Things are starting to quiet down round here now, so I have had the chance to read the local papers from the past month or so, and am somewhat disturbed by some of the propaganda being churned out by the Hopi Tribal Council. Most of it is simply transparent, but there are two related themes that I find disturbing. The first is that the HTC are speaking for the Hopi people. Now I don’t know any government that speaks for the people they purport to represent, and the history of the Hopi people this century makes it quite clear that in the case of the imposed HTC this is very much the case. As with most (if not all) governments, the HTC speaks and acts for a small elite who benefit by their policies. The second point, related to the first is that the Hopi people are being told by the HTC that they (the people) are being blamed for the actions of the HTC, that they are being demonized, and that supporters of the resisting Dineh are somehow threatening them. I even heard that on the day of the deadline (feb 1st) one Hopi village “closed” itself to outsiders. This is absurd,… there were no supporters anywhere near the Hopi villages, and I have never heard anyone make any threats against the Hopi people. A government creates terror in its own people with imaginary enemies. Does this sound familiar? So, I would like to state categorically that I have never, and will never, blame the Hopi people for what their Tribal Council is doing, and I hope the Hopi people know that the supporters of the resisting Dineh are in no way a threat to them. Divide and conquer is a well tried formula.
On a related theme, in a couple of days is the first “exclusion” trial in Hopi Court. As I’ve stated before, this is an insidious piece of legislation, that if acted upon gives the HTC the power to exclude anyone at all from Hopi land who they consider a threat to the Hopi Tribe. This first trial is for Arlene Hamilton, and her “crime” is that for 6 weeks she co-ordinated last summers Education/Witness camp. How this is a threat to Hopi people is beyond my powers of imagination. The students who came to the camp to learn traditional Dineh skills were invited by the residents of the land. They caused no trouble, left no mess, where is the threat to people who live 30 miles away? The simple fact is that the Witness Camp was a help to the Dineh residents. This is what the HTC wishes to discourage. If they get away with this exclusion, then the way is open for the HTC to banish any supporters of the Dineh, and ultimately will give them the power to evict the residents themselves.
As of today, I have not heard of any eviction notices being sent out yet. Things are quiet. Maybe they are waiting till all the visitors leave and interest wanes. Maybe they are waiting to see what the outcome of the Manybeads case is. Maybe they just really don’t know what the hell they are doing. I didn’t go the Manybeads hearings myself, but I’ve had a couple of reports. Seems like the judge will make his decision in a matter of weeks or months. Personally, I don’t think there is a snowball in hells chance that the case will be won. Of course, if there was any justice then the people would win the case, as most blatantly and obviously their constitutional rights are being trampled on, but I think the US Govt. cannot allow the case to be won. Then the floodgates would be opened for any other “Land-based” religions to make claims for the return of their land. I can’t see the military/nuclear complex giving back Nevada to the indians, so I suspect we will see some semantic gymnastics proving that the peoples case has no merit.
When the Prayer Walk came through here I was wearing a totally cool T shirt, and many people asked if they could buy one. Unfortunately I didn’t know where to get them at the time, but have since tracked down the supplier. The design is a black line drawing of Roberta Blackgoat with the following words. “BIG MOUNTAIN…… Roberta Blackgoat the Warrior….. They are taking away all I have, my life, my culture, my homeland…. All I have left are my dreams and footprints to show you that I was here. This they cannot take away from me and I will fight forever….. My children, pick up my feathers and follow in my footsteps….. this is our home and I will not go away…”. See Roberta’s statement Is Anyone Listening?. If you want to see the T shirts design, go to L.I.S.N. T-Shirt Design, The email address for the shirts is firstname.lastname@example.org. Be the envy of everyone in your neighborhood and order one today.
On February 17th the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the forced relocation of the Dineh, and the continuing mining operation, and calling for both activities to cease. Of course, having more guns and bombs than anyone else means that the U.S. Govt. doesn’t really care what anyone else in the world thinks, but I think the american people should know that their Govt. is being watched, and their claim to be guardian of human rights in the world is a hypocritical stance.
The Big Mountain benefit in Prescott AZ is coming up on the 16th. Scheduled to appear are Burning Spear (who I am reliably informed are a political Hip-Hop band), Company of Prophets (a spoken word group), and Art and Revolution (a group using puppets and theatre) As well there will be other presentations, and a rug show. All proceeds will go to the purchase of supplies and food for the residents of Big Mountain. Doors open at 6, and tickets are $12 in advance and $15 on the night.
