Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 16, 2020

Big Mountain Dineh (Navajos) 'Hopi Partitioned Lands' -- Essential Water by Sheep Dog Nation Rocks

Big Mountain Dineh (Navajos) "Hopi Partitioned Lands" --  Essential Water

By NaBahe SheepDog Keediniihii

May 15, 2020
Sheep Dog Nation Rocks

Good Greetings, Yaa'at'eeh.
President and First Lady, Jonathan and Phefelia Nez
Vice President and Second Lady Myron and Dottie Lizer
Navajo Tribal Council, Counsel, and Chapter Leaders

I was born at Big Mountain and I grew up on those pristine lands. Since I was very young I live the sheepherding and farming cultures, and nearly 85% of our subsistence was land-based like natural farming, raising meat, weaving, hunting, building from local lumber - reused or fresh, and harvesting water and maintaining natural springs. There were also the old health care systems of herbalists and chanter healers. Eventually, at the age of nine, my parents were forced to give me up to the BIA boarding school. Upon graduating from high school, I took advantage of higher education, but the U.S. law of partitioning of our lands came about and I returned back to Big Mountain to help with translation.

Over 30 years, I have worked intimately with the traditional elders in their struggle to remain on the lands and show the world who they were and that, as Dineh communities, their hopes were to someday be able to revive the language, culture and ancient ritual practices. Unfortunately, most of the original elder Matriarch and Patriarchs are gone and despite that, extended families who were displaced had no other choice but to returned back to their elder parents' homes. The laws of relocation to a certain extent have failed causing economic and social fracturing like divorces, loss of property, joblessness, homelessness, and severe mental anxiety. Number of residents, legal or illegal, of have increased, and that is something the U.S. government or the Hopi Tribe wish not to hear. However, the Hopi Tribe should be well aware of the number of Dineh inhabitants.

Today, these small scattered populations are further being driven to the brink. These elder survivors of relocation and displaced extended families are horrified by news of COVID 19. That on top of the thought of forcible removal. Big Mountain communities are merely traces now. And they certainly are not higher in the uniqueness of despair than other reservation communities, in terms of the COVID 19 situation. These traces of former communities mentioned, hereof, have endured the attempted elimination of their existence. Still, they undergo daily jurisdictional issues like being unclaimed by either the Navajo Nation or the Hopi Tribe in terms of social and health services. Nurses have told about attempted home visits on sometimes treacherous road conditions only to be denied entry into the partitioned areas. And like other parts of the reservation, elders do not have transportation for doctor visits and prescription refills.

The few remaining Dineh home sites are mostly remote and more so due to the various restrictions enforced by the relocation policies. They have repeatedly requested the uncapping of water wells and those wells be restored to IHS standard, drinkable water. Waters are now way more essential in these times of uncertainty, and so crucial for the prevention against the unseen killer virus. Major safe water distribution is needed urgently. Not only cases of plastic bottled water, but the delivery of large water storage containers or cisterns to each "resistance" family home site. These to include coordination of water hauling trucks and personnel to set up each storage or cistern with spout for basic hygiene. Remaining residents (aka "relocation resisters") will be instructed that those waters are for human use only and to protect themselves from the spread of COVID 19. Scheduled water deliveries will be implemented.

I can request and demand hundreds of resolutions from the Navajo Nation and related agencies, but this is only one critical issue I present here. It is time to take drastic measures of humanity, and not allow these precious community members to be subjected to greater suffering. It is time that the Navajo Nation and its responsible department work cooperatively with the Hopi Nation to finally bring about hope and genuine humanitarian response. Finally, due to the jurisdictional aspects, property issues of the cistern setups can be clarified understandably among parties involved. Thank you for your consideration.Sincerely,

Bahe Katenay KeediniihiiDependent historian and ethnography of Big Mountain and On-Land support coordinator.

Photos by Andy Dann

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