I have occasionally received criticisms that these writings of mine are too lengthy. Without wishing to go into a critique of “sound-bite” culture, or a discussion of the difference between being informed and being well informed, I thought I’d offer both a short version, and a full length version of the news from Big Mountain.
Heres the short version……
America wants something.
Indians are in the way.
America kills Indians.
And now here’s the full length version.
On April 3rd, the “Friendly Takeover” at Lehman’s Shareholders meeting took place in New York City. At the same time, a similar event took place at the Peabody Coal Headquaters in St. Louis. Lehman Bros are the owners of Peabody Coal Company, the biggest coal company in the world, and the operators of the biggest coal strip mines in the US.
I’m not really sure how much actions like this influence such giant soulless corporations, but for sure it lets them know they are being watched, and they must deal with that. The more time and energy they must expend dealing with criticism, means that much less time and energy is available to devote to raping the earth.. It was heartening to see the diversity of peoples represented by the Resisters. As well as the Dineh Resistors themselves, there was a presence from the Hopi people, as well as Lakota, other Red Nations, as well as assorted Americans and Europeans. For those that have not read it, I include the Hopi statement in the second part of this VFH.
What most interested me about this event can best be shown by the following quotes from 3 of the participants.
“Now for the very emotional side, an ambulance was waiting on the 2nd day because “those” of Lehman Brothers were fearing violence… always the same ignorance of the reality… “dangerous savages” were in N.Y. City… 2 policemen (looking ferocious) were watching… I used to stay close to them when, at about 12… one of the policemen came to me and asked me if he could receive a flyer too… “for sure”, I said smiling. Then he read it a long time… page after page and passed it to the other policeman who read it too…
The first came to ask still more information and wished us a really sincere “GOOD LUCK” putting cautionly the flyer into his pocket ! The whole time too, the Lehman Borther’s Doorwatcher was with us… so proud to be there!!!”
“At the close of that meeting we were approached by several of the shareholders with handshakes and murmers of sympathy. Upon their asking what they could do to help they were told to write the ceo of their company and tell him to divest from Peabody or at least close the mine and especialy the wells pumping water for the slurry. These are well meaning folks who have no clue what their lifestyle is doing to Mother Earth and her children.
It’s the people who run the company who know what is going on and still perpetuate the crimes of the past.”
“Immediately upon the closing of the meeting the shareholders approached the beautiful indigenous delegation and said that they were the most real thing to come to the shareholders meeting. They started yelling to Richard Fuld (CEO) and the other leaders “why don’t they have water?” At that point the Richard Fuld ignored them and had security escort the delegation immediately to a private room, because it seemed the shareholders were struck with kindness and compassion and were approaching the delegation.”
Human beings connecting as human beings.
I have to admit, I like people.
I think we are a fine and beautiful species. I am scared of the seemingly ever more prevalent notion that we as a species are inherently bad. That “We” are hell bent on destoying the sustaining life of the planet. I think the “We” is not the species, but just an aberrant cultural construction. Unfortunately this construction, or world-view, is still intent on rubbing out any other view.
I believe that allowed access to the truth, and allowed the freedom to act as our conscience dictates, then we as individual human beings choose to affirm life, not destroy it.
Sadly, it seems that such a view is not so popular.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against the dismissal of the “Manybeads” lawsuit. Doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think there was ever a snowball in hells chance the case would have been won. To recap…… the Manybeads lawsuit was filed by a group of resisters 13 years ago, arguing that to remove them from the land would have been an infringment of their religious rights, guaranteed under the Constitution. The simple fact is, that there is no doubt whatsoever that removing these people violates their constitutional rights. If the American system of “Law” had anything to do with truth and justice that would have been the outcome of the case. But what is obvious is that truth and justice are quite often impediments to the real function of American law, which is to protect the rights and property of those that hold power within american society. If the Manybeads case had been won, it would have opened the floodgates for all those “land-based” religions ( ie just about all native-american traditional religions) to petition the courts to get their land back. No way would can the powers-that-be allow this.
