U S. Senator John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building October
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator McCain:
It was my privilege to be present at your September 16th book
Century City, Los Angeles, where you were kind enough to autograph a copy of
your book for the grandmothers of the Sovereign Dineh Nation.
Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Victor Phelps
and I am a
volunteer with Sol Communications. Sol is a nonprofit organization who for
the last three years has been providing humanitarian aid to the traditional
Dineh residing at Black Mesa and at their request educating the American
public in regards to their condition.
As a result of the Bennett Freeze and S1973 their ability
themselves with food, clothing, and shelter has been severely reduced. Their
livestock has been confiscated because they do not have permits and cannot
obtain them unless they sign the Settlement Agreement, in essence sign or
starve. As recently as three days ago half of Rina Babbits' sheep were
"confiscated" as she is one of the more outspoken grandmothers and as
retaliation for our September 18th food drop. It is illegal for them to pick
up firewood off the ground, sign or freeze. It is illegal to make repairs to
their homes Grandfather Grey Eyes was cited for building an outhouse and
having a tent in his front yard, sign or live in the open without even a
place to relieve yourself.
Senator McCain, in your April 22, 1999 letter to Attorney General
and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior you stated, " I write to
urge the Department of Justice and Interior to proceed carefully in the
coming months to settle the relocation of the remaining Navajo families in a
timely and orderly process. My paramount concern is to ensure the safety and
well being of these Navajo families and the fair resolution to outstanding
issues following the enactment of the Settlement Agreement for the Navajo and
the Hopi people." You close this letter; " I ask that you submit in writing
to me the actions that the Department of Justice will take in the coming
months to ensure compliance with P.L. 104 301." Correct me if I am wrong, but
that appears to be in direct contradiction to the statements you made on two
occasions in Century City on September 16, 1999 where you stated you "opposed
relocation." Are you aware of the fact that since it's inception thousands of
Navajo have died as a direct result of their relocation?
Senator, I have grave concerns that a forcible relocation on
2000 will not result in a peaceful conclusion. To the Dineh relocation is
tantamount to death and there is every indication that out of desperation
they may take action and these people will come to further harm. I would ask
that you please meet with the Dineh Elders and hear their concerns yourself.
This would do much to help diffuse a volatile situation that has the
potential to rival Wounded Knee 1973.
Permit me to explain. The $25 million authorized by S1973 to
signatures has led to the horrific abuses of not only threats of jail and
intimidation to the people, but physical abuse of tribal elders. There is an
atmosphere of fear, anger, and outrage by both the Dineh and the traditional
Hopi. As recently as July 16, 1999, law enforcement officers with weapons
entered sacred grounds and attempted to prevent a religious ceremony that has
been taking place at Black Mesa for sixteen years. By these peoples'
religious beliefs, Black Mesa is a holy place, the equivalent of Jerusalem to
Christians and Jews. They believe it is the home of the earths' liver and
that they must protect it or the earth will die. They have endured the
desecration of strip mining, but a forced relocation will result in only one
end. Many of the 3000 residents at Big Mountain are committed to die there if
necessary. Of that 3000 more than 300 are over the age of 70 and feel they
have nothing further to lose, gunfights have already broken out among the
children on the reservation over this issue.
You may be being told that what is occurring up there is the
work of outside
agitators. It is not. We and other groups from all of the world are there at
the request of the non-English speaking indigenous people who have asked for
advocates to make their voices heard, because it appears to them that no one
is listening. These people do not have telephones or even electricity or
running water, most do not speak English. There is literally no avenue for
them to communicate. Are you aware that when they sign leases, Navajo
families also give up their right to participate in the government that rules
them? Surely this is not something that you support.
In the past year there has been significant print and televised
coverage of what is occurring at Black Mesa and there will be more to come.
Support for the Dineh is not only national, it is global and the world is
watching. It is hard to believe that your sources have not brought this to
your attention. The United Nations having investigated Human Rights
violations and religious intolerance at Black Mesa has recommended that the
parties involved meet for mediation. In reviewing some of the past
legislation you have sponsored regarding Native Americans it appears you have
done a number of things that have resulted in positive outcomes for Native
Americans, however S1973 and the Bennett Freeze are not one of them.
Some feel that this is an issue you inherited, and were not
aware of the far
reaching consequences or the potential for abuse. As U.S. Senator for the
State of Arizona, you are now the only one in the position to correct it and
prevent a potential catastrophe. You stated in you April 22, 1999 letter
that your "paramount concern is to ensure the safety and well being of these
Navajo families". Please come to Black Mesa and meet with the Dineh Elders
and see and hear for yourself what their experience has been and what they
have to tell you. Please seriously consider declaring a moratorium on the
February 1, 2000 date and the Bennett Freeze and allow these issues to be
resolved in the courts. If you would consider meeting with the Dineh Elders I
can be reached by mail at the Sol Communications address on page 1 or by
telephone at (310) 837-0155.
Senator, particularly with your bid for the Republican Presidential
nomination I know that you are an extremely busy man and I want to thank you
for taking the time to read this letter. As you make this bid for the
Presidency please consider the world's view of a man who took the time to
hear the plight of Native American Elders and single handedly prevented what
surely would have been their total annihilation.