The Apache activist

  • Ola Cassadore Davis


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Making a mountain into a starbase.

"The university, I'd say, is like a tin man. No heart.  They don't have no feeling."

Ola Cassadore Davis grew up on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, about 30 miles from Mount Graham. Her father was a medicine man who often took her to pray and sing on the mountain when she was a child. Seventy-two years old, her seven children raised, in retirement from her job as a nurse's aide, she's been halfway around the world in her role as head of the Apache Survival Coalition, an activist group she founded in 1989.

"One night I had a dream that my father came, and he was wondering if I really was going to work on Mount Graham ... I went to visit my aunt. She was 107. She said, 'We used to live at the foot of the mountain. As long as I can remember, that mountain was sacred.' She said, 'Geronimo would come to our house and eat and talk about Mount Graham.' She said he was a very, very gentle person. She said, 'If you are as strong as he is, maybe you can do it.'

"So I said, "Okay, I'll do it."

"There are nine of us in the coalition. I work under the spiritual leaders, the medicine men. I get their advice. They guide me with their prayers ... (Also) the old ladies are very mad. They say, 'We don't want the telescope! It will cause a cancer with us!'

"The university, I'd say, is like a tin man. No heart. They don't have no feeling. They want a recognition for that large telescope. They want to be known all over the world.

"I went to Italy in March to lobby. I made a parliament speech in front of 400 people. A lot of people cried ...

"We're silently praying for our home."

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