January 8, 1999
SOVEREIGN DINEH NATION
P.O.Box 1968 Kaibeto, AZ 86053 Phone: (520)673-3461
The purpose of this paper is to establish a dialog with federal
officials with decision-making responsibility with respect to
US policy in the Black Mesa area. We would like to establish
a common ground to allow meaningful discussions about the issue,
and find this to be difficult when people have totally different
understandings about basic facts with respect to the issues.
The paper is organized
around statements which we have heard frequently from officials which we believe to misrepresent the facts of the case. We then note the relevance of the point - why we believe that it is important to come to a common ground of understanding on the issue. Finally, we supply for each point a brief summary of our understanding of the issue. Our arguments represent brief overviews of complicated issues that in some cases could require many pages (or books) of documentation. In this paper, we do not attempt to provide sufficient documentation to "prove" any of the data in our summaries. If any of our readers disagree with our data and believe the item is of sufficient relevance to warrant further discussion, we would welcome the opportunity to supply in-depth information on the subject.
This paper will seem confrontational, as we have focussed upon the issues where significant differences exist between us and the federal officials who made the statements. The purpose, however, is to facilitate communication which is difficult when people have completely different understandings of history and reality. If we can establish a common ground with respect to understanding the issues, the more complicated problem of resolving conflicting interests will be easier.
The paper is not intended to present a complete and cohesive
overview of the region's history or of the
current issues. It covers scattered isolated points where we have significant disagreements with various officials.
Hopi, Dineh, and the US
Myth: The Hopi and Navajo tribal governments represent all
the people on the reservations.
Relevance: By dealing exclusively with the tribal governments, the US government ignores the complex politics on the reservations and excludes many people from participation in decisions which affect their lives.
Facts: The two tribal governments are not traditional Indigenous institutions, but rather institutions created for the purpose of issuing mineral leases. The governments are currently both funded primarily by the mining companies and controlled by small groups who ignore their traditional religion, which strongly prohibits mining, and who profit from the mining and from their positions within the governments.
The Navajo government was formed in 1922-1923 by a BIA agent
who needed signatures on an oil lease with Midwest (Standard)
Oil. Having signed the leases, the government became little more
than a social club with no budget, power, or connection with the
rest of the people on the reservation. This changed in 1949 with
the arrival of Normal Littel, a white attorney who wanted to make
the 10% attorney's fee that
could be obtained by ceding land rights to the federal government under Docket 196. Having achieved this goal, he turned his attention to the potential revenues from coal leasing. From that time until the coal revenues arrived in the late 1960s, the legal department most of the major decisions within the
government. The government continues to be primarily funded by the mining industry, and as shown in a history of corruption charges, the funding is not always used for the benefit of all the people. As noted by federal judge Ramon Child in the later-overturned 1996 decision against Peabody Coal:
"The Navajo Nation with head offices at Window Rock, Arizona,
near the New Mexico State line shares very little of the $45,000,000
annual royalty from the mine, or benefit therefrom, with the members
of the Navajo Nation who reside in the proximity of the mine.
Thus, while the Navajo Nation benefits from the proceeds of mining,
the unhappy fact is that its members who
live near the mine suffer the affects of that same mining"
The constitution of the Hopi government was approved by the
BIA in 1936 following an election boycotted by most Hopi in protest
of the US interference in their traditional government. With no
popular support, the government ceased to exist shortly thereafter.
John Boyden, a white attorney with strong ties to the coal industry,
used the dormant constitution in the 1950's to create a tribal
government that could authorize coal leasing. His activities were
strongly opposed by the traditional Hopi, who opposed both his
government and the coal leasing. The government has historically
operated in violation of its own constitution, which forbids mineral
leasing and which requires a quorum of village representaives
approved by the traditional village leaders. The people on the
reservation, however, have no way to appeal the actions of the
government. While the US government created and sustains the
government, the US claims that the government is a sovereign power when the people protest its actions.
Myth: The Dineh are trespassers on traditional Hopi land.
Relevance: This myth is used to justify the forcible relocation of the Dineh.
Facts: The Hopi have always lived on the mesas and farmed the
nearby areas, and their traditional
religion forbade them to live elsewhere. The Dineh have always occupied the rest of the region surrounding the mesas. When the coal company bulldozers unearth burial sites in the mining areas, the bodies - whether 50 or 500 years old - are Dineh.
In 1882, the BIA created a reservation in the area in order
to give the superintendent the right to evict some white people
who were interfering with BIA efforts to force Hopi children to
attend boarding schools. The BIA offices were near the Hopi villages,
and the officials had little contact with people away from the
mesas, so they called the reservation the Moqui (Hopi) reservation.
The reservation boundaries did not take into consideration residential
or customary use by Hopi or Dineh, but rather
mark out a perfect square following latitude-longitude lines. At the time the 1882 reservation was created, more Dineh lived on it than Hopi.
