While searching for my articles of travels with the Zapatistas, I stumbled across one of my most censored articles written in December of 2001. At the time, I had shared the article with Noam Chomsky, and had since forgotten about the note he sent back. Noam Chomsky wrote, “Interesting and eloquent. Thanks for sending."
Simon Ortiz is now an Arizona State University Regents' Professor. Arlene Bowman continues as a Dine' filmmaker living in Vancouver BC. John Benally's brother Leonard Benally, Dine', and his wife, Arlene Hamilton, both instrumental in the Peabody Coal protest at Lehman Brothers in New York, have both passed to the Spirit World. The struggle continues.
Afghanistan to Big Mountain, Censored Native voices
Native Americans say it is time for America to re-examine itself
By Brenda Norrell, Independent journalist Original date: December, 2001
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Native American poets, filmmakers and spiritual leaders say America is being deceived by the national media about the intent behind the bombing of Afghanistan.It reflects the deception and murder of the voiceless that Indigenous peoples have long known.
Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo N.M. poet and professor in Canada, said images of the bombing of Afghanistan are the nightmares Indigenous peoples have always lived with.
Ortiz said it is now carried out in the conquest for oil.
"When I've seen the few photos of the destruction and killings caused by U.S. bombs in Afghanistan, I immediately think of what Acoma and the other Pueblos would look like if the same hellish madness were ever visited upon them," Ortiz said.
"People standing amidst the ruins and rubble of their adobe and stone homes. Children and old men and women stunned, weeping quietly. It is horrible to envision.
"This is victory over the enemy?
"And then I think of January 1599 when Acoma was laid to waste and hundreds of Acomas died at the hands of Spanish conquistadors under Don Juan de Onate. "That was victory over the enemy?
"No, that was an obscenity of death and conquest committed so that Native land and its resources could be gained, just like what is taking place now in Afghanistan and the Mideast -- obscenity of death and conquest committed so that control over oil resources can be gained."
Ortiz, internationally-known author of "Woven Stone," and dozens of other books of poetry and essays, like Navajo filmmaker Arlene Bowman, relocated to Canada because of professional opportunities for Indigenous peoples.
Bowman, independent filmmaker living in Vancouver, British Columbia, said the war on Afghanistan is an energy war and at home, President Bush is rapidly undoing the preservation of sacred lands put in place by the Clinton administration."I observe mostly the drive by the federal government to get to the energy sources in Canada and the United States fast!"
"Bush is definitely a redneck of a president."
Bowman, producer of "Navajo Talking Picture," shown in international film festivals and "Song Journey," shown on PBS, was born in Fort Defiance and grew up in Phoenix. She is concerned for Navajos at home and elsewhere.
"Probably Bush doesn't care about Aboriginal peoples and is racist. What else is new?
"He doesn't care if the Dineh people will not get enough water on their land and if digging for uranium will affect Dineh people, leaving them with cancer and radiation.
"It's not his brain and body or children. Has anything really change for us?"
Bowman said Bush has become an opportunist by way of the tragedies of others, "ramming through" his energy policy while the mainstream media has acted with complicity in a crime against humanity.
"The opposition voice is censored out literally. The United States is becoming a 'banana republic,' a police state."
Bowman said racism towards people of color has not diminished, but major networks refuse to cover America as it is.
"Just observe the major television news networks. It's all 'Rah! Rah!' for the flag and gun-ho flag waving.
"The censorship bothers me a lot. Big Brother is watching and it's real."
Meanwhile, at the southern border of the United States, Pascua Yaqui border rights activist Jose Matus says all of the work done in recent years to halt abuse of Indigenous at the border was lost after the attacks in New York.
"We have lost whatever little ground we gained in our fight and struggle to stem the tide of law enforcement abuse of authority and violations of rights," said Matus, a Yaqui ceremonial leader.
While the militarization of the United States and Mexico border intensified, Matus said the so-called war on terror has terrorized Indigenous people crossing the border with an intensified climate of "racism, hatred, xenophobia and vigilantism."
Matus and other members of Derechos Humanos in Tucson have documented assaults and harassment if Indian people by border and immigration officials. The human rights organization has also pressed for the easing of visa requirements for ceremonial leaders. With more than 30,000 Yaqui living in Sonora, Mexico, the border has divided families and is a barrier to cultural and spiritual gatherings.
Matus said Bush continues to press for legislation, which will endanger Indian people and result in further abuse of civil and human rights.
"The September 11 attacks have taken away whatever little civil liberties we had and have given rise to hatred and xenophobia against immigrants of color more than ever before."
The profiling of people of color is a violation of rights Indigenous in the border zone have long known.
"Why are people of color always profiled and not whites?" Matus asked.
American Indians have long warned it is time for America to reexamine itself and its treatment of Indigenous peoples and Mother Earth.
