01x03 - Apache Stronghold

Episode transcripts for the TV show "Rise". Aired: March 2017 to May 2018.
"Rise" takes a vibrant, gripping, and immersive look at the front lines of global indigenous resistance.
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01x03 - Apache Stronghold

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Sarain: Arriving in Phoenix, Arizona, I'm headed to San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, home to the fight to save Oak Flat. I am not Apache, I'm Anishinaabe from Canada, but what's happening here affects all Indigenous people. Oak Flat is central to the Apache creation story. It is the place where the Creator came to Earth, a place of prayer where young women have their coming-of-age ceremonies. Its bordering cliffs are where many Apache people jumped to their deaths to avoid capture by American troops in the 1870s. Today, the Apache people are still fighting to remain on their lands. Oak Flat is in jeopardy of being destroyed by Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of one of the world's largest mining companies, the British and Australian owned Rio Tinto. This is one of the biggest Indigenous Rights struggles in the world because it sets a precedent. If sacred land can be taken over by corporations for profit, then none of our Indigenous communities are protected, including my own. Oak Flat sits on top of what is considered to be the largest copper reserve in North America. Resolution Copper acquired the land last year through a controversial bill championed by Senator John McCain. Ever since, the Apache have been trying to repeal the bill that gave their land away. If they don't succeed, Oak Flat will be decimated just like the other land that has been mined in the area, and the Apache will lose their holy lands forever. This my first time in San Carlos, and I'm here to catch the Veteran's Parade. I want to find out what the locals know about the fight to save Oak Flat.

We're at the 49th annual San Carlos Veteran's Day Parade.

We're honouring our veterans and honouring this community.

Oh, hey!


I can honestly say I've never, ever been to an event where there was this many Apache people.

I love seeing all the little kids, all these little guys.

They're throwing candy into the parade, so it's really cool.

And I know here in Apache territory, they have lots and lots and lots of people in the service.

It's really one of the ways to support the economy, is to go into the service, so they're really proud of that.

And they've also lost a lot of their members that way.

So I'm feeling really proud just to be Indigenous, to be here.

Can you tell me what you know about Oak Flat?

Not much.

I know that there's the mine that's supposed to be built, and it's gonna affect like the water and the surrounding area.

That's pretty much all I know.

Are there people in the community who maybe don't think that Oak Flat should be saved?

Um, yeah.

We might get paid.

We might get some sort of dividend or some sort of compensation for this loss.

And would that help you and your family?

It would help everybody here, seriously.

Take a walk down the track sometime.

You'll see what I'm talking about.

It was hard to wrap my head around why some Apache support the potential mining, but I guess it should be no surprise. This is one of the poorest Native American communities in the United States. Resolution Copper says their project will bring in jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. But the Apache will have to sacrifice one of their most sacred places. And we have learned from history once the copper goes, the jobs and money will also go. Roy Chavez, former mayor of the neighbouring town of Superior, is one of the many non-Indigenous supporters of Oak Flat. He opposes the mining methods Resolution is proposing, and has offered to show me what will happen to Oak Flat if the mine goes through.



How are you?

Good, how are you doing?

Good, good.

I'm born and raised here.

My family worked in the mines and such, and we've all had... and been affiliated with the companies and the industries throughout the region.

Serving as mayor, I actually got involved politically here when the mine first shut down, the Magma Copper Mine, in 1982.

Magma Copper laid off between 1,200 and 1,400 employees here at the Superior Mine in one day.

And that's pretty significant in this small region, you know.

So I have something to show you in reference to the project, and really what it is, it's an animation.

This is the mining method they're gonna use, blockade mining.

They're gonna take the ore out from underground and create these voids.

And it's like taking an hourglass and turning it over.

And as the material falls, you see the cone, right?

This is a subsidence here.

Sarain: What is subsidence, what does that mean?

Subsidence is the cave-in of the surface.

Two and a half miles wide, a thousand feet deep.

The Eiffel Tower would fit at the bottom of this, and you could see the tip of it from the outside areas here.

Sarain: Wow.

If you were to pick in context of this page, this paper, that's what we extract.

That's the profit.

The rest is waste.

1% is the profit.

The rest of this has to be placed somewhere.

We used to put this back underground.

