Big Mountain, AZ – Yesterday, Friday, August 17, 2001, at approximately 5:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, the Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Range Management, Resource Enforcement Services, Hopi Tribal Police, Navajo County Sheriff, and U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) impoundment trailers entered Camp Ana Mae, a sacred Sundance site in Big Mountain, AZ. Awakened by sounds of heavy machinery and chain saws, several witnesses observed the desecration and total destruction of the sacred Sundance ground. Witnesses observed a para-military squadron of police surrounding land management employees chain sawing the Sundance tree, the tree of life and bulldozing the ceremonial structures. A huge back hoe destroyed sweat lodges, fire pits, sweat rocks, alters, and the Sundance arbor. Religious paraphernalia, which included tobacco ties, flesh offerings, and eagle feathers were seized or left behind and trampled by machinery.
Eric Crittendon awoke his uncle John Benally to tell him about the destruction of the Sundance site. Eric and John came up to the Sundance entrance which is Eric’s lifelong homesite. There were Hopi police vehicles blocking the entrance. They were told they could not enter the grounds. John left his truck which was stolen by the police. He walked up to the Sundance arbor to find it surrounded by police.
John Benally says, Eric Crittendon and I separated while I was talking to the BIA police. At that time, Eric who just turned 18 years of age was arrested by the Hopi police and charged with criminal trespassing. The Sundance is a traditional orthodox Native American religion. This Sundance is not political, it is a way to pray. This is how we worship and pray for the healing of our family and all our relations.
Local residents arrived at Camp Ana Mae around 8:00 AM to take part in a weekly prayer and sweat ceremony. To our shock and disbelief, we who live in the area were blocked by local, state and federal law enforcement, told by Officers that all trespassers would be arrested for criminal trespassing. Residents counted fifteen police vehicles, 2 BIA impoundment trailers and a flat bed piled with arbor logs, the sweat lodge and the Sundance Tree. We believe this hate crime is equivalent to bulldozing Vatican City or Mecca. This land is our spiritual center.