Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Big Mountain Late Summer 2019 Update: Land, Resistance & Native Hate Unfolding

Big Mountain Update: Land, Resistance & Native-Hate Unfolding
September 2019
By NaBahe Y. Katenay K44d7niihii

The lands are wilder than ever since pre-European invasion. However, the severe to mild impacts from the periodic droughts throughout the last 25 years is very evident. Many natural springs have disappeared. Certain native scrubs and grasses are now thinly dispersed like the great Cliff Rose that barely cling to life. The juniper forest and grasslands show colors of dark gray and orange because the sage meadows’ near die out and the second phase of pinon pine die out. Wolves, elk, deer, bobcats, and foxes are more numerous. Invasive plants like the cheat grass (bromus tectorum), russian thistle, tamarisk shrubs soak up the little moisture in the ground. Invasive animal, the cattle or the beef resources continue to have all legal rights to exist. Grass lands are however bountiful from a wet winter, but its previous grazers the sheep and goats herds from a vanished pastoral culture are all but gone.
The previous human dwellers, D7neh (The Peoples) are few with their, illegal or strict but legal, residencies are spread apart by miles of emptiness left by former neighbors who were forcibly relocated. This current human trauma does not involve a population of millions nor living with bombings, but it still involve horrific suffering caused by well-designed and subtle psychological aggression. The children of those traditional elders that once initiated a cultural land-based resistance to federal policing are now in their late elder ages. Like the vegetation or the dying natural springs around them, they too cling to a life style that is becoming only a memory and a dream. They can only herd their sheep and goats day to day, month to month despite the many health issues that they face. Ancient healing practices fragmented during the upheaval of removal policies, and modern health care are only available hours beyond the long jeep trails that lead to these D7neh resisters. 
D7neh 42 year fight to defy the harsh apartheid law is not over. Resisters and their extended families still call for support. What may seem to be a handful of outside collectives, a mixture of whites and non-whites, still devote their holiday get-a-ways to come out and stand with the resisters. It is a resistance which has been presented in several ways from “the core sovereign native movement” to a politicalized “genocide in the name of fossil extraction.” To many on the lands and for those that bring support, they correlate this D7neh experience on Big Mountain with universal cultural and social struggles for liberation and the protection of natural environments. It is still a resistance or fight that is on-going where D7neh get volunteer, home-stay supporters that herd sheep, provide mental therapy in a forgotten, empty and remote place. Organized support caravans bring seasonal work crews for firewood gathering, shelter and road repair, and food / supply deliveries. It is not, in any way, a form of protest where there is picketing on city or corporate property. It is true solidarity of productive labor work of achievements guided by natives, D7neh, from that particular ancestral homelands.

--> The original cover or label for the origins of the relocation and land partitioning law does return often like a giant bill board or mass media headlines, “D7neh-Hopi land dispute.” Note that according to historical information, there were never any D7neh invasion on Black Mesa which may have caused pillaging of Hopi existence. How this labeling about an intertribal squabble is revived is when the modernized and restructured Hopi Law Enforcement Services, a sub-division of the Hopi Resource Enforcement Services, make their presence at D7neh resister’s homestead or grazing pastures. Certainly all these lands of Big Mountain and Black Mesa were lands co-shared by the ancestors of D7neh and Hopis, and which was an indigenous coexistence by both a village and regional-specific ranging group societies. American policy and federal-deputized tribal law personnel are all the same. Their sudden and displeasing arrival with that racist mentality and “hate” for D7neh resisters. There are usually no questioning because as far as this U.S. law is concern, these traditional people and their extended families are trespassing and violators of an old eviction order. Resisters are told: stop immediately any repair work, get rid of new lumber or roofing material, that the herd is over the limit, they need a valid permit to cut and haul firewood, any water-harvesting structure built will be dismantle.
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Today, this U.S. anti-human and anti-nature policy in this part of Indian country is going beyond normal human rights violations. Perhaps like a requirement to follow the norm of the world where simple-natured cultural peoples are being displaced, depopulated and tortured into extinction. Big Mountain elder resisters, most still traditional with limited English, cannot get to their doctor’s appointment or get prescription filled because their Non-Emergency Medical Transport  (NEMT) are threatened by Hopi law enforcement patrols. Transport personnel who are licensed and authorized under the Navajo Department of Health have been threatened by Hopi that, their vehicle will be impounded. By whatever means the jurisdictional or tribal governmental regulations play out, the elders inside the apartheid territories have very serious medical issues. Some could be life threatening or other posing greater health concerns. This is happening as of this writing. An elder lady needing her routine checkup and eye exam was not sure if the NEMT driver will make it to her home. NEMT and Field Nurses are already risking a lot by taking the long jeep trails, plus two hours on maintained and paved roads, and two round-trips in a day.
Elder resister, “If Hopi wish to impose their over-all authority, even on the Navajo Nation, they need to start permitting their tribal medical center to take over the nurse visits and the NEMTs. I and my elder brother seem to be taking turns getting sick or needing medical attention. It’s hard enough for the NEMTs and the Field Nurses because we live remotely and far from the hospital.”   
-->There is that helplessness where nothing can be done to make the police be accountable. What’s worst is that this is happening in an isolated region of Indian country and no one is there to document how many D7neh resisters are being denied a visit to their doctor. Additionally, this issue with resistance to relocation law was never seen as “Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute” by the Big Mountain elders, but rather seen as corporate profit interest and mineral resources. What the new Hopis are doing is mere hatred and terror. All throughout the world, people see Hopis as a colorful cultural with dances of unique spectacles, and the meaning of their name, People of Peace. What these new Hopis are doing is nothing close to peace.