So how did they get out of it?
Did they hire masses of well-paid experts to “prove” that the resisters case was groundless?
Nope, they simply used a loophole. A fragment of old-time English law, “the Divine Right of Kings”. The judge decided that the Hopi Tribal Council was an indispensable part of the case, and the HTC, by virtue of being “sovereign” ( a strange kind of sovereignty, “given” by the U.S to the HTC whenever convenient) could not be “sued” unless they choose to be. A strange kind of circular logic that has been used before, to dismiss the Hopi peoples own lawsuit claiming that the HTC is illegal . This is the same logic used by the U.S. to avoid having to honor International laws. In plain language, the courts have decided that the HTC is simply above the law. So the case was not resolved, simply dismissed.
Question. If this is the case, surely it was known 13 years ago at the beginning of the lawsuit? Why not invoke it then? Obviously, to have the people spend masses of time and money, and then to grind them down further by raising and then crushing hope. Of course, once the Supreme Court released their decision, the local papers were full of the HTC barking about what a great victory it was for justice. And how now the way was clear for “imminent” evictions. Of course this contradicts what they were saying to the press a little earlier…. that they had no intention of evicting the people. A study of HTC utterances over the years reveals a non-stop barrage of such “contradictions”. Simpler to call them lies.
In April, Kee Watchman travelled again to testify to the United Nations. The Dineh and Hopi resistors have been interacting with the United Nations for many years. This is not reported in the mainstream media. Neither is the U.S. pressure on the UN to back off from indigenous issues in the States. Of course, as the US has set themslves up as “Global Gangsta”, they are now far more brazen about their total disregard for International law.
Earlier this spring, the courts transferred jurisdiction for grazing on the HPL from the BIA to the HTC. In essence, the BIA has always used this jurisdiction to harass the people and “encourage” them to leave the land by making it impossible for the people to maintain subsistence flocks, But at least the BIA was a federal agency, and had to comply with federal law. Now the HTC is in charge, no such safeguards exist.
So of course impoundment notices have been sent out. As usual the reason given is “drought”, which is absurd as it was a wet winter. What is particularly nasty about this set of threatened impoundments is that one of the carrots offered people to sign the Accomodation Agreement was an increase in grazing numbers. Once again the HTC brazenly go back on their word.
I would like to make one thing absolutely clear about grazing on the Altar. The land can healthily support many, many more animals than even is currently allowed. To reduce the numbers even further has no basis in any kind of range-management. Its pure spite.
Over in Afghanistan, the Talaban are intent on destroying sacred sites and the rest of the world expresses indignation.
The reason these religious bigots (the Talaban) are destroying the sculptures of the Buddha is to rewrite history, to erase any evidence that any culture other than their own has ever existed on “their” land. Here on the Altar, the Corporate Hopis intend to erect a cell-phone tower on top of Big Mountain. Big Mountain is a sacred and holy site. Yet there has been no outpouring of indignation against this desecration.
There are several possible explanations for this cell tower. For sure the Coporate HTC will get a few bucks out of it, and the worship of the Dollar is one of the prime tenets of HTC religion. Also the new tower would improve communications between HTC headquarters and Salt Lake City, again, something useful to the HTC. But I don’t think these are the main reason. I think the main reason is exactly the same as that of the Talaban. The HTC wish to erase all evidence of Dineh occupation of the Altar, and they wish to sever the spiritual connection of the people with the land. There is plenty of evidence of this program of religious intolerance, and let me hasten to add that the HTC are quite happy to destroy their own peoples sacred sites as well if theres a buck in it.
For the elders here on the Altar, to step out of an evening,…. to look out across hundreds of sqaure miles of darkness, unpunctuated by electric light, and to see the red blinking light on top of a tower impaled upon the sacred mountain, would be tantamount to a jewish person forced to look at a swastika spraypainted on a synagogue.