In 1958, the white attorneys controlling the Hopi & Navajo
tribal governments asked the federal government to clarify the
land title issues so that they could issue coal leases. Congress
decided they should resolve the issue by filing a lawsuit (Healing
v. Jones) to be settled by the Supreme Court. Boyden used inaccurate
archaeological data and his formidable litigating abilities to
convince the courts
that the 1882 reservation was a Hopi reservation into which the Dineh had subsequently trespassed. The court awarded the Hopi exclusive control over the Hopi areas and a 50% interest in the Dineh areas within the 1882 reservation. The court did not authorize relocation, however, but rather mandated that the mining revenues be split and the surface rights shared in a joint use relationship. Boyden then
pressed Congress to transform this undivided 50% interest into separate partitioned areas in 1974, which turned the Dineh into trespassers upon their own land.
Thus, the fact that the Dineh are trespassers on Hopi land is the result of the legal work done by coal company lawyers, and has nothing to do with traditional land use by the Indigenous people.
Myth: The Hopi and Dineh have been in a long-standing conflict
Relevance: The US justifies its inhumane policies as a necessary part of a solution to an ancient inter-tribal feud.
Facts: The Hopi and Dineh have coexisted in the area for hundreds of years before and after the arrival of the white man. Some inter-tribal disputes were resolved in the 1600's, and a few isolated conflicts occurred subsequently, but the relationship primarily consisted of trade, intermarriage, and peaceful coexistence. A statement prepared by the traditional leaders of the Hopi villages in 1987 stated:
"The well publicized so-called land dispute is artificial and was manufactured by the Hopi Tribal Council to again divide our people and gain access to our land for self gain and to develop mineral resources. The so-called dispute was staged to confuse our people, particularly since we have not experienced any dispute with the Navajo or any other tribe for well over a hundred years".
The land dispute originated with missionaries in the early
1900's who encouraged their Hopi converts to leave the mesas and
pursue cattle ranching, which would get them away from their traditional
culture centered on the mesas. This activity would place them
in potential conflict with Dineh who already lived in the area
surrounding the mesas. Since these religiously-converted Hopi
(at first called "Friendlies",
later "Progressives") were the centerpiece of BIA policy, they were strongly supported by the US in this
activity, and a wide area around the mesas was cleared of Dineh so that it could be use for the Friendlies. But few conflicts took place, since there were few converts willing to undertake this venture.
When John Boyden re-invented the Hopi Tribal Council in the
1950's, the people he could find to occupy positions in the puppet
government were these same Progressives, as the traditional Hopi
strongly opposed his efforts. The Progressives' interest in pursuing
cattle ranching away from the mesas fit nicely
with the coal company's need to clear the land for mining after the leasing authority was delivered in the
1963 Healing v Jones decision. Boyden initiated federal legislation to divide the joint use area into separate partitioned areas, which would require evicting half the Dineh in the area from their traditional homesites. In order to generate Congressional support in 1974 for such a cruel program, Boyden decided
to create the illusion that a long-standing range war existed that threatened to break out in violence if Congress did not help him. Boyden received funding from a consortium of corporations in the coal-fired power industry and hired a public-relations firm next to his Salt Lake City offices to create a range war.
Evans & Associates then created a creditable range war, complete with burned-out corrals and ample photo-ops for the journalists. While Congress at that time was in fact more concerned about energy self-sufficiency than with the range war, the story provided a public relations explanation of the legislation that has been parroted by tribal and federal government officials since that time.
Myth: The laws controlling Indigenous people provide a class
of citizenship that is different, but equal to that experienced
by other Americans.
Relevance: The US government recognizes that Indigenous people are not entitled to the same rights as other US citizens, but states that this is necessary to preserve their unique Indigenous societies.
Facts: The separate set of laws to which Indigenous people
are subject provides a lesser degree of protection of their civil,
political, and human rights than provided to other US citizens.
If a boundary between two states is redrawn, the states are
not allowed to confiscate the property and deny civil rights to
the people affected by the boundary change. Non-native citizens
depend upon the US government to
protect them against abuses of power by their local governments, and they have courts and other mechanisms to receive complaints when problems occur. Indigenous people have no protection against abuses by their tribal governments or remedial mechanisms available when they occur.
The defense that the second class citizenship is necessary
to preserve the unique nature of Indigenous society ignores the
history of the region. The Indigenous people had their own system
of government which had functioned successfully for centuries.
The US government intervened to replace these mechanisms with
governments created by white attorneys. The US did not transfer
sovereign power to
Indigenous people - it transferred sovereign power over Native People's lives to governments established and financed by the coal industry.
