By Roberta Blackgoat & Kee Watchman
Item 15: Indigenous Issues
United Nations Commission on Human
Rights, Fifty-eighth Session
Written intervention by the Big Mountain Sovereign Communities & from the Big Mountain Resistance Movement:
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
We would like to make and reaffirm an understanding about what our Dineh (Navajo Indians) Peoples in struggle on Black Mesa are facing daily. They face unyielding threats of evictions, complete denial of rights, confiscations of livestock, and destruction of their prayer gathering places. This type of daily living has drastically eliminated many valuable lives of human beings especially among the traditional elder populations.
The cause and factors of our current struggle, however, go back beyond the United States government’s creation of an Executive Order of 1882, which set aside an Indian reservation that encompassed the overlapping territories of Dineh and Hopis. Our initial request for this understanding therefore is that, our existence includes our struggle to maintain our sovereignty, our religion and that, our history dates back to the times of the Spanish colonial conquest and finally, to the American colonization which brought about a ‘death march’ known today as, The Long Walk of 1864. Half of our Dineh population was annihilated within a 15-year period of military invasions by the United States army, and an episode of that aggression occurred upon our ancestral homelands of the Big Mountain region. For some of our ancestors at that time, they were in exile or in captivity in a concentration camp in New Mexico, and little did they know that our Treaty of 1868 with the US would not be honored.
Then, just a few generations after since our forefathers and foremothers believed they were free, the uprooting of our livelihood and the explorations of the resources beneath our pathways began a repeat of history. On a daily basis, we are once again forced onto another Long Walk: our foods are taken away from us and we only subsist on rations, we are left to spent winters in the cold because of restrictions from gathering firewood, we are denied accessibility to adequate drinking water, our young generations’ identity are stolen from them, and the old and frail are left behind to be defeated by anxiety and depression from hopelessness. These are the results of the Executive Order of 1974 along with its recent amendments. Public Law 93-531 of 1974 adjudicated the partitioning of the 1882 Reservation and the immediate removal of Dineh residents caught on the “wrong side” of the demarcation boundary.
We wish to further announce and request that the Working Groups and the Honorable Indigenous Organizations take careful consideration and understanding in regard to the US government and their Tribal governments’ positions that the issues of relocation on Black Mesa are an intertribal conflict over territory and have no relevancy to mineral resource interest by Peabody Western Coal Company. Based on our strong belief, this harsh and inhumane policy of relocation, denial of cultural existence and the instigation of a tribal segregation that the US government has established, like with certain tribal jurisdiction matters, are primarily instruments to conceal the exploration rights for energy development. These simple but equitable claims made by our traditional Dineh and traditional Hopi allies can be justified by looking at our historical experiences and existence. Consider the magnitudes of aggression perpetrated by the American colonialist, versus the magnitude of intertribal relationships especially in the areas of coexistence and joint-usage of ancestral territories.
These issues of forced removal of traditional Dineh and the gross violations of their human rights in northeastern Arizona need to be included and categorized within the UN Agendas and Declarations as unique. It is an issue that evolved by deception and an intentional placement of a defect in the indigenous history in order to acquire a right-of-way for energy resources. The tribal governments were designated and established solely to assist the federal government in implementing policies that have been fundamentally discriminatory. The tribal governments through their Anglo-American designed ordinance and tribal codes have assisted in law enforcement activities. An example is in their participation with local state and federal Indian police to disrupt religious activities conducted by the traditional Dineh who are trying to survive with the little culture and religion that they have left. These tribal agencies have aided and abetted in attempting prosecution of individuals who were merely trying to be indigenous and spiritual upon their land of birthplaces.
In closing, we first wish to state our commitment to living and practicing our divine-given ways of worship upon our Mother Earth and beneath our Father Sky. We will uphold the supreme laws of our sacred Mountain Soil Bundle that contains soil from each of our six sacred mountains. These mountains represent the spiritual boundary of our ancient sovereign nations. Thus, our ancient earth lodges symbolizes this spiritual setting and thereby, the most sacred portion of our dwelling space is where a child is born or where the prayer paraphernalia are placed. This is, now, being desecrated. This sacred area in geographical terms would be where Black Mesa is located and hence, it is our Altar.
We urge you, as delegates of states and high commissioners, to consider our requests once again that the United States be informed, as well as, the utility companies who have interest to the Black Mesa coal be informed that, we will remain to defend the holiness of our Altar from further depletion of its aquifers and from the extraction of its mineral resources. We further request that the high commissioners immediately appoint a UN observer and a Special Rapporteur to continue to make an in-depth study and fact findings in the Big Mountain and Black Mesa regions including the groups of the Sovereign Hopi villages. These human rights violations and the unnecessary attempts to re-create range conflicts on the Dineh-Hopi lands must be halted, and the actual initiators of this genocide must appropriately answer to an international tribunal.
Thank you for your time and considerations.
Madam Chairperson of the Original Sovereign Dineh Nation
Thin Rock Mesa, Big Mountain
Head Spokesman for the Red Willow Springs and Cactus Valley
Sovereign Communities of Big Mountain region.
(**Note: Roberta Blackgoat passed on April 23, 2002.)