1882  Hopi Reservation Created

The BIA agent created a reservation centered around his offices, which were located near the Hopi villages on the mesas. The Dineh occupied the vast rangelands surrounding these mesas, so that 80% of the land within the reservation was occupied by Dineh.  The land surrounding the 1882 Reservation would later become part of the Navajo Reservation. For the next 70 years, these arbitrary borders had little effect on the people, as both Hopi and Dineh continued their traditional way of life and peaceful interrelationship.

1951    The Coal Rush Begins

The richest known deposit of coal in the US was on the northern part of the 1882 reservation. The Hopi did not have a government that could sign leases, as the people practiced their traditional self-government and their religion forbade coal mining. In 1951, John Boyden was appointed by the BIA as a land claims attorney for the Hopi and began organizing a government which would be able to issue coal leases. The Coal Rush had begun. In 1955 his government was recognized by the BIA as the sovereign government of the Hopi people. A similar process was underway on the Navajo Reservation, where their appointed land claims attorney obtained a contract giving himself 10% of all future coal mining revenues.


1958   Healing v Jones

The land title was unclear as to who owned the rights to the coal deposits: Norman Littell's Navajo government, because the land had always been inhabited by Dineh, or John Boyden's Hopi government, because the land was within the 1882 Reservation. The lawyers filed a friendly suit asking the courts to clarify the land title - Littell's government even offered to loan funds for Boyden's expenses. The resulting decision in 1963 said the governments could lease the land and split the revenues 50/50.  The Hopi were given exclusive surface rights to the area they traditionally inhabited near the mesas. The Dineh land became a Joint-Use area shared by both tribes.

1967   Peabody Coal Lease

After the leasing authority was established, a lease was quickly signed with Peabody Coal giving them the right to mine the area. The royalty rates to the tribes were far below standard commercial rates, as John Boyden, who negotiated the leases for the Hopi, also worked for Peabody Coal. The traditional Hopi leaders filed a lawsuit opposing the lease, as the Black Mesa area is sacred to both the Hopi and Dineh religions and strip mining violated their traditional religion. While the Hopi demonstrated that Boyden's government acted in violation of its own BIA-approved constitution, the US courts rejected the suit because Boyden's government was recognized as a sovereign power immune to lawsuit in US courts.

1974     Relocation Act

Boyden requested Congress to partition the Joint-Use area into separate Dineh and Hopi areas, so that the Hopi could obtain better access to the land traditionally inhabited by the Dineh. The 1974 Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act was pushed through Congress by a group representing the coal-fired power industry, which believed their industry would benefit by having the US government finance the eviction of the all people living in an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. In their rush to promote national energy self-sufficiency, Congress never considered where the people would go or how relocation would affect their lives. In 1980, the US purchased a uranium-contaminated site near Chambers, AZ as the "New Lands" for the evicted Dineh.

1996    The Final Solution

Congress passed the 1996 Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act, which required all Dineh remaining on the land in defiance of the 1974 law either to sign leases with the Hopi government ceding all of their property and civil rights, or to be forcibly evicted by the year 2000. Congress offered the Hopi government $25 million if it could get 95 families to sign these unfair leases, unleashing a campaign of coercion, fraud, and forgery. With their remedies in US courts seemingly exhausted, the people turned to the UN for help, resulting in an investigation in 1998 by a representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.