LEONARD BENALLY'S STATEMENT
Mountain Under Siege
Dineh Resident, Resistor and Sympathizer to the Zapatistas
We wish to say our words to our Indigenous brothers and sisters and other concerned people. By now you have heard the news that we were recently under military siege (armed Hopi Rangers, armed Navajo police, armed BIA police). They were there to stop our nation to nation ceremony. (Sacred Sundance). The opposition was so heavy hardly anything moved in or out. We had to use the ancient roads to get our supplies in because the borders were closed by road blocks full of armed police, Navajo and Hopi both sides, turning back people, supplies, water, food medicine and doctors were even turned away for five days. For three days no one could go in and no one could go out. If you tried to come back in, you would get arrested or fined up to $1000 per day. Even hauling water could get you arrested.
They tried to stop the Sacred Sundance Tree (cottonwood) but by the Sundance chief and the Sundancers and the local residents choice and courage the beautiful Sacred Tree went in the ground. Yes, it's the war against the grandmothers here in America, and now the three stands tall and strong and represents birthright to our Sacred Land. It also represents all Indigenous peoples rights to pray and it represents the respect for all indigenous ceremonies and beliefs. With dignity and strong prayers the Sacred Tree went up representing all humanities equal rights and religious freedom rights, not only for one, not only for a few but for everybody. Thank You to those brothers and sisters who had the courage to go through guns to come pray with us. As you know as you go through the roadblocks you entered at your own risk. However, we the resistors are always targeted with threats of arrest and eviction everyday. You come at your won free will and you must come completely self-sufficient at all times. The hardest thing is coming in with a good heart and not expecting anything in return. We hope you come not just to pray and perhaps some of you will find ways to help us as we are subjected to misery, jail and death every day of our lives.
As you are aware they turned off the water for the entire community for four days. This is how they make us suffer and violate our human rights. These were major violations of our religious freedom rights because water is a very sacred thing. It gives Life to our entire universe and yes some people hauled water from a long ways and were also turned away at the road block. The ceremony itself was filled with a lot of strong prayers and healing. Thank You all for sacrificing your time to be with us so one freedom and the justice to come to our Sacred Land, our territory Big Mountain.
Now you can see some of our people, our elders, made the sacrifice to spend the night in jail so the Sacred Tree could go in the ground and the Sundance could come back for three more years. And the Sundance is forever to stay. Please plan ahead for next year to get their early enough to avoid any roadblocks.
Perhaps this time they will let the traditional Hopi's come pray with us a the Sundance. The road blocks did not allow them to come to pray with us. They kept us apart and if we all pray together now nothing like this will happen again.
On the Hopi Tribal Councils part what they did was very inhumane by denying our right of way to ceremony and denying us water in over 100 degree heat. And remember they denied elders from getting medicine. I thought Hopi meant peace. We know its not all Hopi saying these things. Yes, while the Hopi Tribal Council denies us water, Peabody Coal Company is pumping a billion and a half gallons a year to slurry coal to the Mohave Generating Station. By doing that they are sucking the life out of the entire Black Mesa. So it' s not only Hopi water or the Hopi residents water its everyone's water and all living things water. Even our animals could not get water. Perhaps it was that the arrest of elders, Eugene Kaye ordered elder abuse, human rights and religious freedom violations and even with holding water in extreme heat from livestock resulted in cruelty to animals.
It is our International Right to praying in our traditional customary use area according to International Law and this is a nation to nation ceremony that has been going on 16 years at Anna Mae Camp at Big Mountain. The government and the Tribal Council keep making excuses as to what they surround us with military force while we are praying. We come together with the people to pray in this ceremony. They have violated many of their own laws by what they have done to us.
Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. (United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Yes one day perhaps these men who make these orders and carry out this military inhuman actions against us could perhaps one day be charged with criminal acts of genocide.
Many Many people around the world know clearly Big Mountain is our sacred altar and is a very Ancient Historic Religious Site. The Big Mountain Territory is known around the world as a Historic Sacred Site. This is our Indigenous Land and we will remain and we will resist against all opposition. Ands we are opposed by our own Tribal Council. Would good Navajo citizens turn water off on their own people. They did at Rocky Ridge. Yes, we tried to meet with them for three weeks. Myself, Roberta Blackgoat, and Kee Watchman met for four hours with Eugene Kaye, six weeks before the ceremony took place informing him that the ceremony would take place at Anna Mae Camp. And I remember he then told me he would not issue a permit and he would in fact try to stop Sundance. The Hopi Tribal Council is lying in the paper when they say they were not informed about the Sundance at Anna Mae. They were well informed for four hours in his own office. Eugene Kaye did arrest our women and elders under false pretence. Their rangers physically abused our elders by shoving and pushing one elder into a Hopi Ranger car and one elder was pushed and shoved out of the way. Also when one of them got to the jail she was pushed and jerked out of the car (I think they call this police brutality). The Hopi Ranger also tried to demand local residents to get into ranger cars by telling them their families were going. The rangers were violent. We feared them because they were armed and they threatened to bring in more reinforcements if we didn't cooperate. It was the Dineh people who responded peacefully to those threats. No violent threats were made by Dineh people to the officers. The Dineh people peacefully responded is what prevented violence.
They say they are going to invade us again in October and we must all come together to unite in an honest way. This is a war against the little people, man and woman, young and old. I want to make it clear that this is not a vacation spot. They want to exterminate us. They are trying to erase our history, they even tried to destroy our hogans to erase this history. We will not allow any more hogans to be destroyed. The hogans are our birthplace and are very sacred to us.
This situation here on my homeland is a very serious matter and here on our land we continue to have death. War is a matter of politics, its not a matter of a large man in a blue suit or a large man in a brown uniform (BIA police and Hopi Rangers). The politics are based on mineral reserved on our Indigenous Land. The Navajo and Hopi Tribal land dispute is just the front page line. Its all about pro development and we on the land continue to resist it to protect Mother Earth and we protect our Mother land, the Big Mountain territory. A note to all supporters around the world: Beware of the fakes that pretend to help us. They are actually no help at all. And some web pages actually censor our resistance. Beware of division and distraction from the real struggle and real resistance. We are tired of exploitation and we will no longer stay silent. Our people are suffering and we want to send out a big Thank You to the honest people who continue to help us to get the word out. I want to say a special thank you to the following who I see coming out here and helping us in this resistance all the time. They do not censor our struggle. Sister Sharon Lungo, Brother Michael Gerell and the Weavers of Weavers for Freedom and the coordinator of Weavers for Freedom. A big Thank You to tall our honest support people who came here with a good heart and kindness to come here to help us. We Thank You and we salute you. And a big Thank You to the lawyers that help us with our legal skills. And we hope you will continue to help especially the five Dine' traditional women who were arrested. We honor the five traditional Dine' women who protected all of our rights to pray out here on our Sacred Indigenous Land.
In solidarity with all Indigenous resistance throughout the Western Hemisphere. We salute our brothers and sisters of the Zapatistas in Chiapas. We will be reaching out to you soon.
Regarding the recent accusations of misconduct at the Sundance:
This is a desperate attempt to slander and discredit the Benally family and the Sundance ceremony, to divert and distract from their police misconduct. If they cared about children, their safety, health and welfare, the Hopi Law enforcement and the Hopi Tribal Council would not have turned the water off, or denied other people attempting to bring in food and medicine to the ceremony.