First off, I apologize for the length of time since I last wrote, I had a dose of pneumonia, things have been real busy, and quite frankly I choose not to spend too much time staring at a computer screen.
So Thanksgiving came and went, and a good time was had by all. All the families received food and supplies and hay. It was particularly enjoyable seeing convoys of pick-ups loaded with hay zipping around the land. The Thanksgiving caravans provide more than just material support. As Roberta frequently tells the people here, “its not just food that you are getting. These gifts come with prayers.” A very festive time. Visits of old and new friends.
The Men in Black had to impose their reality though. Imagine if all the relatives and friends you invited to your home for a celebration were stopped outside your door and interrogated. I.D’s checked. License plates ran through “the computer”. It’s my naive supposition about the law that police shouldn’t be doing such things unless they have proof or suspicion that a crime is or will be committed. When visitors are harassed like that here, the only crime involved is helping and supporting the people on the land. The truth is that the people here have been living under constant surveillance, monitoring, and general lack of privacy for many, many years. They have been treated as criminals. This seems to me to be the essence of a Police State. And what is their crime? Simply that they and their ancestors happen to be living on land that is coveted by a handful of powerful and greedy men, white and red. I have heard Hopi people refer to their villages as a police state. Villages have curfews, and there is a palpable fear of “the Tribal Council”, so it is not just the Dineh residents of this land that are suffering.
As I’m sure you are aware by now, there is an awful lot that I don’t understand. Yet I am by nature a curious person, so in the large amounts of time I have to quietly reflect upon things, my head is filled with many “whys?”. I try to understand the motives and make-up of the people who organize and carry out this harassment. Do they feel as Eichmann did when at his Nuremburg trial he said “Who was I to judge? Who was I to have my own thoughts in this matter?”. Do they separate themselves from their actions? Or do they actually enjoy their work? Are they driven by hate? Jon Norstog, a white man employed by the Hopi Tribal Council had this to say “During my work for the Hopi Tribe, I observed that some Hopis in positions of power hate Navajos, believe they should be removed from the Hopi Reservation, and are willing to act on their feelings.” And why do these few individuals hate Navajos? To get into that would mean turning View From The Hogan into the National Enquirer, so lets just say that it usually turns out to be for personal reasons, having nothing to do with a supposed land dispute.
As I ponder these things I read the headlines of the Hopi newspaper. A State of Emergency has been declared on the Hopi Reservation. And the cause? Domestic abuse and alcohol abuse. It seems that in 1998 there were 3,540 reported cases of both types of abuse, and for 99 they are expecting a 10 percent increase. In a population of 8-10,000, that seems like an epidemic to me. The Hopi people and culture has been sustained for over a millennium, and yet in just over 40 years of Tribal Council rule it has been turned into a “little america”. No wonder the Dineh residents here fear being under HTC jurisdiction.
The HTC’s destruction of the traditional Hopi society and economy is well documented, as an example, I quote from “Sun Chief. The autobiography of a Hopi Indian”. The author, a traditional from Oraibi, had this to say about the hopis of New Oraibi (later renamed Kykotsmovi, and the base of HTC government.) “…we did not get along well with the people there. They were forsaking the Hopi religion and living like Whites, interested only in earning money.”
The HTC has recently put out a new wave of propaganda. They have been silent since last summers debacle over the Sun Dance, and the main author of that laughable propaganda is now silent. Kind of a shame really, as her writings were so bad no-one could even begin to believe them. The new wave of lies stresses 3 points. That everybody is happy with the Accommodation Agreement and that the dispute is over. That just a handful of people are holding out, and that outside agitators are stirring things up. A very poorly written op-ed piece in the Arizona Republic was little more than a mouthpiece for a “Hopi woman” who expressed her fears about the possible trouble brewing for the February deadline. Nowhere in the piece did it mention that the hopi woman was in fact none other than the First Lady of Hopi, the chairman’s wife, affectionately known as “Imelda”. One suspects that her fears are based on the worry that if there is trouble she may be forced to cancel her beauty parlor appointments.
The HTC Chief of Staff seems to be the main author of the new propaganda. In one of his pieces he wrote that “outside agitators are streaming on to the Hopi Reservation preaching violence.” It may well be that the author has a medical condition that necessitates him taking large numbers of legally prescribed medications, that, in combination cause serious hallucinations and delusions. I can think of no other explanation for such a statement. The people here have successful resisted NON- VIOLENTLY for the past 26 years and continue to do so. Even a pro-HTC anthropologist grudgingly admits “Altogether, as of 1993, far less physical conflict had resulted from the situation in twenty years than an average American city of 20,000 sees in a week.”
So what is the purpose of these lies? We are being set up, I think. As they have learnt from their mentors in Washington, by creating an illusion of potential violence (Haiti, Grenada, Panama etc), the Men in Black can then come in and perpetrate official violence.