That's what's called "cut and fill".

Where do you put the rest of this paper if you're not putting it back underground?

You've gotta put it on the surface.

1.6 billion tons of toxic mine waste will be produced.

That's Hoover Dam by comparison.

That's massive!


Where are they gonna put that?

It's about 3 miles west of us.

Roy, can I ask you something?


It's pretty obvious, there's no way that there would be massive support for this.

Remember, Sarain, what I'm showing you is coming out in a scale model for the first time, but I agree with you. Who in their right mind would see this and agree that this is an okay thing to do?

The fight has just started.

No one wants to lose Oak Flat.

For years, John McCain has been trying to hand over Oak Flat to one of his long-time supporters, Rio Tinto. The company was the top contributor to McCain's political campaign in 2014.

At every hearing, the project's tremendous economic and environmental values are reaffirmed, and yet at each hearing we see the same agitators trotted out to play the tired role of the industry obstructionist.

This vocal minority is so philosophically opposed to any mining in Arizona, they're willing to throw away the future of young families, along with the best hope for long-term prosperity in the town of Superior, Arizona, and the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservations where, Mr. Chairman, unemployment hovers around 50%.

The land give-away had been introduced over a dozen times to Congress, but last year Senator McCain finally succeeded in giving the Apache's sacred land away by attaching a rider at the 11th hour onto a must-pass m*llitary spending bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act. Congress had only an hour to review and vote on the 1,600 page bill, a move that an op-ed in the New York Times called, "an impressive new low in congressional corruption." Not only the press, but many people in Washington have questioned the motives of this move. Tara Houska is a tribal attorney and lobbyist. She says these actions echo a sordid history that still plays out today.

I think that this legislation has really signaled the attitudes of the federal government towards Indian people and towards Indigenous people.

This says that it doesn't matter if something is sacred to you.

It doesn't matter if this has been your place of worship since time immemorial, we're gonna give it away for profits.

And that is a really, really hard thing to see.

The Save Oak Flat campaign was formed as a grassroots response to Rio Tinto. Wendsler Nosie and his 16-year-old granddaughter Naelyn are the public face of the movement.


Together, they are the leaders of the Apache Stronghold. For the past year, day and night the Stronghold warriors camp on the land, their presence protesting the land transfer.

We are driving now to the Apache Stronghold camp.

It's a separate camp from the main camp.

We can't disclose the location, and I'm not sure whether or not we're gonna be able to film up there.

It's a protected spot, a sacred spot.

It's where the warriors are at.

So right now, when we turn this corner, the cameras have to go off.


(Crickets chirping)


Right now we are home.

This is my grandfather's home, my great-grandmother's home, my people's home.

It's the place where we come from, and it's Oak Flat.

We believe that Yosin has touched this part of the world.

Can you explain what Yosin means?

Yosin is our creator.

It's that direct connection.

So for me, you know, that's really something powerful, something sacred.

And I know you're traveling a lot and really dedicated to the Stronghold.

Lots of kids your age are focused on other things.

Kids my age, because of the way society is, "What I want, what I need," you know, it's that "I".

I see the world different, you know. It's about the people. And as Indigenous people, that's how we look at the world, and that's how we view it. We see it as... what's gonna happen to those next generations?

And that's what I really look up to when it comes to my grandfather.

He could've said, "I'm done," you know, "I'm tired."

But he looked at the generations yet to come, and he said, "No, I'm gonna keep fighting for those.

Not just for me, for all of us."

Can you talk to me about what was it like for you growing up?

My mother told me that I had the right to hate, I had the right to fight, I had the right to retaliate, what they did to us.

But she said, "But is that who Yosin made you to be?"

And for me, it's saying the same thing for Naelyn.

She was born in this generation to bring a message.

But then she has to understand the consequences that come with that, too.

So this is a w*r of evil to the Mother Earth, and it may take a woman to lead this fight.

But it's the rest of us as men to defend that, and to defend our women, to defend our children.

It's really gonna take our leaders in the community, our spiritual leaders to really make our children understand what the word "fight" means.

It means spiritual.

Sarain: The Apache Stronghold's occupation at Oak Flat is the frontline of the resistance. The warriors' refusal to leave federal land makes them trespassers in the eyes of the law. They support non-violent occupation, even though they know at any moment they could be arrested and forced off the land they hold sacred.

