Statement by the President of the Navajo Nation, Kelsey A. Begaye, on the bulldozing of HPL Sundance Ceremony site by the Hopi Tribe.

Window Rock, Navajo Nation (Arizona) – The Hopi governmentĂ­s decision to bulldoze the Sundance ceremony site at Big Mountain is deplorable. In the strongest terms, I object to such a violent action against the Navajo families who reside on Big Mountain and who participate, as a part of their spiritual beliefs, in the Sundance ceremony. The Hopi government appears to be persecuting these families for their religious beliefs, as well as for their heartfelt desire to stay on their ancestral lands and to continue their traditional ways.

The Sundance ceremony has been performed at Big Mountain for a number of years at the request of the Big Mountain Navajo families. It has become an important part of their spiritual lives. Like all peoples, including the Hopis, the Navajo families on Big Mountain should have the freedom to practice their non-violent beliefs without governmental interference.

Native peoples have, all too often, seen their sacred places damaged or destroyed by non-Natives. It is shocking to see one Native government do the same to another Native community. The Hopi government’s action seemed to have been intended to intimidate, by a show of force, all the Navajo families who continue to reside on Navajo ancestral lands within the Hopi Partitioned Lands. Let me remind the Hopi government that the Israeli military uses a similar tactic of bulldozing homes in Palestinian villages. The outcome of that strategy has not brought peace to the Middle-East.

I understand that the Hopi government is frustrated. The Land Dispute has taken its toll on everybody–just ask those Navajo families who live on the HPL and have sought spiritual strength through the Sundance ceremony. They feel the Land Dispute’s harshness more than anyone else. I also understand that the Hopi government claims legal jurisdiction over the Sundance. But I question whether that jurisdiction gives the Hopi government the moral right to act as violently as they have.

I raise my objections directly with the Hopi leadership. The politics of destruction can start a terrible downward spiral that we must stop now. At this point, the first step is to secure the release of any Navajos who were detained by the Hopi police. Then I would ask that the Hopi government apologize. In return, I will commit to working with the Hopi government to address its reasonable concerns. We must build bridges of trust, not walls of fear and intimidation. We must rely on reason and diplomacy, and the law, not acts of force, to resolve our disputes.

The actions of the Hopi government have cast a long shadow over all the Navajos who reside on the HPL, as well as put chilling effect on the relationship of our two nations. Nonetheless, our two people are here, together, as neighbors –this is the Creator’s will. We should honor that will with good hearts, good intentions and good actions.