The Feb 17th-23rd issue of Boulder Weekly has an excellent article on Big Mountain, with some beautiful photos. The article is titled “The New Long Walk” and is by Ben Corbett. Boulder Weekly’s web address is www.boulderweekly.com, and their email is: email@example.com. I’m sure they can make the article available.
Last month , I made the observation that many of the people who come here to help and witness are creative people of various kinds. As I look around the hogan, there are paintings, drawings, poems, photos, leather work, jewelry, ceramic objects,… all kinds of beautiful things that have been made by these visitors while they were here, and I realize one characteristic of creative people is that wherever they go, they leave something behind. The converse is also true, when they leave they take something of Big Mountain with them. An exchange takes place. This is a subject that has come to fascinate me. I think what has been happening at Big Mountain for the past 25 years or so is a unique cross-cultural laboratory. On the one hand you have the largest community of traditional indigenous people left in the US. Most of the elders do not speak english, and continue to live in the ways of their ancestors. On the other hand, over the years there have been many thousands of visitors from other cultures who have spent time here. Many of these people have been powerfully affected and changed by what they have experienced here, and this is what fascinates me. I believe that in the stories these visitors have to tell is information that is vital to be heard. I believe true cross-cultural exchange has taken place, and if the cultural diversity of the planet is to be saved, then these stories are relevant.
So, my request is this, if you have spent time here at Big Mountain, and have been changed by this experience, I would like to hear your stories. I’m not interested in names, dates, places, rather the experiences that triggered internal changes. I have already heard from many ex-sheepherders, and already there are commonalties in their stories. Anything you share with me will of course be confidential.
All land is sacred. All life is sacred, and life is fed by the land. That’s not complicated to figure out. But there are places that are more sacred than others. Big Mountain for instance. Over the past weeks I have listened as visitors try to put into words just what the power is that they experience here. Whatever that power is, it must be connected to the people who live in a sacred way upon sacred land. When those people are removed, the land will suffer.
Down south of here, in Apache country, there is another sacred Mountain being abused. Known as Mount Graham to the dominant society, the mountain, which is very important to the traditional Apache is being desecrated by the construction of Observatories. The main culprit seems to be the University of Arizona, though the german Max Planck Institute is a partner, as is the Vatican….. seems like they are looking for aliens to convert (honestly). Anyway, some years ago a coalition of Traditional Apaches and environmentalist were successful in a law suit against the U of A. They were breaking Indian religious Freedom law and environmental law. No problem though, as a local congressman added a “rider” to a bill that exempted the U of A from these laws. The point of this ramble is that each summer a Sacred Run is held, running across the rez and up the mountain. Those of you who enjoyed the Prayer Walk might like to take part. Drop me a line and I’ll have more info for you.
Back in the real world, spring is arriving, which basically means some days its winter, some days its summer. The days are noticeably longer, which by coincidence means there are more chores to fill the day. Out with the sheep I have come across the first “wild carrots” popping up. Good sheepherder munchies, though they taste more like radishes than carrots. Also wild onions are appearing. Every now and then I come across the trail that the Prayer Walk took across the land, and the footprints are still visible. I get goose bumps still. The garden is being prepared, and the Angora goats are stating to molt already, so shearing cannot be far away.