Let me emphasize, the resistance here is non-violent, and will continue to be so.
The absurd statement about “preaching violence” convinces me that the suggestion I put forward some months ago, that there is a competition going on with the HTC to come up with the most absurd statement is probably true, and while the latest from them is certainly in the running for a prize, I think I have stumbled upon the statement they are all trying to top. It comes from 1985, and I found it in the back of Anita Parlows book “Cry Sacred Ground”, which remains, in my opinion, the best book on the so-called land dispute. In it she interviews Wayne Sekakquaptewa who was at the time Chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council. In the interview he states that yes, while every other single member of his family is a Mormon, he himself was not, but anyway, “THE HOPI RELIGION AND THE MORMON RELIGION ARE THE SAME,” Whoooaaa!!!! For a second an image flashed through my mind… a group of white-skinned, pot-bellied men, stripped to the waist, dressed in skirts, with painted faces, snakes held between their teeth, dancing in a Kiva under Salt lake City….. but then I quickly realized that he must have been misquoted, and what he meant to say was that the Hopi Tribal Council religion and the Mormon religion are the same. That would be hard to argue with.
In December I payed a quick visit to Waynes World, and stopped in at the pre-trial hearings for the Exclusion Orders against Kee Shay, Arlene Hamilton (the organizer of last summers Education Camp), and some other person whose name escapes me. The Exclusion Law is an insidious piece of legislation that would allow the HTC to remove anyone from the Hopi Reservation if they considered them “a threat to the Hopi Tribe”. It’s my understanding that this “law” has been in existence for quite some time but has yet to be applied to anyone. It’s obvious that the HTC intends to use this law to remove support from the Dineh living on the land, preferring to have the people freeze and starve, and also they certainly don’t want any witnesses to their official harassment. Of course, if the law was applied properly, then the Tribal Council would be “Excluded”, as they are the biggest threat to the Hopi Tribe that there is. Its hard to tell how the actual trials will go. Admittedly, I am not a lawyer, but it sure seemed as if the HTC didn’t have a case…. especially as the HTC’s lawyer seemed to have gotten his Law degree from the back of a cereal box,,but it will all depend on the judge. Some years ago an organization of resistors blocked the renewal of the mines lease on the grounds of all kinds of environmental issues,…. in that case the Judge was sympathetic to the people, BUT the mine was open the next day…. the judge was forced to take early retirement and his decision was overruled. When you own the law, you can do what you want with it.
The exclusion trials were set for this month, but I have heard that they have been postponed till March. I’ll keep you informed.
The January/February issue of Mother Jones has a good article on the situation here. Well researched, up to date, and compared to many things I’ve read on Big Mountain recently, accurate.
A Pipe Ceremony is to be held at Camp Anne Mae (Sun Dance Grounds) near Big Mountain on Saturday, January 22, 2000. All those in spiritual solidarity with the people on the land are invited to participate. Help with food and food preparation for the day would be greatly appreciated.
From January 27th to Feb 2nd the “Save Black Mesa Prayer Walk” will take place, from Flagstaff to Big Mountain. This is a continuation of a walk begun by Japanese supporters in Japan. The aims of this walk will be “to pray and walk in solidarity with the Dineh and Hopi, Japanese Supporters, other International and American Supporters so that, Peace and Truth can prevail in order to “Save Black Mesa” from environmental and cultural devastation, and To bring about a greater awareness about how the threats against the Human and Aboriginal Rights of the Big Mountain Dineh can be an example of the final annihilation of all Indigenous peoples in America.
Anyone interested in taking part in the walk, or in supporting those who do can contact Bahe by e-mail: email@example.com, or in the evenings phone Diane, (520) 779 1496.
For those of you who are planning on visiting the land for the first time, I recommend the following web site. (Visit One Journey (‘Passage of Activism & Philanthropy’ Big Mountain/Black Mesa Support). There is a page of advice for visitors that is very good.
Back in the real world, life goes on. This may not sound like exciting news, but in fact its the best news there could be. Life goes on , IN A GOOD WAY. The sheep need to go out, whether its December 25th, Jan 1st, or even Feb 1st. The wood needs chopping. Rugs are woven, and ceremonies held.
What exactly do I mean by “in a good way”? I’m not sure I can give a complete answer to that, but a hint maybe gotten by describing daily life.
I wake some hours before sunrise. I make a fire and put on a pot of coffee. The hogan is such an efficient building that I don’t need to keep a fire going all night. 18 inches of wood and mud, and no windows, means that the inside stays warm all night. (Conversely, in the summer entering the hogan is like entering a cool cave). I then take a flashlight and head to the corral and check on the little ones. Then to Grandmas house where I empty the ashes, start a fire and put on another pot of coffee. Then its back to the hogan where I drink coffee, read, and write till the eastern horizon starts to lighten. Then its over to the house and I fix breakfast for us both.
