Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Apache Stronghold v. United States

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20028
Nos. CV-21-00050-PHX-SPL, (D. Ariz., 02/12/2021) (Logan, J.)

A district court denied an Apache group's motion to preliminarily enjoin the exchange of sacred land in Tonto National Forest to two foreign mining companies for mineral exploration. The group argued the land was held in trust by the U.S. government for the Western Apaches through an 1852 treaty, and alleged that the mineral exploration activities would desecrate the sacred land in violation of the Apaches' religious liberties and constitute a breach of trust. The court found the group's individual members lacked standing to assert a breach of trust because they had failed to show the treaty created an individual trust duty by the government that was breached by authorizing the land exchange, and that even if they did have standing, they were not likely to succeed on the merits because they did not point to any specific trust language in the treaty or elsewhere regarding the land at issue. It further found that the group's members had not been deprived of a government benefit nor coerced into violating their religious beliefs, and that the land exchange did not constitute a substantial burden under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court therefore denied the group's motion for preliminary injunction.