Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Native Take on Holbrook Arizona, A Town That Forgot Itself

A Native Take on Holbrook Arizona, A Town That Forgot Itself

Written by Na(Bahe) (Katenay)Keediniihii

Holbrook, do you know where this place is at in Arizona? If you says, Yes, but you really mean you have only pulled off, a block or two, from I-40, and ate at some restaurant chain or crashed at a motel chain, that was not Holbrook. Nowadays, you need to cruise on Hopi Dr and Apache Ave then you are in Holbrook! It’s kind of “dead” however. A few dinosaur statues are trying to reclaim the town, and what is active are the radiation being emitted from the tons of petrified woods for sale. The town’s die out might also be karma from how this past, Wild West town holds secret about the Apaches in the late 1800s.
Dineh use to call this place, Tiic Yaa Kin or house under a cottonwood tree. There’s an old painting of the Bucket of Blood Saloon and it is still there by the rail road tracks. The boarded up saloon and its steel beam-supported wall sit there with ghosts, and after your long ride, don’t expect to get your thirst cleanse there. The painting at the museum show an electrical pole at the front of the saloon, but a tree might have been there in front earlier. Like the current photo and which would easily inspired the name, House Beneath A Cottonwood Tree. Like many old towns or long-gone locations now buried under cities all across Turtle Island (aka USofA), Holbrook and its neighbor Winslow were one of those “cowboys and Indian” places. Where barbaric meet civilized natives.

I can feel the unsettling spirits behind those boarded up door and windows of Tiic Yaa Kin. Spirits that are still engaged in their brawls and sleazy card games. A famous story is that two “Mexicans” got into a vicious fight in the saloon and they either shot each other or someone else shot them down. Afterwards, the saloon’s owner described the scene, “The floor was like a bucket of blood.” Winslow has a similar story about these barbaric settlers.

Directly opposite from today’s ‘Standing on the Corner’ statue and on First Street, there use to be White Café, a saloon now in ruins. It was barely thriving in the 1970s. In the late 1880s, a wanted bandit bought himself a bottle of whiskey and he was immediately spotted. He hastily left and rode off on his horse toward the west. Lawmen went after him but the telegram was faster than the horses so, the outpost at Diablo Canyon knew who to expect. The shootout between the fugitive and the lawmen was brief and shortly after the fugitive’s decent burial, a fellow deputy mentioned, “Man never had his drink he paid for.” He was un-earth, bottle of whiskey dumped down his throat and he was rolled back into his decent hole.    

Leaving the rail road tracks and passing the dinosaurs, Apaches and Geronimo are on my mind so I went to the old and precarious, Navajo County courthouse which is now a museum.
I entered through the ‘museum’ doors that were jerry-rigged with a few bolts and nuts, its big loose antique-looking handles, and a couple of dog chains hanging off it. I noticed a sketching of the great Chief Manuelito down in the jail area, just beyond the jailer’s desk. I wondered about the rest of the museum which was basically a collection of antique goods probably gathered from the local area, and old stuff from the courthouse days. I felt a chill and that something was watching me or that someone is around the corner. The one room that felt more ‘spooky’ was the one with the woodstove and the frontier kitchen. And for some strange reason, the jail had a calm vibe. A large narrow cage that was for 20 prisoners including a women’s quarter and one solidarity confinement.  
Back at the reception desk, I asked the host lady about Geronimo and if he boarded the train in Holbrook. She said, “No, only his tribe came here. He was captured in California and was taken by train from there.” The ghostly looking lady referred me to a book that she claims has a picture of “his tribe” in Holbrook. On that picture, I can see Geronimo posing with his warriors all shackled, wearing a straw hat and sitting outside a passenger train. I didn’t say anything to the ‘left behind by the wagon train’ lady, but I did say, “A few places inside here feels haunted.” She replied, “Well, if you believe in ghosts, I’m sure you’d feel that way…”

What else can I think or say about America’s overt act in what kind of history is told to us natives? As for us natives or indigenous Turtle Islanders, it is more crucial than ever that we become aware of our roots and history. Today’s digital age is drowning our mental capabilities to the point where we don’t know who we are as individuals or know what community is. Our past history is world history that is if we reject that migration theory of the Bering Strait Crossing. Our ancestors lived this history and that is why many of them defended their country to the end.

The last great warrior and holy man, Geronimo did board the train in Holbrook. One building on the side of the rail road, which is now a ghost infested warehouse, feels to me that he must have been held in there before leaving his Dineh-Apache lands. His peoples considered him a holy man also according to an elder woman’s story in the 1980s:

“Before Geronimo went to fight alongside the warriors and after he lost his whole family, he said to the people in the camp, ‘In case I do not return, consider me dead.’ Geronimo left for White Mountain a holy place to our peoples and he only took with him a small bag of peyote. By the time people accepted that he was probably dead, he came back. Geronimo told the camp, ‘We will all have a hard time with this fight and when it is over, we will be taken away far from here. You will all come back, but I will never come back to my homelands.’”

In 2013, Indian Country Today noted in a 127th anniversary article, “On September 4, 1886, the great Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.” Other historical accounts do verify that this great warrior holy man and his warriors were marched to Holbrook to be put on the train for Florida. The rest of this people might have followed later, but they did all ended up in Holbrook. How and where they were processed before boarding the train in this modern day, dying town remains a mystery or hidden. Basically Holbrook wants nothing to do with the legacy of Geronimo.


