Written by Bahe Katenay, Sheep Dog Nation Media
May 5, 2009
I’ve never been in a jungle or in the arctic tundra. I have visited and camped in some tundra zones in the mountains of the U.S. southwest. The only wilderness that I have spent so much time in is the Big Mountain range in the heart of Black Mesa. If you have been to Big Mountain, you may have been shown the summits of Big Mountain and you might have thought, “Oh, those little hills?”
I’d tell you to, “go take a hike.”
Dzil Ntsaa (misinterpreted as Big Mountain) means Great Mountain. It is a very rugged region, two summits marked its sacred areas, series of deep canyons radiate outward from these ‘little’ summits, narrow ridge lines and saddles connect isolated plateaus, the juniper and pinon forest is thick with under brushes that includes sharp spiny yucca and cactus, most of its slopes are steep and rocky, and everywhere you look there is beauty and you can feel the embrace of the sacredness.
There are no Anasazi ruins nor is there any evidence of past human habitation. However, there are thriving communities of civilized life (not ‘wild life’) like cougars, lynx, white tail deer, elks, wolves, porcupines, reptiles, hawks, many flocks of birds, owls, woodpeckers, falcons, occasional eagles, and our most ancient relatives the insect kingdom. But this experience can be disrupted when you find pieces of metallic or rubber balloons or plastic shopping bags that might have all blown in from the far distance areas of wild life (not ‘civilization’) sanctuaries of urban-dwelling.
I wondered, as I do my pilgrimage in this special and gifted place, does anyone that knows about the forced-relocation programs that is happening at Big Mountain ever think about how much the sacred is endangered? At night being on one of the summits, you see the ‘street-less,’ street lights scattered along as they outline, exactly, the boundaries of the so-called, Hopi Partitioned Lands. The bright lights from the Peabody coal mines glow into the dusty atmosphere like there is a smoggy city beyond the northern Big Mountain point. Every 15 to 25 minutes commercial airlines roar high above as their wing lights flash and you can almost feel the presence of hundreds of passengers passing through between the mega-cities of California and of the Midwest or New England.
I am alone up there but I also am lucky, too, because my two intelligent sons are with me, and we all wonder: ‘does anyone care that Peabody Western Coal Company is getting closer to this sacred and pristine place? Does the world care about the Big Mountain elders who are resisting relocation and the expanding coal mines? Do people care at all about the natural way of actually doing things like making your own bow and arrows, cooking with the campfire, collecting water from a spring, and just trying very hard to learn from nature.’
As we complete the pilgrimage, we cannot ignore the strange dusting of red color on every square-centimeter of surfaces. We are in awe as we talked about how the climate, the human beings, and earth is changing, and how an intense wind storm from April 4, 2009 can transport thousands of tons of dust and even created the pink snowfall in Colorado.
I am still not sure how I will ever fulfill even a small degree of cultural and spiritual obligations that is expected of me / us at Big Mountain by the (last) traditional elders of the Dineh. I wish the great divine forces to pity me…
My elder relatives of Big Mountain grew up in a pristine world of strong leadership and wisdom and like my late mother, these elders had hope we grow up in the same way as they have despite the rest of us being forced into the government schooling. Now, those few elders that are left still maintain defiance against the colonialist of the USA. Today, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agency police continue their patrols, intimidations and livestock-count regulations. Also today, Mr. Peabody continues to maximize its profits as it is nearing completion of mining the original lease area of 1964, and they are prepared to christen new lease areas that will include the actual Big Mountain topography.
© Sheep Dog Nation Rocks, 2009