Update from Big Mountain, Bahe's SheepDog Media
French translation by Christine Prat
U R G E N T U P D A T E
August 25, 2015
Excessive Laws to Livestock Confiscation at Big Mountain on Black Mesa
We all have to live with regulations whether we live in the urban or rural areas, and permits may apply as to how many pets we should have to how much livestock we can range. What the Hopi tribe is up to is also like any county/state authority that regulate ranching particularly involving horses and cattle. This current situation in Big Mountain involves, in part, the Hopi rangers doing their annual livestock assessment, however for the Dineh sheep and goat herders, it is unique because it involves culture and identity. It is also important to understand that because of this unique factor, Dineh (Navajos) are attempting to resist this 'range management' practices just as they have resisted the relocation program. The BIA Police and tribal rangers have reoriented their livestock confiscation approaches against these Dineh. There is now a standby alert system to agency-wide, Special Operation Services and this makes the enforcement more excessive.
These Dineh resisters to a federal mandatory, relocation law have been subjected to livestock count and impoundments this past week and more are expected to continue, perhaps into next month. Livestock counts and impoundments are used also as a tool to harass, demoralize, terminate the economic and cultural backbone, monitor family home site activities, and to pressure all Dineh to vacate their ancestral homelands.
Eventually this policy of force removal will not create new Hopi lands as the Law states, but it makes way for Peabody Coal Company to expand and exploit the remaining coal deposits. Peabody's role here is major as compared to all other natural resource extraction in Arizona, it is a long term multinational corporate investment that extends to 2055-60. The now 50 year old mining leases at Black Mesa has nearly exhausted its operation and Peabody hopes to expand new lease areas into the still, culturally-intact, Big Mountain region.
After the specially targeted, excessive force used by the BIA - Hopi police during fall of 2015 animal confiscations, resident herders were not only left uneasy but some did not have the $1000 to $2000 to get their animals back. One traditional woman in her 90s lost her whole herd and was so dramatized that she asked the government to help her relocate. Her neighbor, a traditional man who intervened during that impoundment, was arrested, and he was finally acquitted this summer after an agonizing period of distance travels for court appearances, attorney and court fees, not having transportation, and never being provided a translator. Other traditional herders holding grazing permits lost about 85 percent of their herds, and were recently intimidated and told they are again over the limits. The rest of the herders are still uneasy and knowing they are listed for an invasion, a method of genocide: to exterminate the means of food, medicinal and material, economic and cultural resources. This is the reason why volunteer human rights observers are needed.
There a few Dineh elders resisters that have withheld their sovereign and ancient obligations to their sacred Mountain Soil Bundle which is believed to represent the complete authority over animal husbandry, sustainable and eco-conscious live styles, farming, and rituals. The federal, both tribal and state, consider these particular resisters as 'extremist' and trespassers. These traditional resisters have refused to get 'legal' permits or temporary resident status. Pauline Whitesinger who passed away in 2014 was just one of those hardcore resister and leader. Rena Babbit Lane is still remaining strong as one of the last true sovereign Indian, and just this week she was told to be prepared for that BIA invasion to confiscate her animals. Her son, Jerry, is the one that was just acquitted. Grandma Rena is in her 90s, and it is unimaginable how a grandma this old, who withholds much wisdom, a soft spoken and kind individual be tortured further. Does this country, the U.S. and its fossil fuel addicted citizens, truly believe in destroying all earth based humans in order to control global real estates and the electrical power grids?
A few voices from the land:
This recent attack happened on the 152nd anniversary of the start of the US Army's scorch the earth policy against the Dineh, in which a bounty was placed on all 'Navajo' livestock in an attempt to starve them into submission, and resulted in the massive forced relocation, known as the Long Walk. Big Mountain elder, John Katenay's story, "My great grandmother told us that she was just little (1863) when they hid in the thick woods because the army came upon them. They couldn't escape with the herd, but they could only listen as the soldiers cut open the bellies of live goats, goats wailed as soldiers laughed, and as her mother cried..."
"We are in a battleground, the endless battleground of the Partitioned Lands. This is the front of the line and when it comes, your family there is no yes or no, you have to stand up for your family and your relatives. This is what I was taught. The past was never really forgotten of the way the U.S. Government treated my people. It is still going on, it is still alive. We will fight- not with violence or armor, but with the old ways. This is a stand for people to know who we are and how we live as Dineh."--Gerald Blackrock, October 2014.
"They came as before like having no mercy, they counted the sheep and goats. One of the police filled out sheets of paper and I was given a copy. Their interpreter simply told me 'your herd is over the limit again!' They did not say how much is over nor suggested to me anything about how to reduce it to the limit. They did not want any conversation and they all left. After that, I heard that one of my cousins, Ruby, got her sheep impounded but they were able to get most of them back. They probably had to pay a lot of money in order to get them back. The BIA Hopi land agency just want the money, and this is how we are force to give them monies every year!" –Etta Begay, August 20, 2015
Dineh residents in resistance however are made to be voiceless and nonexistent, and are again asking world citizens to demand an immediate halt to this forced, herd reductions and that the relocation law be repealed so that, they be recognized as true determined group of peoples and to be allowed to remain with any cultural content that are retrievable including the said ancestral lands. Please, call the numbers below to demand a moratorium on the impoundments of Dineh livestock and the nullification of P.L. 93-531, a law too expensive for taxpayers and that was created under debunked circumstances. Also email email@example.com to find out more about the human rights observation and the volunteer home-stay sheepherding program.
--writers: Tree with Black Mesa Indigenous Support, and Kat with SheepDogNation Media, August 2015.
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Call to Action:- - Participate in community organizing geared toward sustainability, Peace, stopping militarization, Indigenous sovereign rights and protecting sacred sites, then join vigils or marches at federal buildings by showing your support for Dineh elders: "U.S. Peabody Out of Big Mountain!"
- - Donate funds here, to Black Mesa Indigenous Support which facilitates networks and on land support. So, come out to herd sheep and monitor human rights violations (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
- - Support Native Resistance and the endangered indigenous ways. ***Share, forward this request far and wide!
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• The BIA superintendent Wendel Honanie at (928-738-2228),
• The Hopi Rangers Clayton Honyumptewa at (928-734-3601),
• The Department of Interior at (602-379-6600)