Racism comes in many forms and from all direction, and the Arizona Historical Society prefer to deny a lot of native world history. But instead, they are so proud of their barbaric Arizona. For that matter, I shall refer to Holbrook as, Geronimo’s revenge, those old abandoned motels and restaurants that only accommodate more ghosts, ghosts that once had their ‘kicks on Route 66,’ the colonial wagon trail.
But in case you want to see this “dead” place or if you are Injun, or just want to honor the last great fighters against barbaric America, the Apaches, top in and get out near the train tracks at Apache Ave. Try to feel what it must have been like for many native ancestors on their last day they walked their homelands. Burn some sweet grass, offer some tobacco and pray that we all return back to the Center.      

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Big Mountain - Elders Now Silent as Drilling Begin

Big Mountain Díneh Kept Land Pristine an Extra 40 Years, Now the End
Written by Bahe Y. Katenay, September 2017

Wide Ruin Canyon and drill site north of the late Pauline Whitesinger's homestead.

The 1974 force relocation law passed by the US Congress involved the partitioning of 1.8 million acres which covered most of the deep aquifer, coal and shale rich Black Mesa. For the traditional Dineh (Navajos) and Hopis who were the inhabitants, they never realized the magnitude of what their homelands faced, the interest of American greed for fossil fuel. “Law makers” in Washington D.C. had for years, prior to Peabody’s first coal mining lease of 1964, were planning how to “legally” access these mineral deposit and aquifers. Only Indians would be in the way but it was the 20th century and the government cannot just send in the cavalry. Hopis did not have that U.S. official Indian tribe status nor were there any treaties. As far early as late 1950s, an Indian removal Act was already being designed secretly which then was followed by the arrival of coal company attorneys to create a Hopi tribal government and generate law suits between the two tribes. Traditional Hopi Village Chiefs furiously opposed such outside intervention, but the mighty U.S. dollars managed to gather a collective of Hopis to make an official tribal council.

Today, the U.S. tax payer funded, forced relocation programs has evicted almost all of the Dineh resisters within the communities of Big Mountain. Only a few scattered extended Dineh family make the physical presence close to their traditional elders. Out of half of the partitioned lands, these Big Mountain holdouts occupy the vast and remote 450,000 acres, a deceiving and jumbled rocky land forms of narrow plateaus and web of small canyons. Government cartographers designated this area as the largest region for uprooting the inhabitants, and claiming that, “less number of Indians to deal with and won’t be costly.” Now, thinking outside real estate or mineral exploitation politics, these lands not only hold a lot of prehistoric and historic information, but it was pristine, untouched by mega-industrial foot prints. But the great sadness, today, can be felt in the atmosphere by its last few aboriginal residents and their volunteer non-Native helpers. That once upon a time thriving culture of communities with their farming and great ceremonial gatherings are now only memories or stories.

The surviving elders, those who originally stood in solidarity with past traditional resisters, are now in their late 80s and mid-90s. The decades of trauma, each day not knowing about their tomorrows, occasional BIA Indian Police threats, anxiety about the fate of culture and religious ways, and their children now live in urban settings. They have little to say and their hopes and wishes are nearly gone. And that is how the U.S. government wanted it to be, silenced them and let them fade away as the last. The late Pauline Whitesinger’s land and her beloved Wide Ruin Canyon has gone dry, and the BIA Hopi Land Resource Department have just drilled for water on the canyon floor. Seven pipes stick out of these once pristine lands. The government waited because Pauline would have called upon her relatives again, and it might have been the ultimate war party.

The 1.8 million acres was split in half in 1977, at 900,000 acres each but then in 1979, Big Mountain resistance declared that 450,000 acres should be defended. And so that arbitrary boundary that the U.S. government drew and justified that as ‘less Indians and less costly to remove’ was actually another cover up. This partition boundary outlines a cone shape area that pitches into the present day Peabody coal mines then widens off to the west, encompassing all of Big Mountain region. This partitioned area was based on corporate appraisal, the characteristic of the land with resource abundancy and having potential for world-wide economics. Scientific studies on the state of hydrology, air, soil, and minerals detailed the data on: annual precipitation patterns, depths of water tables, underground water flow patterns, fault features that influenced aquifers, range soils for (commercial) agriculture like cattle raising, strippable coal, fracking, airways that included microwaves and wind patterns, and wilderness development for controlled game and recreation. (Wherever white America goes, they need recreation.)  

Where the Big Mountain resisters have stayed and carried out their old ways for the last 40 years, were lands that the U.S. and its corporate conglomerates saw as prime real estate. With the Indian treaties long forgotten, this area is easily accessible, there was no limitations on or no land ownership, development of that lands would be so cheap, and be transformed into its highest and best use. - “In economic sense, the entire material universe outside of humans themselves. All air, soil, minerals and water is included in the definition of land. Everything that is freely supplied by nature, and not made by man.” – So if easily and cheaply obtainable, that is prime real estate! Government and corporations waited it out, they remain the same and their monetary system maintained its inheritances. While the social and spiritual norms of ‘those Indians in the way’ and their ally networks disintegrate. State of the art and automated mega machinery can alter and transform the earth at an unimaginable rate.

The traditional Dineh elders’ chief leaders of the resisters knew of the religious concept that, Big Mountain’s surroundings held a divine eco-system. It is known that the indigenous life utilized water in small quantities, carefully managed with the upmost respect, and having that tremendous reverence for all forms of water.

Seven new drill sites for water, at the heart of Big Mountain, might now set the stage for what is to come, the final phase of the energy wars, the Four Corners National Sacrifice Area, and the corporate war machine of the US’s dying wish to win the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Written by Bahe Katenay, February 2017


The original Big Mountain region encompasses most of the northern portion of the so-called “HPL.” Part of an area designated by a Presidential Executive Order in 1974 where traditional, non-English speaking Dineh (Navajos) were to be forcible evicted. Since that time, other regions besides Big Mountain like Coal Mine Mesa, Jeddito, Sands Springs, and Star Mountain, nearly 14,000 Dineh and 600 Hopis were relocated, and 22,000 Dineh were displaced or have lost their ancestral ranging areas. The harsh federal policing continues with restrictions on: water and natural spring management, animal control, firewood gathering, and any type of social or ceremonial activities. Meanwhile, Peabody coal company has exhausted its 70,000 acres lease area and are now pondering upon expanding southward into the heart of Big Mountain.

This Dineh resistance began with intense direct actions and organizing with the help from only a couple of local Dineh coordinators and interpreters in 1977. The resistance leaders outlined their purposes which was that Big Mountain Summits were dwelling places of deities and that Black Mesa was the central Altar of the microcosm of Dineh Universe. These resistance communities assembled in 1979 and declared independence based on the Ft Sumner Treaty of 1868. The sovereign region of Big Mountain that was recognized was about 450,000 acres. This 40 year Dineh experience may be equal and similar to the fight at Standing Rock, North Dakota.  Today, mainly outside non-Native supporters continue to “trespass” by keeping vigil with: sheep herding, seasonal homestays, be in solidarity with Dineh resisters to violate federal restriction laws to help maintain Dineh lifeways, and sometimes as human rights observers. Though many of the original traditional, leaders of the resistance have passed on, younger and older extended family members are attempting to take on their parent and grandparents’ roles in protecting the pristine lands and reviving the shattered culture.  

Response to Bring Extra Comfort:

In late January, a global warming fueled winter storms brought a week and half of rains then followed by a sudden snow blizzard that blanketed the whole Big Mountain-Black Mesa region. The result was a saturated but frozen ground, the snow’s depth reached above “the bellies of the sheep” and herding was impossible. Accessibility to and from Dineh resister homesteads or sheep camps was limited or completely cut off, and even a challenge for 4 wheel drive vehicles. Due to US Government’s harsh relocation laws like recent livestock impoundments, the traditional Dineh methods of survival were already strangled. Climate change, which was partially induced by years of coal and aquifer extraction/export by Peabody Energy, is now a new and unpredictable weather scenario for these remote dwelling Dineh of this semi-arid high desert.  Inhumane industrial occupation combined with government Anti-Indian policies have depleted Eco-Life sustaining systems, all which the Peoples of Big Mountain, Black Mesa were dependent upon for centuries. 

Given these factors in maintaining support, a call for support was made in January to initiate a small scale emergency relief effort. We were blessed with just enough funds to get some hay, foods and firewood to elder resisters, especially those in the most remote reaches of the Mosquito Springs to upper Big Mountain area. A joint effort by both native and non-natives who took time out of their lives to use their own personal vehicles, some traveled from Flagstaff, Winslow and Colorado, as they found themselves on the miles of un-maintained roads and jeep trails that were inundated with thawing mud beneath a foot of snow. From the south, it was a gift to have two locals volunteer, Andy and Bahe (#2), to do deliveries out to Tiic Yaa Toh’ and Red Willow Springs area. The two met the main delivery out of Flagstaff at the paved road’s end to pick up the small load of hay and boxes of food. Briefly, memories and sadness were shared about three elders who have recently past. Then how the deliveries will be made were discussed, “head out in the dark of early morning when the mud is frozen solid.” A small amount of funds were given for gas expenses. 
Andy: “Willie Sr. has about 60 sheep and goats. Old man Tsosie still has about 30 heads.” (Later) “This morning I met up with Shil’naa'ashi’, (paternal kin) Tsosie on the way to his place to bring hay and food. But we met on the road. He was so thankful! We shook hands. He said, ‘Áhxe’eh’éé to Bahe (#1), and all the support network!’ Elders are very contend people, even a little gesture of kindness means a lot to them. Love to see their expression on their faces and their hopes and love for peace. But their struggle goes on. I love my Peoples."

Bahe (#2): “I met my elder brother on his way out of the territory about 5:30 in the morning. Before turning around, we off loaded at the late Pauline Whitesinger’s homestead where her grandson still stays at the Stronghold with the sheep. I’ve heard about the wood crew and some elders getting loads. Also there was talk that the support wood crew were spotted by the BIA Hopi police patrols. People are thinking that the police might intensify their threats and harassment once the roads are all better.”  
Scarce situations existed in the few places where more support could be delivered.

In conjunction with this hay and food deliveries, support came out of the north and from the frontlines of Standing Rock, ND.  A returning work crew, led by Mercury, a Dineh from Sanders Ariz., were hosted at the Juniper Grove Stronghold of Upper Big Mountain. Their main objective was to cut more fire wood since they felt that the November 2016 caravan still needed additional deliveries.

"Wood cutting out here is no joke," Mercury explains.  

The mud was so thick, trucks would only carry the crew so far in before they had to get out and walk to the cut and collection area. Because of the heavy fog of the Black Mesa high plateaus, two seasoned non-Native sheepherders guided the wood crew to some remote homesites of Big Mountain.  
"We caught up with a tough rancher/resister who was driving her few cattle on horseback. She instructed us about the location of her firewood pile. When we arrived, there was nothing but kinlin scraps raked into a small pile." –supporter, Jake Stockwell.

