Boulder Dam and the Navajo Reservation

In general the history of hydroelectric dams in the United States has involved the transfer of wealth from the nation’s poorest people, American Indians, to the nation’s wealthiest people, industrial capitalists. In the name of progress, industrialization, and manifest destiny American Indian nations have had their lands, water rights, fishing rights, and sacred sites taken from them. The case of Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River is different in that it did not directly impact the Navajo Reservation, but it indirectly led to the destruction of the traditional Navajo economy, and the creation of poverty and economic inequality among the Navajo.

In 1922, the seven Colorado River Basin states negotiated a compact which divided the water of the Colorado River water among themselves. Archaeologist Brian Fagan, in his book Elixer: A History of Water and Humankind, writes:  “The era of industrial water management was truly under way, for the benefit not of small farmers but of large agribusinesses.”

While the Indian tribes in the region had a legal right to this water, the tribes were not invited to the negotiations and any possible water rights which Indians might have were purposefully ignored. The negotiations were chaired by Herbert Hoover.  In 1928, Hoover, who was then Secretary of Commerce, secured from Congress the authorization for the Colorado River Project which included the construction of Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam). The dam was to protect and promote agribusiness ventures in California’s Imperial Valley and to provide water to Los Angeles.

A glance at the map suggests little connection between Boulder Dam and the Navajo, as the dam is located far to the west of the reservation. However, in 1929 the United States Geological Survey reported that the major contributors to Colorado River silt were located on the Navajo Reservation. The Navajo Reservation was therefore seen as a major threat to the Boulder Dam as silt from the reservation would pile up behind the dam and destroy its usefulness. American government officials at this time were firmly convinced that overgrazing caused gullying which resulted in silt. The solution in their minds was obvious: stop overgrazing by the Navajos on their reservation and save Boulder dam.

In the 1930s, the United States, in the midst of the Great Depression, elected a new President who then appointed John Collier as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Unlike most of his predecessors, Collier had worked on Indian reservations, understood Indian cultures, and felt that Indian people should have a say in their own destinies. He felt that forced assimilation was wrong and that previous Indian policies had resulted in the creation of Indian poverty. He told the Indians:  “We believe that your Indian heritage is just as practicable and good, and just as much needed by America as is the Anglo-Saxon heritage or the German heritage or the Scotch or Irish or Norwegian heritage.”

The situation with Boulder Dam and the Navajo would, however, provide Collier with his greatest challenge and his actions in dealing with this challenge would make a mockery of the many fine words he spoke about American Indians.

Part of the problem stemmed from an economic misunderstanding. Long before the European invasion of North America, the Navajo had been farmers and they acquired sheep, goats, and horses from the early Spanish settlements in New Mexico. By the twentieth century they had a basic subsistence economy in which their farming and livestock provided them with the basic necessities of life. Their primary participation in the larger cash economy was through traders where they could trade wool blankets and other items for cash or goods.

The American government, however, viewed agriculturalists, including the Navajo, as a part of a larger industrial agricultural system in which people raised products, such as sheep, which were then sold to provide them with the money with which they could buy basic food and supplies. From this viewpoint, only Navajo sheep had economic value and goats and horses were economically worthless as there was no market for them. What the Americans failed to understand was that the Navajo ate goats and horses and that these animals provided them with the food they need to survive to tough times.

In 1931, for example, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings on the Navajo Reservation. The Senators used the hearings as a forum to lecture the Navajo on market economics. While agency personal testified that the Navajo had few surplus horses and the Navajo testified about the fact that goats are essential to their subsistence, Senator Burton K. Wheeler admonished the Navajo to get rid of their horses and goats.

There were also political misunderstandings. The Navajo had never had a tribal council: each of the many small bands and outfits were felt to be autonomous. Historically, the American government has always preferred dealing with dictatorships rather than democracies and has therefore established governments which it could easily manipulate. The Navajo Tribal Council was not a Navajo institution, but had been established by the American government to agree with all American actions and to give these actions, primarily the transfer of wealth and  resources from the Navajo tribe to American businesses, the superficial appearance of having been done with Navajo approval. Many of those appointed to the Council by the American government were highly acculturated Navajo who tended to be wealthy, bilingual, and Christian.

In 1933, John Collier, in his role as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, met with the Navajo Tribal Council to discuss stock reduction. He told the Navajo that overgrazing was resulting in erosion and that there would have to be a reduction in stock. He told the Council:  “This reservation, along with the other Indian reservations along the Colorado River, is supplying much more than half of all the silt which goes down the Colorado River, which will in the course of a comparatively few years render the Boulder Dam useless and thereby injure the population of all Southern California and a good deal of Arizona also.”

He proposed a reduction of 200,000 sheep and 200,000 goats. While there was some opposition to the stock reduction proposal, the Council did what it was told and voted 8-4 to endorse Collier’s proposal. Many Navajo, however, particularly the women, did not support the Council’s action. In Navajo culture, women owned their own sheep and felt that no one had the right to tell them what to do with their own property.

The impact of stock reduction was first felt in 1934: 148,000 goats and 50,000 sheep were sold. The prices set by the government were exceptionally low.  Not all of the goats could be delivered to the railhead, therefore some were slaughtered and the dried meat given back to the Navajo. Other goats were simply shot and left to rot; some were shot and partially cremated by soaking them with gasoline and lighting it. From a Navajo viewpoint this was an appalling waste of valuable resources. It is generally estimated that the reduction in the number of goats increased the cost of living on the reservation by about 20%.

Government officials failed to understand Navajo concepts of ownership. They simply assumed that the flocks were family owned, that is, they were owned by the male head of household. Since Navajo women owned large herds this meant that women soon found that their flocks were being credited to their husbands.

The non-Navajo conservationists advocated the reduction in goats because the animals had little market value. They did not understand that in a subsistence economy, such as that of the Navajo, goats are important as a dependable source of food: by drinking goat milk, eating goat cheese, and eating goat meat, the sheep could be bred or traded.

In 1936, Navajo women rebelled against federal government pressure to reduce the size of their sheep herds. At Kayenta, 250 Navajo gathered. While most of those present were men, Denehotso Hattie, a woman almost blind from trachoma, was the leader. She pointed her finger at the new Indian superintendent for the reservation and denounced the government plan for range management. The government had disparaged Navajo knowledge of the lands they had traditionally occupied and disregarded the women.

The United States government wanted to create the illusion that a Navajo democracy supported the herd reduction program. In 1937, seventy-odd selected Navajo headmen met and, at the prodding of the Agency Superintendent, voted themselves as the new Navajo Tribal Council. The strategy of federal government was to create a new governing body which would enact and enforce legislation to require the Navajo people to conform to grazing regulations. The new council had 70 members with each member representing a new voting district. In opposition to the Council, J.C. Morgan organized the Navajo Progressive League which vowed to form a representative council.

John Collier met with the hand-picked Council and told them they had two choices: they could approve the new regulations for stock reduction or they would be placed under the General Grazing Regulations for Indian Lands. In other words, stock reduction was going to take place in spite of any Navajo opposition.

The following year, at the request of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and without the consent of the Navajo, a set of bylaws were issued creating a new tribal council. The positions of chairman, vice-chairman, and 74 delegates were to be filled by popular vote. Jacob C. Morgan, who was opposed to Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier and to stock reduction, was elected chairman.

Rumors spread through the reservation that the federal government intended to round up all Navajo horses and shoot them, just as they had done with the goats. Many people hid their horses from government officials and refused to have them branded and counted. In some areas, federal marshals were called in to enforce compliance and suits were filed against some of the Navajo for non-compliance with horse reduction. Twelve cases involving 30 defendants were filed in the United States District Court as a way of proving to the Navajo that the federal government had the power to reduce their horse herds. Collier insisted that these actions were not a policy of coercion. In 1939, the United States District Court in Phoenix ruled in favor of the government and ordered U.S. marshals to seize the horses if they were not removed in 30 days. By the end of the year, one-fourth of the Navajo horses had been sold for $2 to $4 per head.

By the 1940s, it was clear to most Navajo that the federal government intended for them to starve and to give up their reservation. While the federal government had ordered many scientific studies of the reservation—its peoples, its ecology—the government ignored the findings of these studies. While John Collier had promised a New Deal for the Indians and an end to the old paternalism, with regard to the Navajo, the old paternalism—the government knows what is best for you—continued with more vigor than in previous administrations.

Looking back at the Navajo stock reduction program in 1949, at a time when he was no longer the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Collier noted that one of the options was:  “Go with the facts to the hundreds of local communities of the Navajo people. Educate these communities through slow, patient conference and demonstration. Vest the responsibility for launching and guiding these huge, necessary adjustments, in the local headmen, in the healer-singers, the diviners, and ultimately the heads of families.”

Collier notes that in rejecting this option they may have erred profoundly. It is interesting to note that Collier does not talk about listening to the Navajo, and particularly Navajo women, and asking for their opinions about what should be done to their land.

In the end, stock reduction did not restore the lands on the Navajo Reservation. By the 1950s, scientists recognized that gullying and siltation were not necessarily caused by over grazing and that stock reduction had little impact. Boulder Dam provided no economic benefits to the Navajo Reservation, but it destroyed a traditional economy and greatly increased poverty.

Death in Pueblo and Athabascan Cultures

Funerary practices and beliefs about death are more about the living than the dead. They provide some insights into the cultures of the people. The several Pueblo cultures and the Athabascan cultures (Navajo and Apache) live in close proximity to one another in New Mexico and Arizona. These cultures, in spite of their geographic proximity, have very different beliefs about death and how to deal with dead bodies. Some of their funerary customs and beliefs are discussed below.  

Athabascan Culture:

The Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

In the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascans began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples. While there are some scholars who feel that the Navajo and Apache could have begun arriving in the Southwest as early as 800 CE and some who feel that it was as late at 1500 CE, most tend to place their arrival between 1200 and 1400.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú, in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos, and cañadas (canyons). The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

Among the southwestern Athabascan groups there is a fear of death and of dealing with both the bodies and the possessions of dead people. Among the Jicarilla Apache, for example, there is a great effort to keep children from seeing a dead person. In addition, children do not associate with other children who have family members who have recently died until the family has been cleansed by the proper ceremonies. There is a concern that children may be marked by the aura of death.

With regard to the Chiricahua Apache, at death the spirits begin a four-day journey to the spirit world. For the Chiricahua,  open burial sites are very dangerous between the moment of death and the time when the grave is covered. During this time the spirit of the deceased is loose and free. It is thus able to cause mischief or harm.  Funeral rites are expected to expedite the spirit’s journey.

Traditionally among the Navajo, the body of a dead person was left on the ground in the hogan (home) which was then abandoned or the body was immediately buried. The body was allowed to decompose because the memory, thoughts, and descendents are the part which lives on. The idea of putting someone in a coffin or putting chemicals in the body to preserve the corpse is viewed with disgust by traditional Navajo.

At death, the personal property of a Navajo is buried with the corpse or it is destroyed. Traditionally, the name of the deceased is not mentioned for one year following death. After this year, the name of the deceased is rarely mentioned.

When a Navajo who has lived a full and long life dies, there is no period of mourning as it is felt that the spirit is ready to travel to another world. There is no dread of touching or handling the corpse of an old person.

With regard to life after death, this is an issue of little concern for most Navajo. They feel that they will find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it. The Navajo cultural orientation is towards life, toward making this life happier, more harmonious, and more beautiful.

For the Navajo, birth and death are seen as opposites: one cannot exist without the other. Life is a cycle. It reaches its natural conclusion in death at old age. It is renewed in each birth. Death before old age is considered to be both unnatural and tragic. Death before old age prevents the natural completion of the life cycle.

Pueblo Culture:

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian nations who traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Among many of the Pueblos, food is placed with the body of the deceased. If the deceased had lived a good life, then little food was left with them as they would need little sustenance in traveling straight to the afterworld. On the other hand, if the deceased had not been particularly virtuous then they would need more food for their difficult journey.

Among the Keresian-speaking Pueblos of the Rio Grande area, death is viewed as a natural and necessary event: if there were no death, then soon there would be no room left in the world. After death, both the soul and the guardian spirit leave the body, but remain in the home of the deceased for four days. Then they journey to Shipap, the entrance to the underworld. The virtue of the deceased then determines the assignment to one of the four underworlds. Those who enter the innermost world become Shiwana (rainmakers) and return to the villages in the form of clouds.

Among the Zuni, the spirit of the dead lingers in the village for four days. During this time the door to the deceased’s home is left open to permit the entry of the spirit. On the morning of the fifth day the spirit goes to Kothluwalawa beneath the water of the Listening Spring. Here the spirit becomes a member of the Uwannami (rainmakers). Members of the Bow Priesthood become lightning makers who bring water from the six great waters of the world. The water is poured through the clouds in the form of rain. The clouds are the masks worn by the Uwannami.

Among the Hopi, a mask of cotton is placed over the face of the dead to represent the cloud mask which the spirit will wear when it returns with the cloud people to bring rain to the village. Four days after burial the spirit leaves the body and begins a journey to the Land of the Dead. They enter the underworld through the sipapu (sacred hole) in the Grand Canyon where they meet the One Horned God who can read a person’s thoughts by looking into the heart. Those who are virtuous follow the Sun Trail to the village of the Cloud People.

In the Hopi burials, clothing, water, and piki (a special bread) is often placed with the corpse. In many cases the Hopi will use a quilt as a burial shroud. The grave is then sealed with rocks.

When a kikmongwi (chief) dies, the staff which has symbolized his authority during his life is buried with him. In addition, his body is painted with symbols for important ritual occasions.

Among the Hopi, the spirits of children who die before they are initiated into a kiva return to their mother’s house to be reborn.

For the Hopi, the ancestors are important to their culture and they strongly feel that the physical remains of the ancestors should be treated with respect. Ancestors maintain a spiritual guardianship over the places where they are buried and they are not to be disturbed by archaeologists.

The Hopi see the clouds which bring water to their villages as ancestors and thus they petition their departed ancestors to return and to bring with them the life-giving rain. In this way, the Hopi view death as a return to the spiritual realm and from this comes more life in the form of rain.

Among most of the Pueblos, life after death is the same as before death: the deceased journey to a town where they join a group with which they were associated in life. Only the Hopi express the idea of punishment after death.

At Cochití, when a person dies, an ear of blue corn with barbs at the point is placed in the corner of the room where the death occurred. This ear of corn represents the soul of the deceased which will linger in the area for a while.

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The Navajo and Oil in the 1920s

Traditionally the United States has assumed that any mineral and energy resources found on Indian reservations should be developed by non-Indian private enterprise and that Indians should benefit as little as possible from these resources. The role of the federal government in developing these resources has been to help private enterprise obtain mineral and energy resources from Indian nations. One example of this can be seen in corporate attempts to develop oil resources on the Navajo Reservation in the 1920s.  

First, some background: the administration of Indian reservations in the United States comes under the Department of the Interior. The Bureau of Indian Affairs-which was called the Indian Office in the 1920s-is a part of the Department of the Interior. Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are political appointments.

In 1921, Albert Fall, the former Senator from New Mexico, was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Warren Harding. Fall was hostile to Indian rights and felt that large tracts of Indian land inhibit progress. Fall would later become involved with the Teapot Dome scandal and would be jailed for his misconduct in oil leasing.

In 1921, prospectors combed the Navajo reservation looking for promising places for oil. However, the San Juan Navajo council did not wish to consider any oil and gas leases. In an effort to force the Navajo to issue the oil leases, the assistant commissioner of Indian affairs ordered the Indian agent to call the council together again, but once again they refused all petitions for leases. The oil companies refused to accept the Navajo decision to deny them access to the potential oil reserves. Once again the oil companies appealed to the Indian Office to look out for their interests and in response the Indian Office ordered another meeting with the San Juan Navajo. This time the oil company promised to hire Navajo for all unskilled work. Reluctantly, the Navajo agreed to a lease.

The following year, the Indian Office ordered the agent for the San Juan Navajo district to summon a council to consider more oil leases. The Navajo unanimously said “no” to any more leases, but the oil companies immediately submitted new applications with the Indian Office. The Indian Office then informed the agent that they wanted the leases approved and recommended that the agent ask the Navajo to delegate to him the authority to negotiate the leases. Again the Navajo were assembled and great pressure put on them to agree to the oil leases. The Navajo agreed to grant one lease for Tocito, but refused all others.  

In response to the discovery of oil on the Navajo Reservation and the refusal of the Navajo to agree to leases with oil companies, in 1922 Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall ruled that Indian reservations which were created by Presidential Executive Order (as opposed to those created by treaty) were open to oil exploration. This removed Indians from any control over the leasing of these lands and deprived them of all but one-third of the royalties from oil leases. The ruling also made Indian title to these lands uncertain with the presumption that these reservations were “merely public lands temporarily withdrawn by Executive Order for use by Indians.”

Concerned about the need for oil companies to develop wells on Navajo land and the opposition of the Navajo to these oil wells, in 1923 the federal government unilaterally replaced the traditional Navajo council of elders with a Grand Council composed of government-selected individuals. While the new council was to be composed of delegates elected by each of the six jurisdictions on the reservation, delegates could be appointed if there was no election. The Indian Office could also remove or replace any delegates, particularly if these delegates opposed any proposals by the federal government.

All members of the Council were Navajo who had been educated off of the reservation. The Council could meet only in the presence of the Indian agent for the Navajo Tribe. With regard to this new form of government, former Navajo chairman Peter MacDonald noted:

“For the first time in the history of the Navajo Nation, the idea of a single leader was created. A twelve-member tribal council was established whose representa¬tives were to replace the traditional extended family leaders.”

The new Council, the only Navajo government recognized by the U.S. government, quickly signed leasing permits with non-Indian companies. It was clear that the United States did not want a self-governing Navajo Nation, but wanted a puppet government which could be called at its behest to negotiate on behalf of the tribe in matters of property. The new council had been established to serve the interests of the oil companies and thus did not respond to the needs and problems of local communities.

Chee Dodge, a wealthy stockman, was elected as Chairman. A split soon developed in the council. Dodge, a Catholic, felt that the royalties belonged to all of the Navajo and should be used to buy land for the impoverished Navajo stockmen. Another group, under the leadership of Jacob C. Morgan, a fundamentalist Protestant missionary, felt that traditionalists such as Dodge were not qualified to lead. Under Dodge’s leadership the council gave the Indian agent the power of attorney to negotiate and sign all leases on behalf of the tribe.

The oil leases did generate some money for the Navajo, but this money was collected by the federal government and supposedly held for them in the Treasury Department. In 1926, the Navajo found out that money from their oil leases had been earmarked to build a bridge across the San Juan River at Lee’s Ferry. The bridge was not intended for Navajo use, but it would open up a convenient automobile route to the Grand Canyon for tourists and would thus greatly benefit the Fred Harvey Company which owned the concessions in the national park.

The Navajo also found out that they had been charged for several off-reservation bridges, for bridge repairs, and for building a road from Gallup, New Mexico to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

In 1926, the Navajo Tribal Council voted to set aside 20% of its oil revenues to purchase land. The following year, Chee Dodge, the Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for $1 million to buy land. The money was to come from the royalties paid for Navajo oil and mineral leases. This was not taxpayer money, but money generated from private corporations. However, Congress, who controlled all tribal funds including royalties, balked at releasing the money.

In 1928, Congress authorized $1.2 million for Navajo land purchases. This action had strong opposition from the New Mexico Congressional delegation.

In 1929, the Navajo requested information on their oil royalty figures. They found that the government had failed to monitor production or obtain accurate royalty figures. Part of the problem stemmed from keeping oil records in two different offices: production and royalty reports were kept in the San Juan area superintendent’s office while operations registers were at the Bureau of Mines office in Shiprock. Furthermore, the oil companies set up sophisticated internal operations to allow them to buy and sell crude oil to themselves and thus to juggle figures at will. While it was obvious that the government was not protecting Navajo interests and that oil companies were openly defrauding the tribe, no steps were taken to correct the problem and the same system of record-keeping would continue for the next century or so.

In what seems to have been a response to Navajo requests for information, the oil companies laid off more Navajo workers than non-Indian workers. When the Navajo complained to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he told them that all the oil companies had to do was to pay their royalties. The Navajo, however, insisted that their lease agreement called for the companies to employ Navajo workers. In addition, the companies were failing to protect the land, especially from pipeline leaks. The Indian Office and the Department of the Interior continued to support the oil companies.

While the administration of Indian affairs changed dramatically when Franklin Roosevelt became President, the conflicts between the Navajo and the oil companies were not resolved. While Roosevelt’s policies seemed to emphasize tribal self-government, the Navajo have continued to be skeptical of the government’s motivations.

 

The Navajo and Mexico

In 1821 Mexico obtained independence from Spain. In the Plan of Iguala, Mexico did away with all legal distinctions regarding Indians and reaffirmed that Indians were citizens of Mexico on an equal basis with non-Indians. In what is now New Mexico and Arizona, this means that the various Navajo bands now had to deal with the Mexican government rather than the Spanish government.  

The Navajo were not a unified nation with regard to government. There was no single unified, central government or council: there were dozens of local groups. The basis of traditional Navajo government was kinship. People of experience and wisdom (known as nataani) led the family, band, and clan groups. Each group was autonomous and chose its own leaders by consensus.

In 1822, the newly formed Mexican government negotiated its first treaty with the Navajo. Under the treaty, Segundo was recognized by the Mexican government as the head chief of the Navajo. Since the Navajo did not traditionally have a head chief, it is doubtful that most Navajo recognized him as head chief. The treaty called for an exchange of prisoners and the freedom of the Navajo to travel and trade throughout New Mexico.

Shortly after negotiating its first Navajo treaty, the Mexican government appointed a new governor who ignored the treaty. The new governor sent the Navajo an ultimatum to return all prisoners, to convert to Catholicism, and to resettle in villages around the missions. The new governor seemed unaware that the previous attempts by the Spanish to convert the Navajo and have them settle around the missions had failed.

In 1823, the Mexicans negotiated another treaty with the Navajo. The treaty was signed by two Navajo captains – Batolome Baca and Juan Antonio Sandoval. The treaty required: (1) the Navajo to hand over all prisoners, (2) Navajo prisoners held by Mexico were to be returned unless they wanted to become Christians, (3) the Navajo were to return all stolen goods, and (4) the Navajo were to accept Christianity and settle in pueblos. The peace established by the treaty, according to Navajo oral tradition, was violated before the ink was dry.

In 1824, the Mexican government sent a military campaign through Navajo territory in an attempt to subdue them. Following this campaign, the Mexican government negotiated a treaty with the Navajo that called for a mutual exchange of prisoners. Even though Mexican law prohibited slavery, the use of Indian slaves was common.

For the next decade there was little formal or official contact between the Navajo and the Mexican government. This did not mean there was peace between the Navajo and the Mexican settlers who had invaded Navajo territory. Skirmishes between the two groups were common.

In 1835, a group of Mexican ranchers together with a troop of Mexican soldiers invaded Navajo territory intent on destroying their fields, burning their hogans, killing or scattering their herds, and killing as many Navajo as possible. The Mexicans did not expect the any resistance from the Navaho as they had assumed they would be divided into small groups of raiders who could never make a stand against such a large force. However, the Navajo assembled 200 warriors under the leadership of Narbona. Most were armed with bows and iron-tipped arrows and all were mounted on swift horses. At the Big Bend of the Río Chaco the Navajo ambushed the Mexican force. The Navajo victory was swift and easy. Narbona allowed the Mexican survivors to retreat, taking their dead and wounded with them.

In retaliation for the Navajo victory, the Mexican army marched against the Navajo the following year. Hearing that the Zuni were allied with the Navajo, the Mexican army arrived at the Pueblo of Zuni to find that the Zuni were not allied with the Navajo. The Zuni turned over two Navajo prisoners.

In 1839, the Mexican authorities negotiated another treaty of peace with the Navajo but the Navajo did not care for the agreement and soon started raiding again. This was the last Mexican attempt at negotiating a treaty with the Navajo. In 1846, the United States acquired New Mexico and, under the Doctrine of Discovery, the right to govern the Indian nations within the territory.

Curtis Navajo

 

The War on Poverty

In 1964, with one out of every five Americans living in poverty, President Lyndon Johnson addressed Congress in his State of the Union message and proposed a war on poverty. In response, Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act which established the Office of Economic Opportunity. While the War on Poverty reduced overall poverty in the United States, it had a great economic, political, and social impact on the country’s Indian nations.  

In 1964, the poorest groups in the United States were Indians living on Indian reservations, a fact that had been true throughout the twentieth century and continues to be true today. On the reservations, economic development was controlled-planned, administered, and evaluated-by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). With the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity, the BIA no longer had a monopoly on the economic future of the tribes. Tribes were eligible for funding for youth programs, community action programs, and other programs. Indian tribes and organizations participated in these programs along with other economically disadvantaged groups. Unlike the earlier BIA programs, these new programs emphasized the need for local involvement at all levels. Soon nearly every tribe in the United States was involved in the War on Poverty and local Indian people, not the BIA, were planning and running the programs.  In other words, the War on Poverty provided tribal people with political empowerment.

Through the efforts of the War on Poverty’s community action programs Indians began to understand that they could control their own destinies. While the funding for the Indian War on Poverty was not sufficient to eradicate poverty on the reservations, these efforts resulted in: (1) providing a new generation of Indian leaders with experience in administering government programs; (2) increasing the capacity of tribal governments to administer federal programs, and (3) increasing the desire of Indian people to take over the management of government programs on the reservations.

Community Action Programs:

One of the key components of the War on Poverty was the Community Action Program (CAP). Each CAP was to utilize and mobilize local people to determine how best to deal with poverty in the local community. On the reservations, the CAPs often had bitter relationships with the long-standing BIA administration. The tribal CAPs dedicated the greatest funding to programs such as Head Start, educational development, legal services, health centers, and economic development.

In 1965, the Navajo established the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO) and Peter MacDonald became the new director. ONEO programs soon expanded into many different areas and almost all Navajo living on the reservation were directly impacted by these programs. MacDonald would later go on to become tribal chairman.

In Oklahoma, the Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (OIO) was formed as a part of the federal government’s War on Poverty program under the initial leadership of LaDonna Harris (Comanche). The OIO amplified Indian voices, not only at the local level, but also at the state and national level.

In Arizona, the Havasupai began a Community Action Program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. They also started a Head Start pre-school program.

Also in Arizona, the Pascua Yaqui Association under the leadership of Anselmo Valencia obtained a grant to start a Community Action Program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. Under this program they trained tribal members to build their own homes and then to purchase them with sweat equity. The new homes were built on a 200-acre parcel which became known as New Pascua.

Rough Rock Demonstration School:

There were many success stories-some large and many small-that came out of the Indian War on Poverty. One of these involved education on the Navajo Reservation. Traditionally, Indian education on reservations had been controlled by non-Indians who had insisted that they knew what was best for Indian children. Ignoring any possibility that parents and tribal parents might have an interest in educating Indian children, these non-Indian educators, usually BIA employees, designed programs with the goal of making Indian children into monolingual English-speaking Christians trained to be laborers.

Since the formation of the Navajo Reservation in the nineteenth century, there had been basically three kinds of schools. First, there were the schools run by the BIA which the Navajo call “Wa’a’shin-doon bi ‘olt’a,” or “Washington’s school.” Then there were the public schools which the Navajo call “Bilaga’ana Yazzie bi ‘olt’a” or “little whiteman’s school.” Finally, there were the mission schools which the Navajo call “Eeneishoodi bi ‘olt’a” or the school of “those who drag their clothes,” a name stemming from the first Catholic priests in long robes who came to the reservation.

What Navajo parents wanted was a school which would give their children an education which both respected and integrated Navajo culture while preparing them for the modern world. With funding from the War on Poverty, the Navajo organized the Rough Rock Demonstration School. This was to be a three year demonstration project. The school was run by the Navajo and became the first wholly Indian-controlled school in the twentieth century.

The Rough Rock Demonstration school is called “Dine’ bi ‘olt’a,” or the “Navaho’s school.” These words express the Navajo pride in the school and this was the only school on the reservation given this designation. It was not that the Navajo people were consulted about this school, but more importantly they were directly and actively involved in its operation.

The educational philosophy that guided the school was based on the idea that the creation of successful programs lies with the community, not education professionals. Policies were established by an elected seven-member, all Navajo school board. Thus the policies and programs were the result of action initiated by the Navajo people. Control of school policy, including handling the budget, was placed in the hands of the Navajo parents, most of whom were without formal education. School board meetings, which often lasted all day, were attended by many community members.

The school taught English as a second language rather than requiring students to know English in order to learn. What would later be known as bilingual/bicultural education began at Rough Rock two years prior to the passage of the Bilingual Education Act which enabled other schools to establish similar programs.  

Unlike the earlier BIA schools, both reading and writing in Navajo were taught to all students. Furthermore, the students were encouraged to use the Navajo language in the dormitories, the playground, the dining hall, and in the classroom.

Non-Indian staff members received in-service training to familiarize them with Navajo culture. The school also began programs to teach pottery and basket weaving.

Because the Navajo Nation is large and rural the school operated in part as a boarding school. Unlike the old BIA and mission boarding schools, however, parents from the community worked in the dormitories on a rotating basis. The parents acted as foster parents and as counselors for the students. Community elders visited the dormitories to tell stories and teach the youngsters about Navajo traditions, legends, and history.

In the old boarding schools, students were not allowed to go home during the school year. At Rough Rock, the students were encouraged to go home for weekend visits as often as possible. Transportation was provided to those who needed it. The basic policy of the school was that the children belonged to the parents and not the school.

The Rough Rock Demonstration School clearly demonstrated what is possible when Indian people, with limited or no formal education, were given an opportunity to direct and control their own education system. Rough Rock demonstrated that Indians were ready to exercise leadership in affairs affecting them if they were given the chance.

National Council on Indian Opportunity:

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, noting the success of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) projects on Indian reservations, announced:

“I propose a new goal for our Indian programs: A goal that ends the old debate about ‘termination’ of Indian programs and stresses self-determination; a goal that erases old attitudes of paternalism and promotes partnership self-help.”

With Executive Order 11399 President Johnson established the National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO).

The following year, the NCIO held a public forum in San Francisco to identify the problems of Indian people and to try to find solutions. At the forum, a number of Indian people spoke out about the problems they faced. These problems included racism, education, poor healthcare programs, unemployment, and housing.

The End:

In 1973, the Office of Economic Opportunity was abolished. However, the effects are still being felt today. With the passage of the Indian Self-Determination Act, government policies turned away from terminating Indian tribes to allowing the tribes to take over government programs. The success of the War on Poverty and the programs run by the CAPs had shown Indian people that Indians could not only run their own programs, but they could develop successful programs as well. The leaders which had been nurtured and trained during the War on Poverty became the new Indian leaders who would guide the people into the twenty-first century.  

The Athabascan-Speaking Groups in the Southwest

Sometime in the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascan-speaking peoples began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples. While most scholars agree that the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache originally lived in western Canada, probably on the northern Plains of Alberta, there is some disagreement over: (1) when they actually migrated to the Southwest, and (2) the route, or, more likely, the routes they used.  

The findings from archaeology suggest four different migration routes: (1) An intermountain route through western Colorado and eastern Utah; (2) A Rocky Mountain route through central Colorado; (3) A High Plains route through eastern Colorado; and (4) A Plains border route through Kansas.

While there are some scholars who feel that the Navajo and Apache could have started arriving in the Southwest as early as 800 CE and some who feel that it was as late at 1500 CE, most tend to place their arrival between 1200 and 1400.

With regard to language, Navajo and Apache are Athabascan languages which are related to the languages on the Northern Plains, particularly Sarsi, as well as languages spoken on the Northwest Coast (such as Haida), and California (such as Hoopa). Linguists have suggested that Navajo and Apache may have diverged from the northern languages as early as 2,400 years ago.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos, and cañadas. The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache.

The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. While there was intermarriage between these groups, they considered themselves to be distinct from one another and had clearly defined territorial boundaries. The traditional territory of the Western Apache is in Arizona and ranges from as far north as Sedona to as far south as the San Pedro River Valley.

The Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. The term “Chiricahua” was coined by an anthropologist to refer to the autonomous tribes living in or near the Chiricahua Mountains. The Chiricahua Apache were composed of four independent political units in this area: Chíhéne, Chokonene, Bidánku, and Ndé’ndaí.

The Jicarilla Apache are divided into two bands: the Llaneros (the plains people) and the Olleros (the mountain-valley people). Culturally the Jicarilla borrowed from the Plains tribes (especially the war and raiding complexes) and from the Pueblos (agricultural and ceremonial rituals).

The Eastern Apache include five groups: Gila, Mimbres, Coppermine, Warm Springs, and Mescalero.

The Navajo were traditionally divided into numerous, small independent groups. These groups are often described according to territorial groupings: (1) The area around Canyon de Chelly; (2) The mountainous region south of Zuñi, which includes Bear Springs (Fort Wingate); (3) Cebolleta near Laguna Pueblo; (4) San Mateo Mountains around Mount Taylor; and (5) The eastern slopes of the Tohatchi, the Tunicha, and the Carrizo Mountains extending to the Largo Canyon.  

