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Bahe's Latest Big Mountain Update
UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2001 & VOICES FROM THE LAND # 2
The Earth and Sky continue to cherish their children, the Dineh, with a semi-normal winter season. The mid-January snowfall brought nearly two feet of white covering over the sage meadows and the juniper-pinon forests. The wind created drifts up to three and four feet deep, and the sheep flocks had a hard time managing through the foot and half thick of snow left by the winds. The availability of water for the flocks and horses was plentiful but because of the frozen ponds and seeps the ranged animals had to do their best by eating gulps of the powdery snow. Grandfather Snow always brings security and peace to these pristine lands of Big Mountain.
Mid-winter also makes the dirt roads for the modern automobile slippery from both the midday warm sun and the falling temperatures of the setting sun. But as along as packed snow covers these dirt roads it can give better traction for the rubber wheels, and once the snow is thawed or melted away these dirt automobile trails expose the ancient tropical clay of Black Mesa, and this creates havoc for drivers and travelers in automobiles. A week before, the snow had been instantly thawed or evaporated by the warm southwest winds, and all that are left are the moist soil with deep ruts created by vehicle tires which had grinded itself against nature.
For almost three weeks, Grandfather Snow's gift of water in the form of tiny but beautiful crystalline flakes has brought much of the normal quietness and security for the families in resistance. The BIA's Hopi Agency Land Operation are no where to be seen or that, the threat of impoundments and intimidations were unexpected. Sadly, the beautiful winter land doesn't really give the full feeling of a peaceful or righteous world. The elder resistance leaders were recently approached by the BIA Range Technicians and their BIA Police escorts about "the new grazing regulations for the year 2001."
The aging resistors who once shocked the federal government and Peabody Coal Company with their daring attempts to enforce the Supreme Laws of the Great (Big) Mountain Religion, are physically slower but their hearts still speak strong. More harsh decisions from the White House, from the headquarters of Peabody and from the Justice Department still looms over these ancient cultures and their sacred Altar. It is hard to accept hearing the reality about how the American capitalist's injustices continues to seek full exploration of all parts of the earth, sky and space. All of us who have fought for the protection of the pristine environment and the indigenous existence, are still wondering, "will it ever stop?!"
The Heart Still Speaks Strong:
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the
following excerpts from my meetings with Roberta and Pauline, I have only
disclosed statements which I felt were relevant to informing those
interested in this issue or those still involved in the networks aspects of
support work. As these resistors made these statements they were well aware
of the intent to inform the outside world. Other elements of the dialogues
with Roberta and Pauline were for internal matters or private purposes, and
those I did not include. The statements made by Roberta were either said in
English or Dineh and are not noted. However and again, I 've translated all
statements to the best of my ability and also, attempted to relay their
feelings and meaning in their statements. -BYK]
From Thin Rock Mesa, Roberta Blackgoat on February 9th 2001:
There is much talk among the Tribal Governments, from both the Hopi and the Navajo Nation, which is about them trying to tell us that non-Indians or white people shouldn't be living with us. (Their) reasons seem to be that these white supporters are interfering with the federal laws that try to keep "tribal authority" involved out here. A couple of tribal officials have stated that it is a disgrace to see 'white people' living among the traditional Dineh.
I say to them, "No, you people in the Window Rock are a disgrace because you did not do what we have ask of you! So, we turned to regular, white people in this country to help us and also, to help us protect our livelihood: the sheep, the horses and our cornfields. If You (tribal officials) would have listened to us back when we started this resistance, maybe there would not be any kind of 'disgrace.'"
I asked them to justify to me why the 'great' white laws of the land prohibits certain whites to not live with traditional Dineh. "Well, it is a 'white' Law and then, this law is made for white people. So, as Indians you cannot tell us that, 'the white American law does not want these non-Indian supporters staying with me and others,'" I said this to them.
Then just recently the BIA came to tell me, "You can only have 20 sheep units."
I responded, "How come only twenty? How do you all expect me to feed all my grandchildren and share some with my relatives during our ceremonies?" I also told them, "You people are not telling us about your new laws, but You are just telling me to, 'Go ahead and starve!' That is the only thing that I have heard from you, today!" They just said, 'Okay,' and then they left.