 In the dark of a cold evening, elder resisters, Harry and Bessie, directed their non-Native sheepherders to use flashlights to off-load the split firewood next to their dwindling pile.

"Nizhoní’ éé, nizhoní’ éé (Beautiful!)," Harry repeated. In Dineh he says, “It's nice to have good firewood again!”

For the few and last aging elder resisters with sheep, it's lambing season. They are unable to manage all their traditional routines of caring for the herds. Also, as for the few Native and non-Native volunteers, they are still learning about checking the corral during the night despite the freezing rain or snow. These were the few old Dineh ways, to monitor the corral throughout the night for new born lambs or kids, or make sure to stoke up the little stoves inside the sheep maternity ward. Trying the best as possible to raise sheep and lambs the way this threatened and vanishing, indigenous culture use to do it.
"We are all still out here. We will always be here! And so, thank you to all that remember us!" –Resister, John Benally.

“Yes, we are here, and Big Mountain Dineh resistance continues to stand with the Standing Rock fight against the DAPL. We hope to continue building a network system to collaborate more and be apart of enhancing as well as strengthening indigenous resistance throughout the western hemisphere. Big Mountain Dineh elders and their extended family resisters will also work hard to maintain our involvement of exchanges, for liberation and in the defense of our ancestral lands and its natural resources. From the south to the north, Hoka Hey, the time for liberation is here!” – Kat Bahe, Big Mountain Dineh.

Coal Mining: Navajo Generating Station (NGS), Peabody Energy Kayenta Mines

The voices of past traditional elder resisters still resonates about the 70,000 acre Peabody Energy’s coal mines that is adjacent to Big Mountain area, “Liver of Female Mountain is being carved out of Her body while She is still alive! (They) have conspired with a staged land dispute between us and our Hopi relatives. This is how (they) gained access to butcher Her.” But even their past words about why they resist has all vanished with history. It has been replaced by modern native activist attempt to question environmental policies, which are mere corporate procedural “guidelines” designed by scientific engineers of mining. Policies that are restricted to the discussion of water or other matters related to EPA standards, not the human factor nor the “irrelevant” claims of religious ties.

If most of the Dineh elders were here, today, they would simply say, “Stay cautions!” We are often misled by politics like native activism and their white counterpart rejoicing when the Mohave Generation station (MGS) closed. MGS had been receiving Black Mesa coal via a 260 coal-slurry pipeline that also used the region’s aquifers. However, those changes didn’t affect the massive coal mining or the continued extraction of aquifers. Now the stories being popularized are that the NGS will shut down and maybe Peabody will close, too. Peabody Energy has been surviving on government mega loans after filing for bankruptcy recently.

Just how much do we know about corporate global bank politics?

So, back to the original plan of the Four Corners National Sacrifice Area and within this plan also originated the relocation law, Public Law 93-531. The clusters of cities that would cover most of the Navajo and Hopi reservation. A giant metropolis that was to outdo southern Cal-LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas put together. Back to today, and the question that is not being asked is while Washington D.C. has repealed many laws, should PL 93-531 be considered for repeal? Likely not but instead the Justice Department and the BIA will push for complete removal of humans off Big Mountain – Black Mesa and yes, NGS may turn solar but Peabody can shift to fracking the Mancos Shale so technologically easy.     
Your Participation is Still Vital:

These recent times of national upheavals between socio-cultural defensiveness and the unexpected militarized responses made by states, we are drawn to review our purposes on this planet and on the other hand, we seek deeper and perhaps spiritual meaning of how we can play a more effective role in supporting or joining the frontlines of resistance. If you have never been to Big Mountain in northeastern Arizona, it is as remote as the previous stories tell and such experience can be rewarding when allowing yourself to embrace the spirit of what was true indigenous existence. Leaving aside the ‘normal’ politics or the human egos, we can just imagine ancestors with their flocks, doing a ritual horse ride, harvesting and procuring corn, or carrying water from the natural springs in tight woven baskets.

This spirit of the human nature and its endeavors of today, however, face the capitalistic laws of global industrial madness. Unfortunately, this is also occurring elsewhere across Turtle Island and in the world. At Big Mountain on Black Mesa, it has been a 40 year struggle and it can still be defended and moreover, be saved. Volunteer helpers are needed, individuals must fully understand indigenous cultures and be mentally and physical fit, able to be self-sufficient and adaptable to cultural foods and to the elements. Have patient to observe and learn the challenges of animal husbandry, firewood chopping, build and repair with limit resources and tools. Contact us, join us.

This year, the 40th anniversary of the resistance, is a critical time. How? Look back at history and think about what were the last days of an Indian village like: before it got flooded by a dam project, deforested for oil drilling like in South America today, when Chief Crazy Horse’s people were militarily-driven onto the reservation, and the 1860’s Trail of Tears when the link to ancestry were severed? Big Mountain traditional elders are the last ones who: speak the old language – a language that tells of a universe the way modern thinking has never heard. The last ones who understood ecology and sustainability because they have lived it rather than practicing it from a book. Finally, these few last Dineh elder resisters are what true grassroot is, demonstrating a sovereign fight all based on Order from their ancient religions, religions that may not be –ten years from now.