The First U.S. Treaties with the Navajo

In 1846, the United States took control of New Mexico and Arizona. The United States Army under the leadership of General Stephen Watts Kearny occupied the territory which had been acquired from Mexico. One of the major priorities of the new regime was to “pacify” the Navajo who had been raiding against the Spanish settlements in the area. However, instead of bringing peace, federal government actions often brought increased warfare. The American army made it clear that they intended to side with the European settlers without examining the causes for the hostilities. The army refused to recognize that the Indians had often been the victims of unfriendly European settlers.  

In an 1846 letter to Indian Commissioner William Mediall, Charles Bent, an Indian trader, described the Navajo as

“an industrious, intelligent and warlike tribe of Indians who cultivate the soil and raise sufficient grain for their own consumption and a variety of fruits.”

He also noted that they manufactured blankets and woolen goods. Other traders during this time observed that Navajo blankets were coveted trade items among other Indians, such as the Cheyenne.  

When the Navajo leader Narbona first heard about the new American regime, he decided to travel to Santa Fe to obtain firsthand information about these new soldiers. He took with him only a few of his older councilors and traveled at night. Near Santa Fe they remained hidden from the soldiers so that they could safely watch the activities without being discovered. After observing the soldiers, they returned home without making any contact with the Americans. On the journey home, all agreed that Navajo warriors would be unable to defeat the American soldiers. They decided that it would be well to establish friendship with the Americans.

The first treaty council between the United States and the Navajo was held to negotiate the Bear Springs (Ojo del Oso) Treaty. Navajo leaders Narbona, Zarzilla (Long Earrings), and José Largo met with an American force of 350 soldiers. The eighty-year-old Narbona was suffering from an attack of influenza and was brought to the council on a litter slung between two horses. As was typical with American negotiations with Indians, the Americans had no concept of Navajo government. The Americans assumed that all people who spoke some dialect of Navajo must belong to a single political entity ruled by an authoritative dictator or monarch. They did not understand that the Navajo were really numerous independent, autonomous bands. Before the American troops had returned to the Rio Grande, the Navajo were again raiding near Albuquerque. These bands, not represented at the council, were unaware of the treaty, and, if they had been aware of it, would not have viewed it as binding them. The Treaty of Bear Springs was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.

In 1848, several Navajo leaders and the United States signed the Newby Treaty. The following year, when it became evident that the treaty was not working, the Americans, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel John M. Washington, sent an expedition to negotiate another treaty at Canyon de Chelly. While on the way to Canyon de Chelly, the Americans met several Navajo leaders in the Chuska Valley. The Americans held council with Navajo leaders Narbona, Achuletta, and José Largo. The Navajo leaders were asked to attend a council to sign a treaty with the United States. Narbona and José Largo indicated that they would not be able to attend and designated Armijo and Pedro José to attend in their place.

As the Navajo leaders were leaving, there was a dispute over an allegedly stolen horse in which the Americans told them that they must turn over one of the best horses. The skirmish with the Americans resulted in the immediate death of 16 or 17 Navajo, with several others dying later from wounds received in the battle. The elderly chief Narbona was mortally wounded but lived long enough to return to his hogan and say goodbye to his family. Narbona was probably the most respected Navajo leader at this time and had tried valiantly to establish peace between the Navajo and the United States.

In 1849, four Navajo medicine men made the sacred journey to Tohe-ha-glee (Meeting Place of Waters) to consult with the Page of Prophecy. After making the proper offerings, they read the marks in the sand which are the messages from the Holy People. The marks indicated a journey to a distant place. Other marks indicated many burials.

In the same year, the blind Navajo prophet Bineah-uhtin, a medicine man who saw with his mind, attended a War Chant where he came into contact with some young Navajo warriors. He told them:

“The day will come when your enemies will drive you out of your homeland, and you will go to a barren country where the corn will not grow and your sheep will eat poison weeds and die. Many of your people will starve, and others will be killed so that only a few will survive, and in all these wide cornfields there will be nothing alive excepting the coyotes and the crows.”

In 1851, the army established Fort Defiance (called Hell’s Hollow by the soldiers) for the express purpose of subduing the Navajo. While the American Indian agent was encouraging peaceful relations with the Navajo, the military was pushing for confrontation.

Fort Defiance

Congress appropriated $30,000 in 1854 for the purpose of negotiating treaties with the Apache, Navajo, and Ute in New Mexico. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs felt that the solution to the Indian “problem” was to extend the reservation concept into New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

In 1855, at Laguna Negra, New Mexico, a treaty council was held with the Navajo. About twenty chiefs were in attendance and Zarcillos Largos (Long Earrings) spoke for them. In the midst of the conference Zarcillos Largos told the Americans that he had grown too old to lead his people and he asked the Navajo headmen to select another to speak for him. Manuelito was selected as the new leader. The Americans promised the Navajo a reservation and annuity payments. Twenty-seven Navajo chiefs made their marks on the treaty and received presents. The Senate, balking at the monetary cost, refused to ratify the treaty.

In 1858, Navajo leader Manuelito pastured his horses and cattle in the army hay camp at Fort Defiance. Army troops then slaughtered 48 head of his cattle. The Navajo, in response, killed the black slave of an army officer. This began a new series of wars between the Navajo and the Americans.

In 1858, the American army imposed a new treaty on fifteen Navajo headmen at Fort Defiance. The Americans blamed the Navajo for the conflict and exacted a number of concessions from them. However, neither side was prepared to honor the treaty. Relations continued to deteriorate.

In 1861, a group of Navajo were having a peaceful horse race with soldiers at Fort Fauntleroy when the soldiers massacred 15 Navajo, including women and children. The incident started when the Navajo accused the officers of cheating. As a result, relations with the Navajo become strained and the only Navajo who remained at the post were the mistresses of some of the officers. The commanding officer then sent these women as emissaries to the Navajo. Army officials were willing to exploit the sexual relations between Navajo women and army officers in moments of crisis.

In 1861, a large Navajo war party under the leadership of Manuelito and Barboncito attacked Fort Defiance and nearly overran it.  

In 1863, General Carleton issued an ultimatum to the Navajo: they were to peacefully transfer to the reservation at Bosque Redondo or be treated as hostile. Colonel Kit Carson began to wage a “scorched earth” campaign against the Navajo. The plan, devised by General Carleton, called for all male Navajo to surrender or be shot. This resulted in the Navajo Long Walk, their imprisonment, and having the Treaty of Bosque Redondo forced upon them in 1868.

Navajo Long Walk

Utah’s Black Hawk War

( – promoted by navajo)

During 1865 to 1867, American and Mormon settlers in Utah were engaged in a war with a small group of Ute, Paiute, and Navajo warriors under the leadership of Ute chief Black Hawk. As a result of the conflict, the American and Mormon settlers abandoned much of southern and central Utah. At least nine communities were abandoned. The main object of most of the Indian raids was to take cattle for food. The Black Hawk War caused an estimated $1.5 million in losses.

While the Black Hawk War involved only a small group of warriors, Black Hawk’s raiders were so effective that it was a common perception among the Mormon settlers that all of the Indians in the territory were at war.

Setting the Stage:

The Black Hawk war grew out of a complex set of circumstances which included the loss of Indian farms in Utah and the failure of the United States government to fulfill its treaty obligations. The Utes and the Paiutes had been displaced from their ancestral lands and they had been deprived of their economic base. As a result, they were left with only three options: they could starve, they could beg, or they could fight.

In 1863, Autenquer (Black Hawk), a San Pitch Ute war leader, began to form alliances with other Ute bands, as well as with Paiute and Navajo bands to raid Mormon communities. The Indians blamed the Mormons for stealing their country and fencing it in. One of the causes of the raids is hunger and the Indians raid the communities to get cattle to eat.

Two years later, the Treaty of Spanish Fork with the Paiute called for them to give up all lands claimed in Utah and to move to the Uintah Reservation. None of the signers of the treaty represented the Meadow Valley and Virgin River Paiute bands who were contesting Mormon encroachment on their territory.

Like the Paiute, the Ute also signed the Treaty of Spanish Fork in which they gave up all of their land in Utah except for the Uintah Valley. In exchange, the Ute were to receive $900,000 to be paid to them over 60 years and they were to be allowed to fish in all accustomed places and to gather roots and berries. All of the Ute chiefs, except for San Pitch, signed the treaty. San Pitch said:

“If the talk is for us to trade the land in order to get the presents, I do not want any blankets or any clothing, if threat is the way they are to be got. I would rather do without them than to give up my title to the land I occupy. We want to live here as formerly.”

Kanosh opposed the treaty saying:

“In past times, the Washington chiefs that came here from the United States would think and talk two ways and deceive us.”

Mormon leader Brigham Young, speaking for the United States, told the Ute:

“If you do not sell your land to the Government, they will take it, whether you are willing to sell it or not.”

Young also told them:

“The land does not belong to you, nor to me, nor to the Government. It belongs to the Lord.”

Brigham Young assured them that they would receive houses, farms, cows, oxen, clothing, and other things. Because of his words, the chiefs signed the treaty.

The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty because of their disagreements with the Mormons. These disagreements with the Mormons had nothing to do with the Indians. The United States Senate wanted to punish the Mormons for their religious beliefs and refusing the treaty would increase the tensions between the Indians and the Mormon settlers.

The War:

In 1865, the conflicts between the Utes under the leadership of San Pitch subchief Black Hawk and the Mormon settlers intensified. The Indians, driven by hunger, stole some cattle and in the process some Mormons were killed. Mormon leader John Taylor stated:

“Some want to kill the Indians promiscuously, because some of them have killed some of our people. This is not right. Let the guilty be punished and innocent go free.”

Black Hawk’s warriors were soon joined by Ute warriors from other bands as well as by Paiute and Navajo warriors. At most the Black Hawk’s forces numbered only 60 to 100 warriors during the conflict. About half of the warriors were Navajos or Paiutes.

In 1866, Ute chief San Pitch and several of his men were arrested near Nephi because of rumors that he had been involved in violence against the American settlers. San Pitch was told to bring in Black Hawk and his band or be shot. Since San Pitch did not have the power to influence Black Hawk and his warriors,  he and his fellow prisoners broke jail rather than await execution. The escapees were hunted down and  killed.

In another incident, 16 unarmed Paiutes, including women and children, were killed near Circleville. The Paiute had been captured by the Mormons and were killed one at a time. Most had their throats slit. Three or four small children were spared and were adopted by Mormon families.  While there were pleas for an investigation, federal and territorial officials took no action. This reluctance or inability of territorial and federal officials to follow proper legal procedures with the Indians helped to create a climate that allowed for continued misconduct.

At Panguitch Lake, the Paiute bands would not let the Mormons fish in the lake, but they would sell fish to them. In response, the Mormons declared the Paiutes to be involved with Black Hawk’s warriors and attacked a Paiute camp. They then declared a Paiute Mormon convert to be the chief and restored the peace. Following this, the lake became a fishing resort for non-Indians.

In 1866, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote:

“The Lamanites are hostile, let us exercise faith about them and learn what the will of the Lord is. Let us send our Interpreters to them and make presents and tell [them] they must stop fighting. It is better to give them $5000 than have to fight and kill them for they are of the House of Israel”

In 1867, the body of Simeon, a Paiute, was found near Paragonah with a bullet wound in the back of his head. William H. Dame, president of the Prowan Stake of the Latter Day Saints church and colonel in the militia was instructed by Mormon leaders Brigham Young and George A. Smith that the murder of a peaceful Indian must be dealt with by civil authorities. Subsequently an investigation into the murder was undertaken. When some people questioned whether or not Simeon had actually been murdered, his body was exhumed and the bullet removed from his skull. As a result of the investigation, murder charges are brought against Thomas Jose. Jose was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in the territorial penitentiary. He served one year and was then pardoned by the territorial governor.

After the War:

In 1867, Black Hawk surrendered at the Uinitah Reservation. He came without his men but gave information on those still at large. It was estimated that he had 58-64 warriors under him.  

During the Black Hawk War, about 46 Mormon settlers were killed, including 11 women and children. Both sides killed noncombatants.

The primary purpose of most of the Indian raids was to obtain cattle. Black Hawk’s warriors captured about 5,000 cattle. This focus on cattle shows that the warriors were often desperate for food.

In 1869, the San Pitch Ute, once led by Autenquer (Black Hawk), followed the civil leader Tabby-to-kwana to the Uintah Valley Reservation. The Ute had been assured that they would be able to continue to hunt and gather on all public lands.

Following the war, Black Hawk toured many of the settlements in central and southern Utah, speaking to Mormon congregations and asking for their understanding and forgiveness. In speaking to these communities, Black Hawk emphasized that his people had been destitute and starving. Some of the Mormon settlers greeted him with understanding, while others, remembering the deaths of family and friends, rejected his offer of reconciliation.

News from Native American Netroots and American Indian Caucus Transcripts

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Daily Kos

Welcome to News from Native American Netroots, a Sunday evening series focused on indigenous tribes primarily in the United States and Canada but inclusive of international peoples also.

A special thanks to our team for contributing the links that have been compiled here. Please provide your news links in the comments below.

Eagle Feather



At the end of the body of this diary I have included a transcript of  Meteor Blade’s, and navajo’s, speech. They were presented at the NN ’10 American Indian Caucus

Trafficking our children

This was the first in a series by Valerie Taliman that we posted in News from NAN. The rest of the series has now been published.

h/t Aji

Part 2 of 4

Children dying while predators roam free

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Convicted sexual predator Martin Tremblay is still roaming free after two teenage girls died in March – one at his home – after being given a lethal mix of alcohol and drugs within hours of their deaths.

Friends of Martha Hernandez, 17, and Kayla LaLonde, 16, said the two First Nations teens had been hanging out with a man named “Martin” who supplied them with free drugs and alcohol at parties he held for teens at his Richmond home.

Angela LaLonde, whose daughter was found collapsed on a road with bruises on her body, said police told her they were close to an arrest in her daughter’s death, but then they stopped returning calls.

Part 3 of 4

Turning anger into action

Through their work at the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and a local rape crisis center, Cherry Smiley and Laura Holland are on the frontlines of helping girls and women escape the horrors of forced prostitution.

On a daily basis, they witness the despair and destruction of women targeted by pimps and johns who earn profits from their bodies. They see the gaping wounds and scars of women bruised and battered. They hear the stories of those trying to escape, and they help to provide hope and resources that can change a young girl’s life.

“Why is society not horrified by what is happening here? This is not child labor, it’s child rape, yet the authorities have done little to deal with the pimps and perpetrators,” said Smiley, an activist and artist who is part of AWAN’s collective of women volunteers and advocates.

Part 4 of 4

Canada’s racist policies to blame for national tragedy

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Manitoba – At a gathering of traditional healers and spiritual leaders in the Turtle Lodge earlier this summer, the national tragedy of more than 582 murdered and missing First Nations women became a focus for discussion and prayers.

Several people spoke of relatives missing in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton, and along the Highway of Tears. It seems to be happening everywhere.

Chief Donovan Fontaine said at least four women from the local community were missing – one six months pregnant – and later found murdered, some dumped along highways.

Lancaster Sound: A seismic victory for the Inuit

By Josh Wingrove

With little to show for three months of meetings and letter-writing, Inuit leader Okalik Eegeesiak called a lawyer she knew: Could the courts stop scientific tests that might scare away animals her people rely on?

She was referred to Davis LLP, a firm versed in aboriginal law, and two lawyers in its Toronto office, David Crocker and Peter Jervis, agreed to take the case. Neither had ever been to Nunavut.

Center for American Indian Community Health to be Created at KU Medical Center

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance  have joined forces to create the Center for American Indian Community Health, according to a press release issued by KU on July 30.

The initiative, which is being funded by a $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, will set up a pipeline to attract American Indian high school and college students to the KU School of Medicine’s master’s of public health degree program and other graduate programs to increase the number of Native people entering the health professions and conducting health research. Medical center faculty are already working with Haskell Indian Nations University to identify potential students for the master’s of public health program.

Dental work reaches Native Americans in Nebraska

A Morman man, a couple of Catholics and an agnostic went to volunteer at a Native American reservation in Nebraska – and it’s no joke.

In fact, the team has volunteered at a dental clinic on the Omaha Reservation for about five years.

“It’s good to help,” said Joe Bly, who works in the dentistry lab at Mayo Clinic. “It’s good to roll up your sleeves and just dive in. I think that if you’re blessed with more than what you need, you should help others.”

