New impoundment threats issued
Over this past week, law enforcement and Hopi land management officers entered Sovereign Dineh Nation territories at Big Mountain/Black Mesa, Arizona with orders to count Dineh livestock. They issues 5-day notices to Dineh families, threatening to impound so-called “trespassing” sheep, goats, and cattle.
“In times like these it’s hard for me to eat or sleep,” stated elder matriarch Glenna Begay. “I lay up at night worried for my animals. The sheep are my children. The horses too are relatives. They have been with us since the beginning.”
Families and elders resisting forced relocation policies on their ancestral homelands are urgently requesting volunteers to assist with maintaing the daily struggle. This primarily involves herding sheep throughout the day and doing basic chores. In this time of escalated police activity, supporters are also asked to be observant and record police or government actions.
Livestock-related harassment by law enforcement is an annual occurrence that families resisting federal relocation policies endure, however, harassment and livestock impoundments have intensified in recent years. Armed officers conducted raids against families in 2014 and 2016. These actions serve as painful reminders of the long history of US genocidal campaigns against the Dineh people.
Public Law 93-531, the Navajo-Hopi Resettlement Act of 1974 remains in effect, despite four decades of indigenous resistance and international petition for repeal. It has always been clear to the Dineh people of Big Mountain/Black Mesa that the relocation policy is not about a so-called Navajo-Hopi Land dispute, but rather, is about natural resource development. Peabody Coal has been “carving out Mother Earth’s organs” since 1966 on northern Black Mesa.
“When we first walked on Black Mesa, there was abundance of life,” explains elder matriarch Rena Babbitt Lane. “This land was never meant to be mined for coal. The Holy People walked here. But the coal company took the water and gave us sickness. That is what Washington gave us back, sickness.”
Today, relocation is administered through Ordinance 43, which among other atrocities, authorizes US Bureau of Indian Affairs deputized officers from the Hopi Office of Range and Land Management to enforce harsh and alien grazing controls on Dineh families refusing to relocate. Animals considered to be trespassing are impounded, large fees are charged, and animals may never be allowed to return. Dineh families depend on their livestock for subsistence and the continuation of their traditional lifeway.
Earlier this year, the majority owner of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station announced it would be closing the plant by 2019. A closure of the generating station would also mean closure of Peabody’s Kayenta Mine at Black Mesa. As revenue-hungry government officials seek ways to keep the generation station and mine operating, Dineh residents of Black Mesa continue to voice their support for a final and complete shutdown of coal operations. By taking care of livestock and chores at homesites, volunteer sheepherders can support elders and families’ participation in meetings and demonstrations.
At this time we, the international communities beyond the natural boundaries of Dineh territory, are being asked to do something bigger than ourselves. Many families are urgently requesting your support. Please consider a journey to Big Mountain/ Black Mesa to be a sheepherder and human rights observer, whether for a week or a month. To offer to volunteer your time, or with questions, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org / 928-773-8086
or Jake: 937-479-4214
If you haven’t come out to the land before, please read and fill out the cultural sensitivity guide and preparedness form:
* Dineh Grandmothers to Speak in Los Angeles
A delegation of Diné grandmothers from Big Mountain/Black Mesa will be visiting the LA area from July 20-August 2, bringing their traditionally-made handwoven rugs and jewelry. There will be 2-3 events where the LA community will be able to purchase these items, connect with the grandmothers and learn how to stand in solidarity with their resistance to coal mining and cultural genocide. To find out more about this tour please visit http://www.sonela.org or e-mail Tanya at email@example.com.
* Funds needed to finish house for Big Mountain relocation resister
Creighton Dailey, who grew up nearby on the Navajo Nation in Pinon, is renovating an old stone cabin with his grassroots group Carpenters for a Cause, which will be the primary residence for a lifelong relocation resister at Big Mountain. Additional funds are needed to complete this project, please donate if you are able: https://www.gofundme.com/CFAC3
* Funds requested to repair Black Mesa elder’s solar system
A group of supporters is helping Black Mesa elder Rena Babbit-Lane and her family to raise the $3000 needed to purchase a new bank of batteries for their photovoltaic solar power system. For more information, and to donate, visit: https://www.blackmesautility.com/
For more background on the Big Mountain/Black Mesa struggle:
For more information on the closure of the Navajo Generating Station: