Native American Apache Stronghold tribe had two of its crosses stolen, two crosses damaged and sacred eagle feathers thrown onto the ground after they held religious ceremonies at a prayer site this week, an act they called an "assault on their spiritual and cultural practice."
"Anybody with morals knows they can’t do that,” group member Wendsler Nosie Sr. told the AP. "But it has to go beyond people hating what we’re doing to discourage us."
Arizona’s Tonto National Forest is investigating the vandalism at the Oak Flat Campground, the Associated Press has reported.
Resolution Copper, the mining company involved, intends to dig a shaft 1.3 miles deep in the high desert area of Superior located in the east of Phoenix.
Jonathan Ward, a spokesman for Resolution Copper, told the AP, there was no way to tell who was responsible for the desecration since the vandalism took place on a public campground.
The area is of historic significance as it once held Apache prisoners of war, Noise pointed out, and tribal members treat it as holy ground with ceremonies, blessings and other gatherings. "It’s no different than any other hate crime happening to churches across the country," he said.
Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth said the forest authorities are taking the matter seriously, and also pointed out that its difficult to track who comes in the reserve as it doesn't charge a fee or keeps a record of visitors.
"We are trying to follow every lead we can possibly get,” she told the AP.