After breakfast I feed the dogs and cats, empty the grey water bucket (in the spring and summer it goes on the garden), fill up the kindling box and firewood box in Grandmas house, fill up the water buckets (if I can break through the ice in the barrels.) If we’ve had a fresh snow fall I clear a path to the outhouse, known as “the office”, (incidentally, toilet paper is known as “treaty paper” for obvious reasons). After that I chop some firewood. I use the “double-heat” method for firewood,… first I get warmed by chopping it, then later I get warmed again by burning it. Then it’s time to pack a bag and suit up to take the flock out. First chore is to catch the little babies and pen them up in their own kindergarten corral.
There are days that I get low, or grumpy. At those times, all I have to do is watch a week-old lamb running, and jumping, gamboling about, to be reminded of the simple exuberance of life. An exuberance that is infectious. This time of the year herding is harder… I probably walk 4 or 5 times as far as the sheep as I am constantly having to keep them close together…. I need to be able to keep my eye on all of them as they are having babies. Mid-afternoon I get back with the flock, give them some hay and water and then have lunch myself. If Grandma is busy weaving then I’ll make it for us, otherwise it will be waiting for me. The rest of the daylight is used in hauling water, hauling or chopping wood, fixing things. Before sunset I put the flock in the corral for the night, then make sure Grandmas firewood box is stocked and water buckets filled. After supper I spend the evening by kerosene light, reading, writing, beading, and carding wool. Before hitting the sack I go over to Grandmas house and share a cup of tea while we giggle about the events of the day, or make plans for the next, one last check of the corral, then sleep, looking forward to the next day.
The days aren’t spent attempting to amass personal wealth,… or to possess lots of “stuff”, or in any way to control other people. The people here are not good consumers (a heretical position in the dominant society), they are not wage-slaves. I think this is the crux of the drive for the continued destruction of these people, and all the remaining traditional people. Warmaker teaches us that Home Economics is the high point of human evolution. We are taught that “getting ahead” is our natural aim, no matter that it is at the expense of others and the planet. We are taught that competition, greed, and fear, are our natural condition, and that possessions can give us the feelings of satisfaction, peace, happiness and love that we crave. We are taught that “that is the way life is”. So as long as people and cultures exist who get along fine without these ways of being, there is the possibility of doubting the “truth” of the dominant societies hegemonic ideology. I think many people feel that the “American way of life” (that thing that countless number of humans must die to protect) is not the right or natural way to live, but lack the example of alternatives. This is the value of cultural diversity. While people such as these at Big Mountain continue to exist “in a good way”, then Warmaker feels threatened.
I don’t dispute the part played by the billions of dollars worth of coal under this land, I just think the fanatical drive to make the world over into the image of Warmaker is a deeper cultural trait than even greed, and that the simple fact of the resistors existence is reason enough to spend millions of bucks to eradicate them.
A few years ago I was hitch-hiking across the rez and got a ride with a Navajo gentleman who owned the franchises on the rez for a certain national fast-food chain. He lamented that “Navajos have no business sense”. When they go to college, they study medicine, law, or teaching,… as ways to help others, and that when they set up a business, and are successful, all their relatives turn up for a slice of the pie. That helping people and sharing are things to be discouraged is a sad indictment of the state of Babble-on,… unfortunately, through the schools and television, it is becoming a more common attitude on the rez.
Visitors have commented that our life on the land is “hard”, … maybe it is, but it is fairly simple. Out there in Babble-On, with a plethora of comforts and conveniences, life may be “easy”, but it sure is complex.
And today, January 1st 2000, I wake to a beautiful sight, …a couple of inches of snow blankets the land, and for most of the day it snowed more. It has been over 100 days since we had any appreciable precipitation, and the land was parched. The immediate benefit of the snow is that I don’t need to haul water for the flock for a while now. Longer term benefit is that as the snow melts into the ground, it becomes what the grass uses to grow later in the spring. If we get more snow, then that snowmelt is what the corn uses to grow later on when we plant. The clay soil holds the moisture a foot or so below the surface. The land blanketed with snow makes it even more beautiful than normal.
I’ll end with a quote from Samuel K. Wilson, a non-signer from Mosquito Springs:
“Mother Earth has her own sacred names and prayers. She has her own traditional songs. She has her own actions, that’s how medicine people heal. They can talk to Mother Earth for a better way of life. That’s how we are balanced with Mother Earth. There is no concept of an Accommodation Agreement.”
“If you act like there is no possibility of change for the better, you guarantee that there will be no change for the better. The choice is ours.”
But then, what the hell do I know, I’m just a sheep herder
Thank you for giving me your time by reading this
Your prayers, support, & correspondence are invited