Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West

Random. Nov. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780399589720. $30. NAT HIST
With this follow-up to her acclaimed Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future, Redniss continues to explore narrative and visual nonfiction in a work about Oak Flat, AZ, an ancient Apache burial ground and religious site. Redniss effectively chronicles Apache resistance to a cooper mining company interested in Oak Flat, and dedicated conservationists who provided additional support. The author interviewed Apache who perform religious ceremonies at Oak Flat, including the Sunrise Ceremony, a coming-of-age rite for young girls. She also interviewed Apache who work for the mining company, and are optimistic about the mine’s and the community’s future. Interspersed throughout are the author’s drawings, which add additional personal touches to both the landscape and the people. Besides personal histories and narratives, the book also delves into the history of Arizona mining; the sovereignty of Native tribes; and the historical trauma as a result of ongoing efforts of colonization, including the systematic “re-education” of Native children.
VERDICT As the fight to prevent the mine from operating continues to be litigated, works like this will continue to enrage and enchant readers of environmental underdog stories; this will be a helpful starting point for all interested in environmental justice. [See Prepub Alert, 9/23/19.]

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