Ecuadorian government cracks down on Native leaders

An acrimonious relationship between Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and Native leaders took a turn for the worse in July when the government charged Delfin Tenesaca, Puruha Kichwa and Marlon Santi, Shaur, the presidents of the country’s largest indigenous organizations, with terrorism and sabotage. The charges were filed following a protest outside a summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas June 25 in the Ecuadorian town of Otavalo.

The summit, which was presided by Presidents Correa, Evo Morales, of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela, was dedicated to the region’s Native and African-American peoples and was attended by many members of those ethnic groups. However, the government declined to invite representatives of the country’s principal Native organizations – the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Kichwa confederation ECUARUNARI – both of which once supported Correa, but have grown critical of him over the past two years. Their leaders consequently organized a protest outside the summit and attempted to deliver a letter to Morales, but were prevented from entering the summit by the police, which resulted in a shoving match.

Local volunteers answer tribe’s prayer

Tina Hagedorn is thrilled to help answer a prayer from an Indian tribe in the poorest of the 3,143 counties in the United States.

The Gig Harbor woman and other South Sound volunteers leave Thursday to deliver three fully equipped ambulances and 16 pallets of toys to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

As a consultant who has visited many Indian reservations across the country, Hagedorn was deeply touched by the overwhelming poverty suffered by the Lakota people of this tribe.

Pilot prosecuting program comes to Pine Ridge

Gregg Peterman has helped Russia develop a better criminal justice system, so the assistant U.S. attorney is a logical choice to do the same thing for another sovereign nation closer to Rapid City: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Peterman went to Russia as part of the Department of Justice’s Overseas Professional Development Assistance and Training program. OPDAT lends federal prosecutors to developing democracies all over the world — including Iraq and Afghanistan — to help them develop more effective, efficient criminal justice systems.

“I remember thinking 10 years ago we should do a detail in Indian Country,” Peterman said. “If we can do that overseas, I thought, why are we not helping communities in this country who need assistance improving the function of their tribal justice system?”

Yurok Tribe challenges California Marine Act

The Yurok Tribe’s message to the state Marine Life Protection Act’s Blue Ribbon Task Force may have done some good.

“For the first time, I got a sense that the task force group was paying attention to the tribe’s concerns,” Thomas O’Rourke Sr., Yurok Tribe chairman, said after task force meetings.

“They were listening. We had their ear. Our major message is tribal rights are non-negotiable. Whether they will act or not that is something else that we’ll have to wait to see.”

McCain launches ‘broad based attack’ on Indian gaming regulation

If Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gets his way, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be revving up for a jurisdictional clash with tribal leaders over the National Indian Gaming Commission’s authority to regulate Class III gaming.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on Indian gaming on July 29 to “examine priorities established by the new leadership of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in areas including the NIGC’s regulatory role, staffing, budget, plans for consultation and training and technical assistance to tribes.”

Tracie Stevens, the new chair of the NIGC, testified in front of the committee for the first time exactly one month after her confirmation by the Senate. Other witnesses included Philip Hogen, the former NIGC chairman; Ernie Steven Jr., the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association; and Mark Brnovich, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming.

Native American Graduates Headed Out to Teach

More than 1,000 University of Oregon students earned their degrees Saturday during the summer commencement ceremony.

Sixteen of those students will now use their degrees to educate kids in struggling Native American communities.

The 16 students are Native Americans themselves, and they understand the troubles facing young Native students.

As graduates of the Sapsik’wala Project, they now have Master’s degrees in Education and the passion to help struggling Native schools.

Ohlones want a voice on Hunters Point project

An Indian tribe held a sunrise ceremony at Yosemite Slough on Tuesday in an attempt to show just how important the sacred sites around the proposed Hunters Point Shipyard/Candlestick Point redevelopment project are to the Ohlone people.

“We want to be shown the respect we deserve as the original people of that land,” Tony Cerda, chairman of the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, said. “We need city recognition.”

Peruvian Indians launch political party

Peru’s Amazonian Indians announced Wednesday they are going to launch their own political party with the stated aim of taking the Peruvian presidency next year.

The party is to be called the Alliance for the Alternative of Humanity (APHU), playing on the native Quechua word “apu,” meaning traditional chief, Alberto Pizango, the head of the Aidesep association grouping 65 tribes, told reporters.

Pizango said he is willing to be the candidate for the April 2011 presidential election once the party is formally established in September this year.

Indian scholars gather to share Native perspective on history

By Vince Devlin

On the first day of classes, Myla Vicenti Carpio, an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, shakes hands with all her new students and welcomes them to class.

Then she tells them to imagine that she is a frontier-era missionary priest and they are members of an Indian tribe the priest has just met for the first time.

“I have immunity to diseases that you don’t have,” she says. “I just shook every hand and infected all of you. In some cases 90 percent of your tribe will be wiped out.”

American Indian Pre-Apprenticeship Program Prepares for Work Spike

On most of America’s Indian reservations, national percentages measuring economic anguish or progress hold scant meaning. Times have always been tough and have only gotten worse during the most recent recession, with nearly half of the work-age members in some parts of Indian Country jobless.

With $400 billion of dollars of potential construction and significant energy development foreseen on 55 million acres of reservation lands-coupled with significant federal stimulus dollars coming in-the question is:  Who will do the work?…..

…..A recently-concluded six-week, intensive pre-apprenticeship program for 24 Native American Indians  at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D., holds the promise of building an indigenous, growing work force of IBEW electricians on reservations and in nearby towns from  New York to Oklahoma to California. IBEW’s Dakotas JATC provided opportunities for hands-on electrical work, supplementing classroom time.



International Day of the World’s Indigenous People celebrated


People around the globe marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People Aug. 9 as the U.S. State Department continued its review of the federal government’s rejection of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In Malaysia, there was a celebration on the beach with dancing, music and basket weaving. In New Delhi, around 80 tribal people from eight states dressed in traditional attire and came together to speak out about their struggles and ask for their rights as equal citizens.

In Costa Rica, two dozen indigenous protesters staged a sit-in at the Legislative Assembly and called on lawmakers to approve a labor union agreement regarding the autonomy of indigenous people, which was signed by Costa Rica in 1992, but never ratified.

Investors urge unqualified Declaration endorsement

The movement to persuade the federal government to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualification has grown beyond American Indian and religious communities to the financial world.

Calvert Investments, a financial services company that holds $14.5 billion in assets, and a coalition of investors have submitted comments to the State Department and White House urging the unconditional endorsement of the Declaration.

“Calvert believes indigenous peoples in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe deserve the affirmation and recognition of the broad array of rights set forth in the Declaration, including those related to self-determination, culture, land and natural resources, means of subsistence, treaty rights, non-discrimination, health and social services, protection of sacred sites, education and language,” Calvert CEO and president Barbara J. Krumsiek wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton July 14.

IHS Shifting to Private Groups

According to reports, federal health-care reforms will result in more private medical care and for-profit insurance policies for local Americans in the upcoming years.

The Indian health system, on the other hand, is solely controlled by the Government. However, things are now changing and through the Self-Determination Act or Self-Governance compacts, the tribes or authorized organizations manage the budget of the Indian Health Service.

The Indian health system is witnessing the emerging role of private groups. In a 2002 article for the Western Journal of Medicine, Dr. Everett R. Rhodes, an ex-Director of the Indian Health Service, wrote that the Indian health services is now making a move to the private sector, particularly in the western states where most of the American Indians inhabit.

Way of the peaceful warrior: fighting gang violence with Native American traditions

What does it mean to be a warrior? Surrounded by spiritual leaders in a sweat lodge instead of drug dealers in East Oakland, Juan Segura was learning.

He at least knows how urban war looks and feels. It looks like his friend, Eric Toscano, being killed in a drive-by shooting. It looks like that same friend falling, eyes open, blood running down his face. It feels like getting hit in the right foot and calf in that same shooting, then wanting to hide after getting death threats from rival gang members a year after he stopped running the streets.

But Barrios Unidos is trying to teach Segura another way to be a warrior. Over four days, the nonprofit that fights gang violence held its fourth annual Warrior Circle in the woods above Trout Gulch Road. Twenty-one boys and young men, ages 4 to 18, were taught through nature and Native American tradition how to respect others and see life as sacred.

Debra Lookout wins taco title

PAWHUSKA, Okla. – For the second time in four years, Osage Nation citizen Debra Lookout has won the National Indian Taco Championship.

Lookout, a 39-year-old licensed practical nurse with the Osage Nation Diabetes Program, won the title in 2007 and again on May 15 in downtown Pawhuska, beating 13 other contestants.

“I’m just blessed, truly blessed,” she said. “This year I knew that I had competition because everyone was talking about a guy who had salsa, homemade salsa, that was really good. So I decided I had better practice. My oldest daughter had a dream last week that I won. So I had a feeling that I would win, but I really tried different things, adding more flavor to my taco. I worked really hard and I couldn’t have done it without my kids.”

ZTE Joins US Big Leagues With Verizon Handset

Verizon Wireless on Thursday announced the Salute phone from ZTE, the first handset from the big Chinese phone and network supplier on a top-tier U.S. carrier……

…..ZTE’s handset business in the U.S. so far has been limited to smaller mobile operators, including MetroPCS and Pocket Communications. The company also supplies terrestrial EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) infrastructure for the 3G (third-generation) network that links Aircell in-flight Wi-Fi networks with the Internet. It is working with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority on a proposed 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network  that would bring Internet access to thousands of rural residents across the Navajo Nation, which spans large areas of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Where is America’s outrage?

When New York Mayor Bloomberg asked Gov. Patterson to act like a cowboy to shut down the Seneca tobacco industry, little was heard from mainstream America to condemn such an outrageous statement.

The use of force to subdue, dispossess, disempower and eradicate the Native American is a disgraceful part of American history and Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging its continuation. The image of the cowboys shooting and killing Indians, defending settlers and moving them off their lands is the stuff of American legend. Indians were the villains of American expansionism and it created Manifest Destiny to justify their elimination.

Native Gatherings

h/t translatorpro

This Week on “Native America Calling”




Monday, August 23, 2010-  Gathering Medicine in National Parks:


A group called the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, known as PEER and is based in Washington D.C., is calling out the National Park Service for allowing Native people to gather medicinal plants and roots on park lands. PEER says the practice is against the park’s own rules. But tribal people have fought long and hard to regain access to these vital plants and the NPS director has reportedly said he feels the regulations against Native people having access is wrong. Will the rules be changed? Invited guests include PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010- To Be or Not To Be a Tribal Leader:


Have you ever considered running for a leadership position in your tribal government? Why or why not? Would you be willing to make the call on important decisions that will resonate for several generations? Have current tribal administrations and/or leaders turned you off from ever wanting to add tribal chairman or tribal council member to your resumè? Or, do current leaders make you wish that tribal voting day was just around the corner so you could make your mark? We open up our phone lines to hear your thoughts on being the one leading the tribal charge.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010- Book of the Month: Flood Song:

In his second book, Sherwin Bitsui (Navajo) intones landscapes real and imagined, remaining reverent to his family’s indigenous traditions while simultaneously indebted to European modernism and surrealism. Bitsui is at the forefront of a younger generation of Native writers. His poems are highly imagistic and constantly in motion, drawing as readily upon Diné myths, customs, and medicine songs as they do contemporary language and poetics. His latest work “Flood Song” was recently selected as a winner of the 31st annual American Book Awards for 2010.

Thursday, August 26, 2010- Reducing Back to School Stress:

Elementary, high school and college kids are flocking back to school and into new routines. They’ll have new classmates, new teachers and maybe even a new school to navigate. New surroundings bring with them new expectations and more intense schoolwork. Experts say helping your student understand what changes they’ll face can greatly reduce their back-to-school anxiety and can even help prevent high school and college students from dropping out. How do you alleviate yours and your child’s anxiety? Guests TBA.



Friday, August 27, 2010- Can Indian Girls Do Science?:


There is a glaring within our society misconception that girls don’t do science. And it stretches even further when you include Native girls. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society, or AISES, is determined to lay these tired old myths to rest once and for all. AISES is eager to explain about the many ways that Native Americans in general, and women in particular, are blazing exciting paths in science and technology. Half of AISES’ 2000-strong membership is made up of women. Do Indian contributions to technology extend no further than stargazers and Code Talkers? Guests TBA.

Native America Calling Airs Live

Monday – Friday, 1-2pm Eastern

Tim Lange aka Meteor Blades:

Before I get started on that somewhat sordid history that she wants me to tell I want to reiterate something that she talked about, and that’s the Native American Rights Fund. I’ve been associated with the Native American Rights Fund in a sort of ad hoc years for forty years. This is their fortieth anniversary, and I wrote the first interview with people at the Native American Rights Fund about three months after they got going. Since then, over those forty years they’ve had personal tragedies.  Five of their members were killed in a horrible car accident almost twenty years ago. They have won some mini cases, most of them small that you would never hear of and they have lost many more cases that they have fought. They continue to battle for Indian rights through the law which can be extremely difficult, if there’s anything more complicated than water law in the United States, it’s Indian law. There’s contradiction, there’s state vs. federal, there is contradictory decisions made by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s a morass. So, if you have extra money at some time and you’d like to contribute to an organization that I think is one of the premier ones in terms of Native

, Native American Rights Fund. They’re in Boulder, Colorado and I’m sure they’d be pleased to receive anything that you’d like to give them.

It’s true, as Neeta says, I have risked my life a number of times and as Land of Enchantment said here; sometimes you don’t know it ahead of time.

You just step into a situation and there it is.

My background is, I was not born in a reservation, I was born in Southern Georgia, and both my parents are Seminole. My mother is what we would say a half-blood, a quantum, and my father was a full blood. We spoke when I was young and we learned both English and a dialect of Creek, which the Seminoles who live in northern Oklahoma and southern Florida speak.

The Seminoles in southern Florida, who are also known as Migsukis speak another language, it’s related. I have lost almost all of that language over the years and there are a couple of reasons for that. One, really only lived as a clan, as I should call it, until I was nine years old. And then we moved to first Nebraska, and then Colorado.

My mother was able to pass white most of the time; she did not want anyone to know that she was an Indian. And she was, as you can see I’m pretty white too, as many Seminoles are and it was the thing for her to do and it complicated my coming to grips with my own heritage. Not only did I loose my language, but I lost a lot of contact with my family. She was estranged from her father and my grandmother died, actually 55 years ago next month. So there was a disconnection from the people who had the real connection on the reservation and to our own heritage. And that, until I was in my early twenties, really disconnected me from, in a way, who I was although I also became somebody else as a result of that disconnection. It was when I was in high school I first caught some discrimination against Indians. It wasn’t directed at me at first; it was directed at the only other American Indian who was in the school that I was going to. That school was Irvana High School in Irvana Colorado and the high school mascot was the Redskins, which today a lot of people would say, “Well that’s horrible, and lots of school have changed that.” And Irvana, in the 1990’s has changed its name as well. But in those days nobody, except us that were redskins thought that that was awful. And our attempt, first of all this other person’s attempt to change that became his and my attempt to change that, and we failed.

And we were ridiculed, widely ridiculed for it, and that was the first taste of anything, it certainly wasn’t a risk to my life, although there were a few fistfights over it. That is where I first got the idea of being different besides the fact that I could pass being white, that being different meant something.

When I was seventeen I heard the speech, the “I Have A Dream” speech  Martin Luther King gave in Washington and that catalyzed me to want to do something about the situation in the South, where I was born and partially raised.  And so I was one of the two youngest people at seventeen to join the Freedom Summer organization, which was in theory both a racial equality, and a student non-violent coordinating committee project to register voters in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.  As I’m sure all of you know, three people were killed very early on that summer. As a matter of fact they had disappeared just four days before the people that people on the bus that I was riding with arrived in Jackson, just four days before.  Everybody knew they were dead, everybody knew they were dead, but nobody was quite saying that openly yet, but we knew it and we knew that we were going to be risking our lives going out from that very moment.  

I was very fortunate in having a man named Charlie Biggers, an African-American who’d been born in Indiana, one of those famous Klan states at one time. His parents had faced down the Klan.  He was about seven or eight years older than me and he had also been on the Freedom Rides earlier. So he took me under his wing and we went door to door, and when we were done at the end of that summer we had registered exactly eleven people.

Overall, the entire state, 1200 people were registered to vote of the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of African Americans in Mississippi that was the total number we could register.  And it was because the people who were killed, two white people and one black person, weren’t the first. During that summer two bodies were found in a swamp. They were both young black men, one of which actually had a SNIC (Student Non-Violent Committee) t-shirt on his body, and it was found that way.