When it comes to religious freedom for native-americans, there may very well be “laws” on the books claiming protection, but whenever such protection would interfere with the making of a buck, the buck wins out.
You may remember the spate of “exclusions” that happened last year, when the HTC made it illegal to visit the elders on the Altar without permission from the HTC. I must point out that these exclusions were arrived at by an “administrative hearing”… which is kind of like when you are up to be fired from a job, the company can hold a “hearing”. I don’t believe these exclusions carry any legal weight. The administrative hearings that determined the exclusions were purely a kangaroo court. The next stage would be to appeal the decision. This would mean going to Hopi Tribal Court, one step up the legal ladder. Of course, such a course of action would mean having to have access to funds, lawyers, and time. One of the excluded has chosen to take this course of action. When I enquired why nothing seemed to be happening with this process, I found out that the HTC has “lost the files”!!!!! yeah right…. and I believe Richard Nixon and Oliver North too. That the HTC can make such statements with a straight face is an indication of the extent to which they don’t care whether people believe them or not. They are above the law, after all.
Some of you will have read the report of recent military fly-overs of the Altar.
Military jets, just feet above the treetops, low enough that the pilots profile was clearly visible.
Maybe you dismissed it as the fruit of a paranoid mind. Maybe you thought it was just an exaggeration. But I have to tell you that such things happen with alarming frequency.
Time and again I have personally seen aircraft of the U.S Airforce, Army, and National guard perform manouevres over the land that go way beyond what would be considered normal, let alone legal. Bearing in mind that the U.S. is the most militaristic nation on the planet, (I think that is a fair description of a situation where 6% of the worlds population (the U.S.) own better than 50% of the weaponry on the planet), and therefore most, if not all U.S. citizens experience military overflights to some degree.
But the number of flights that happen to pass over the resistors isolated homesites, plus the fact that these flights are invariably at a lower altitude than is allowed by law, leads one to the conclusion that these elders are “targetted”. Its not as if the military didn’t have enough unpopulated space to play their games. Millions of acres of the west have been appropriated for their sole use.( Much of this land was never ceded to the U.S by treaty, it was simply taken. Stolen land. Indian Land.) So why does so much of these military airgames take place over the Altar? Simple. For the same reason the Djembe and other “war drums”, and the bagpipes, were played loudly before the start of a battle…. to scare the shit out of the resisters.
Let me tell you a story. Some time ago I had the opportunity to fly over the Altar in a light plane. After spending some time photographing the largest coal-strip mine in the United States (the photos of which will be available shortly on my website), we headed for the hogan. Finding the way was a lot more difficult than I had expected…. the landmarks looked much different from thousands of feet up, the widely scattered homesites, made of the earth itself, blended into the ground, the whole landscape a maze of cracks and canyons, the only way to navigate was by the dirt tracks that criss-cross the land. We found what I thought to be the “road” leading to the homesite, and sure enough I could make out the small cluster of buildings I call home. We circled around, descended, and made a pass in front of the hogan, wiggling our wings in salute as we sped by only a few dozen feet above the ground. I had told people we would be coming, so that they wouldn’t be afraid. Sure enough, as we passed by we could make out a small group of people in front of the house, waving at us. One small figure was jumping up and down, holding something white in the air.
We were running low on gas, so we climbed again and headed to Tuba City. For the duration of the whole flight my face had been stuck to the window….. from the air the land was even more awe-inspiring than usual, and as we passed over Blue canyon, Wide Ruin canyon, Coal canyon, and all the side canyons that feed into them, one feels as if one is looking into geologic history,… the forms and colors of the naked, exposed land somehow clarify how small and transient we 2-leggeds are.