1996 Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act
Myth: The Act provides a mechanism for all the Dineh currently
living on Hopi Partitioned Land (HPL) to remain there
Relevance: Congress passed the 1996 Act with the intention of providing an alternative to forcible
Fact: Several thousand Dineh currently live on HPL. The 112 families that are allowed to sign leases represent a fraction of the people who are subject to relocation. As noted by Dr. Thayer Scudder, an expert on relocation programs, underestimation of the number of people is characteristic of these programs. Testimony in 1974 convinced Congress only 3,000 Dineh were on HPL. Over 12,000 have
been relocated thus far, and over 3,000 may still remain.
Myth: A legal precedent exists for non-tribal members to live
on a reservation as second class citizens
Relevance: The Dineh remaining on HPL are denied all civil rights and participation in the government that will control their lives. The justification for this is that it is a customary method for handling cases where non-tribal members choose to live on reservations.
Fact: Previous cases of non-tribal members living on reservations typically involved isolated individual cases, such as where a non-tribal member moved in with a spouse who lived on a reservation. In such cases, the non-tribal member is largely protected by their close relationship with the tribal members with whom they are living. In the Dineh case, several thousand people are being forced to submit to a
government which is openly hostile to them. If allowed to remain, they will make up a large part of the population on the reservation, yet be denied all civil rights. Previous cases also involved voluntary settlement - where people chose to accept the second price citizenship as the price for moving onto tribal property. But the Dineh are living on their traditional land and have been stripped of their civil rights without any choice.
A misleading phrase often used by government officials is that
Dineh living on Hopi land will have the same rights as Hopi living
on the Navajo Reservation. The areas that were partitioned by
the 1974 law were inhabited almost exclusively by Dineh - no Hopi
are being forced to live on the Navajo
Reservation. More importantly, no government should have the right to arbitrarily deprive people of all civil rights. The fact that the Navajo government, which like the Hopi is financed by coal revenues, may be equally willing to deprive people of civil rights does not justify doing it to the Dineh.
Myth: The Dineh remaining on HPL will not be persecuted by
the Hopi Tribal government.
Relevance: The Act requires the Dineh to live under the jurisdiction of the Hopi government, without
any participation in the government or access to any legal mechanism to appeal its actions.
Fact: The Hopi government is openly hostile to the Dineh and deprives them of all civil rights.
· In 1996, a man was arrested for trespassing inside his own home. The Hopi tribe had issued him an eviction notice, and he had obtained information from the relocation office indicating he was not subject to eviction. The authorities hauled him off to jail. When he met the judge the next morning, the judge gave him the choice of either waiting in jail for his case to go to trial (which was for at
least a month) or signing papers surrendering his property to the Hopi government. He signed the papers and was escorted off the reservation. His house was bulldozed and his possessions destroyed.
· Recently, a man was arrested for possessing firewood.
The Hopi forbid the Dineh to cut firewood to
heat their homes, so the man had bought a load in town. The man showed the police his receipt to demonstrate he had not illegally cut the wood. The officers told him he could state his case to the judge. He was jailed and his truck and wood were confiscated. He was able to get out the next day when a judge looked at his receipt. Another man was not so lucky - he had no receipt because he cut
the wood himself away from HPL. The lost his truck, wood, and chainsaw, even though no one ever submitted any evidence showing he had cut the wood on Hopi land.
The list of abuses goes on endlessly. A man was cited for putting
mud on his roof to stop the rain from leaking on his children
(home repairs by Dineh are forbidden under US and Hopi law).
Two elderly women were jailed for trying to stop a bulldozer from
destroying a family burial site. A man was fined
$5000 for using a tree in a religious ceremony. The constant individual encounters between Dineh and police are characterized by brutality and hostility.
Myth: The Act is supported by most of the Dineh
Relevance: US DOJ officials told Congress that the Accommodation Agreement implemented in the
1996 Act was had been approved by almost all the Dineh.
Facts: The only time that the Agreement was ever submitted to the people was at a community meeting at Rocky Ridge School, where it was rejected by a vote of 207-1.
Myth: Most families have signed the Agreement, thus showing
their support for the policy
Relevance: This statement is used to convince people that a viable settlement has been reached to the
Facts: Congress did not completely believe the DOJ about the support for the Agreement, so it attached a provision that gives the Hopi Tribe $25 million if they can get signatures from 85% of the 112 families. To obtain signatures worth $263,158 each, the Tribe has resorted to forgery, extortion and fraud. In any case, signatures obtained under the threat of eviction should not be interpreted as ratification of US
Myth: Offering Dineh another piece of property compensates
them fairly for their losses as a result of the 1974 Relocation
Relevance: The US claims that the relocation process was not arbitrary confiscation of property.
Facts: In Western society, land is property, with little meaning other than its economic value, and can therefore be exchanged. The Dineh, like many Indigenous people, practice a land-based site-specific religion. Their umbilical cords are buried on their land at birth to symbolize their ties to the land, and
every moment of their lives is intimately and spiritually bound to the land. They do not own the land - they belong to it and are morally obligated to protect it and make sure that future generations can continue in this lifestyle. Exchanging land is like asking them to exchange their mother.