These were people who had killed before and it happened many, many years before. People who had died on their own private property, people who had died on their own private property.   People who’d been taken out and murdered simply because they wanted to enforce a law that had been passed right after the Civil War.  So, that was sort of my first experience, I’ve never had anybody try directly to kill me in that project but you walked up to some doors and people would stand in their doorways and say “no closer.” I mean these were African-Americans who were saying “look you go home when you’re done and we don’t.” Everyday their risk was so much greater than ours even thought there was that little threat against us.

So, over the years I got involved in the anti-war movement, continued in the civil rights movement. Then in 1969 I went to prison because I refused to go to Vietnam. I got my draft notice and I went in and said, “I’m not going.” And then they gave me my induction notice which is “report now,” and I said “no” and within in a few weeks I was on my way to Arizona where I spent thirteen months in a prison camp with many other people who were also resisters, and had other issues, we were separate from the Federal prison system, in a way. It wasn’t like being thrown into a regular prison at all, as a matter of fact we spent most of four days outside cutting brush and doing that hard labor, but a lot better than what any prison then was like and much less like what any prison is now where they’ve become much, much, worse despite all the modernization.

When I came out of prison I almost immediately joined the American Indian Movement. I had been following it for some time and was interested in what they were doing and I liked the Pan-Indian aspect of it, that this was not tribally based, it was something that would unite lots of groups across lots of cultures and languages. Each reservation has similar problems, but yet they are unique and this really appealed to me. So I joined AIM and the first project that occurred then was the “Trail of Broken Treaties march that was a march across the country.  Lots of people marched all the way from California and Oregon all the way to Washington, D.C.

I didn’t join until they reached Cleveland and then marched in. We were there and we were supposed to meet with certain politicians that we had set up ahead of time, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen was we ended up taking over the BIA headquarters for ten days. And in that process, some of you I can tell are old enough to remember, we liberated some files.  Tens of thousands of BIA files, several of which later became lawsuits, including a relatively recent one that was resolved.  That’s forty years ago and some of this stuff is still relevant today.  Essentially, in a nutshell, what those documents showed was that which we all knew but these were the details. The BIA had been screwing the tribes for decades by sweetheart deals with contract people, grazing land, mining trust fund moneys, oil revenues, you name it.  The BIA was giving away one more bit of Indian property, if you will. That’s something that’s been going on with the BIA since 1860, that’s when it started and it still hasn’t ended.

In 1973, about ten days after the siege of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation started I slipped in a back way to join the siege.  And there were other people who tried to do it, some of who made it, some of who did not get in, they got blocked because by that time the Federal Marshals and the F.B.I. had surrounded the site and they were heavily armed, they were perfectly willing to use their arms against people. Not many people were killed but lots of people were shot at so this was a major risk. And I stayed for 55 of the 71 days, I stayed there until about five days before it was over when it became clear that the talks that were going on and everything that had been negotiated were going to mean the end of the siege a lot of people left ahead of time rather than wait to what some of us thought, by that time, would be mass arrest. Before that time there were days when we thought, remember this started in February). There were days that we thought we might end up like the original Wounded Knee Massacre where, as I’m sure a lot of you know the story. It’s a horrible story and it’s documented somewhat by photographs that are equally horrible, when in the neighborhood of about three-hundred Minneconjou people were massacred, Massacred, there’s no other word for it, massacred by the 7th Calvary, which some of whom had been at Little Big Horn as well, so this was seen by some as revenge.

I suppose some people would say, “Well, you were romantics to think that you were going to repeat this situation.” But if you’d have been there you’d understand, I mean the amount of racism that we got, not from the reservation, but from the local community there, from the Federal officers who were there, and from a good deal of the media after the initially,   “um, look well they’ve really got some legitimate gripes.” The media eventually turned against us.

Over the years, we turned against ourselves. This is something that I think all Progressives need to ponder at great length. It’s not just what happened to the American Indian Movement, but its what happens to Progressives so much, Dee knows this as well as anyone in the room, I think.

We devour our own so readily, the right wing doesn’t do that. And why that’s the case, why we do that has something to do with the fact that we allow ourselves to disagree with each other. We thrive on disagreement, progress is made by disagreement, but somehow we so often take it beyond that disagreement, and that’s what happened to A.I.M.

A.I.M. took it beyond that; people were killed because of that disagreement. The organization itself now essentially has three divisions, if you will; but basically they’re all phantoms. Essentially the organization doesn’t exist anymore as any kind of political clout at all, which is terrible because it really had the opportunity to really make a big difference at one time. And that opportunity was lost at charges that this or that member was a cop, an F.B.I. agent, was really on the other side. Some of it was personality driven, some of it was driven by different ideologies, that’s always going to be the case, and some of it was really just driven by ignorance I think, and an unwillingness to overcome some of those other things to make progress for us all.

I today see some of that happening despite the fact that here we are, the fifth year now for YearlyKos/Netroots Nation at a flex time let’s say, for the future. The split within the Progressive movement over President Obama I think is something we’ve all seen elements of throughout the blogosphere and through our face-to-face interactions.

I’m not going to take a position on any of that right now but I just think that’s something that’s going on and that’s a message that I really hope everybody ponders carefully, because if we split, if we divide now, if we devour our own now at this time when we could have the greatest impact for future change, we can only blame ourselves for it. And for those of you who are under fifty in the room, there’s at least a few people, it’s not going to affect me so much, it’s going to affect you, because I’ll be dead, a lot of us will be dead, but it’s that change.

Somebody once told me, I can’t remember who it was now, and it was a long time ago; “Being a Progressive is not a destination, it’s a journey.”

We’re never done as Progressives we’re never done.

When every gay person in this country has a right to get married at the Federal level, we won’t be done. When racism is, let’s not say wiped out, far reduced from what it is today; we won’t be done. When sexism is much reduced, when reproductive rights is not a continuing fight, when we actually do have a health reform with single payer; we won’t be done.  There’ll be something else to do, always something else to do and hopefully there’ll be somebody else to fight it. But Progressives in my lifetime have made so many mistakes, that are not a bad thing except for that one mistake; and that one mistake is eating our own.

We’ve got to stop doing that.

That doesn’t mean we should stop disagreeing with each other, that’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t happen, we need to be disagreeing with each other. But if people in the future are going to risk their lives we owe it to them to strive for some unity within our differences to make them want to risk their lives to make things better in the future.

That’s the message that I hope everybody here takes with them.  




Neeta Lind aka navjo

My name is Neeta Lind, I also blog as “Navajo”. I’m the founder of Native American Netroots, also known as NAN. I lead the Native American caucus every year; I’ve led it every year since 2006.

And this is Tim Lange, also known as the famous “Meteor Blades.”

I’m going to talk a little bit about myself in the beginning here and then give you a summary of our caucus meetings over the last five years and then we’ll hear Tim recount his amazing history of Indian activism, and after that we’ll open it up for questions and comments.

(A few technical updates)

“A little bit about myself, my mother was born on the Navajo Reservation near Inscription House Canyon, northern Arizona. She was forcefully taken away from her family at five or six years of age and sent to the U.S. government boarding school. Their program of assimilation worked, mother moved off the reservation, married a white man, my father, and deliberately didn’t teach us the Navajo language as she was advised at the boarding school. So, I’m an assimilated Indian, I live in the San Francisco Bay area .

Fortunately I have a very strong family on the rez and have maintained close ties with them to immerse my children in the culture and the language.  I’m also fortunate that my grandfather and some uncles were Medicine Men, this is a highly respected position in any tribe and they also strive to maintain the traditional lifestyle as well. I visit once or twice a year and I’m taking Navajo language courses as my way to combat assimilation.

A little bit about how our caucus got started in 2006. Gina Cooper, the original director for YearlyKos,  asked me to host the Native American Caucus at the first convention. After that first caucus I made a blog, “Native American Netroots,” to collect diaries and start to form a group. I linked to many American Indian blogs and news sources that I could find.  I also hosted our caucus in Chicago in 2007, Austin 2008, then and Pittsburgh in 2009. Last year I peeked into the American Indian and Latino caucus room and they were jammed packed, our first year we had six people attend, the following years after that we had about a dozen each time. It says a lot about the obstacles we face when we try to organize as American Indians.  The factors of poverty and remoteness of our reservations contribute to the difficulty of community discussion for American Indians online.  

I’ve been on this quest for five years to to  find Progressive Native voices, to give them a place to write and interact. It has been slow building, our readership at NAN, and finding writers.

February 2010 provided a compelling event that caused many people to rally and join Native American Netroots in a more compelling way. There were terrible ice storms that devastated the reservations in South Dakota. Tribal members were running out of propane, electricity had been cut off for weeks. Chris Road broke the story at Daily Kos one day and I offered to re-post her diary when it rolled off the recent list with only a few comments. Chris gave the story to me, I blogged about it every day because Indians were freezing to death. We did an interesting thing that I’m proud of, we cut out the middleman charity organizations and provided direct phone numbers to the local propane companies. Kossacks bought tanks of same day service propane for deserving families on the list provided by our contacts on the reservation.

We also listed large charity organizations but knew that they’d be slower to respond. Then an extraordinary thing happened, Keith Olbermann took our story and  broadcast it on Countdown. exmearden, whose a member  of our NAN group put up a celebratory diary and Keith commented in it, thanking us for brining this issue to his attention. I nearly had a heart attack. He listed one of the charity groups, donors nation wide raised hundreds of thousands of dollars overnight. Keith reported this the next night, it may have been my finest hour this year. I was so please that one of the national news broadcasters finally picked up the story.

Another great thing happened, I had a large group of bloggers volunteer who wanted to bring attention to poverty and lack of opportunity on the reservation, and most importantly they wanted to be a part of a pro-active work to minimize disasters like this in the future. So may NAN team was created, I was no longer a team of one. We have a great group of twenty people with important fields of expertise who write and contribute behind the scenes with planning. My contributing editors, Aji and oke, have helped set up Twitter and Facebook for us.  They are gathering news and posting regular diaries at Daily Kos and NAN.

I’m sure many of you have read Winter Rabbit and Ojibwa’s diaries. We’re also looking for advisors for our group. Advisors must live on a reservation,  we have three on Rosebud, cacamp, lpggirl, and sarahlee, and two on Pine Ridge, Autumn Two Bulls and Kevin Kellor.

I think American Indians, as a totality, are getting attention at Daily Kos  because of our group of bloggers. The plan going forward is to team with the other American Indian blogs and services to bring attention to our reservations.  We are currently building alliance with IndnsList right now.  Their mission is to get  more Native Americans elected to public office. One of my next little tasks is to add the Native American Rights Fund to our link list. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: The preservation of tribal existence, the protection of tribal natural resources, the promotion of Native American human rights,  the accountability of our government to Native Americans, and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights law and issues, so that’s an important one.

The renowned photographer, Aaron Huey, who has been featured in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, sent me an email in June asking for help in sharing his recent T.E.D. talk. I gladly built a diary for him using his video, transcript, and some of his amazing photos to tell the important story of Pine Ridge and their broken treaties. My diary made the Recommended list at Daily Kos early in the evening and stayed on all night. This contact by Mr. Huey shows that we are reaching a large audience and people with interest in benefiting American Indians can come together and take action to help our people.

We are making a difference.

A wonderful recent development is that Sherry Cornelius, who personally delivered propane for us through her mother’s company, St. Francis Energy, on the Rosebud rez during the S. Dakota ice storm is flying to Las Vegas tomorrow. And I quote, “my purpose for this trip is so that I may be able to meet in person some of the DailyKos people and personally to be able to shake your hands and say “thank you.” So, I’m really looking forward to that, I thought that was quite amazing. Sherry now has a user ID at Dkos and NAN, and participates in comments now and then. We’ve made her one of us.

As some of you know I post photo diaries at Netroots Nation every year and I’ll post photos of our visit with Sherry there.

When I was a team of one it was very difficult addressing all the issues of our people, and now it’s much easier with a team, but we need more help. For example, there is the idea of finding financing for wind   farms for the reservations, Land of Enchantment suggested we join forces with Jerome a Paris. This is a fantastic idea but I need someone more knowledgeable about it to head this partnership up. We had a team member who was very interested in the wind farm idea, but he has dropped out of DailyKos and NAN. My point is we need more people on the team to drive theses different issues.  

This past Monday I received an email from a new writer, “abeartracks,” who had just posted a diary at NAN. His issues haven’t received much attention, so he’s been adding this info to any blog he can find and sending it to news site. It’s interesting and I thought I’d mention it here. In 1940 Congress passed the soldiers and sailors civil relief act that barred states from deducting state income taxes from native vets who lived on reservations.  The act was renewed in 2006, however states deducted tax in violation of the 1940 law up until 2001. In 2004 Tom Udall introduced a bill to provide payment to these Vets, it went nowhere and now the policy contains a statute of limitations that prevent recovery. In 2009 New Mexico Legislator, Linda Lovejoy, who is Navajo by the way, introduced a bill to repay, the interest. It was signed into law. So I’m not sure how this is going to turn out now, or how it’s going to be funded, but it’s a good thing that an individual like abeartracks, using new media, can write information about this issue and this is precisely what I want our blog to be about, new voices getting on.

So, please help me grow this blog by inviting people in the comment threads to join,  and if you’d like to be part of the editorial staff at NAN, please email me.

With that I’d like to introduce Tim Lange. Tim has become a very good friend of mine over the years and I read nearly everything he writes. I look for his comments in other people’s diaries and I’ve found some real gems and that’s why I’ve asked him to speak. His personal history of Indian  activism is astonishing and I think inspirational for you to hear his timeline of accomplishment.

How many of you have ever risked your life for political activism, or Indian activism?


red_black_rug_design2

Forced Navajo Relocation Victims Need Help

( – promoted by navajo)


Source

The Forgotten People invite you to a press conference at the Veterans Park in Window Rock on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:00 AM (DST) to announce filing a major lawsuit to get answers about the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies to benefit the victims and survivors of the “Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.”

The Forgotten People have been cheated and are taking things into their own hands. We want to know what the stewards of our money did with our money and where it is. These are our funds, set aside by Congress for our benefit. The Freeze has been lifted. While we wait and nothing happens, our people are living in sub-standard, and overcrowded housing, without access to safe drinking water on land contaminated by uranium and coal mining.

Here is a repost of Still, Forced Navajo Relocation at Big Mountain Continues (Update) for those of you who don’t understand what’s behind this. Contact information at the end.

Vine Deloria Jr. in God Is Red uses the self explanatory phrases, “spiritual owners of the land” and “political owners of the land.” Now, it is the “political owners of the land” who have taken tribal lands by conquest and yet distort the historical record.

Three members from the Hopi Tribe arrived to give their testimonies as show support for their neighbors, The Dine. Their presence dispelled the public relations myth that the traditional Hopi and the Dine are involved in a Range War.”

Distorting the historical record is done by the executioners of history. Consequently, “it is the job of thinking people… to not be on the side of the executioners.”


By Dan Katchongva, Sun Clan (Ca. 1865-1972) Translated by Danaqyumptewa

At the present time we face the danger that we might lose our land entirely. Through the influence of the United States Government, some people of Hopi ancestry have organized what they call the Hopi Tribal Council, patterned according to a plan devised by the Government, for the purpose of negotiating directly with the Government and with private businesses. They claim to act in the interests of the Hopi people, despite the fact that they ignore the existing traditional leaders, and represent only a small minority of the people of Hopi blood. Large areas of our land have been leased, and this group is now accepting compensation from the Indian Claims Commission for the use of 44,000,000 acres of Hopi land. This is in error, for we laid our aboriginal claim to all of this land long before the newcomers ever set foot upon it. We do not recognize man-made boundaries. We true Hopi are obligated to the Great Spirit never to cut up our land, nor to sell it. For this reason we have never signed any treaty or other document releasing this land. We have protested all these moves, but to no avail.

Now this Tribal Council was formed illegally, even according to whiteman’s laws. We traditional leaders have disapproved and protested from the start. In spite of this they have been organized and recognized by the United States Government for the purpose of disguising its wrong-doings to the outside world. We do not have representatives in this organization, nor are we legally subject to their regulations and programs. We Hopi are an independent sovereign nation, by the law of the Great Spirit, but the United States Government does not want to recognize the aboriginal leaders of this land. Instead, he recognizes only what he himself has created out of today’s children in order to carry out his scheme to claim all of our land.