In April, a presentation to Lehman Brothers stockholders at the World Trade Center was censored by the media.
Following a protest outside, a delegation of Navajo, Hopi and Lakota elders and spiritual leaders addressed a stockholders meeting of Lehman Brothers, the parent company of Peabody Coal which mines coal on Navajo and Hopi lands on Black Mesa, Arizona.
Joe Chasing Horse, Lakota, told stockholders, "You have taken all of our land, now we have come to show you how to take care of it."
A traditional Hopi elder told stockholders, "Lehman Brothers, even though we are just a few here, we speak for the Creator, who is the majority."
In comments never publicized by the mainstream media, the Hopi elder said, "Therefore we demand you to stop the Peabody coal mining and the slurry. We demand again," said the Hopi elder who asked that his name not be published.
"Traditional and priesthood people don't want this mining. The Hopi prophecies say that we have to protect land and life. If we don't protect our beautiful Earth--our Heaven, our Mother, we will suffer with her."
"Our ancestors warned that someday this would happen. White men will say that it is our own people that sold this land. I will not accept this.
"Our roots are rooted in our villages and it goes up to the whole universe. If we break these roots the world will get out of balance.
"I pray for you and hope that we open your eyes and you find the majority in your heart."
Before their deaths, Hopi elders Thomas Banyacya and Dan Evehema warned that calamities would befall all of humanity if Navajos were forced to relocate and the Earth was desecrated with further coal and uranium mining on Black Mesa.
After returning from New York to Big Mountain, Ariz., in the so-called Navajo-Hopi land dispute area, John Benally said the people have been struggling for 32 years because of the turmoil created by Hopi and Navajo tribal leaders intent on making money from the 92 billion tons of coal beneath the ground at Black Mesa.
Benally said the resistance actually goes back 500 years to the Spanish invasion, followed by invasions of Europeans and Kit Carson.
Benally said the Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation moved in solidarity with the Zapatistas whose caravan through Mexico in the spring gave them hope."We felt the wind, it came from the South. It is telling the Indigenous people to rise up for their beliefs, their culture. These things are not being respected by anyone but the Indigenous people."
Full article on Lehman Brothers protest:
A delegation of Navajo, Hopi and Lakota warned Lehman Brothers stockholders of the dire consequences of their actions in 2001. In a rare move, censored by most media, the Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation warned Lehman Brothers, after it acquired the financial interests of Peabody Coal, of the spiritual consequences of mining coal on sacred Black Mesa and the aftermath of Peabody Coal's machinations that led to the so-called Navajo Hopi Land Dispute.
Lehman Brothers is now in the midst of financial collapse, with its bankruptcy producing a rippling effect throughout the world's economy.
At the time of the Lehman Brothers stockholders meeting in 2001, Arlene Hamilton bought two shares of stocks in Lehman Brothers to pave the way for the delegation to address the stockholders. Hamilton said her life was threatened because of this action. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton was killed in a car crash. Longtime Navajo relocation resister Roberta Blackgoat died in San Francisco at Hamilton's memorial.
A Hopi elder was among those addressing the Lehman Brothers stockholders. His admonitions followed those of the late Hopi Sinom elders Thomas Banyacya and Dan Evehema, among the Hopi elders who warned of dire consequences, including natural disasters and worldwide consequences, if Peabody mined coal on Black Mesa and Navajos were relocated from this sacred region. The Hopi Sinom never authorized the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council, which they referred to as a puppet government of the United States.
The Hopi elder in the delegation told stockholders, "Lehman Brothers, even though we are just a few here, we speak for the Creator, who is the majority.“Therefore we demand you stop the Peabody coal mining and the slurry. We demand again,” said the Hopi elder who asked that his name not be published in the media.
"Traditional and priesthood people don't want this mining. The Hopi prophecies say that we have to protect land and life. If we don't protect our beautiful Earth --our Heaven, our Mother, we will suffer with her." He told stockholders that Hopis never signed a treaty with the United States and the current Hopi Tribal Council is not legitimate since it was created by less than 30 percent of the people.
Referring to the beginning of the turmoil, he said, "John Boyden was a lawyer who worked for Peabody Coal. He was instrumental to the creation of the Hopi Tribal Council. "Our ancestors warned that someday this would happen. White men will say that it is our own people that sold this land. I will not accept this."Our roots are rooted in our villages and it goes up to the whole universe. If we break these roots the world will get out of balance. "I pray for you and hope that we open your eyes and you find the majority in your heart.”
Roberta Blackgoat, longtime resister and sheepherder from Cactus Valley, told stockholders the region of San Francisco Peaks is holy to the Navajo people. Mining in the area of this sacred mountain is the same as desecrating an altar and church. It is making the people sick."We can not go away to other places," Blackgoat said, adding that livestock confiscation is “starving the people.” "When you have a pinprick on your finger, just take it off and the pain will go away. But there are too many pins on the Mother Earth. Barbed wire is all over the country, dividing the people."
