DESTRUCTION OF SACRED SUNDANCE SITE
by Lone Bear
"Respect" was the keynote of the six-member, all-Indian panel that met at the Little America conference center in Flagstaff, Arizona, Wednesday evening to discuss the desecration earlier this month of a Sundance site at Big Mountain, Arizona, by the Hopi Tribal Land Team.
Respect for the rights of Indigenous People to live on their ancestral homelands. Respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all people to worship their Creator as they choose. Respect for sacred sites such as Big Mountain, as well as all others. Respect for Mother Earth and all life.
In a clearly articulated and sometimes emotionally charged manner, Navajo Sundance Overseer Alan Jim told the gathering, "It is a very sad day when we see our own brothers destroy such a sacred site. My heart is concerned for those who asked for this action to happen, and for those who carried it out. They have violated a Sacred Road to the Great Spirit." Louise Benally, caretaker of the desecrated Sundance site, said "to desecrate such a sacred site and feel good about it is a sign of a sick mind."
Traditional Navajo Medicine Man, Jones Benally, said, "We don't want to be destroyed. We respect and do not destroy any one else's way. Even when the white people came to this country and built their churches, we did not destroy them. We must carry on as brothers and sisters."
Lakota Chief and Sundance leader Bill Crazy Bull said he was "appalled at the assault on the Sundance way of life and the assault on the Lakota Nation."
Kee Watchman, a Traditional Navajo and delegate to the United Nations, noted that the United Nations has passed resolutions urging governments to protect sacred sites and still the Hopi Tribal Council, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. government do not respect or protect their sacred sites.
On Aug. 17 at 5:30 a.m., the Hopi Tribe's Land Team, aided by the BIA and the Navajo County Sheriff's Department, raided the Camp Anna Mae Sundance site with up to 60 officers, a bulldozer, a backhoe, chainsaws and other equipment. Heavily armed for their assault, they brought along ambulances, apparently expecting bloodshed.
Without warning or warrant, the ceremonial site was invaded. The Sundance Tree of Life, its eagle feathers and prayer offerings as well as the Arbor, were cut down and shredded, and the entire site was bulldozed, including the sweat lodges. Two people were arrested and taken to jail for trespassing.
After the site was cleared, a posted notice declared that the area was closed to anyone without permission from the Hopi Tribe. According to the sign, the site is closed "for natural resource development purposes". Exploration has disclosed that the site sits on one of the largest remaining coal deposits in the country.
Members of the panel pointed out that the Hopi Tribe does not intend to live on the disputed ancestral land, They only want to mine it. Such an action, to the Navajo and most other Native people, is considered an egregious lack of respect for their Mother Earth as well as a violation of the Creator's laws for harmonious living.
For More information about the
conference and the destruction of Camp Anna Mae,
(c) 2001, by Lone Bear; Flagstaff, AZ. Published with permission from the author.