This spring, a few of us hope to continue to trespass on our own lands to fix some roads, fix natural springs, shear sheep and goats by hand, try again to revive corn and squash planting, and basically to keep this indigenous world and us alive. You will have to contact us and come out, it is the only way for you to see our story. As the Dineh elders use to say years ago, “We are resisting on behalf of global society, we are not just resisting relocation laws for our own benefit.” It is amazing how they knew about this time, when global preparedness should already be in place. The land, the sheep and the hogans are here for you and if necessary, a territory upon where we can attempt to build or revive those elements of survival and strengthen the original human destiny. And if you are experienced from other battle fields, like Standing Rock ND, and seeking to continue your learning and contribute to peace, this is one of the places – Big Mountain.

-NááBahii (Kat Bahe) Kéédíniihii

(Contributing Writer, Jake Stockwell )

Friday, July 1, 2016

Spirit Islands of Japan 2015

Spirit Islands of Japan 2015 One Man’s Prayer Journey
By NaBahe Katenay Keediniihii – July 1, 2016

1978 Sweet Water, Big Mountain (L) Larry Anderson - Dineh AIM (R) the late Pauline Whitesinger

In 1978, a Dineh (Navajo) brother and AIM leader advised me to join a cross country spiritual walk. This conversation happened while we were on security detail in Big Mountain for elder matriarch, Pauline Whitesinger, who had been harassed by the federal Indian police. She had attempted numerous times to ask the U. S. federal fence builders to stop and leave her ancestral homelands. Instead she had an altercation and the BIA Police were coming around trying to make Pauline commit more offenses. My “Bro” said, “There is a march starting in California. A lot of Natives from many tribes will be walking, doing ceremonies and protesting some racist legislations. They will be walking from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. You should join and tell everyone about what’s happening here. –Don’t worry we’ll ‘hold the fort down,’ here.” I’ve really never been anywhere outside of Arizona. Phoenix was probably the furthest place I’ve been. But wow, San Francisco and Washington D.C. were only words or places I heard about. My mind suddenly had new things to think about, because two years before I had enrolled in college courses which abruptly ended when my Mom summoned me back to Big Mountain to help organize elder meetings. The AIM Bro gave me Dennis Bank’s phone number and some other information. The medicine man of Big Mountain did a ceremony for me and made a special bundle for me to take “to the first river that The Walk will cross and make the offerings.”
The Longest Walk in Washington D.C. 1978

The story about how I met up with this “march,” The Longest Walk of 1978, is quite long and this writing is about how I met the Japanese Buddhist Monks and Nuns. The first moment I join this Walk was in the evening, in southwestern Utah and it was a cold, wet mid-February climate. A U-Haul truck was parked loaded with gear and food supplies. There was a makeshift kitchen where a small lady and another man were helping with dinner, they both had on orange clothing and it was obvious to me they were with some religious order. After a short but restful night in an old Mormon church, everyone had packed up as we converged toward the kitchen in the chilly early morning. Following some quick steaming breakfast and a prayer circle, my first day of this cross country walk is reality as the Buddhist drums broke the silences of the Sipco, Utah landscapes. A month had past and I begin to understand who these Buddhist monks and nuns were even though, they never spoke in the prayer and meeting circles. During a long rest outside of Pueblo, Colorado, I walked up to where some of them were fasting and chanting. Not far from their Buddhist altar was the Native altar that had a buffalo skull, tobacco ties and where a few diverse group waited to give the ritual flesh offering. I sat on the ground and listened to the beat of the Buddhist drum and the chanting, and I would get a whiff of that soothing smell of the Buddhist altar incense. In addition to that was the rare smudging smell of the sweet grass from the native altar, my mind was at peace.
Monks and Nuns from the Nippozan Mihoji Buddhist Group, The Longest Walk 1978

 At Sand Creek, Colorado and near Lawrence, Kansas the Japanese were doing their usual chanting throughout our rest stops, early mornings and evenings. I had a lot of admiration for these devoted Buddhist men and women. Months had passed and we were at Deer Lake State Park in Pennsylvania when Nippashi-shonin and Jun-san invited me to their camp, now I was brother and close fellow walker. We joked and they shared some Japanese foods, and we exchanged stories. For this Walk, the beat of Buddhist drums sometimes helped keep our steps in pace throughout the day.

Sometime after The Longest Walk finished in July of 1978 and whatever the circumstances were, I was hitch-hiking with one of the Buddhist Monk, Ishibashi-shonin, and we got dropped off at a Mexican family’s house but we were uninvited instead. The shaved head and orange robed Monk and I bummed around in Farmington, New Mexico for food and a place to ‘crash,’ but it was best to get on the ‘Rez.’ Eventually, I went on home to Black Mesa and Reverend Ishibashi hitch-hike on. In the summer of 1980, my mother, one of the Big Mountain matriarch, hosted a stop for a native spiritual walk and for me, it was exciting to see Jun-san and Nippashi-shonin, again. The other excitement was that my elders were able to meet these Buddhist friends and to see them do their chanting. A couple of years later, Nippashi-shonin returned and stayed with us at the new Survival Camp, and he also stayed with other elders. Later on, Mr. Kyoshi Miyata came through with his film crew. This was followed by Junji Shimanuki-shonin who settled in at the Survival Camp to pray for peace for Big Mountain and fulfill his Nipponzan Mihoji studies.  
My first trip to Japan 1987, Peace Walk to Hiroshima & in Hiroshima

