On Nov 20, MCC concluded its 50th anniversary celebrations with a mural that honors the struggles of Native Americans in Arizona, both past and present. As part of a their Community Paint Day, members of the MCC art department faculty, students, and Mesa citizens gathered to contribute their talent to a full sized mural on the west side of the ST building. Work on the mural will not be completed till mid-December, it has already attracted the attention of representatives from the local Native communities, particularly for its representation of two dire struggles affecting Arizona tribes today: the Apache Leap and South Mountain Loop 202 projects.
Renee ‘Missy’ Jackson, is member of the Tohono O’odham nation and one of the organizers of the South Mountain Freeway Resistance. She explained the current plan to extend the Loop 202 freeway through a portion of South Mountain, referred to by the O’odham as Moahdak Do’ag, a site that is held sacred by the tribe, as well as the Gila River and Salt River Indian Communities. “This project looks to desecrate not only the mountain,” said Jackson “But prayer sites and burial area… Part of the mural is going to represent that struggle going on right now in the Gila River Indian Community” Jackson explained that the project would only save Loop 202 commuters mere minutes at the cost of these holy sites being ruined. Members of the tribes are currently awaiting the results of their lawsuits against the proposal and there is currently a plan to establish an around the clock protest and occupation at the proposed sights.
A similar protest by the Apache Stronghold, an organization dedicated to the protection of sacred indigenous sites, is slated to occur at Oak Flat/Apache Leap area in Superior. Shown on the left side of the mural, the Apache nation is currently facing a threat by the mining corporations, Rio Tinto and Resolution Copper, who aquired federal land to harvest ore. Any mining operation there would cause irreparable damage to the mountain as well as the sacred rites of the Apache people. “Our religion is a religion, you know? The Oak Flat area is the place where it all originated from,” said Vans Standingfox, a member of the Apache Stronghold. “All of our ceremonies, our coming of age ceremonies, our songs, our stories, a lot of gifts that came to our people came from that area. It’s a part of our story.”
Standingfox explained that the mining companies are unable to mine unless they find a place for their tailings; dumping grounds for the dangerous chemical waste the mine creates.
This could lead to higher rates of cancer in many of the surrounding areas, including the city of Mesa. “I’m happy that the mural is specifically here in Mesa,” said Standingfox “because if the local people realize what’s happening and stop the tailings there, they can stop the mining operation here.”Duke Romero, another tribal representative, praised the location of the mural on the MCC campus. “It’s conscious. You could be directly affected,” said Romero. “It’s nice to see the youth spreading that message that this is going on in your backyard. You can’t control the wind, the dust, but you can speak out against this.”