The land, currently a national forest, contains a site sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe, where warriors are believed to have leapt to their depth in the 19th century to avoid being captured by troops.
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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell sharply criticized a proposed land swap deal attached to a defense bill that would threaten sacred American Indian land.
The swap is part of a massive federal parks and energy package that was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by the House this week.
It would transfer the Arizona site of the proposed Resolution Copper mine — estimated to be one of the largest deposits in the world — to a British mining company, enabling its development.