Blackgoat was among the families resisting forced relocation. After Peabody orchestrated the so-called Navajo Hopi Land Dispute, more than 12,000 Navajos were relocated to make way for Peabody's coal mining. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., was among those responsible for Navajo relocation.
Leonard Benally, Navajo from Big Mountain on Black Mesa in Arizona, said the delegation told Lehman Brothers that it is time to transform operations to renewable forms of energy, including solar and wind power. "It was like opening this marble door to the Lehman Brothers. We got our foot in there. They were willing to listen. By going there, the delegation touched their hearts.” Benally said the delegation also dispelled myths.
"They say it's a land dispute, but it is not. The traditional Hopi and Navajo are standing together, they are the original inhabitants of Black Mesa. We are the caretakers."Benally said the people have been struggling for 32 years because of the turmoil created by Hopi and Navajo tribal leaders intent on making money from the 92 billion tons of coal beneath the ground at Black Mesa. But, he said, the resistance actually goes back 500 years to the Spanish invasion, followed by the European invasion. Finally there was the Kit Carson invasion.
"That's when the people were put in the death camps."
While Navajos were incarcerated at Fort Sumner, he said, "The military made promises, mountains of promises they never kept."While the Navajo Nation government in Window Rock celebrated Sovereignty Day in April (2001), Benally said tribal leaders force their own people to suffer respiratory disease and death from coal mining, sacrificing them for mining royalties.
"Sovereignty Day? That's a joke. For us, we live it. They oppress their own race. They make them bleed."In the 1970s, the Four Corners region was considered a National Sacrifice area, but Benally said it is time to change that classification to a National Historic Site.
"The sacredness is still here. Mother Earth is still here. She still breathes. As long as the air blows, the rivers run, Indigenous people will be out here."
Benally said the Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation moved in solidarity with the Zapatistas whose caravan through Mexico gave them hope in 2001. "We felt the wind, it came from the South. It is telling the Indigenous people to rise up for their beliefs, their culture. These things are not being respected by anyone but the Indigenous people."
In New York, Joe Chasing Horse, Sundance Chief at Big Mountain, addressed the protest rally and spoke to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Fund stockholders.“You have taken all of our land, now we have come to show you how to take care of it,” Chasing Horse said.“The traditionalists have the wisdom, we are the wisdom keepers.”
Glenna Begay, Navajo protesting in New York, said, "I traveled 3,000miles to be here and to voice my concern about what's happening to us out there on the land. I want the mining to stop."
Louise Benally of Big Mountain said, "We need to hold the owners accountable by letting them know the hardship we live with every day."
Arlene Hamilton, coordinator of the Weaving for Freedom project and wife of Leonard Benally, personally bought two shares in the corporation to ensure entrance into the stockholders meeting. She and Benally negotiated with Lehman Brothers to allow the elders time to address stockholders.
"These were some of the richest men and women in the world. The delegation was so beautiful, and so with the truth. Their presence was holy."
Back in Flagstaff in 2001, Hamilton said Lehman Brothers and Peabody Coal now have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of mankind. "We want the dehumanizing and militarizing to stop. There is a lot of suffering going on. We want to make sure the ceremonies are not surrounded by guns and the people have clean drinking water.“There is no life without water." Hamilton said Navajo elders resisting relocation often become dehydrated during the hot summer months because of the scarcity of clean water, while Peabody Coal pumps 10,000 gallons of water a minute to slurry coal.She has taken human rights concerns to Peabody management for years, but she said they have done little to improve the quality of living as promised.
"It's really just diversion and distraction while the people are suffering out there. Everything is based on making way for mining."The delegation presented a list of demands to Lehman Brothers, demanding that Peabody leave the water and coal alone because they are the lungs and liver of Mother Earth. They called for a halt to mining and the initiation of a solar project, availability of clean drinking water, and a halt to military over flights and the intimidation of elders and youths by armed rangers.
Hamilton said the Weaving for Freedom project is a collective of Dine' weavers in resistance struggling for religious freedom to practice their ancient craft while protecting their sacred land. Hamilton said, "This work is very risky now. We protect each other by traveling in large groups." Leonard Benally said, “The whole thing is about materialism, money. In our culture, money doesn’t matter. It is about how you live in harmony with nature, in harmony with your prayers.
“That’s why we are fighting for our lands, even though the media and politicians are telling us we don’t have a right to exist."
Meanwhile, Bill Ahearn, spokesman for Lehman Brothers, said the protesters were welcome to speak at the meeting but said the firm would be unable to help them. He said the issues must be resolved by the tribes and BIA.
"We're very sympathetic and we feel badly for them, but there's nothing we can do for them because it's not a problem with us."
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