However despite all this, it is good to know that people still come out to show their support, or that they continue to write letters to me. Even though I spent my days alone or just myself and the (non-Indian) sheepherder, there are many who want us to continue with our stay, here, on the Mountain Mother. It is good that more people out there have heard us say: 'Our Mother is crying out to us and trying to tell us that She is, now, in tremendous pain from giant machines which are cutting into her flesh to take out Her liver and Her lungs.' A few old ones have had dreams of the Mother Earth talking to them, and the Earth said it was suffering. People must really begin to understand that Earth is not all about 'money-money,' but we must realize that She is a Being, and that, the coal is Her liver and the uranium is Her lungs and heart.
A fellow resistor from Teestoh came out to visit me not long, ago. She said she had longed for others in this resistance movement and that, she has felt so abandoned out where she lives. She basically told me that she has not forgotten about all of us out here at Big Mountain. She has been filled with anxiety and depression, and the only thing that reminds her to keep her strength up is knowing that, there are still relatives here in Big Mountain holding on to the lands. When she had to leave she grabbed me with a big hug and we cried together. I told her, "Yeah, times are sad, and the stress and the loneliness is too great...I live the same way."
I am still out here, and I am grateful that Creator still allows me to do that. I keep up with my weavings even though my eyes sees double at times. I, also, try to make it comfortable for my (non-Indian) helper, but he says, "No, Grandma I'll do it.....I have plenty of time."
Well, thank you for visiting me.....coming out all the way from New York City and from Minnesota. I know that you guys have to go and see if Pauline needs someone to stay with her. And I'm just keeping you while I talk your ears off.
[END of Roberta's Message]
Roberta's words was not keeping us for that we are still young and just beginning to learn. The two non-Indian supporters also appreciated the visit with Roberta, as we sat inside that warm sandstone house as the juniper wood crackled in the little woodstove, and as a blue pot boiled some good smelling stew. Boy, I wish I was the sheepherder, and I would have probably loved to chow-down on this elder's recipe. As we were leaving for Pauline's home that is another eight miles of rutted-out dirt roads, one of the supporter wanted to leave a small amount of food. "Is that okay to do," she asks me?
"That is really up to you. It is not up to me because I am just basically 'hitch-hiking,' and you are giving me a ride," I answered her. Then, I suggested that it is very appropriate since they (resistors) live so isolated and that grocery stores are far. Furthermore, offering her food can be a gesture of thanks for her hospitality and for her sharing with us much wisdom....a wisdom which is endangered.
The new layer of fresh snow allowed our travel to be less of havoc. After using our muscles to push a resident's truck out of the wet sandy slope at Wide Ruin Canyon crossing, we came to Pauline's. The smoke coming out rapidly from the stack, which poked out of the hogan chimney hole, showed that, 'someone' was home. The "illegal" horses all stood near the summer ramada that was, now, a makeshift barn with hay, and that was why these decendents of the indigenous, mustang breed waited for their snack. Pauline heard us drive up as the sturdy hogan door swung open, and she stepped out to look at us. I explained the purpose of our visit but she showed no expression and said to me, "Yes, it is correct that I do need a helper, and that is the way it is especially when it snows. You know all about that."
It was a very brief visit even though I quickly translated to the supporter what Pauline outlined. "The basic concerns are: chi'iz' (firewood), di'be'h (sheep) do'h (and) Ma'ii (coyote), the fearless predator!"
We drove out to the sheltered sheep corral that is located not far from her hogan. The supporter was immediately instructed to restart the fire in the already hot fireplace. The sheep corral is situated against a south, facing outcrop of sandstone, which was just below the small, bunker like hogan. I quickly showed the (non-Indian) supporter, "Okay, it looks like these are your water containers, your waste wash-water buckets, the sheep dog food mixing bucket, the washing area here, and over here, you will put your bedding." After I showed him how to stack wood kindling over a ball of crinkled-up, juniper bark in order to start a fire, it was time to leave him. The helper/supporter's confidence to start his voluntary stay, and with the reassurance from Pauline that, her granddaughter will do the rest of the translation to further introduce him to the chores, made me feel better.