I’d like to introduce you to the number one spectator sport round here right now. I call it Kindergarten Cop. The deal is this. You have a corral, and in the corral a flock of sheep and goats with their recent offspring. The object is to separate the the babies from the rest of the flock. The reason is that the little ones are just not strong enough to keep up with their mommas. I’ve seen sheep in other parts of the country, and they are just let out into a field full of thick grass and just lie around all day. That’s not how it works here. This is high-desert, and life is hard for the 4 legged as well as the 2 legged. To get enough to eat, the flock must cover a lot of ground, and when its cold they tend to move fast. Its no walk in the park either, rather scrambling up and down canyons, over ridges etc, so the little ones need to stay behind until they are strong enough…
Until the little ones are 3 or 4 days old, they just stand there and let you pick them up, but after 4 days they have figured out the game and will do whatever they can to avoid being caught. Beginner sheep herders usual try the straight forward lunge,….. but I have to tell you that over a short distance, a week old lamb can out sprint a 2 legged and also, like a rabbit or a good running back a lamb can radically change direction instantaneously. This usually leads to the sheepherder sprawling into the ground. (Much to the amusement of the audience that usually gathers to watch) One preferred method of catching the little ones is with a lariat. Unfortunately my rope-throwing skills are not adequate, so I prefer the use of a walking stick with a curved handle. This in effect give me a 5 foot arm. Even so, the little ones usually catch on and make sure they stay out of reach, so I resort to trickery. I approach obliquely, at a tangent to the one I want to snag, and I point, look, and talk in the opposite direction, then at the last moment a quick swipe with the stick and I’ve got’em. Hand the prisoner over to my assistant outside the corral who then puts it in the kindergarten pen, then I go for the next. It can take a good while to catch them all. I’m thinking of trying to get it entered as an Olympic event,…. sure is a lot more interesting than synchronized swimming.
It may appear that there is not much “news” from here right now. In fact That’s the best news. Life goes on as it should.
At the end of this letter is an even more recent statement by Roberta Blackgoat. Over the years she has been very prolific in the output of her statements, and I am in the process of transcribing them to disk. So far I have 15 completed, with about 20 more to go. Many of you out there are putting Roberta’s statements on Web Pages, so if any of you would like to put up an archive of all her words, please let me know and I can send them to you, and send more as I finish transcribing them.
And finally, there is another strain of thought that is being put out by the mainstream media and the various clowns (Washington, Window Rock, Kykotsmovi), and that is that it’s “all over” here. That the forced removal of these Elders is inevitable.
But then, what the hell do I know, I’m just a sheepherder
Thank you for giving me your time by reading this
Your prayers, support, & correspondence are invited
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”
My name is Roberta Blackgoat. I am of the Bitterwater Clan, born for Salt Clan. I was born October 1917, thus I am 83 years old.
I am still living on the land that I was born on and the land that my ancestors passed on to me. Oral history tells that this land was given to us by the Holy People; boundaries drawn with prayers and ceremonies between thye sacred mountains with instructions to take care of the land. The four sacred mountains encompass a hogan. The area we are on, Big Mountain, is the altar in the hogan. Dzil leezh (Mountain Bundles) were made to bind us to the earth. The bundles have hooghan biyiin (hogan song) and dzil biyiin (Mountain song) that have been handed down, unchanged through the generations. That is the road to life. Today’s colonialist educational system has disturbed these precise instructions.
Our bundle is not respected by the relocation law (PL 93-531) nor by the non-indian society. Our religion is disregarded, discounted and invalidated by laws devoid of understanding of the spiritual ties to land and life.
The U.S. government enlists our Native Americans to serve for this country’s ideals. They are using them to protect liberty and justice for their elite few. Our Dine language was even used in World War II to help turn the tide of the war in the South Pacific.
The exploitation of Mother Earth’s natural resources is destruction of sacred land and genocide of Indigenous/Dine people. We further grieve the loss of land by Presidential decrees to establish National Monuments. Instead, these lands should be given back to the rightful owners/guardians, the Native Americans.
Many of my relatives have been relocated to land contaminated with radioactive waste. The Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation Commission is still actively pressuring Dine facing relocation to move there. Residents have to buy and transport potable water. Many of the relocatees have died of suicide, homicide, loneliness and health reasons. My relatives are in concentration camps similar to Fort Sumner and Auschwitz. The present action of the U.S. government is a historical repeat of the Long Walk of 1864-1868, when eight thousand Dine people perished.
I am appealing to the American public and citizens of the world to protest our demise and eventually repeal Public Law 93-531 (Navajo-Hopi Indian resettlement Act of 1974) and any subsequent genocidal laws. Your hard earned tax dollars fund these atrocities as well as expanding the police state in America. This fleecing of America is happening unbeknownst to you and your elected leaders. However, a few are even architects of these policies of destruction.
All I want is public support to assist our valiant struggle to maintain our sovereign sustainable lifestyle; free to carry on with our lives, culture and traditions. I want our youth to utilize the land and carry on Dine instructions and our religious traditions. Join me and my Dine people in our quest for freedom and human rights.
I choose to remain on my ancestral lands. If they want to relocate me, they have to “SUE THE CREATOR!” first, because the Creator is the one that put us here.