Speaking for the San Carlos Apache, it's more of liberating our people and coming back to our homeland.

And to come back here and stay here, get in tune with this area, you know, it's been a very powerful experience.

You know, a lot of people say, well, Oak Flats is not sacred.

And it's not in the books that says it's sacred.

But again, we have oral history.

So everything that we learn is through verbal communications with our elders.

This one place, this one movement has sort of united all of Indian country?

In the beginning, you know, when they threatened to arrest us, we said, "Arrest us."

You know, arrest our elders while we're doing sweat, when we're praying.

We have our holy ground crosses up there.

You know, they threatened to pull them out.

And what we said was, "Okay, pull them out and see how many people are gonna show and fight for us also, right next to us."

Because at that moment, you know, there was only a small group of Apaches that were here.

And we were getting many calls saying, you know, "We'll be there, we'll occupy with you."

We could've had thousands of people here, you know, and we held it off.

We said, you know, it's not time yet.

We're gonna go about it in this way first.


Through this place, it really has changed a lot of people.

I'm never gonna be the same person again.

And me being here and bringing my children here, it's very, very powerful.

This is a place where our religion originated from.

This is our land.

The dominating society took it away from us.

It's still our land here, and that's why we need to protect it.


Resolution Copper promises jobs, but I'm here in downtown Miami, or as the locals call it, Miama. This mining town sits just 14 miles from Oak Flat. When the Inspiration Copper Mine was operational, it was a bustling spot. But if you look around right now, aside from a saloon and a few antique stores, this is a ghost town. At one time the mine may have provided jobs, but when copper prices dropped and workers were laid off, the citizens of Miama realized they weren't lasting ones.

Ooh, I got a nice pour!

You're hired.


So how old were you when you started working in the mines?

I was 18.

Eighteen, and that was here in Miami?


What was this town like back then?

It was a good town.

Good town.

Everybody just helped everybody back then.

What about when the mines closed, or like when the copper price dropped?

How did the town change?

Town went to hell, actually.

Still is, kinda, sorta.

Did you see a lot of people leave as well?

Oh yeah, especially here in Miama.

A lot of people moved out.

Hank talked about the human cost of boom and bust, but I still haven't seen for myself what mining has done to this land. So local environmentalist Roger Featherstone has offered to take me to the outskirts of town to see one of the largest open-pit mines in all of Arizona.


Oh my god.

Oh yeah.

That's huge.

Roger: That mine has swallowed up two whole towns, Aubrey and Sonora. What they say with gold, you know, to make enough gold for a wedding ring, there's 20 tons of waste.

Of course, it's kinda the same example for copper, the same kind of quantities.

Sarain: I've never seen an open-pit mine before.

Roger: And it's clear Rio Tinto themselves are uncomfortable, I think, you know. Deep down, you know, these folks are people too.

You know, the corporation obviously isn't, but the people running it are human beings.

And somewhere you would think they would have to have a conscience, and I think this is kinda eating at 'em.

There's lots of places where we can get copper, but there's only one Oak Flat.

Wow, this is the road we're taking?


Holy sh*t!

Okay, excuse my language.


Well, sir...


I'm impressed!


After seeing the devastation of open-pit mining, Roger is taking me to thunspoiled Oak Flat. If the Apache Stronghold are not able to protect their land, this place will become just another hole in the earth.

Roger, can you tell me about the Land Exchange, and who owns this land now, and sort of the history of the land?

This has always been public land, this whole area here, since the United States took this from the Native Americans, you know, back in the 1870s.

In fact, in 1955, President Eisenhower withdrew 760 acres of this from mining to be reserved as a campground and recreation area, knowing full well that it was in the middle of a mining district.

So until December, there was no question about this remaining in public ownership.

Now with the passage of the Land Exchange, it paves the way for Rio Tinto to take ownership of the land.

But from the way the bill is written, they have to do the NEPA Process.

What is the NEPA Process?

That's the National Environmental Policy Act that requires federal land managers to take a close look at all the impacts of a federal action.

In this case, because Congress has already made a determination of the outcome, it's kind of a moot process.

There's really nothing for the forest service to decide.