While carrying out a few
other visits including visits to my parents', I returned the following day
From Sweet Water Springs and Wide Ruin Canyon, Pauline Whitesinger on February 10th 2001:
"Disagreeably! Disagreeably or unacceptably is the only way I can explain our situation. With my health being not so good, I have been incapable to do many things but by some small possibility I am still able to chopped enough wood to warm the hogan. But still, despite the hardships, I'm able to take care of other things around here. I was so fortunate when my granddaughter came over to stay with me so, she has been helping me with the sheep and their newborns.
"Now, the snow storms seem to be returning again, and I am worried about our food supply. I don't know when someone will help us get to the market. The other day I got visited but they said, 'Here's some dog food.'
" I asked them, 'Well, what about human food?' They said, 'Oh, we only brought food for the dogs.' "'How can you just do that?' I tell them. So, that's what happened, and I hope they come back before the roads become impassable.
"Just two days before was when the BIA workers came. There was a Dineh interpreter and a non-Dineh person. They informed me, 'You are to be allowed only eight sheep units, and you will have no addition of horses nor cattle. None!'
"I confronted them with my answers and questions, 'Tell me, please, from what evil world or from what evil society have you both come from to bring me such an unwarranted message?! Understand that, what you are saying is nothing but threats against Life. Did you not learned that this Earth was created for the Four-Legged Beings, too? Do you realize that you are disagreeing with the Laws of Creation by telling me that I can no longer raise more sheep, horses or cattle?'
"Also last year, the BIA impounded one of my cows which I never got returned. I reminded them of that also, 'Remember that you already took one of my cows? At that time I told you all that, I wish to never speak with you all, again. I guess you all thought that I was just saying that, and it seems you decided not to honor what I've told you back then. Because of that, why should I honor your orders of death?!'
"I turned to the Dineh man and said to him, 'You know better! Would you ever approach your aunts or grandmothers and tell them to give up Life? What gave you birth or what is your diet composed of to make you have a contaminated consciousness?'
"I would like to see as many non-Indians begin to understand, and tell those who are here that, they need to be very observant about their surrounding. The non-Indian supporters have shown me that they are interest in helping us. Some of them pick up Dineh words quickly and then, they begin to gradually understand what they are being told. Yeah, we have many of our own, non-Dineh, Indians who have lived with us awhile, but they have not learned a Dineh word, yet. Also, many supporters are able to learn about the necessary chores around our homes, and they are able to acquire the skills of using tools like the axe or the wool carders. So, if you are informing supporters, who are interested in coming, they must be informed to be prepared for the unexpected challenges, and once they are here, they need to be alert and carefully watch what we try to show them about traditional ways of living.
"Yes, you are right when you tell me about how the environment and the ecology out here has changed since many Dineh have been relocated. I have noticed also, and even some have said that the number of wolves have increased drastically. Of course, there are way more coyotes everywhere. They (BIA Range Technicians) are transplanting them, I think, because we have been told it is illegal to hunt them and that they are all ear tagged. Over a year ago, they must have transplanted some albino foxes which we saw running around like they were lost, and soon they were gone. So, those foxes must have either starved to death or ran off into some other region. I can only agree with you, also, in your conclusion that, because the BIA has used so much tactics to force us to accept relocation, and now, they are introducing predators to reduce our sheep and goats."
[END of Pauline's Message]
The supporter who has given a small amount of food to Roberta, again, gave the rest of extra food to Pauline just the day before. I exited out of her cozy hogan that is kept warm by the stoked-up fireplace which is covered by one of the most popular, recyclable material around here, the 55 gallon steel barrel cut in half. The warm, ancient-styled earth lodge was filled with the smell of simmering apples....apples which were left by the supporter. "I'm just cooking plain apples, today," Pauline mentions as she follows me out the door. As I informed my driver/ride that I'm ready, herself and the newly, 'stationed' supporter were busy splitting firewood for the hogan. Pauline chuckled as she refers to the woman supporter: "Look at her. She is really swinging that axe already. Her form and swing shows that she might have done it before."