Because of this, we now face the greatest threat of all, the actual loss of our cornfields and gardens, our animals and wild game, and our natural water supply, which would put an end to the Hopi way of life. At the urging of the Department of the Interior of the United States, the Tribal Council has signed several leases with an outside private enterprise, the Peabody Coal Company, allowing them to explore our land for coal deposits, and to strip-mine the sacred mesas, selling the coal to several large powerplants. This is part of a project intended to bring heavy industry into our area against our wishes. We know that this will pollute the fields and grazing lands and drive out the wildlife. Great quantities of water will be pumped from beneath our desert land and used to push coal through a pipe to a powerplant in another state (Nevada). The loss of this water will affect our farms as well as the grazing areas of the animals. It also threatens our sacred springs, our only natural source of water, which we have depended upon for centuries.

So, the “spiritual owners of the land,” or “the side of the executioners -”


American Activism too Privileged & Bogged: Europeans Maintain Efforts for Big Mountain

“The BIA Indian police are intensifying their daily presence and intimidations. They have graded the main dirt roads that allows them to be on constant patrol..”I think that they will be rounding up Dineh-owned cattle and horses. It is pretty likely that there will be livestock impoundments or confiscation… Indian police operating out of the Hopi reservation do not have any real commanding-authority..”

I know what side I’m on,


Obama: Stop the Peabody Mine Expansion on Black Mesa

Dear Mr. President Barrack Obama, and

Madame Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,

Copies to:

Mrs. Katherine Smith & Mrs. Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain Sovereign Dineh,

Selected Kimongwis of the Independent Pueblo of Hotevilla,

Mr. William Means & Ms. Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council,

President Joe Shirley, Jr., The Navajo Nation,

Mr. Roman Bitsuie, The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,

Office of the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Hopi Lands,

Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Phoenix Area Agency

Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining

REPEAL “THE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND SETTLEMENT ACT OF 1974” (P.L. 93-531): IT ENFORCES THE METHODS OF GENOCIDE BY POPULATION REMOVAL AND COAL MINING EXPANSIONS

and what side I’m not.


John McCain in on the record as saying, “the reason why the office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation was created originally, was because of the belief that the BIA couldn’t handle it.” Interesting, because the beginning of this video shows the BIA impounding cattle.

What year was that? The “BIA couldn’t handle” what McCain?

What’s more interesting, is this.


There is hereby established as an independent entity in the

executive branch the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation which

shall be under the direction of the Commissioner on Navajo and Hopi

Relocation (hereinafter in this subchapter referred to as the

“Commissioner”).

– snip –

(1)(A) Except as otherwise provided by the Navajo and Hopi Indian

Relocation Amendments of 1988, the Commissioner shall have all the

powers and be responsible for all the duties that the Navajo and Hopi

Indian Relocation Commission had before November 16, 1988.

Oh look, “The Commissioner, no the Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation office, no, the U.S. government with McCain at the helm in the relevant timeline, the U.S. Mining company security personnel, Peabody Coal’s bulldozers, armed rangers, and the BIA shall have all the powers and be responsible for all the duties that the Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation Commission ??????? had before November 16, 1988.”

Confused yet? That’s what this “legislation” was supposed to do. It was supposed to hide McCain’s involvement to steal land, and the violations of human rights remains hidden as well to the overall public. “In 1996, Congress passed a law endorsing a 75-year lease arrangement that would allow a few of the families to remain as tenants on the land. The law sanctions the relocation of families not eligible for these leases and forces the families who sign the leases to live without benefit of civil and religious rights exercised by other Americans” the UN told us. Also, PL 104-301 tells us that “the number of homesites available for lease is 112,” yet adds, “additional homesites may be made available subject to agreement between the Hopi Tribe and homesite applicant.” Quite generous in light of the forced relocation of at least (edited in) 10,000 Navajos. One forced relocation is a tragedy, but apparently 10,000 or more is just a statistic. The UN also told us about the loss of voting rights, the physical harassment of elders, intimidation tactics, that armed rangers visited elders at their homes and stole their property, and that their sacred sites were bulldozed – including their graveyards.

Update:

Here’s another video exposing the Indian agent, John McCain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…


Source

Don Yellowman

President

Forgotten People

(928) 401-1777

Forgotten People

Dine’ Be’ Iina’ na’ hil naa (Dine’ Rebuilding Communities)

P.O. Box 1661

Tuba City, AZ 86045

(928) 401-1777

forgottenpeoplecdc@gmail.com

http://www.forgottennavajopeop…

Voting and Native Languages

( – promoted by navajo)

The federal election voter guide is now available in the four most commonly spoken Native American/Alaska Native languages:  Cherokee, Dakota, Navajo and Yup’ik. These languages are spoken by about 220,500 Americans.

Native American Languages:

Five centuries ago, there were more than 500 distinct Native American languages spoken in North America. With European contact, Native languages began to disappear. The death of these languages was brought about by two basic factors: (1) the death of the people who spoke them, caused by European diseases and deliberate genocide, and (2) the active suppression of Native languages by the American government.

By the 1960s, there were still 175 Indian languages being spoken in the United States and Canada. Of these languages, 136 had fewer than 2,000 speakers and 34 had fewer than 10 speakers. By 2007, it was estimated that only 154 Indian languages were still being spoken and that half of these were spoken only by elders.

At the present time, it estimated that there are 46 Indian languages which are still being spoken by significant numbers of children. Languages which are being learned by children have some chance of survival.  A flourishing language is one in which the contact or colonial language is used almost entirely as a second language. In North America only Navajo, Mississippi Choctaw, and some Cree communities fit this definition.  

Retention of the native language is an important issue for many tribes. Many Native American communities have language programs to try to teach their languages to children.  As a consequence there are on many reservations programs which are intended to maintain the language. In communities in which the children no longer speak the native language, the goal is language revival in which the Indian language is taught as a second language. By 1986 there were 98 language projects involving 55 different Indian languages. There was an enrollment of more than 14,000 students in these programs. By 2006, there were 62 native languages being taught in 101 programs in 24 states and provinces.

In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act which declared a national policy of respect for Native American languages and encouragement of their continued vitality. In 1997, the Indigenous Language Institute began to put an emphasis on the revitalization of Indian languages, not just their preservation. With new technologies, such as computers, and working with Native communities, languages can be revitalized as a part of daily life.

Navajo:

Navajo (Diné bizaad) is an Athabaskan language which is spoken by more than 140,000 native speakers. Over half of the Navajo speak the language at home and the language is commonly used for everyday communication. Many parents still pass on the Navajo language to their children as a first language.

During World War II, Navajo was used as a code in the Pacific by bilingual code talkers to send military messages over the radio.

While many Navajo still speak their language, a recent survey shows that only 5% of the school-aged children on the reservation speak the language fluently. In an attempt to counter this language loss, many elementary school classes on the reservation are now offering immersion classes in Navajo. One study found that in Window Rock, Arizona, Indian children who began school in Dine (Navajo) and learned English as a second language performed almost two grade levels above their peers who started school in English.

Census data from the Navajo reservation indicate that between 1980 and 1990 the proportion of Navajos aged 5-17 who spoke only English rose from 12% to 28%, and by 2000, the figure reached 43%.

The language most closely related to Navajo is Apache.

Dakota:

There are about 20,355 speakers of Dakota in the United States and Canada. On the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, there are only 120 fluent speakers out of a tribal population of 4,435. All of the Spirit Lake fluent speakers are elderly. In order to retain the language, people meet in the school gym every other Tuesday for soup and conversation in Dakota.

Cherokee:

Cherokee is an Iroquoian language which is spoken in Oklahoma and in North Carolina. It is estimated that there are between 12,000 and 22,000 fluent speakers. Cherokee is unique among the languages of Native American cultures in North America as it has its own writing system.

Yup’ik:

Yup’ik is an Eskimo-Aleut language which is spoken by about 10,000 Natives in Alaska. Since the mid-1970s, educational programs have been implemented to revive and sustain the language. The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers a bachelors degree in Yup’ik language and culture and in Yup’ik Eskimo, as well as Associates Degrees in Native Language Education, with a concentration in Yup’ik, and in Yup’ik Language Proficiency.

The Navajo Long Walk

At the time of creation the Diné (often called Navajo) were instructed by the Creator that they must live within the boundaries of four sacred mountains (San Francisco Peaks, Mount Taylor, Blanca Peak, and Mount Hesperus) and two sacred rivers (San Juan and Little Colorado). Dinétah, the Navajo sacred homeland, spreads across the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. While the Creator gave the Diné instructions on where to live, the United States government disagreed with these instructions, and in 1863 the Navajo were ordered to move off their sacred land.  

The military commander for the U.S. Army in Arizona and New Mexico issued an ultimatum to the Navajo in 1863: they were to peacefully transfer to the reservation at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico or be treated as hostile. The military campaign against the Navajo was led by Colonel Kit Carson. Carson was directed to wage a scorched earth campaign: those who did not surrender would be left with nothing to eat. The military plan called for all male Navajos to either surrender or be shot.

In Washington, D.C., the military commander explained the strategy to his superiors:

“The purpose now is never to relax the application of force with a people that can no more be trusted than you can trust the wolves that run through their mountains.”

As a part of his scorched earth campaign, Kit Carson’s soldier’s cut down most of the 3,000 peach trees which were the Diné’s pride and joy.

The final battle against the Diné was fought in 1864 at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. The will of the Diné was broken by their defeat and they were forced to make the Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner) in New Mexico. From the Diné viewpoint, they were leaving the protective circle of the Four Sacred Mountains and this meant that they were leaving hallowed ground. Outside of the protection of the Sacred Mountains their ceremonies would no longer be effective; the deities would not hear their prayers.

Many of the Diné died on the 300 mile forced march. According to Navajo oral tradition:

“stragglers in the procession, including pregnant women, children, and the aged, were simply shot and left unburied beside the trail”

When people complained of being sick, the soldiers simply killed them. If people stopped because they were tired, hungry or thirsty, the soldiers killed them. If a woman stopped to have a baby, the soldiers killed her and anyone who tried to help.

Their new home was a flat, barren land with poor farming conditions and alkaline water. The American plan was for the Navajo to live in adobe houses, to farm, and to develop a peaceful community life under strict military supervision. In the words of Navajo leader Armijo:

“Is it American justice that we must give up everything and receive nothing?”

The Americans assumed that their plan was a humanitarian one, but it was doomed by bad planning, the weather, and the determination of the Navajo not to be forced into settled life.

Unlike the Navajo, the Americans were accustomed to a political system which was centralized, ideally around a single individual (a dictator is often preferred) or a group of individuals. Therefore, the Americans organized the Navajo into 12 bands and appointed a chief for each one: Armijo, Delgado, Manuelito, Largo, Herrero, Chiqueto, Muerto de Hombre, Hombre, Narbono, Ganado Mucho, Narbono Segundo, and Barboncito. Barboncito was designated as the principal chief.  In other words, the American government attempted to create puppet dictatorships among the Navajo.

At Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the government issued food rations to the starving Navajo. Originally, cardboard ration tickets were distributed among the people, but they quickly learned to forge these and obtained more food. The government, having discovered the forgeries, then issued stamped metal tickets, but the Navajo also learned to forge these.

After two years of captivity, 29 headmen put their marks on the “Old Paper,” and the Diné were allowed to leave the Bosque Redondo and return to their homeland. The treaty reduced the size of their homeland, but the Navajo were desperate and wanted to return home. The American government negotiated the treaty not out of any concern for the Navajo, but concern for federal dollars. It was obvious to everyone that the Navajo would never become self-sufficient at Bosque Redondo and that the government would have to issue rations indefinitely. Coupled with the costs of the recent Civil War, the government concluded that it would be cheaper to send the Navajo home.

The Diné began their return march with 1,550 horses out of the 60,000 horses which they had owned before their defeat and with 950 sheep out of the 250,000 sheep which they had before the Long Walk.

Navajo leader Manuelito is shown below:

Navajo Manuelito

Dam Indians: The Colorado River

During the twentieth century, economic progress in the United States was symbolized by dams. Great dams which tamed the wild waters of the western rivers were seen as a way of providing economic development throughout the region. Supporters often touted the advantages which the electrical power and water storage would bring. Often lost in the cheerleading for dams were the voices of American Indians. Little concern was given to any potential spiritual value of the water and the land. “Dam, baby, dam” seemed to be the mantra echoed by the government.

In this diary, I’m going to look at the damming of the Colorado River and the Indian nations of the Colorado Plateau area.  

The Grand Canyon in Arizona was carved out by the Colorado River. This river is dammed below the Grand Canyon by Hoover Dam and it is dammed above the Grand Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam. Today there are many Indian people – particularly Navajo medicine men – who feel that Glen Canyon Dam should be removed. Unlike many other dams, the Indian concern for the Glen Canyon Dam does not stem from the loss of traditional fishing, or from the flooding of village sites, or from the flooding of graves. The concern is spiritual.

Tucked away among the isolated canyons at the base of Navajo Mountain is a geological feature known as the Rainbow Bridge. For the Indian people of the Southwest – the Navajo, the Hopi, the Paiute – this ancient place is sacred.

In 1910, President William Howard Taft created Rainbow Bridge National Monument to preserve this “extraordinary natural bridge, having an arch which is in form and appearance much like a rainbow, and which is of great scientific interest as an example of eccentric stream erosion.” As a result of this publicity several well-known non-Indians, including Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Gray, made the long trek to see the Rainbow Bridge. While it was designated as a national monument, Rainbow Bridge was isolated and out of the way of tourists. Thus its sacred nature was undisturbed.

Following World War II, tourist traffic to Rainbow Bridge increased as people began to travel up the Colorado River to the area. Still, the fastest way to get to the area – using jet boats – took three days.

The Glen Canyon Dam was authorized by Congress in 1956. The primary purpose of the dam was to store water for the upper-basin states for times of extended drought. In addition, the dam would generate hydroelectric power and its reservoir, named Lake Powell, would provide recreation.  

In 1963, the gates on the dam closed and rising Lake Powell began to engulf the river and its side canyons. Higher water made access to Rainbow Bridge much easier, bringing thousands of visitors each year. In order to facilitate the tourists the National Park Service installed a dock in the area.

In 1977 Navajo religious leaders brought suit against federal officials over Rainbow Bridge. The Navajo contended that flooding of the area caused by Glen Canyon Dam and the intrusion of tourists interfered with their religious practices. They asked for a prohibition against beer drinking at Rainbow Bridge and that the Monument be closed during native ceremonies. The district court ruled that their lack of title to the land and the public interest overrides their claims.

In 1978 Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act which was designed to pro¬tect and preserve traditional religious practices, including access to sacred sites. Many Indian religious leaders thought that this act would give them a voice in the management of the Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

The Navajo continued to pursue their case, known as Badoni v Higginson. In 1980 the Tenth Circuit District Court ruled that low cost electricity created by Glen Canyon Dam and tourism to the Rainbow Bridge was in the public interest and this superseded Navajo religious rights. Furthermore, the Court ruled that accommodating Navajo religious practices would make Rainbow Bridge a shrine managed by the federal government and thus a violation of the First Amendment.  With this ruling the court gutted the religious freedom guidelines set forth in the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

In 1993 the National Park Service adopted a management plan.  As part of the planning process, the National Park Service consulted with the five Native American nations affiliated with Rainbow Bridge: the Navajo, Hopi, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, and White Mesa Ute. Chief among their concerns was that Rainbow Bridge – a religious and sacred place – be protected and visited in a respectful manner. Additionally, the tribes expressed concerns about visitors approaching or walking under the bridge. Today, the National Park Service simply asks visitors to visit this site in a manner respectful of its significance to the people who have long held Rainbow Bridge sacred.

In 2000 the Diné (Navajo) Medicine Men’s Association voted unanimously to support the removal of the Glen Canyon Dam and the draining of Lake Powell. The Association points out that the lake has submerged and destroyed many Navajo sacred sites and has interfered with the practice of many traditional ceremonies.

With the Bush administration’s position on energy resources, the Navajo call for the removal of the dam was not well received. Recently, Navajo medicine men tell of being harassed by federal officials for holding religious ceremonies at the Rainbow Bridge.  

rainbow bridge 1

Rainbow Bridge 2

Hosteen Klah: Navajo Healer, Artist

( – promoted by navajo)

Many Indian cultures accepted – and in fact, celebrated – the fact the some people could fill both male and female roles in their society. One such individual was Hosteen Klah (also spelled Hastiin Klah) who became well-known as a Navajo weaver and as a Navajo singer (medicine man). Among the Navajo, weavers are usually female and hataalii (singers, chanters, or medicine men) are usually male. Hosteen Klah filled both of these roles.