But it does give us an out, because it'll take 5 to 10 years to do that process.

So until that process is done, the land is still in public ownership.

What has it been like to work with the Apache people and the Stronghold?

I first started working with the Apache people on another issue, trying to protect another sacred area that was ecologically pristine from a telescope project.

And I wondered then why is it that this place that's ecologically so... exquisite is also sacred?

And I guess I've kinda learned, especially now here at Oak Flat, is that you cannot separate the sacredness from the ecology.

It's all just one... one package.


A great balance, yeah.

Sarain: Old San Carlos Reservation was one of the first concentration camps in North America. In 1871, the Confederate Army began to march thousands of Apache people off their traditional territory into Old San Carlos Concentration Camp. After four decades of imprisonment, they were then moved from Old San Carlos to the current San Carlos Indian Reservation, where they reside to this day. Forced relocation was the American government's solution to what they called "the Indian problem".

This is Old San Carlos, but it's name was Household 40, the first name for it that was named by the m*llitary.

But this is where the concentration camp is at.

You know, being here, it's very sad for me because my people were imprisoned here, my family were k*lled here, we were forced here.

This is a place we were never from.

But according to the government, this is the place where they could k*ll us off.

Wendsler: And this was just a pass-through.

It wasn't a place of living.

Because we are mountain people.

You know, we come from the mountains.

But supposedly to the American m*llitary, this was the worst spot. 'Cause here, it'll go to about 113 degrees.

And if you look, you know, there's no trees, no nothing, and the people had to endure the heat, and be rationed water and food.

They couldn't go beyond.

If you see the mountains, the edges of the... the rims of the mountains, you had people that... the m*llitary people that had sn*pers.

And so people couldn't leave beyond those points, so...

It was really tragic, you know.

When I was Naelyn's age, I'd come here with my mother, and she would sit here in the banks and just cry, 'cause my mother was born here.

This place here holds a lot of burial sites, so this is also a very holy place in a sense.

Because a lot of the souls here is unrest.

And this tomb here represents all the people that have been annihilated from the face of the earth, and also those that were plucked out of here for assimilation purposes.

You know, Indian people, we're not accustomed to monuments.

But again, for the non-Indian community and the way life has changed for us as well too, it does give a permanent marking of what happened to us, and why it's so important that we gotta continue to not forget the past so as not to repeat itself.

Walking through the gravesites of Old San Carlos, I can't help but think about the complex history the Apache people have had with the US m*llitary. Their ancestor, the great Geronimo, led their fight against colonization. Although he eventually d*ed a prisoner of w*r, he managed to escape the concentration camp many times and led a famous resistance effort. Today, Geronimo symbolizes freedom and a warrior spirit that's alive in full force when I visit San Carlos.

I'm meeting Jaque Fragua at the local skatepark. Jaque is a street artist and member of the activist art collective Honor the Treaties.

Art gives not only the messaging out to the rest of the world, but it also gives the people who are on the frontlines something to rally around.

Sarain: So do you look for billboards like that?

Jaque: I'm looking for some blank spaces.

I usually use billboards that are abandoned or have no commercial value.

Sarain: Hmm.

See this water tower?

It's messaging for the Save Oak Flat campaign.

One of our representatives from the collective, Tom GreyEyes, he worked with the community on this project.

Watch your step.

What's the group? Like what's the collective?

Well, the collective is a Native-run artist collective.

I wanted to pick people who had the spirit of creating change with their work, and we get support from a lot of different allies.

One of the biggest supporters we've had has been Shepard Fairey from Obey, The Doors, we've collaborated with Neil Young.

That's really what it is, just artists, Native artists who wanna make a difference.

A lot of people see the need for this type of work to be done, and hopefully that catches a lot of attention.

It certainly did when we were coming in.

This is my first time seeing it in person.

I wanna take a Polaroid.

(Camera snapping)



Jaque: See, people like this. I think it's a good thing.

Sarain: Yeah, absolutely.

Jaque: More of this needs to happen.

The word "Stronghold", I think that's basically reflecting on the occupation at Oak Flat.

The word is spreading.

This is the way that we support, is through visual communication and... public art.

In Native country, it's really about what fight you wanna join, or what cause you wanna support.

It's hard to keep up sometimes with every single tribe.

And there's over 500 in the United States, and you know, beyond that, Canada, the rest of the world. It takes a lot of energy, you know.

Even just this, you know. It's part of the solution and it's part of the efforts, but this is minimal compared to what really needs to happen in a lot of the communities.

But this helps. Art creates that connection, so that's... that's why I do it.

Sarain: So this is a throw-up that artist Jaque Fragua just... yeah, took him less than 10 minutes.

We're on San Carlos Apache territory, and he did a piece to represent his contribution to the movement.

Now we're just gonna roll out real quick before the cops come.

Jaque: We should probably go.

I don't know if it's destruction or if it's creation.

It's probably simultaneous.

Sarain: Wendsler calls the fight to save Oak Flat a holy w*r, and this struggle has mobilized youth across Indian Country. Since the land was officially transferred to Resolution Copper at the end of 2014, the Stronghold has been traveling across the US to raise awareness. Just before they head out to Washington DC, Wendsler and Naelyn invite me to their family home, a location they keep private since receiving anonymous death threats last year.

Can you tell me about the time when people were threatening your life?

I know for the family it's... it's a scary time.

You know, for people out there, the important thing to know is that it does put you in a confinement because you have to watch everything you do, from what we eat, where you get it, where we drive, what country we're gonna go to.

I mean, we do live in that confinement, which is, you know, which is a lot different than a lot of people out there, but what we hope is that the change will come with the rest of the people standing up, so that we can get some freedom.

But those are the things that we sacrifice. But it's okay.

It's okay for us because we've come to terms with that.

I'd rather, you know, die and sacrifice myself for the people because I know I'm doing Yosin's work, if anything, to keep all that life alive.

But it doesn't really fear me, because I know what I'm doing, and what we all are doing is right.

The fact that my granddaughter's ready, you know, for this battle, and knowing for the fact that she could lose her life for it too...

But that's what belief is, and that's what religion is, and that's what it takes to protect what God created.

I'm with the Stronghold in Washington, DC. Their fight to save Oak Flat is gaining momentum, and this trip is a chance for them to have their voices heard politically.



How are you?

Good, how are you?

Sarain: So tell me about what's happening today?

Naelyn: We're here, you know, to talk about Oak Flat, and we have a forum. It's a public hearing, so we'll be talking to the public and to Congress people, just to talk about Oak Flat.

And it's not just gonna be about Oak Flat. Right now, what's so important is that we're coming together as brothers and sisters, as warriors to unify.

Sarain: I think you're absolutely right. I think that what happens with Oak Flat sets a precedent for what happens for all of our sacred sites and our land.

Naelyn: It does. It's a huge thing, it's huge.

A year has passed since the Apache's sacred lands were traded away here, hidden inside the National Defense Authorization Act, more commonly known as the NDAA. Native American Advisor to Bernie Sanders Tara Houska is lobbying to raise awareness of Indigenous rights.

Tara: The reason that the Apache Stronghold's coming out for this listening session is basically because they want to draw attention to the bill.

So this has been a really long process.

It's actually been 10 years in the making.

And so at the last minute, this last year, there was just the right climate to add it on as a rider, and have it sent out to the floor as part of a must-pass spending bill.

My understanding is that also lots of people didn't actually ever see it.

Basically the first time it was seen on the floor was an hour... they had an hour to vote on the entire NDAA, and that was the first time it was seen by pretty much the entire Congress.

And have you ever seen a rider attached like this that gives over Indigenous land in quite this way, or Indian land?

I've never seen a rider that gives Indigenous lands to a foreign operation. These particular legislators are very involved with those organizations, and one of them actually used to be a former lobbyist for Rio Tinto.

So you kind of wonder, you know, what are the priorities here?

And more and more people are becoming aware of this, and realizing how can we do this?

How can we do this to anybody? If this was any other religion, any other group of people, this would never have happened, never.

But because it's Indian people... no one really noticed. And so for these things to be happening, for these extractive industries, fossil fuel industries, mining, to destroy those places?

It's an indicator of a really, really sordid history that's gonna continue.