  Big Mountain struggle had gained international recognition by the mid1980s and the Survival Camp began to host the great Sun Dance ritual of the Plains Tribes in hopes of saving the Dineh’s endangered lands and culture. Big Mountain’s connection to Japanese peace activist and Buddhist practitioners became stronger, along with myself making three trips to Japan and the welcoming for Japanese to Sun Dance. The Save Black Mesa Prayer Walk of 2000 did its U.S. portion of the walk from Flagstaff, Arizona to Big Mountain. This spiritual walk was organized by new Japanese native supporters, and previous leaders like Junji-shonin and Nippashi-san had passed on and Mr. Miyata was in a care home after an earlier stroke. This 2000 spiritual walk, I feel, had a significant impact spiritually because the federal government had planned to forcibly evict all Dineh resisters out of Big Mountain but instead and as of today, that didn’t happen and most of the elders were able to remain the rest of the life on their homelands.      
2000 Save Black Mesa Prayer Walk, Kiriyama, Takayama, Japan - Flagstaff, AZ - Big Mountain

On a short visit back to Japan in 2014 and having more personal time, I reflected back on all the years of Dineh-Japanese relations both spiritual and ‘soco-political.’ The islands of Japan, its mountainous landscape of occasional volcanic activity, great rivers, that U.S.- Japan military accords, and the closeness to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear and tsunami disaster. All this brought deep thoughts about how the ancestor elders of Big Mountain would have felt for their friends of Japan. If they were still alive, they would want to come to Japan and try to share their prayers for these friends who have walked and fasted in prayer for Big Mountain’s survival. I decided to come back again to Nippon (Japan) to do more, perhaps. The reconnection between Big Mountain and the Nipponzan Mihoji Buddhist group did occurred in April 2015 with the NPT Peace Walk which scheduled their routes through northern Arizona. It was a privilege, again, for me to work with my Buddhist Sister Nun, Jun-san, and this Walk was a success. Hearing the Nipponzan Mihoji drum, walking in the harsh April Arizona weather and praying together boosted my thoughts more to do prayer journeys for Japan and maybe Europe, as well.  
Ito Shima, Kyushu 2015, with Riki-san

Summer of 2015 I am at Itoshima, it is located on the southwestern coast of Kyushu island, the gate way to Okinawa, Okinawa was where indigenous peoples were resisting U.S. military encroachment. On this shoreline, a few of us gathered before Meoto Iwa (Two Coupled Rocks in The Sea) which represent a union between two deities, one male and one female, and which are revered since ancient Pre-Japan times. A long time Japanese brother, Riki Masaki, who treats me as a true brother and one of his mentor was Nippashi-san. Riki joined myself and this was an honour to be supported by him. As in Dineh ritual ways and as probably in many cultures in the world, deities of both female and male in a union representation whether it be rocks, rivers or mountains, they require reverence and prayer offerings. We faced the East China Sea and Meoto Iwa, and prayed for a restoration of the human relations to nature and its land forms. We offered the blue pollen that I brought from my home country, and I offered corn pollen to small crashing waves. The Ocean is mother, her powers that nurture us and that nurtures our siblings, the mammals of the seas. We asked for her forgiveness for that we have lost these family ties, and that we often forget to give back after we take from her. We ask Mother Ocean that she embrace us again as we have brought offerings, and mostly importantly, that She acknowledge all the Japanese and indigenous islanders who are trying to stop the poisoning of the waters and stop the threats of wars. Pity those who are, now, standing up against the heartless government and industries.

The heat and humidity of July in Japan reminded me of my first trip there in 1987. After Kyushu Island, my first stop was to join some fellow walkers from the NPT Peace Walk of northern Arizona. The day long walk with the Fukushima – Hiroshima Peace Walk made me feel my weakness and age, all the hills, the busy narrow sidewalks and streets of Kyoto. Next was Tokyo because a friend wanted me to support Kamoshita-shonin, a Monk and walker from the previous Arizona walk. In Tokyo, the Nipponzan Mihoji temple monks also joined by a good crowd of Okinawan opposed to the U. S. Marine base, all were maintaining daily vigils as the police monitored constantly. We chanted “NymMyoHoRenGeyKyo” and held signs outside the gates of the Japan government’s version of the “U.S. Capital.” The Monks were chanting for peace or to protect Article 9, a post-World War II Law of Peace. On to Gunma prefecture after two full days of being among the Monks including my old “hitch hiker pal,” Ishibashi-shonin, the first time I saw him again since 1978. Staying a couple of days between two cities, Maebashi and Takasaki, I revisited Mr. Miyata Kiyoshi’s (now deceased) old film project for the traditional Hopis, “Hopi Prophecy II.” We only hope that the project can be restarted despite the time gaps with technology and today’s modern Hopi colonial attitudes.
2015 Tokyo after the vigil at the Japanese government, and bowing to Prime Minister's Office building.

My dear friend, Reiko Tasumi, from Gunma Prefecture was able to set up a schedule with a Zen Monk in Fukushima Prefecture. As quickly as I come and go on these kind of trips, seven of us packed ourselves into a small passenger van. National weather reported that a typhoon was about to make land-fall on the southern coasts of Japan, and we would have be try and make this trip quickly. Zen Reverend Tokunn Tanaka was the caretaker of a temple in Minamisoma-shi, a town situated next to the crippled Daichi Nuclear Power Plant. And it is a town that was completely obliterated by the March 2011 tsunami. We stayed an old temple which had survived the 3-11 tsunami and earthquake and since then, it has been a safe and spiritual haven for the survivors who occasionally visit to be consoled or to worship. Tokunn-shonin shared a few stories with me about the aftermath of that tsunami, living in a radioactive environment and a ghost town, and feeling those spiritual hopes while being at the temple. The evening was haunting with the silence of the normally busy streets except for the normal bird and insect sounds, and hearing nature helped me ease my paranoia. We woke up to a rainy morning and by breakfast time, it was a constant down pour. The outer reaches of the typhoon was here. The plan to go to the beach that is in sight of the nuclear plant with the continuing melt down was cancelled. Rev. Tanka suggested making the offerings to the giant, ancient gingko tree that has given him and other survivor strength to live on after the greatest of losses. Each of us with umbrellas walked to the ginkgo tree as the down pour and wind blew mist of rain everywhere.
July 2015, Minamisoma at the old Zen Temple with Rev. Tokunn Tanaka

