The War America Forgot

Molly Peters, USA

“The War America Forgot” documents the Apaches living on the San Carlos reservation in AZ, focusing on one family, showing their particular history and struggles, which are direct results of the country’s violent founding. Today, they work to heal inherited trauma, protect the environment, and safeguard their religion and culture for future generations.

I’ve made many trips to Oak Flat, an Apache holy site, and spent four months living with the Nosie family in San Carlos. Dr. Wendsler Nosie Sr. is a former tribal chairman and spiritual leader of the Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting native holy & sacred land. He’s worked tirelessly for decades to defend the Apache religion & holy sites, leading a spiritual movement that has drawn supporters from all religious, economic, and ethnic backgrounds together as one.

Oak Flat, in Tonto National Forest, is under imminent threat by a foreign mining company. The planned mine would destroy this irreplaceable site, leaving an environmental disaster behind. The Apache Stronghold is suing the US to stop this land transfer, setting precedent on matters of religious freedom, environmental law, and the handling of federal public land.

Initially focused on Oak Flat, my work expanded to cover Apache culture, ceremony, and history. The traditional Apache way of life emphasizes family and spirituality though a tight-knit community, intricately tied to their ancient ceremonies.

Still, Apaches are prisoners of America’s first war, waged against its native people. With up to 90% of the indigenous population exterminated through war and disease, survivors were displaced or imprisoned, forcefully assimilated, and left with broken promises.

The Apache Stronghold fights for a future where people coexist peacefully with true freedom of religion and the Earth is protected, without threat from corporations or government interference. By reckoning with the past and acting in the present, there is hope for a better future.

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