Crosses, eagle feathers destroyed at Apache holy ground

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Two of the crosses were missing, while the other two appeared to be destroyed with an axe. (Source: Center for Biological Diversity) Two of the crosses were missing, while the other two appeared to be destroyed with an axe. (Source: Center for Biological Diversity)
Apache holy ground after being destroyed. (Source: Center for Biological Diversity) Apache holy ground after being destroyed. (Source: Center for Biological Diversity)
OAK FLAT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

On Saturday morning, a representative of the Apache Stronghold arrived at Oak Flat, Arizona to find that four crosses of an Apache holy ground had been destroyed.

Two of them were missing, while the other two appeared to be destroyed with an ax. Along with tire tracks along the prayer site, ceremonial eagle feathers were left lying on the ground, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center also said the Apache Stronghold has demanded an immediate investigation into this potential targeted hate crime against the Apache people and their spiritual practice by the U.S. Forest Service and law enforcement.

Chi’Chi’Ba’Goteel, also known as Oak Flat, has been a sacred site for centuries. In 2014, hundreds of people gathered at the site in protest of a proposed mine that would take over their holy ground. After this protest, the Apache Stronghold was formed, a resistance determined to stop the proposed copper mine. They have held recurring religious ceremonies on the site for the past four years.

"This site is like a church. If this attack had happened at a church, it would be considered a crime," said Wendsler Nosie, an Apache Stronghold leader. "A lot of people have come here to be healed from sickness and for their loved ones, asking for blessings. Throughout the year, this has been a site for families to gather and teach their children about the land. There are federal laws that are supposed to protect a place like this. We have never seen this kind of violence against us here. There needs to be accountability for this crime."

Under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. federal government is required to protect American Indians’ right to religious freedom “including but not limited to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites,” the Center of Biological Diversity said.

The four crosses and ceremonial eagle feathers fall under AIRFA and under the control of the Forest Service, according to the center.

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