Also, the relocation process was forced upon the people without their understanding of any of the implications of the actions. The land given to the people in exchange was often not suitable for grazing or practicing their traditional lifestyle. This was especially true for those forced into cities where their apartments or small houses were quickly lost, as they did not speak English or have any skills needed to survive away from their traditional environment.
Myth: People who object to the Accommodation Agreement can
be relocated to a suitable new home. Relevance: The US government
claims that it has a viable alternative for people not liking
the terms of the Accommodation Agreement.
Facts: The prime site for relocation is the "New Lands" near Chambers, AZ, to which many Dineh have
already been moved. The site was bought by the US government at a discount when it became unfit for any use as a result of the largest spill of radioactive material in US history. Needing a site for the relocated Dineh, the US rushed the EPA to approve the location as safe, despite strong misgivings by many EPA officials and evidence that warranted declaring the area as a Superfund site. The people who
were placed there were not told about the contamination and were promised jobs, municipal facilities, and grazing lands. None of this was delivered. The families there suffer high rates of birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses. The US has no place for these people to go.
Myth: Relocation was a voluntary action
Relevance: The US government continues to deny that forcible relocation has occurred.
Facts: From the beginning of the process, the Dineh were constantly told by officials that they had to
relocate. The choice with which they were presented was whether they wished to receive alternate
housing or to be evicted with no compensation whatsoever. Signing relocation papers under those circumstances does not make relocation voluntary. Furthermore, the relocation process was filled with fraud, false promises, and deliberate misrepresentation by officials. Signatures were obtained from people who did not have legal counsel or any understanding of the legal and economic system to which they were subjected. Many officials ultimately refused to go along with the program. Leon Berger resigned as Executive Director of the commission and stated: "The forcible relocation of 10,000 Navajo people is a tragedy of genocide and injustice that will be a blot on the conscience of this country for many generations". Roger Lewis, one of the three commissioners,
resigned in 1982 and said "I feel that in relocating some of these elderly people that we are as bad as the people who ran the concentration camps in World War II."
Myth: The people processed by the relocation commission have been successfully relocated. Relevance: The US government wishes people to believe that the only part of the relocation issue which has not been successfully resolved are people remaining on HPL.
Fact: The entire program since 1974 has been a tragic disaster,
and the people who were relocated often face worse problems than
those remaining on the land. The people settled onto the New
Lands are beginning to experiencing the health consequences of
living in a radiation-contaminated wasteland, and
the US government may be held liable in the future for the costs in cleaning up the site, for the damages done to the people, and for its deliberate withholding of information about the site to the people it placed
there. Most of the people moved into the cities lacked the skills needed to survive in that environment and have lost the property given by the relocation commission. Many of these people have died, and many more are homeless. The health problems, alcoholism, and suicides rates among these people are higher than experienced by those remaining on their land. At some point, the US government may be
forced to take responsibility for the damage it has done.
Myth: In the long run, the Dineh will submit to the takeover
of their land.
Relevance: The US government wishes to believe that the scheduled evictions will happen peacefully
Fact: The Dineh have listened to the voices of supporters who have told them that the best way to defend their land is by political and legal efforts. "This is an Indian War", says Leonard Benally, "and we will never stop until we have victory. We have our prayers, our songs, and fight with paper. What happens here will be the turning point for US relations with all native peoples. It starts here at Big Mountain, AZ"
But if these efforts fail and the US goes ahead with the scheduled
evictions, the US government must be aware of what it will face.
Jennie Paddock, a 100 year old grandmother sitting on Star Mountain
with tears on her face and says: "I am not going to be moved
anywhere and I keep my gun oiled and ready and will use it if
I have to defend my home and my land". Katherine Smith,
another grandmother who was
arrested in 1986 for shooting at police trying to fence off the land, proudly shows her gun and says "I'm not afraid to use it to protect my land. They will never take me away from this land alive." Roberta Blackgoat, the matriarch and founder of SDN, states:
"We will defend our homes to the end. Does you wish to see another Wounded Knee, with federal forces shooting at Indians from armored personnel vehicles ? Will America and the rest of the world stand by quietly while the US government wages war to carry out the final phase of ethnic cleansing begun in 1974 with the passage of PL 93-531 ? I will die fighting these laws, and if need be, I will ask for physical assistance in defending our homes against the forced evictions. "
The US government must decide whether it is willing to send flak-jacketed soldiers to shoot grandmothers. The policies chosen by this government are inexorably heading in this direction, waiting only for the incident that serves as the flashpoint to trigger this type of confrontation.
If the US government continues to live in a myth-world, it will not be able to develop policies that can solve this problem.