The coal of Black Mesa
Yes, if we call it Mother Earth, we are in her image. The Big Mountain elders’ resistance movement brought back many teachings for humanity, and one of them was, “Coal is the liver of the Female Mountain. And if fossil fuel extraction continue, the Female Mountain will be drained of all Her fluids, the waters, the oil and her blood.”
There is some strange and wicked kind of relief that come with the closure of the Peabody coal mining. The coal-fired power plant that burnt Black Mesa coal will soon follow. All this is wicked because no one is talking about the relocation law of 1974, a mandate to depopulate Big Mountain in order to industrialize other coal fields. Wicked and strange because the laws of apartheid will remain but for which kind of fossil fuel extraction?
About these closures, Big Mountain elders’ statements:
 “Now the cell phone receptions are either out or come back for a brief period. Peabody coal company are saying they are dismantling all the cell phone towers which belonged to them.”
“D7neh or Navajo residents around and near the mines were given first priority to take most of the scrap metal and steel. They were offered a cheap price and many local folks hauled tons of steel away.”
“What will people do with tons of metal and steel? Weld barbeque grills, livestock fence panels, and wood stoves to sell? Why can’t people think anymore?! Where is the consciousness?! Our Rezs need small bridges over the dangerous washes!”
Coal miners, mine laborers, and power plant employees will only be narrowed minded. Last thing their company bosses will do is point the finger away from Wall Street. Instead point the finger at the so-called, “earth lovers and environmentalists,” those who caused their loss of jobs. More hatred like there’s not enough.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

40 Years Ago Church Rock NMex Uranium Tailings Spill, Does Its Effect Continue?

Written by NaBahe Katenay-Keedíniihii, July 2019

Almost every deadly and lethal releases of poison or lethal toxins in the U.S. are always put into obscurity and society tends to forget about them because the “official statements” said to do so. “There were no dangerous levels to the public that would cause harmful effects, BUT precautionary measures were taken.” Main tribal news and state media will reinforce the official conclusion. All such incidents would not matter whether it is heavy toxins in drinking water in Flint, Michigan or a toxic spill in the Appalachian mountain-top coal mining regions, and government concern normally favors corporate profits over the health of poor communities.

This happened in July 16, 1979 when the United Nuclear Corporation’s tailings pond broke at its Church Rock uranium mill, and tons of radioactive water and solids flooded down the Rio Puerco wash. A wash or an arroyo that passes through the city of Gallup, New Mexico then into numerous Díneh (Navajos) communities along the Rio. The actual flooding and the length of travel of this radiation was an unimaginable catastrophe. The spill traveled about 100 miles along, U.S. colonial corridor Route 66, or Interstate 40 in Arizona and Díneh country. And if you do not know about the nuclear life cycle and if you do, many forms of the deadly radiation last for tens and tens to hundreds and hundreds of years.

Much is out there about this tragedy and horribly nothing else is known about its size of impact since 40 years ago. The Church Rock uranium tailings spill was much larger, in terms of radioactive quantity, than the U.S. - Three Mile Island nuclear accident on March 1979. Church Rock release of radiation would have rank close to the melt down at Chernobyl, Ukrain in 1986.  Again like any pollution or mega contamination of the environment near or around poor population, responsible state agencies fumbled with corporate politics first instead of measuring out the magnitude of the lethal discharge and its potential outcome of health effects. 

But what does this have to do with Big Mountain Díneh which is a few hundred miles away from the Rio Puerco? 

A new U.S. government made Díneh community outside of Sanders, Arizona. The 1979 spill also passed through here. It is a modern day refugee settlement, and part of the federal government program of forced Indian removal. Here, the original relocatees and hundreds more descendants were settled here in a rural style community. These refugees were victims of the so-called “Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute” where nearly 18,000 Díneh were either uprooted or displaced from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Some refugees relocated from remote and pristine Big Mountain on Black Mesa also. Then about ten years ago it was discovered that the water sources in this big new reservation of Sanders had high concentration of radioactive contaminants. Waters in this region have never had this issue, but that was sort of the end of an evolving story. Navajo Nation tribal government and the U.S. immediately redirected the issue to promises of alternative wells which all sounded good. No one dared to asked, “Well where exactly did the radiation come from?”

Finally here is another one of my many theories about the state of nature and native histories. The structure of earth likely have played a role. The narrow and small basin of Sanders area was created by three geologic structures, the southward plunging of the Defiance Uplift, a northward plunging of the Torrivo Upwarp and the Chuska Mountain volcanic uplifting. They all facilitate the west ward flow of the Rio Puerco and on the west end of the basin, a west to east dipping of strata starts but the Rio wash continues over that. Sanders basin is spooned as the handle of the spoon is the path of Rio Puerco wash to the Church Rock uranium mill in 1979. Over time since the tailings spill, much of the radioactive contaminants have been reaching the spoon or bowl. Heavy metals like cadmium, aluminum, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, sodium, vanadium, zinc, iron, lead, and sulfates sank or settled in the basin. There were more lethal elements of radioactive uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium that accumulated and drifted down into the Rio’s alluvial fill.

The U.S. government and its collaboration with the Navajo Nation administration poses a hidden sinister backdrop to the magnificent tall cliff walls, and those native oriented but cheap tourist attractions along Interstate 40. And outside of Sanders, Arizona is the new extended Indian reservation where the ancestors’ past have long been forgotten, and why care about the past because Americana has erased those memories of the pristine high desert mesas and canyons of Big Mountain? Perhaps much radiation is yet to be announced, but hopefully the promises safer waters are in place. Our problems as “diverse” society continues in the areas of so-called activism and the dreams of surviving the onslaught of climate chaos. We all continue to not see a larger picture than what the media, which we all do not trust, presents. It seems as though official and “expert” conclusions still disable our thinking. The life span of the nuclear cycle from Church Rock 1979 may continue to inflict dangers to many not to just natives. 

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