Sometimes our national obsession with jobs gets a little out of control. Sure, having job availability in the United States is important (jobs = money = spending = stimulated economy), but it seems like the quest to create more and more jobs comes with frequent disregard for a lot of potential drawbacks. For example, the push for the Keystone XL pipeline will easily come at the expense of the environment, seeing as how TransCanada’s history with oil containment leaves much to be desired (Lacey 2011). However, as important as environmentalism is (and it is indeed very important), the seemingly all-encompassing quest for jobs has, this time, come at the expense of human culture.
Last month, the $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 was passed through the Senate, and as is typically the case with legislation, a plethora of measures that have little-or-nothing to do with the topic of said legislation were meandered into the language. In this bill, and thanks to Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), a bill that is passed for the sake of establishing American defense spending included a measure authorizing Rio Tinto, a British-Australian metals and mining corporation, access to 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona so they can mine copper (McAuliff 2014). Senator McCain, along with fellow Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) view the project as an economic boon, with claims the project will create around 3,700 jobs over several decades (McAuliff 2014). However, the Apache tribe in the area view the project as another assault on their ancestry, as the portion of land parceled out to Rio Tinto contains sacred Apache land.
Now, this isn’t to say the Rio Tinto deal has been a piece of golden legislation. It has, for the most part, been rejected in Congress, prior to having been slipped into the must-approve NDAA last month (McAuliff 2014). To many, the deal looked like it was being conducted outside of the regular process in dealing with Federal land (McAuliff 2014). To others, the deal’s controversy came from Rio Tinto’s uranium mine in Namibia, which it jointly owned and operated with Iran (McAuliff 2014). Controversy also stemmed from Rio Tinto’s 10% ownership by China (McAuliff 2014). For whatever the reasons may or may not have been, the deal was pulled from the Senate floor twice last year because votes could not be accumulated (McAuliff 2014).
Of course, to me, these are not the important reasons.
The United States boasts a history of treating the American native peoples like crap. The depth of this history isn’t even something the Texas State Board of Education could effectively cover up in its sketchy textbook proceedings. America was, for all intents and purposes, founded, settled, and developed via European nationalism and imperialism, so it shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that even in 2015, Anglo-Saxon leaders have no qualm with enacting measures that directly trample on Native American culture.
But, this is not an issue where facts and figures are going to make the point of how the Rio Tinto deal is not in America’s interest. If anything, facts and figures tell us the Rio Tinto move is actually in America’s interest, at least economically. It will create jobs, but it will also come at a cost. A lot of time and money and mouth endurance is spent taking pieces of our national history and auctioning them to the highest bidder. There have even been calls to sell off American national parks (Thompson 2012). Apparently, American history and culture and beauty mean nothing when it comes to nickels and dimes. But more egregious, I think, is the dismissal of culture and ethnic heritage for the sake of monetary acquisition.
Stop and think for a moment. Think about ethnicity, culture, and history. Would it be considered outrageous to Greeks if, one day, it was decided the Parthenon would be bulldozed and for the sake of collecting metal ore? For Scots, how about if Stirling Bridge were destroyed for something as frivolous as copper? Is it conceivable to think the Irish might be a little pissed if the Hill of Tara were sold off to Rio Tinto for monetary reasons? These acts would probably be protested and despised, not just domestically, but abroad as well, and it even stands to reason, the disheveling of the Parthenon, Stirling Bridge, and the Hill of Tara might even be protested in the United States (at least by the population who gave a damn).
So where is the difference here? At the end of the day, this deal authorizes a mining company to destroy sacred land in a native nation for the sake of making a profit, and in the case of the United States, the creation of jobs. Just like with the ongoing saga regarding the Lakota Sioux and the Black Hills, there seems to be not a single eyelash batted when it comes to the government of the United States gleefully disemboweling Native American culture. So quick are they to distrub the bones of fallen Apache — there seems to not be any act of compassion or empathy existing within their hollow chambers. Culture, history, and the bones of the dead apparently has a price.
Does this mean we can frack in Gettysburg?
Lacey, Stephen. “After 12 Oil Spills in One Year, TransCanada Says Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Safest in U.S.” ThinkProgress RSS. ThinkProgress, 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2015.
McAuliff, Michael. “Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 03 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 Jan. 2015.
McAuliff, Michael. “Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 Jan. 2015.
Thompson, Bill. “Ocala U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns Suggested the Federal Government Should Sell off Some National Park Lands.” Gainesville.com. The Gainesville Sun, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Jan. 2015.