BIG MOUNTAIN, AZ – A 13 year old boy participating in the Sundance held at Big Mountain was reportedly the victim of sexual assault at the hands of one of the dance participants.
According to the boy, he and his brother and a medicine man went to sleep in a shared tent after a ceremony concluded late Saturday night. In the early hours of Sunday morning the boy awoke to find himself being touched through his clothes on his leg and his genitals. He kicked at the perpetrator who then returned to his sleeping pad. The boy recognized his attacker as one of the medicine men participating in the Sundance.
Participants in the Sundance were requested not to bring alcohol to the camp and it is believed that alcohol is not a factor in the case.
The boy reported the incident to his father mid Sunday morning, who immediately informed the chief medicine man of the Sundance, Joseph Chasing Horse. Chasing Horse expelled the alleged perpetrator from the Sundance camp and immediately began efforts to contact local law enforcement. It was not until late Sunday afternoon that Navajo Police in Chinle received a report of the incident. They contacted the BIA Hopi Agency and the Hopi Rangers who immediately went to the scene.
This tragic incident underscores the Hopi Tribe’s objections to the Sundance taking place on Hopi land.
“When people enter the Hopi Reservation the Hopi Tribe assumes responsibility for their welfare and safety,” stated Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor, Jr. “The Benally’s refused to have law enforcement present in the area, claiming that nothing would happen to warrant their presence. Something extremely serious did happen and because of the remoteness of the area it took Chasing Horse until mid Sunday afternoon to notify the police. By that time the perpetrator was long gone.”
Eugene Kaye, Chief of Staff to Chairman Taylor expressed his frustration over the entire Sundance debacle, stating “From the very beginning the Hopi Tribe was labeled the wrongdoers for trying to protect our rights. Because of the political undertones of the Big Mountain Sundance the event attracts people of dubious character. Joseph Chasing Horse vouched for the medicine man who allegedly committed the crime, yet look what happened. Because the Benally family refuses to accept legitimate Hopi Law Enforcement jurisdiction and responsibility on HPL and continues to exhibit a total disregard for the health, safety, and welfare of their “guests” by attempting to deny Hopi Law Enforcement access during the Sundance, a child has become the tragic victim of a horrible crime and faces a possible lifetime of emotional recovery, while the guilty child molester may elude capture and punishment. This increases the risk that more children will fall victim to his abuses. I hold the Benally’s at least morally responsible for this tragic incident, if not wholly responsible.”
A cleansing ceremony was performed for the boy later on Sunday afternoon.