Upon returning home later that day, I found Grandma was revved… to say she was excited would be an understatement. As we had flown over, it was she who was jumping up and down with her sign in the air….. For the next few days, she repeatedly talked about the overflight…. every visitor was told the story. What I didn’t understand was why she was SO excited. For sure, to have a friend fly low to the ground, just above your home, is an exciting thing, but the extent of her excitement exceeded what made sense to me. Gradually it dawned on me. For close to thirty years, the skies have been the domain of those that would harm her. When an aircraft flies over, its purpose is to spy or harass and intimidate. For the first time in all those years a little bit of the sky had been reclaimed, for a short while they were friendly skies.
One final thought of relevance to these fly-overs. The U.S. government has admitted to spending half a billion dollars (thats your tax dollars of course) on their program to remove the people who live here. But thats just what they’ve spent “overtly”. How much does it cost to continually fly these military aircraft over the Altar? A tidy sum for sure. And how much has the US Govt spent maintaining the propaganda machinery about this issue? I think if all the money that has been spent on these “invisible” costs are added to the claimed $500,000,000, then we must be getting up closer to a billion.
And why have they spent this money?
Why have they interfered in the relationship between 2 peoples?
The claim is “to right a wrong”, to give back to some people something that had been taken from them, that this is in someway concerned with justice.
There are two holes in this argument.
The first is that in EVERY other case where land has been wrongly taken, the aggrieved party has received land and or cash in exchange. NEVER has anyone been relocated to solve the issue. So why spend so much in this particular case?
The second “inconsistency” is the belief that the U.S. engages in actions to support human rights. If the version of history and US foreign policy that is expounded in US schools, mass media, and hollywood, is one you are comfortable with, then this sounds credible. But if you have done even the tiniest bit of research into the facts of US foreign policy, you soon realize that human rights and justice is never an issue. US policy supports dicatorships and any other regime that will give the US what it wants, which is simply, resources. The US has blatently undermined democracy and human rights whenever these threaten the supply of cheap resources to US corporations.
The facts of the history of the Big Mountain issue make it abundantly clear that all this taxpayers money is being spent so that the coal under the Altar can find its rightful way to the power stations that keep LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc running in a way that the corporations want.
And still, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, the US Govt (and their “Client Regime”, the Hopi Tribal Council) continues to pump out propoganda and lies. Because they know that most US citizens are more comfortable with these lies than with the truth.
So, the totality of the news this spring is of the continued onslaught of harassment and intimidation against those on the Altar. Those orchestrating this onslaught have unlimited finances and resources. Those resisting rely on a life simple in ways and means. The frontline is on the Altar, and the daily round of chores and prayer. This is where support is needed, and where support is most effective. Those who would consider spending some time on the land, supporting resistance, are urged to contact me and I will put you in touch with families you can help.
For those of you on the Pix list, I thought I’d offer you some photos of the people whose statements you read in the supplement I sent out recently. Hopefully by being able to put a human face to the words, the words will be more real. None of these people are “activists” or politicians. They are sheepherders and weavers. They leave their homes and families and endure hardships travelling to tell people about was is happening in their homeland.
VFH18pix1. Kee Watchman. Kee has been travelling to Europe for many years to give testimony to the UN and to spread the word about the situation on the Altar.
VFH18pix2.Leonard Benally. Leonard was one of the prime organizers of the Lehman action in New York, and has been travelling extensivelly telling the story of his people and Big Mountain.
VFH18pix3. Mae Shay. Travelled to NY for the Lehman action. Mae is wife of Kee Shay, and like the rest of their family, have been “excluded” from land they and there ancestors have always lived on.
VFH18pix4. Roberta Blackgoat outside Lehman Bros. At 84, Roberta still continues to travel the world, at great expense to her health, to try and let people know how Mother Earth is being abused.
The dream I hold fast to is that one day these people will no longer need to do this, but can stay at home and live their lives as Creator intended.
I am proud, honored, and humbled to know these people.
But then, what the hell do I know,… I’m just an ex-sheepherder.
“WHEN SPIDERS UNITE, THEY CAN TIE DOWN A LION”
Thanks for giving me your time by reading this
Your prayers, support, and correspondence are invited
For all my relations