Among the Navajo, Klah was known as a nádleeh which can be translated as “one who is changed” or “one who is transformed.” There are some who feel that Klah was born as a hermaphrodite while others report that he was emasculated in a childhood accident. There are still others who simply say that he sometimes identified himself as a man and at other times as a woman.  

In the 1880s, Klah began to learn weaving from his mother and from his sister. He first began to learn the Navajo medicine ways – chanting and sandpainting – from his uncle. In learning the Nightway ceremony, Klah worked under the guidance of Laughing Singer and Tall Chanter. While most Navajo singers can master only one or two complete chants, Klah mastered at least eight. Among the ceremonies which he mastered were the Hailway, the Mountainway, the Nightway, the Windway, and the Chiricahua.

Among the Navajo, the purpose of the chant is to cure the sick. For the chant to work, it must be repeated exactly by the singer. Learning a chant takes a considerable amount of intellectual work: each one is like memorizing hundreds of lines of song or poetry. When a singer contracts to perform a ceremony, he undertakes a great deal of responsibility for not only the patient, but also others who are present at the ceremony.  

In 1917, after 24 years of study, Hosteen Klah performed his first Nighway Ceremony (Yeibichai). The nine-day ceremony was perfect in chant, symbol, and ceremony and established him as a great singer.

As a part of the Navajo ceremonies, the singer produces a dry painting (known as a sand painting) which calls in the power of the Holy People. The sand paintings are made on the floor of the ceremonial hogan and blessed with pollen and corn meal. The sand painting serves as a temporary altar on which the patient sits while the ceremony is performed. Following the ceremony, the singer destroys the painting. If there is no ceremonial need for the painting, the power of the Holy People can be dangerous and even fatal. Therefore, Navajo culture does not allow for the images used in the sand paintings to be produced outside of their ceremonial context.

In 1911 Hosteen Klah wove a blanket of yeibichai dancers which portrayed sacred masks. Local singers felt that this was sacrilegious and demanded that Klah have a ceremony to expel the evil and that he destroy the weaving. Instead, Klah sent the weaving to Washington and experienced no negative effects.

In 1917 Klah took Franc Newcomb, a trader’s wife, to a Nightway ceremony. After the ceremony, she attempted to draw from memory the designs from the sandpaintings which were used in the ceremony. She was unsuccessful and Klah sketched them for her in pencil. Newcomb then made these into watercolor reproductions and hung them in her bedroom so that the other Navajo would not be offended. After seeing that no punishment occurred, Klah then did an additional 27 paintings for her.

In 1919 Klah began to weave sandpainting rugs which were based on the chants he was qualified to sing. His first sandpainting weaving was a whirling log design from the Nightway ceremony.

Klah’s last sandpainting weaving, The Skies from the Shootingway ceremony, was done in 1937 and was not complete at the time of his death. The work was finished by his nieces, Gladys and Irene Manuelito.

Over the years, Klah worked with a number of non-Indian scholars and allowed them to record his songs, ceremonies, stories, and sandpaintings. His only Navajo student – Beaal Begay – died suddenly in 1931 and so much of his knowledge was not passed on in the traditional Navajo way.  

One of the Anglos who worked with Klah was Mary Cabot Wheelwright who founded the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art in 1937. She had been permitted to record many of Klah’s songs and erected the museum to preserve his medicine knowledge and his sacred objects. The museum is now known as the Wheelwright Museum. Until recently, the Museum displayed many of his drawings and paintings of sandpaintings as well as his sandpainting weavings. However, the Museum has restricted the display and reproduction of these items based on the recommendations of the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department’s Traditional Cultural Program Committee.  

Day After Thanksgiving Observance: Native American Heritage Day

( – promoted by navajo)

Native American Heritage Day

Friday, the day after Thanksgiving

Most people aren’t aware of this, but last June, President Obama signed into law a joint resolution of the House and Senate, sponsored by Rep. Baca of California and Sen. Inouye of Hawaii, naming the Friday after Thanksgiving Native American Heritage Day, “to honor the achievements and contributions of Native Americans to the United States.”

The general truth, that we little understand the implications of what we celebrate, and that we should become more aware of our history and how others view it, is very appropriate to carry in our thoughts on this supposedly contemplative occasion.  

My family origins are with an ancestor who came over from England in 1680.  Nearly a century later, a descendant of his fought in the American Revolution.  My great grandfather learned a portable trade growing up in Litchfield, Connecticut, as a wheelwright, and made it all the way West – to Albion, NY.  Despite the long history of my family in America, I largely am an expert in the ignorance of Mainstream America in this subject area, beyond the Disneyfied bubble many of us have lived in. I feel I should comment from my attempts to overcome this.  

So, as a non-expert, how to get across some things about American Indian ways of life that enrich us?  There are so many ways one might go about this.  A list of things like corn, so much a staple of our diets that our bodies are nearly identical to corn in chemical analysis?  Quinine?  The insight into political process and governance that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson gained from meeting and talking with councils of the Six Nations confederacy?  

Given the spiritual and family nature of this holiday for many people, maybe it would be interesting to explore something most people might not consider.  

Several years ago I was living on the main campus of the Navajo Nation’s tribal college, in Tsaile, Az (derived from the Navajo word for a place where water enters the canyon) at the head of Canyon de Chelly in a stunning setting on the flanks of the Chuska (Ch’osgai – white spruce) Mountains, high up at 7200 feet.  

I thought I was going to a public lecture, but found myself in a large meeting convened on the Navajo Nation by many medicine men, tribal college leaders, tribal government and legal experts and others concerned about the issue of spreading water from sewage treatment onto the slopes of a sacred mountain.  This was approved by the National Park Service under Bush.  Fake snow  for ski tourism on the mountain near Flagstaff.

The purpose was to review  the legal strategy for opposing the Park Service action before the appellate court and possibly the Supreme Court on behalf of the Nation, and some fifteen other tribal entities as well.  

Harry Walters, a well known expert on Navajo culture, a teacher at the college and a tribal elder, explained the difference between “Western” viewpoints on issues such as this and “Indian” ways of seeing it, thus to explore the problem of translating the issue into language useful in a courtroom.  

I should mention that Dine’ College was founded on the principle that Indian youth could best be prepared for a future as leaders for the Nation, and successful people in the larger culture, through an education that honors traditional Indian views of life, as well as the accreditation requirements for US colleges.  The educational philosophy uses an ancient wisdom tradition description, Sa’a N’yae Bikeh Hozhon.  It isn’t translateable directly.

This is the sort of issue at the heart of the cultural divide between the two different traditions.  Language is a real limitation when it really represents different ways of thinking.  

Specific breaking down into atoms, molecules or logical bits that can be categorized is the “Western” gift to mankind.  It creates science and the benefits derived therefrom.  It also creates problems when people and cultures are subjected to compartmentalized thinking that allows them to be dismissed as less than human or irrelevant.  This is the source of war and horrible legacies that we know all too well, unless we dismiss the truth of history as many do – also made possible by compartmentalized, limited, left brain thinking.  

The more fluid, open and right brained intelligence welcomes more subjective experience as truth.  Poetry and art are more congruent than, say chemistry.  More comfort with ambiguity.  Less comfort with regimentation.

Walters drew a line and a circle.  More or less, straight line logic that sees things in terms of a continuum, such as a timeline or a process is one way of looking at the world, and a circle, where all things are seen as a gestalt with no beginning or end is another.

One might compare this to an Eastern, maybe Buddhist philosophy.  But it goes further.

The wisdom to be found in American Indian philosophy cannot be separated from ancient experience of place.  This is why land issues are so vastly crucial.  Dine’ people, especially in the very center of the Nation, have the fortune of living on land that direct ancestors walked going back at least into the fifteen hundreds.  Maybe further back.

The reason that there is a dispute over the sacred mountain is that there is no distinction between the time of Creation – back then in ancient times – and now.  The figures in the myths of origin, notably the Yei, are still alive and present within the four sacred mountains that define the Dine’ world.  These are deities.  Peeing in the baptismal font, as it were, is not only disrespectful, but could harm balance on a profound level and cause a drift into negativity across the land, increasing criminal thinking, drug and alcohol abuse, and bad public leadership.  Maintaining balance in the world is the essential issue.  

One could talk about this in terms of String Theory.  Time exists all in one place and we live in a dimension of it, not able to experience beyond what our senses are designed to process.  We are limited beings who cannot take in more than a small amount of reality.  We live in very limited ways.  We need some kind of help with enlarging into our potential as individuals and as a society.  What we seek, that we may lack, is proper balance.  Calibrating balance is the larger work of consciousness leaders.  The ideal is what is meant by the word, “beauty.”

The insight that we live in a landscape that we ought to open ourselves to having reverence for, is a valuable insight.  Heedless existence that has no respect for Others, is completely selfish and allows unchecked consumption of everything without respect for any consequences in the future is the opposite of balance, of beauty.

Navajo families gather in the fall and winter for Yei Bi Chei ceremonies.  These may be open to the public, with hand painted signs visible along roads pointing to them.  Traditionally, they last for nine days.  People do take off work, telling supervisors that they must go to a family ceremony and this is acceptable, with compromises.  There are now short form ceremonies lasting maybe only a day or so.  But there are still very lengthy observances among the most traditional folks.  

I attended a Christmas Eve Yei Bi Che a few years ago, up the road a few miles at Lukachukai, as it happens, an historic center of ceremonialism.  Here’s an image: http://www.ed-resources.net/…

The elaborate ceremony involved a specially built ceremonial Hogan (an eight-sided log house) a lighted area out front, four ceremonial bonfires in a line on either side of a dance runway leading out into the sagebrush, and a large area for parking in an adjacent field.  The medicine man conducting this performs a long series of complex songs that are the equivalent of a libretto for a long opera, and executes sand paintings and other rituals in private, in the hogan.  He also manages and oversees everything so it is all done right.

A line of dancers comes in from the field, approaching the patient, seated in front of the hogan.  At night, the area between the bonfires is lit, and the dancers enter from complete darkness.  Out here, there are no city lights.  No lights at all.  Only stars, which are bright and close enough to almost touch in the high altitude air far from traffic or smokestacks.  It was cold.  Fifteen degrees.  No one in the large crowd was complaining about it, so I didn’t remark on it either. But I did get some hot chocolate from the guy in the trailer with the fry bread, Navajo tacos (mutton in fry bread) and coffee.  

I contemplated, among other things, the license plates on about a hundred pickup trucks and cars, some idling with people inside warming up.   When the call goes out, family gathers as they might for a wedding, driving in from everywhere imagineable.  

Navajos are unified by a strong sense of family, clan, community.  It is a healthy support system.  For those who participate in this, resources can be shared that might help get someone through a distant college,  create a great network of caregivers for children, even capital for business investment.

The line of dancers, dressed in white body paint and the unique masks representing the Yei, move through the ritual in stages, calling out in the strange hooting that evokes supernatural utterance.  At some point, the dancers may be “possessed” (a western term that will have to do) by the actual Yei who enter them and bring healings and blessings.  This is one reason so many people are so dedicated to dropping what they are doing and driving however many miles they have to in order to make it.  

In “The Web of Life” Fritjof Capra points out the work of physicist Ilya Prigogine, who won a Nobel Prize for postulating systems theory.  In this “New Physics” everything is connected to everything, in a giant web, and not in straight line sequences.  The world wide web is an example.  The Gaia system is another.  I guess one could say String Theory extends this.

The first Europeans to come to these shores, like the Pilgrims, did not understand ecology.  (anybody talking about String Theory back then would have been accused of blasphemy, or worse.)  They believed in Man’s Dominion over Creation.  A sense of reverence for all things, seen or not seen, understood or not understood, a sense that man does not have the right to dominate but is an equal part of the whole web of life –  is an essential indigenous wisdom.  This is ancient human heritage for all cultures, but it has been a lost wisdom through the European Christian era, with its war on the indigenous world of Europe, brought here by the settlers.

Perhaps one of the great gifts of the meeting of the “Western” and Indigenous minds can still be a rediscovery of that deeply ancient wisdom which might be relevant to our future survival as Homo Sapiens.  

Last Thanksgiving, or around then, we had a dinner guest from Lukachukai, a graduate faculty member in the education department who had lived for some years in San Francisco and was on his way to an Ivy League university to do a lecture.  I remember him saying, “We have no wisdom to share with anyone. Look at us.  We are a devastated people.  We live in poverty.  Look at the alcohol, the domestic violence, people leaving the reservation for jobs a long way away.”

You can certainly see a lot of cultural devastation and the history is full of causes for grieving.  But on deep reflection, I believe that if the core of indigenous experience is ever lost, all mankind will suffer from that in ways we may never grasp.  I prefer to take what opportunities there might be, to honor what wisdom I might be able to comprehend.  That isn’t an easy process, and yes, it is full of contradictions.  

A line came to me for a poem once:  “we will be shown what we can see.”

Wisdom begins with being fully open to the idea that we may not know everything or understand everything, but we might do better at that if we try, in time.  

What I am saying is that the differences between perspectives have in the past led to killing and huge conflict.  We should contemplate, instead, the ways that we can learn to open our minds to new dimensions of understanding and gain new ground in the process.  That is something to consider and give thanks over – for the future.

Hozho Nahastle

Hozho Nahastle

Hozho Nahastle

Hozho Nahastle  (May there be Beauty)  

More on the Navajo sacred mountains by Wilson Aronilth, a medicine man and teacher at Dine’ College:

hhttp://earthmath.kennesaw.edu/main_site/RSI_studies/FoundationoftheSacredMountains.htm

Church Rock: Radioactive Spill Disaster

( – promoted by navajo)

On the morning of July 16, 1979, Church Rock (just east of Gallup, NM and north of I-40)  was a small sun baked community of mainly Navajo (Dine’) people,  herding sheep or growing a little corn amidst red dirt and sagebrush.  Clusters of traditional hogans (eight sided cabins) and mobile homes can be seen from the roads throughout the region, marking family land allotments.  

Behind an earthen pond dam, ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes were sitting in a pond waiting for evaporation to leave behind solids.  Suddenly, the dam gave way and the waters burst through, flowing out across the red land, and down the washes to permanently contaminate the Rio Puerco, known to traditional Dine’ as To’ Nizhoni (beautiful water.)  This may look like a large dry wash to people passing over it at 80 miles an hour on the interstate.  There is water mostly when there are thunderstorms in the watershed or when the winter snow melts up in the mountains.  There are not a lot of people living out here.  You can see a long way when the interstate tops a rise, and you can see a great empty distance with long train tracks.  When the freight trains come through, they bear logos like MAERSK, China Shipping, Costco.  Consumer goods bound for the big box stores elsewhere.  

Today, although few tourists stopping at the massive Route 66 casino and tourist/truck stop complex know about it, the Church Rock accident is acknowledged as likely the largest single release of radioactive contamination ever to take place in U.S. history (outside of the atomic bomb tests).  A few weeks after it occurred, the mine and mill operator, United Nuclear Corporation, was back in business at Church Rock as if nothing had happened.

I lived on the Navajo Nation for several years, at Tsaile, Az near Lukachukai – over the mountains to the north and west of Church Rock by maybe 80 miles as the crow flies.  I came to know several families that had been affected by uranium mining.

There are still miners, now in their 80s and 90s who are suffering the effects and bearing witness to those that know them.  

The reason that the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining a couple of years ago was primarily because of the complete and utter disregard for Navajo people that mining has brought with it.  That doesn’t seem to have changed, as companies with recent proposals seem to think that just ghastly after effects will be much more tolerated among Navajos than anywhere else.  

Recently, there have been proposals to use volumes of water and settling ponds as a way of getting uranium out of the ground.  Local meetings are held and the company dismisses concern that this will contaminate the water supply – in an area where water is terribly precious.  If they proposed this with a straight face in any large urban community in the country they would get laughed out of there. Rural areas are in a terrible bind, due to lack of jobs and lack of information resources. There is also a dearth of effective advocacy on the part of elected officials, who are also from the same financially desperate environment and who may depend on mining companies for information.

One of the more amazing things I learned from being in the neighborhood was that children of the original “dog hole” miners from the 1960s and before believe that they experience second generation health impacts and worry about passing genetic damage on.  The health care provider in the area is the Indian Health Service.  I checked with the IHS and discovered that the federal government never did any studies assessing this.  

Consistently, Indian people are treated to a great amount of disregard.  If there are no studies, than the prospect that people can complain about such effects is effectively muted.  That is completely consistent with the history of disregard and disrespect that Indian people have suffered at the hands of government, missionies and loads of well meaning others. These are very family oriented people.  They remain closely connected with aunts and uncles, cousins, and in-law relations across the region.  Experience is shared.  