To the great ancestor and grandmother ginkgo tree, you who have stood over many generations as well as many tribes that have dwell among these ancient lands where Horses (use to) Gather, Minamisoma, hear our songs and prayers today. We bring offerings of Blue Pollen from Dineh country and we will also smoke some Mountain Tobacco, and we come onto your presence, great ginkgo grandmother tree. In humbleness and as your children, we stand before your feet. Pity Us. The great blessing of the rain has directed us to pray to you, we ask for peace throughout these archipelagos and we pray for healing for earth children of Fukushima, healing from their great, unimaginable devastation. The great ocean and earth have acted and spoken, and as pity as we are, we asked that balance be restored among humanity. I ask for blessing for my brother, Rev. Tanaka, keep him strong for his peoples, for his temple and for the chants that he carries for his peoples’ ways. And bless our journeys, my fellow Japanese peoples and friends here, today. We offer you this Blue Pollen at this time and we shall also smoke the sacred Mountain Tobacco in this sacred temple. NymMyoHoRenGeyKyo, NymMyoHoRenGeyKyo, Hozhon naa Haasi’glii’.   

After a few other activities, we again loaded ourselves as we drove through that newly opened but controlled thruways of the ghost town and on to the express way. The rains were now less intense as we travelled through forest and foggy mountains, and a couple of hours passed as we stopped to rest and snack. An electronic map displayed that one of our route is closed due to landslides and flooding, and we all realized it will be a late arrival in Maebashi. We took many detours in the night, taking narrow roads among flooded rice fields and city streets, and I had no idea where we were but my fellow passengers knew how to get out of these flooded towns. Another typhoon had made its visit to Japan and I, too, was about to complete my visit but first a few short stops in Utsunomiya and Tokyo. By train, I went back to meet my beautiful friend, Yumiko Tanaka. She has guided me and once again she leads me to Kyoto and Kobe to see old Japanese friends, peace walkers, comrades and Sun Dancers. Like old times when we would sit around the sandy and dusty campfires of Big Mountain, I join them in the big cities among endless neon lights and crowded stations, to share great foods and stories. I hope I see them all again. I did my best, we did our best even though there was not proper translators among the limited English speaking Japanese, and myself as a non-Japanese speaker.    
1995, At Hiroshima Buddhist Stupa with supporters for Native struggles and with the late Nippashi-san

    Back in my country, I read about how the world can be a better place, complaints not only about society and its leaders but despising thy neighbor or siblings. The somewhat abuses of the sacred circle where certain Natives enter and conduct ourselves ‘as they please’ and as if, the order of All Our Relations is forgotten. Like the oppressor, we humans place ourselves at the top above original leaders and forces, the animals, the mist, the heavens, and the coming generations. Perhaps, it is this modernized techno behavior that allows one to act irresponsibly to ‘be the change to make the change.’ Our dehumanized and ‘childish’ ways continue to rely on so-called leaders who rely on corporate policies to make further destructive polices. The rivers, the mountains, the seas have all been waiting and in many cases waiting for hundreds of years, waiting to hear their songs, prayer chants and offerings. My past when my traditional peoples were being traumatized with the harsh U.S. relocation and mining laws, a few of them were able to hand me small instructions for how to try and speak to the natural world. Not to tell them “thank you” or ask them to “heal themselves” but that, the natural sacred forces can feel thankful to us and in return to hopefully protect and heal Us.              

 © NBKatenay Keediniihii 2016 SDN Media

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Urgent Update: Livestock Confiscation at Big Mountain on Black Mesa, Again!

U.S. taxpayer dollars maintain the Indian Wars: heavily armed Indian law personnel confiscating Dineh owned sheep.  

 Excessive Laws to Livestock Confiscation at Big Mountain on Black Mesa

--contributing writers: Tree with Black Mesa Indigenous Support, and Kat with SheepDogNation Media, August 2015.

