Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 2, 2012

Leta O'Daniel to UN Rapporteur: Dine' traditional law of Holy People

Leta O’Daniel, Member

Forgotten People

P.O. Box 1661

Tuba City (Navajo Nation), AZ  86045

(928) 401-0472

Consultation with The Honorable Mr. James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur

on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Tucson, AZ, April 26-27, 2012

Topic: Self Government

Ya’ah’teeh Honorable Special Rapporteur James Anaya.  I am honored as a member of Forgotten People on the Navajo Nation to be part of the first mission to the US by an independent expert designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples. I support your testimony to Congress on the need for the US to pass legislation that abides by the declaration they signed in 2010, which establishes minimum basic rights for indigenous people globally including the US.

I wish to address failures of the United States to remediate conditions in the Hopi Partition Land (HPL) where I live. When I was young, I was forced to leave my land and go to boarding school. I tried to support myself and my children until I returned home disabled as a result of an accident. 

The US government manufactured a Navajo Hopi Land dispute and spent over 2.5 billion dollars to forcibly relocate over 12,000 head of households (and their families) to resolve title of a former Joint Use Area to clear the region for massive coal mining and water depletion. Navajos resisting relocation were forced to sign a 75-year lease (Accommodation Agreement AA) or be called trespassers on our ancestral lands, without housing, water, civil, and human rights.

When the US government began relocating people, I refused to relocate when I found out my children were not entitled to anything and they only recognized head of households.  Now my children are grown and have families of their own and we still get no help from the government.  My children and my grandchildren are told they are not entitled to scholarships. One of my son’s joined the marines so he could get the money to go to school. And there are no jobs in the area so my children and grandchildren are displaced and the fabric of my family torn.

The US government, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi tribal governments never helped me, will not recognize me. They told me I will never get a home because I relinquished my signature on the AA when I was lied to by a lawyer that told me he would help me get my land back.  I have gone to many lawyers trying to get help but I am a nobody to my government. The woman that owns the home where I am living in has threatened me, beat me up and threw me out of the house but I have nowhere else to go.

All I see is how our government uses us as bait so they can get federal funds to build and rehabilitate homes for HPL AA signers and resisters they mis-use to spend on land acquisitions and to build casinos. Our council men never ask us before they spent our money. 

I think the only hope we have is to show you what we are going through as signers and non-signers of the 75-year lease and relocation resisters. Relocation should never have happened.  We have oral teachings like the white people have the Ten Commandments.  The Holy People are to us what guardian angels are to Christians. We are from here.  Our origin stories and our clans are from here.

We have been here since the time our people walked with the dinosaurs. DNA studies support a Navajo-Anasazi X haplogroup.

 My neighbors come from Yeii, Holy people from the ancient Anasazi. Three of my brothers are Medicine Men and I listen to their stories.  I can show you where our tracks are side-by-side with the dinosaurs and share origin stories back to the time the dinosaurs ate some humans and our ancestors lived in the cliff to stay away from them and the twin warriors, Monster Slayer and Born by Water helped save our people from the dinosaurs.

We have prayers and songs for our livestock given to us by the Holy People. Our oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation instructs us to hold on to and take care of our livestock. Spider Woman taught us how to weave rugs. Our designs tell woven stories. It sustains us and provides a livelihood. 

My family has been here since before the Long Walk. My great grandmother Yellow Woman went on the Long Walk to Fort Sumner to find her children.  When she found the soldiers she turned herself over to them.  When the people got weak the soldiers shot and killed them. Three of her children died on the Walk.  She caught up with the other 2 children, a boy and a girl. They were treated like slaves. My great grandmother Yellow Woman was starving to death when she was laid down on the road. 

A rabbit came over to her and gave birth where my great grandmother laid.  The rabbit stayed long enough to nurse her baby then left.  My great grandmother squeezed the baby rabbit’s milk into her mouth. If my great grandmother did not get the milk she would have starved to death. She later ate the rabbit and it nourished her.  After 4 years she was given 2 sheep and came home. She told me the rabbit is how I came to be born.  Her life inspired me to hold onto my livestock to this day and practice self-government, self-rule of the Matriarchs.


·         We have a traditional justice system based on a holistic philosophy. Law is a way of life, and justice is a part of our life process.

·         Diyin Bits'áádé Beehaz'áanii (Diné Traditional Law) was given to us by the Holy People to help us preserve, respect and honor Diné elders and medicine people and their contributions to traditional values and principles of our life way.

·         Our oral tradition and key concepts in Diyin Bits'áádé Beehaz'áanii (Traditional Navajo Law) like Hózhó (harmony), K'é (peacefulness and solidarity), and K'éí (kinship) help us solve community problems, and control our own futures. 

·         Our tradition of tribal self-governance and tradition and custom are in rules of evidence and are recognized as a legitimate form of law.

·         The US government Department of the Interior should give indigenous peoples the title to our lands so we can govern our own internal affairs, assume greater responsibility and control over decision making that affects our communities, and work in partnership with other governments and the private sector to promote economic development and improve social conditions.

FP prays for your intervention and the application of emergency measures to ensure the protection of our rights under the Declaration so we can exercise home rule and self-government rights.

Respectfully submitted.   

Ahe’hee (Thank you)

Leta O’Daniel, Member

Forgotten People

Navajo Nation, AZ

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