If history is destined to repeat itself, I can't help but wonder where the accountability lies. I tried to ask Republican Senator John McCain about his role in passing the bill that traded away Apache land, but he declined my request for an interview. Instead, Congressman Raoul Grijalva, the only Arizona representative to vote against the NDAA, offered to speak to me about his efforts to save Oak Flat. In June 2015, Grijalva introduced a repeal bill called the Save Oak Flat Act.

Welcome! Come on in.

Sarain: So this is an important week.

There's the Tribal Leaders Conference listening session.

What do you expect to happen this week?

The best-case scenario is that we generate more support.

I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat, you're gonna be answerable to a community at some point.

I think the survival of Indi... Native people in this country is the great untold story.

And now their ascendency is the new story.

Congressman Grijalva is hosting a listening session to help gain support for his repeal bill. It's here that Naelyn and Wendsler have been invited to speak on record.

Thank you so much for being here.

The situation at Oak Flats, we've felt that because of the way it was done, that we would give it an opportunity to have our colleagues join with us to move to repeal of that section.

And tribal leadership across Indian country see this as a very, very dangerous precedent going into the future.

What has happened here has affected Indian country and the United States itself.

So from the world view, we are all being watched.

The repeal is the answer, a simple answer.

But we're gonna need the help of Congress in order for that to happen.

The United States was founded on freedom of religion and freedom to speak.

The future of our children is at stake.

I look at Oak Flat, and I go there every time with the fear of it being taken away.

And as a young girl, I know that I am gonna continue to fight to protect this place, and continue to fight for all sacred sites.

This is our original place on this land, and people don't understand that.

People don't understand that we exist today, that our culture is still here, that we're still alive.

I am proud to be Indigenous. Who are we without Oak Flat?

Who are we without these sacred places?

If our Congress people, if our Senators, our House Representatives continue to make the right decisions for those yet to be born, these places will be protected.

But it's up to you to take that next step for us.

Naelyn's words have not fallen on deaf ears. After months of requests, Senator Bernie Sanders agrees to lend support to their cause by introducing a sister bill in the Senate. This bill will act as a companion to Congressman Grijalva's Save Oak Flat Act.

Terry: Senator Sanders is gonna introduce tomorrow a companion bill, so we're on our way in the Senate side now.

Awesome, congratulations!

And thank you to Naelyn!

Yes, she did a great job.

This is hope.

This is hope to our people and hope in the fight.

We are gonna win. Resolution Copper is going down, we're gonna win.

We've got this.

Sarain: I'm surprised how much headway the Apache Stronghold has made here. It's not easy to have your voice heard in Washington.

We commend Senator Sanders and all the grassroots folks who have joined with us and stood by our sides.

Especially when Capitol Hill is a battleground of causes amplified through daily protests. Bernie Sanders' decision to introduce a companion bill to the Senate has renewed the Stronghold's hopes of defeating Resolution Copper, and brought attention to the fight that's uniting tribes across America.

We are taking on some of the most powerful political forces in the world who are more concerned about short-term profits than they are about the future of this planet.

The United States Congress is gonna have to work for all of us.

Thank you very much.


Sarain: I was wondering if you could just tell me what happened?

I understand there was a new sister bill introduced?

Can you explain that?

It means that now we're gonna have a voice, you know. Now we're gonna make a difference.

Not only here, but around the world.

Because if the United States is a leading country, you know, for human rights and so forth, let's not be hypocrites.

And I think once that takes place, then there's gonna be better results throughout the world.

And it's not gonna stop.

Like what we witnessed today with Naelyn, you know, the difference is that they have no fear.

That disease, that social disease that comes from post-w*r, she's not carrying it anymore. And...

I'm just happy it's ending in me.

How do you define what's sacred and what's not? If Oak Flat was marked by a cathedral, would Resolution Copper even attempt this in the first place? Since they declined to participate in this documentary, I never had the chance to ask them. I returned to Oak Flat where I met with James Ybarra, watchman for the campground. He's taking me up the mountain to greet the sunrise with ceremony, a ritual that holds significance for all Indigenous people. It's ceremonies like these that keep our circles strong.

Yeah, I've taken this walk a lot of times by myself at this time of day.

In the morning, eh?

In our creation story, we were all hiding underground, 'cause God was gonna flood the earth. And...

And for so many years of hiding underground, they decided to send someone to go check it out.