Just as I have observed my parents' home or residence, I look at Pauline's ancient domain. I can see the various things that could use some repair or rebuilding. I can only see and wished, if I had all the time in the world, I'd help make their homes comfortable and efficient. I leave the land feeling a sadness to leave them all in their isolated world. I feel a guilt that I am abandoning them without hauling them any firewood or provide something that will make them feel safer. How can the U.$. government continue to be so cruel to innocent people? Why does America have to only see the land in terms of economic progress and in terms of profit? The capitalist and corporate America knows that these Dineh elders have the ultimate and valid answers to the real Laws of the land/Earth. Maybe, that is why these elders' messages are for the environmentally conscience, white race, and all the other races who share similar consciousness. This reminds me of a quote I recently read:
By an Australian Aboriginal Dreamkeeper, Lilla Watson, "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.....But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." ["A Revolution in Publishing" http://dreamkeepers.net, 2001]
I personally believe that sums it up as far as what "On-land Direct Action" means to me. The non-Indians or white people (Baal'gaana'), and other nationalities that come and stay 'on the land' are NOT seeking to be adopted into the tribe or to turn 'Injuns,' themselves. Many supporters have come to acknowledge the powers of the natural world. Many have left the illusion of luxury or get a break from the concrete jungles, and come here to the frontlines and stand with real people. Many have come here from being tear gassed or arrested in the protests at the WTO, Democratic National Convention, old-growth forest camp-ins, and the Nevada Test Site....just to mention a few. Thus, to help in terms of acting out a "Dances With Wolves" or "Man Called Horse" scenario is definitely a waste of time and a waste of the Peoples' time.
Touching Base In Hopi:
The final stop on this mission 'to the land' was Hopi land. This brief stop was in Hotevilla to touch base with part of the traditional Hopi resistance, and I, also, delivered extra copies of important documents. This meeting turned out to be a very rewarding invitation. The Hopi brother asked if we had some time and if we did we can come see the initiation dance in the village. The village was full of people who lined the streets and many were on rooftops. Nearby, dancers adored with ritual outfits were exiting out of the Kiva. The brother asked us to come in and eat something. It is a custom to eat during these dances if you are invited.
This religious event is one of the seasonal dances known as, The Bean Dance, which is mainly performed during the nighttime. The daytime activities involved feasting and initiation ceremonies. Today's initiation ceremony was where the bigger crowd had gathered outside the family sponsor's home. Meanwhile, a hot bowl of sprout (pinto) bean soup and a couple of piki bread (a paper-thin, rolled corn bread) just hit-the-spot after two full days of running around 'on the land.' It has been a while since I had sprout bean soup, but I have never been to any of the Bean Dance festivities.
After the wonderful partaking of the traditional food, the Hopi bro said we can climb up the ladder near the front door and watch the dancers. "Hurry up and get up there so those 'guys' won't get you," he further instructed us. Standing on the roof felt like I was on a tower that allowed me to see over the whole village and over the distanced, adjacent mesas. Looking back down at the approaching troop of dancers, I focused in on the procession that gradually passed below me. The lead dancer held a gourd and a green tree leaf, and its outfit seemed to represent a female deity. The troop had about four leaders because they looked like the Kachinas, and they kept surveillance over the whole procession.
And 'those guys' that the Hopi brother referred to were Mud Headed Clown who kept harassing the younger ones. Some of the younger ones ran into the crowd to attack an unalert spectator who might get smeared with red pigment across their mouth or face. Spectators, that knew this, covered part of their faces. Aside from the quietly chanting dancers, these 'guys' or 'clowns' occasionally whip one another with long stiff yucca leaves. These shirtless men didn't seem to be bothered by the 30 degree (F), wind chill, or the lashings from the leather-type yucca leaves.
As a Dineh, an activist and as one who appreciates world cultures, I look upon this breathtaking but sacred ritual and wonder about our destiny as indigenous people. I watched the figures, the outfits and the masks worn by each dancer/clown. It was a spiritual world being reinterpreted before me. It was a creation story that has become real before my eyes, as I tuned out the commercial jetliners overhead and all the automobiles that were scattered throughout the village. I heard the murmuring of these Deities though I didn't understand their language, I heard the chimes of their bells and the clapping of the turtle shells, and I heard the rattling of their beautiful gourds....then, suddenly, I tuned back to the ordinary people inside those ceremonial regalia. Still I beheld it with respect and appreciate its sacredness.
It is wonderful to be back among my Hopi neighbors ---my relations. I am thankful that Great Spirit still has allowed me, to this day, to witness these ancient ways. I wished that it will always be --just as I wish for it to be among my Dineh cultures, which are not so far from the rooftop upon which I stand. The mission to the land is finished for now, and I thanked my Hopi brother, "Good to be back! It brings back memories about the Old Ones! Thank you, for inviting us, me. I will be in touch."