We all have to live with regulations whether we live in the urban or rural areas, and permits may apply as to how many pets we should have to how much livestock we can range. What the Hopi tribe is up to is also like any county/state authority that regulate ranching particularly involving horses and cattle. This current situation in Big Mountain involves, in part, the Hopi rangers doing their annual livestock assessment, however for the Dineh sheep and goat herders, it is unique because it involves culture and identity. It is also important to understand that because of this unique factor, Dineh (Navajos) are attempting to resist this 'range management' practices just as they have resisted the relocation program. The BIA Police and tribal rangers have reoriented their livestock confiscation approaches against these Dineh. There is now a standby alert system to agency-wide, Special Operation Services and this makes the enforcement more excessive.    
These Dineh resisters to a federal mandatory, relocation law have been subjected to livestock count and impoundments this past week and more are expected to continue, perhaps into next month. Livestock counts and impoundments are used also as a tool to harass, demoralize, terminate the economic and cultural backbone, monitor family home site activities, and to pressure all Dineh to vacate their ancestral homelands. 
Eventually this policy of force removal will not create new Hopi lands as the Law states, but it makes way for Peabody Coal Company to expand and exploit the remaining coal deposits. Peabody's role here is major as compared to all other natural resource extraction in Arizona, it is a long term multinational corporate investment that extends to 2055-60. The now 50 year old mining leases at Black Mesa has nearly exhausted its operation and Peabody hopes to expand new lease areas into the still, culturally-intact, Big Mountain region.   
Grandma Rena (L) a resident of Big Mountain's Horse Corral area. Her son (R), Jerry.
 After the specially targeted, excessive force used by the BIA - Hopi police during fall of 2015 animal confiscations, resident herders were not only left uneasy but some did not have the $1000 to $2000 to get their animals back. One traditional woman in her 90s lost her whole herd and was so dramatized that she asked the government to help her relocate. Her neighbor, a traditional man who intervened during that impoundment, was arrested, and he was finally acquitted this summer after an agonizing period of distance travels for court appearances, attorney and court fees, not having transportation, and never being provided a translator. Other traditional herders holding grazing permits lost about 85 percent of their herds, and were recently intimidated and told they are again over the limits. The rest of the herders are still uneasy and knowing they are listed for an invasion, a method of genocide: to exterminate the means of food, medicinal and material, economic and cultural resources. This is the reason why volunteer human rights observers are needed. 

There a few Dineh elders resisters that have withheld their sovereign and ancient obligations to their sacred Mountain Soil Bundle which is believed to represent the complete authority over animal husbandry, sustainable and eco-conscious live styles, farming, and rituals. The federal, both tribal and state, consider these particular resisters as ‘extremist’ and trespassers. These traditional resisters have refused to get ‘legal’ permits or temporary resident status. Pauline Whitesinger who passed away in 2014 was just one of those hardcore resister and leader. Rena Babbit Lane is still remaining strong as one of the last true sovereign Indian, and just this week she was told to be prepared for that BIA invasion to confiscate her animals. Her son, Jerry, is the one that was just acquitted. Grandma Rena is in her 90s, and it is unimaginable how a grandma this old, who withholds much wisdom, a soft spoken and kind individual be tortured further. Does this country, the U.S. and its fossil fuel addicted citizens, truly believe in destroying all earth based humans in order to control global real estates and the electrical power grids?  
Etta became the lone Matriarch after both her parents passed-on in 2014. 
 A few voices from the land:

This recent attack happened on the 152nd anniversary of the start of the US Army's scorch the earth policy against the Dineh, in which a bounty was placed on all ‘Navajo’ livestock in an attempt to starve them into submission, and resulted in the massive forced relocation, known as the Long Walk. Big Mountain elder, John Katenay’s story, "My great grandmother told us that she was just little (1863) when they hid in the thick woods because the army came upon them. They couldn’t escape with the herd, but they could only listen as the soldiers cut open the bellies of live goats, goats wailed as soldiers laughed, and as her mother cried..."
“We are in a battleground, the endless battleground of the Partitioned Lands. This is the front of the line and when it comes, your family there is no yes or no, you have to stand up for your family and your relatives. This is what I was taught. The past was never really forgotten of the way the U.S. Government treated my people. It is still going on, it is still alive. We will fight- not with violence or armor, but with the old ways.  This is a stand for people to know who we are and how we live as Dineh.”--Gerald Blackrock, October 2014.
“They came as before like having no mercy, they counted the sheep and goats. One of the police filled out sheets of paper and I was given a copy. Their interpreter simply told me ‘your herd is over the limit again!’ They did not say how much is over nor suggested to me anything about how to reduce it to the limit. They did not want any conversation and they all left. After that, I heard that one of my cousins, Ruby, got her sheep impounded but they were able to get most of them back. They probably had to pay a lot of money in order to get them back. The BIA Hopi land agency just want the money, and this is how we are force to give them monies every year!” –Etta Begay, August 20, 2015

Dineh residents in resistance however are made to be voiceless and nonexistent, and are again asking world citizens to demand an immediate halt to this forced, herd reductions and that the relocation law be repealed so that, they be recognized as true determined group of peoples and to be allowed to remain with any cultural content that are retrievable including the said ancestral lands.  Please, call the numbers below to demand a moratorium on the impoundments of Dineh livestock and the nullification of P.L. 93-531, a law too expensive for taxpayers and that was created under debunked circumstances. Also email to find out more about the human rights observation and the volunteer home-stay sheepherding program.
Sample of a reduced herd near Etta's homestead, one lone goat, and the multiple trail grooves before the impoundments of 2014.
Call to Action:
-       Participate in community organizing geared toward sustainability, Peace, stopping militarization, Indigenous sovereign rights and protecting sacred sites, then join vigils or marches at federal buildings by showing your support for Dineh elders: “U.S. Peabody Out of Big Mountain!”
-       Donate funds here, to Black Mesa Indigenous Support which facilitates networks and on land support. So, come out to herd sheep and monitor human rights violations (email

-       Support Native Resistance and the endangered indigenous ways. ***Share, forward this request far and wide! 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
•   The BIA superintendent Wendel Honanie at (928-738-2228),
•   Hopi Chairman Herman G. Honanie,  Email:, Phone: (928) 734-3102
•   The Hopi Rangers Clayton Honyumptewa at (928-734-3601),

•   The Department of Interior at  (602-379-6600)