And it was a girl that went to go check it.

Sarain: Oh, okay.

James: So when she came out of the volcano, she got covered in ashes, which was probably around here.

'Cause I mean, if you look at all these rocks, it's all volcanic rock, you know.

The good thing about this bill going through...

I mean, it's a really bad thing, but the good thing about it, the silver lining is that it's uniting all the tribes, which has never happened before in history.

Through all the invaders, through all the stuff that the Native people have gone through, we've never united under one front.

Alright, these are the petroglyphs.

That's what these are.

The ruins?

Oh my gosh, okay.

James: There's a lot of them, actually.

Could you imagine our ancestors...

I know.

I kinda wish these were protected because that's how stuff like this happens.

People just come with spray-paint.

Sarain: That's what I first saw, there's like stupid writing.

Why would anyone spray-paint this?

James: I don't know. That blue spot actually used to be a guy with a bow, and he was sh**ting down a deer, which is...

That's like the coolest one, you know, and they gotta spray-paint over it.

Sarain: This is our history.

James: (Sighing) Yeah, it really pissed me off the first time I saw it too.

James and I might come from different backgrounds...

James: Careful.

... but it's a connection to land that roots us as Indigenous people. When we're cut off from these places, we're severed from our culture and the very things that define us.

Oh, wow.



(Speaking Indigenous language)

James: This is probably what the ancestors felt every day.

Just waiting for the sun to come up every day.

They didn't have no heaters, they didn't have no nothing.

They just had a f*re.

You know, the sun gives life, that's what it does.

Sarain: I've come to San Francisco for a very different kind of sunrise ceremony than what I shared with James at Oak Flat. I'm headed with the Stronghold to Alcatraz where over 3,500 people from multiple tribes will gather on American Thanksgiving, a day that holds a lot of significance for Indigenous people. The arrival of the first Europeans culminated in the death of millions of Native Americans, and today's ceremony honours those who have survived.

It's just before 4:00am, and we're here at Alcatraz Landing.

There's lots of people gathering.

Everyone's here for the Un-Thanksgiving Day event.

We're gonna go get in line, and try and get on one of the first two ferries and get over there.

Wendsler: People!

I know there's a lot of issues, and there's a lot of reasons for us to be angry, but we unify in a type of praying.

So not only our children, but all these childrens of the world will have an opportunity to live, then we will be blessed.

Thank you, everybody, thank you!


John: They do not care what happens to us.

They never have cared.

We as the Indigenous people that you call Indians, we have known this for 500 years.

The air here is electric. On this day in 1969, just under 100 Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island for 19 months. Calling themselves the Indians of All Tribes, they wanted self-determination and to reclaim the freedom that was theirs before colonization. Through the simple act of occupying land, they awakened a political movement that is still alive today.

Wendsler: As I tell people across this country, you must go back to your holy places.

You must go back and occupy those places.

Because that is where God has touched the world for us.

If we continue to stay away and live in fear and not go back, then all is gonna be lost.

So in Oak Flats, 479 tribes recognized by the federal government are in unity to fight this land exchange from John McCain.

Because if this bill remains, it affects your reservation, it affects your religion, it affects your voice.

At one point, it was an Apache fight.

Then it became a State of Arizona fight.

Then it became a United States fight.

What really saddens me today, it has now become a world fight.

So people, Indigenous people around the world are watching us!



John: We understand that the issue is the land, the issue is the earth.

We must understand that the has no intention corporate state for our welfare.

The corporate state exists only to feed the needs of the ruling class that own it.


John: We cannot change the political system, we cannot change the economic system, we cannot change the social system until the people control the land.


I grew up listening to The Prophecy of the Seventh f*re, an Ojibwe teaching that talks about this time in history when the earth would start to resist the damage we have caused. The prophecy states that if enough people from all colours and faiths turn from materialism and instead choose a path of respect and spirituality, environmental catastrophe can be avoided. This is the Eighth f*re Rising.

♪ Digging deep in the pockets of resistance ♪
♪ Still no sleep, I keep on thinking of the mission ♪
♪ The life of a young Native with attitude ♪
♪ No one will listen ♪
♪ Live my life knowing there's more than what is written ♪
♪ Journey deep, creeping slow, looking for what is missing ♪




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