of the Oak Flat prayer event. 

She will be leaving this Saturday to attend the day’s event, a full day of prayer for the land with Apache Stronghold. She will also take part in a three-day strategy meeting with key leaders in the group from Nov. 5-7. 

Here in Goshen, Villanueva will be leading an Oak Flat solidarity event on Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Newcomer Center on campus. There will be informative presentations and a time to share knowledge about the events in Oak Flat as they continue to unfold.