There are some 700 small mines still unclosed.  A “dog hole” basically means one man, one shovel.  The piles of dirt from these are still right where they were left.  Rain causes local water to be contaminated, which is taken up by plants and eaten by sheep and cows.  This can continue to create cancer risks for local people far into the future. Only recently has cleanup begun to be addressed, since interest in uranium was renewed by 4.00 per gallon gasoline.  

These are not people who can move away.  The land has been inherited down Dine’ family lines since at least the 1868 treaty, and possibly before that, as far back as about 1500 (maybe earlier).  A legacy like that cannot be replaced.

I think the Navajo Nation was right to ban uranium mining outright.  I can foresee a future in which some mining might be done again, but the problem that needs to be addressed is sufficient respect for the land and the people.  What is more likely is mining companies looking for ways to force their way in, through lawsuits, and overpower local concerns just like in the old days.

Mining seems to be accompanied by a psychology that disregards and disrespects local people and the local environment and is dishonest to boot.  Indian people are the last ethnic group to be considered when it comes to progress against racial discrimination.  It is hard to believe it until you develop friends who are Indian and then see it through their eyes.  It is just shameful that this should still be the case in 21st Century America. I am always sorry to see signs of it.

That is why Church Rock needs to be remembered.  

Still, Forced Navajo Relocation at Big Mountain Continues

( – promoted by navajo)

Vine Deloria Jr. in God Is Red uses the self explanatory phrases, “spiritual owners of the land” and “political owners of the land.” Now, it is the “political owners of the land” who have taken tribal lands by conquest and yet distort the historical record.

Three members from the Hopi Tribe arrived to give their testimonies as show support for their neighbors, The Dine. Their presence dispelled the public relations myth that the traditional Hopi and the Dine are involved in a Range War.”

Distorting the historical record is done by the executioners of history. Consequently, “it is the job of thinking people… to not be on the side of the executioners.”


By Dan Katchongva, Sun Clan (Ca. 1865-1972) Translated by Danaqyumptewa

At the present time we face the danger that we might lose our land entirely. Through the influence of the United States Government, some people of Hopi ancestry have organized what they call the Hopi Tribal Council, patterned according to a plan devised by the Government, for the purpose of negotiating directly with the Government and with private businesses. They claim to act in the interests of the Hopi people, despite the fact that they ignore the existing traditional leaders, and represent only a small minority of the people of Hopi blood. Large areas of our land have been leased, and this group is now accepting compensation from the Indian Claims Commission for the use of 44,000,000 acres of Hopi land. This is in error, for we laid our aboriginal claim to all of this land long before the newcomers ever set foot upon it. We do not recognize man-made boundaries. We true Hopi are obligated to the Great Spirit never to cut up our land, nor to sell it. For this reason we have never signed any treaty or other document releasing this land. We have protested all these moves, but to no avail.

Now this Tribal Council was formed illegally, even according to whiteman’s laws. We traditional leaders have disapproved and protested from the start. In spite of this they have been organized and recognized by the United States Government for the purpose of disguising its wrong-doings to the outside world. We do not have representatives in this organization, nor are we legally subject to their regulations and programs. We Hopi are an independent sovereign nation, by the law of the Great Spirit, but the United States Government does not want to recognize the aboriginal leaders of this land. Instead, he recognizes only what he himself has created out of today’s children in order to carry out his scheme to claim all of our land.

Because of this, we now face the greatest threat of all, the actual loss of our cornfields and gardens, our animals and wild game, and our natural water supply, which would put an end to the Hopi way of life. At the urging of the Department of the Interior of the United States, the Tribal Council has signed several leases with an outside private enterprise, the Peabody Coal Company, allowing them to explore our land for coal deposits, and to strip-mine the sacred mesas, selling the coal to several large powerplants. This is part of a project intended to bring heavy industry into our area against our wishes. We know that this will pollute the fields and grazing lands and drive out the wildlife. Great quantities of water will be pumped from beneath our desert land and used to push coal through a pipe to a powerplant in another state (Nevada). The loss of this water will affect our farms as well as the grazing areas of the animals. It also threatens our sacred springs, our only natural source of water, which we have depended upon for centuries.

So, the “spiritual owners of the land,” or “the side of the executioners -”


American Activism too Privileged & Bogged: Europeans Maintain Efforts for Big Mountain

“The BIA Indian police are intensifying their daily presence and intimidations. They have graded the main dirt roads that allows them to be on constant patrol..”I think that they will be rounding up Dineh-owned cattle and horses. It is pretty likely that there will be livestock impoundments or confiscation… Indian police operating out of the Hopi reservation do not have any real commanding-authority..”

I know what side I’m on,

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Obama: Stop the Peabody Mine Expansion on Black Mesa

Dear Mr. President Barrack Obama, and

Madame Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,

Copies to:

Mrs. Katherine Smith & Mrs. Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain Sovereign Dineh,

Selected Kimongwis of the Independent Pueblo of Hotevilla,

Mr. William Means & Ms. Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council,

President Joe Shirley, Jr., The Navajo Nation,

Mr. Roman Bitsuie, The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,

Office of the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Hopi Lands,

Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Phoenix Area Agency

Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining

REPEAL “THE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND SETTLEMENT ACT OF 1974” (P.L. 93-531): IT ENFORCES THE METHODS OF GENOCIDE BY POPULATION REMOVAL AND COAL MINING EXPANSIONS

and what side I’m not.

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John McCain in on the record as saying, “the reason why the office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation was created originally, was because of the belief that the BIA couldn’t handle it.” Interesting, because the beginning of this video shows the BIA impounding cattle.

What year was that? The “BIA couldn’t handle” what McCain?

What’s more interesting, is this.


There is hereby established as an independent entity in the

executive branch the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation which

shall be under the direction of the Commissioner on Navajo and Hopi

Relocation (hereinafter in this subchapter referred to as the

“Commissioner”).

– snip –

(1)(A) Except as otherwise provided by the Navajo and Hopi Indian

Relocation Amendments of 1988, the Commissioner shall have all the

powers and be responsible for all the duties that the Navajo and Hopi

Indian Relocation Commission had before November 16, 1988.

Oh look, “The Commissioner, no the Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation office, no, the U.S. government with McCain at the helm in the relevant timeline, the U.S. Mining company security personnel, Peabody Coal’s bulldozers, armed rangers, and the BIA shall have all the powers and be responsible for all the duties that the Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation Commission ??????? had before November 16, 1988.”

Confused yet? That’s what this “legislation” was supposed to do. It was supposed to hide McCain’s involvement to steal land, and the violations of human rights remains hidden as well to the overall public. “In 1996, Congress passed a law endorsing a 75-year lease arrangement that would allow a few of the families to remain as tenants on the land. The law sanctions the relocation of families not eligible for these leases and forces the families who sign the leases to live without benefit of civil and religious rights exercised by other Americans” the UN told us. Also, PL 104-301 tells us that “the number of homesites available for lease is 112,” yet adds, “additional homesites may be made available subject to agreement between the Hopi Tribe and homesite applicant.” Quite generous in light of the forced relocation of at least (edited in) 10,000 Navajos. One forced relocation is a tragedy, but apparently 10,000 or more is just a statistic. The UN also told us about the loss of voting rights, the physical harassment of elders, intimidation tactics, that armed rangers visited elders at their homes and stole their property, and that their sacred sites were bulldozed – including their graveyards.

Forced Navajo Relocation Continues on Big Mountain

( – promoted by navajo)

“Springtime” continues, as “BIA Hopi Agency Police and Rangers are patrolling this region (Big Mountain) where a few traditional elders continue to live and also resist federal mandates to relocate.”


Obama: Stop the Peabody Mine Expansion on Black Mesa

As we speak, there exist a state of fear and anxiety in a traditional community at Big Mountain in the heart of Black Mesa. And as we speak, the federally deputized officers of the BIA Hopi Agency Police and Rangers are patrolling this region where a few traditional elders continue to live and also resist federal mandates to relocate.

First of all, I suggest readingAmerica’s West Bank (Edited and New Info.) for an overview of the dire situation, if you’re unfamiliar with it.  I’ll say what I want to at the very end.

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Dineh resister and elder, Pauline Whitesinger, has stood her ground since 1977 when the BIA tried to build a range unit fence within the lands partitioned to the neighboring tribe, the (modern and progressive) Hopis. Pauline still believes in the old ways by upholding aboriginal rights and treaty rights and because of BIA-Hopi restriction on new contruction and her deteriorating ceremonial hogan, she replaced and rebuilt a new hogan. The BIA Indian police are constantly taken photographs of her residence, her neighbors that come to see her, her non-Indian volunteer helpers, and her grandchildren that come to visit. The police do not attempt to talk to her or answer to her concerns and requests.

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This area known as the Hopi Partitioned Lands still has Dineh residents and has been made an isolated area, and this is allowing the federal government to do as they please with these last, traditional peoples. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. has even made numerous comments that the Dineh resistance at Big Mountain “a lost cause and a closed case” meaning that these Dineh are to never be thought of, again. Meaning that these Dineh, who are my Big Mountain relatives, need to be erased from the state of the Navajo Nation and perhaps, Pauline is right when she says, “we are in way of Peabody, profit, revenues, and industrial jobs.”

It’s high time that Barack Black Eagle, which means “”one who helps people throughout the land -” lives up to his name.


Dear Mr. President Barrack Obama, and

Madame Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,

Copies to:

Mrs. Katherine Smith & Mrs. Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain Sovereign Dineh,

Selected Kimongwis of the Independent Pueblo of Hotevilla,

Mr. William Means & Ms. Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council,

President Joe Shirley, Jr., The Navajo Nation,

Mr. Roman Bitsuie, The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,

Office of the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Hopi Lands,

Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Phoenix Area Agency

Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining

REPEAL “THE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND SETTLEMENT ACT OF 1974” (P.L. 93-531): IT ENFORCES THE METHODS OF GENOCIDE BY POPULATION REMOVAL AND COAL MINING EXPANSIONS

And after he repeals the Relocation Act, he should sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to help ensure that it never happens again.

If that upsets people enough that it ends up on his desk, then good.

Uncensoring Brenda Norrell: Forced Navajo Relocation

( – promoted by navajo)


CENSORED:

Navajos at Big Mountain resisting forced relocation view the 19th Century prison camp of Bosque Redondo and the war in Iraq as a continuum of U.S. government sponsored terror. Louise Benally of Big Mountain remembered her great-grandfather and other Navajos driven from their beloved homeland by the U.S. Army on foot for hundreds of miles while witnessing the murder, rape and starvation of their family and friends.

“I think these poor children had gone through so much, but, yet they had the will to go on and live their lives. If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be here today.

– snip –

“The U.S. military first murders your people and destroys your way of life while stealing your culture, then forces you to learn their evil ways of lying and cheating,” Benally said.

And of course per history repeating…


Source

“I feel that in relocating these elderly people, we are as bad as the Nazis that ran the concentration camps in World War II.”

Roger Lewis, federally appointed Relocation Commissioner upon resignation


U.S. Government Continues Genocidal Assault on the People of Black Mesa By Klee Benally

Black Mesa, AZ — On Monday, December 22nd, 2008 The U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) issued a decision to approve the Black Mesa Project. This decision continues the legacy of the United States Government’s genocidal policies against those living in the Black Mesa region.

(Video from July of 2005)

Looking for the deeper underling issue, while mentioning w using his last days in office to make last minute appointments, I have an opinion as to why this and similar issues fly below the public radar.


CENSORED:

Censored from the article, which I had titled: “Pandering to corporations” in 2004

Bahe Katenay is responding to the fact that the Bush administration developed a task force to facilitate industry requests and fast track requests for drilling. The Bureau of Land Management increased oil and gas drilling permits by 70 percent since the previous administration.

Why would something like this have flown below the public radar, which is repeating today?

(Internet article no longer up)


APARTHEID IN ARIZONA

…Jets fly low over the area on an almost daily basis, livestock is impounded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the pretense that resisters are “overgrazing” the land, and, due to the special Bennet Freeze clause of P.L.93-531 (which foresaw the possibility of a resistance) Dine people living on what is now Hopi Partitioned Land cannot legally upgrade their housing (i.e. repair a hole in their roof during the winter) without facing the threat of arrest because they no longer legally own the property their families have lived on for centuries. This type of regular harassment has been described as “low intensity psychological warfare” and it has become commonplace against families resisting relocation at Big Mountain.

These families continue to hope that public outcry will become so loud that Congress will no longer be able to ignore the damage which is done every day to people affected by relocation policies. In order to truly respect Native American self-determination, Congress must submit a full repeal of P.L.93-531 and use the money allocated for “relocation benefits” to repair the damage done to those people who have already been relocated (many of whom have yet to receive alternative housing). And while Congress remains reluctant to repeal…

Mel Brooks in “The Producers,” I believe, points to a psychological reason why something like this flies below the public radar. That is, that while people know better, all it takes to make some people laugh at genocide is to dress up a butcher/exterminator/dictator and then add humor. Then, the general public will engage in genocide denial by laughing and forgetting.

Here Mel Brooks is, doing us a great service as the great artist he is, as Hitler himself.

That’s so funny I forgot to laugh.  

Holocaust Pictures, Images and Photos

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One chooses what they want to acknowledge, but then they may be choosing the behavior of individuals they don’t really want to emulate.

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“Springtime for Hilter?” Indeed it is Mel, indeed it is on a global level. All we need to start change and transformation is for our representatives and so on in key areas to lose a few nights good sleep. Hellish dreams and sad tears.


Source

“I feel that in relocating these elderly people, we are as bad as the Nazis that ran the concentration camps in World War II.”

Roger Lewis, federally appointed Relocation Commissioner upon resignation


Source

In 1974, the mining industry played a major role in passage of the Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act of 1974. This crucial piece of legislation resulted in the largest relocation of Native American people since the 1860’s. The relocation effort has been a disaster. More than 12,000 people have been relocated over the past 22 years. Some were sent to cities where, unable to speak English or relate to a non-traditional economy, they quickly lost the small sums of money they were given at the time of the relocation. The rest were sent to the “New Lands”, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site contaminated by the nation’s worst nuclear spill. But many families resisted orders to relocate, and 23 years later, several thousand still remain on their traditional homesites. This relocation has cost the U.S. taxpayers over $350 million.

The people affected by the legislation were never directly informed of its adoption, never allowed to testify in any Congressional hearing and never allowed to be represented in any way through the process. All the decisions that led to partition of their land were carried out and enacted by newly created male-dominated tribal councils located 100 miles away from the directly affected people.

Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims

The meeting was conducted almost entirely in the Navajo language. In addition to testimony from surviving miners, there were also presentations by the Navajo Nation’s Abandoned Minelands Reclamation Project and also the tribe’s Office of Navajo Uranium Workers. They were attempting to deal with the aftermath of uranium mining in the area, including identifying hundreds of mining sites in the area, compiling a registry of all tribal mine and mill workers, assisting with the complicated claims process for compensation, and improving health services for the many sick and injured people.

At first, it was a mystery as to why there was so much lung disease in the community, but by now it is understood that, as one of the widows stated, the miners, their husbands, died because the uranium ate up their lungs.


Navajo Nation endures water crisis

Shaun McKinnon

The Arizona Republic

Aug. 26, 2007 12:00 AM

TONALEA – Ethel Whitehair ran out of water again over the weekend, emptied every bucket and pot, drained the barrels lined up outside her front door. The community well was closed until Monday.

Water from a well at a nearby windmill could supply the sheep, but it was untreated and made Whitehair’s skin itch. At another windmill down the road, vandals had torn the cover off the storage tank. Deep inside, a car battery steeped in the soupy dregs, the surface stirred by the bloated bodies of three dead crows.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

N.M. Senators: Bill to Settle Navajo Nation Water Rights Claim Moves Forward

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici today reported that legislation they wrote to settle the Navajo Nation’s water rights claims in the San Juan River Basin has cleared its first hurdle. With today’s approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the measure can now be considered by the full Senate.


Bingaman reintroduces Navajo water bill

Copyright © 2009

Gallup Independent

By Diné Bureau

“It is shameful that 70,000 people on the Navajo Nation, located in the wealthiest nation on earth, do not have easy access to water, one of the most basic necessities of life,” Udall said. “This legislation will help eliminate this injustice while resolving conflict over water rights and ensuring that the city of Gallup will also have better access to water.

To conclude, it’s springtime for one of Hitler’s greatest inspirations, and when Christendom and American genocidal colonialism went to Germany – it was wrapped in a Swastika.


Source

“The swastika was a widely used Native American symbol. It was used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among different tribes the swastika carried various meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clans; to the Navajo it represented a whirling log ( tsil no’oli’ ), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals.”

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