Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 14, 2016

Tribute: Navajo, Hopi and Lakota took on Peabody Coal, New York 2001

Roberta Blackgoat
Flagstaff Arizona protest
of Peabody water slurry
Photo Brenda Norrell (c)
Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation warned Lehman Brothers of consequences of mining sacred Black Mesa

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News copyright
French translation by Christine Prat at:

The following article is being republished following Peabody Coal's bankruptcy this week.
In 2001, a delegation of Navajo, Hopi and Lakota stood united before Peabody Coal stockholders in New York and challenged the corporate monster.
Most of the delegation are now in the Spirit World. Arlene Hamilton bought two stocks in Peabody Coal in order for the delegation to address the stockholders. As a result, Arlene said her life was threatened. She died in a car accident. Roberta Blackgoat, known around the world for resisting relocation, died during the time of Hamilton’s memorial. Leonard Benally, longtime resistor with his sister and brother Louise and John Benally on Big Mountain, and Arlene’s husband, died of illness.
Those who stood together in New York included Hopi and Lakota elders.

NEW YORK -- 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.
Later, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.

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
resistor Roberta Blackgoat died in San Francisco during the time of  Hamilton's memorial.
A traditional Hopi 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 traditional Hopi 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
"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 resistor 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
Leonard Benally, after Sundance Tree was bulldozed
by US and their forces on Big Mountain.
Photo Brenda Norrell (c)
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
"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
Back in Flagstaff in 2001, Hamilton said Lehman Brothers and Peabody
Coal now have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of
"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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