A Discussion In Perspective:
We wonder or I wonder as, perhaps, some peoples in resistance 'on the land' (Big Mountain) do, too, is that, everyone who has come to our country and seen, first hand, the elements of the struggle are now beginning to give up hope. In my years of struggle, I had seen our attempts were unique which are often times followed by few victories, and at the same time, we see and feel that the oppressor has increased its momentum to conquer. What we have done is so minute in comparison to what the capitalist oppressor has accomplished in just one night at the stroke of a pen or at the push of a button. With these strokes of a pen and a push on the Enter Key, the corporate madness occurs globally. For the activist, the simple humans and the spiritual leaders, it is an enormous commitment to continue the fight for justice, saving the environment, to eliminate racism or tortures, and to preserve endangered species or cultures. Today, most of America and Indian America have accepted the comfort of conveniences in the name of, the exploitation of the Mother Earth and Father Sky. For the rest of us, we can define our role by the original American Indian Movement saying, we are "the Few and the Proud." So, it shall be, and we continue to travel to Black Mesa or Hopi to show the BIA and its corporate sponsors that, the Altar, the Female Mountain (Black Mesa) is NOT FOR SALE!!
Currently, it might seem as 'coincidences' that, the utility companies of California decides to cry out to the "village idiot's" (George W.) administration to demolish the barriers of environmental protection. Then, the U.S. Attorney's Office in northern Arizona prepares to receive complaints about the last remaining, Dineh peoples who continue to live on the coal rich Black Mesa. There is another recent development by Peabody Coal Company to expand southward into the Upper Big Mountain Plateau where some resisting families still reside, and this has added to these 'coincidences.' So, there had been recent news article basically stated that forcible evictions are unlikely. This recent article [*] published by one of the sponsors for corporate greed, The Arizona Republic, had its story miss the point that it was trying to make, but the story only justified absurdity or incongruity.
I would be so surprised if this article was convincing to many. Now lets face it! "Evictions are Unlikely" is misleading when the "village idiot" (George W.) who just took "leadership of the most powerful country" has proclaimed that, all available resources need to be exploited if (this country) is to meet its energy needs. The article goes on to state "America" doesn't want to have "a bad image by dragging people off" Black Mesa. If you were ALERT (as the elder suggested), you would notice that the federal government cares less about its image. Just look at all the places in the world where the U.$. stomps on societies with their military might. Just look at the sell-out Irishman, William Jefferson Clinton, give pardon to fraudulent corporate executives instead of granting clemency to a real Freedom Fighter like Leonard Peltier. Don't be misguided! We still need plenty of support and supporters. Many events of resistance and prayer vigils are planned to save Black Mesa and continue to force Peabody to become accountable for this genocide.
Briefly, several elders are in great need of help. The day and half 'on the land,' I was informed that Katherine Smith has only a small pile of thin branches as firewood. Slim Biakeddy, who is one of those displaced due to the demarcation, has no firewood, and that he is unable to herd sheep because of his weakness to the cold. My dad said he was going to try to haul some wood from his own firewood pile and give it to Slim. There are probably more elders in similar situations. Kee Watchman will be in need of a sheepherder while he attends the UN Commission on Human Rights Session in late March thru mid-April. I realize that you all cannot run out here immediately, but there are things you can do like putting together work crews, or just contact any (reliable) support organizations and see how you can help. Work crews are still needed, and long-term stays with families are to be a serious consideration.
For now, thank you for taking the time to read the translated voices and my update/commentary. I apologize that it was rather lengthy. Finally, Thank you for your continued concerns, prayers and support.
Other options for contacts:
Louise Benally, and also,
Hopi Independent Nation c/o Dennis Kootshongsie P.O. Box 1044 Hotevilla Pueblo, AZ 86030, and also,
Red Willow Springs - Cactus Valley Sovereign Communities c/o Kee Watchman P.O. Box 135 Kykotsmovi Pueblo, via AZ 86039, and also,
Information about on-land support, work crews, long-term stays, and upcoming events:
B.M.I.S. is based in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is currently, maintaining resources to make periodic visits 'to the Land.'