Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance, 1983 - 1996

The Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance: A Way Borrowed from the Lakota Nation by the Dineh in Resistance
By Bahe (Naabahii) Y. Katenay (Keediniihii), May 29, 2013
This Plains Indian ritual was brought to Dineh country in August 1983 after four years of negotiation with Lakota Sun Dance Chiefs and Spiritual Leaders from the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This Dance at Big Mountain Survival Camp was banished in 1996 despite the opposition from the original, traditional Dineh Elder resisters to the federal government’s inhumane laws of relocation and land divisions.
Those Dineh who feared the continuous pressures from the federal Indian police decided to “move” the sacred Tree Pole to outside the federally-restricted zone known as the “HPL.” The following year this “new” Big Mountain Sun Dance began with a different unknown purpose, but what became so obvious was that it no longer associated itself with the former traditional resistance movement. That “issue” of relocation and Dineh sovereign radicalism was left to its own demise inside the restricted zone. This “new” voluntarily relocated Big Mountain Sun Dance continues today. 
Original Purposes for the 1983 Dance of Defiance and Rejuvenation:
Prior to 1983, prophecy of two nations was exchanged between th traditional Dineh of Big Mountain and Lakotas, and this particular prophecy became the basis and were only spoken of during the spiritual council times of 1979-82. But the purpose was very clear because only the host, Dineh resisters, were participants in these four year dialogues.
Dineh resister experiences were about facing policies of genocide which were being enforced by the U.S. government. Sun Dance conducted at the Big Mountain Survival Camp was to bring healing and re-strengthen Dineh so that they can eventually revitalize their old ritual traditions. Gradually, the Dineh living under U.S. threat of losing their ancestral lands would gain stronger aboriginal rights to the lands and the country would be restored. Also and besides the Dancers’ personal vow to enter the sacred hoop, they would fulfill that virtue and honor of being a Sun Dancer by offering prayers for those in resistance against force relocation, coal mining expansions and other means of genocide under U.S. colonialism. The Sun Dance Tree and its ceremonial grounds would remain on the lands that are under attack until that certain borrowing period is over.
Federal Agents, Local Dissensions, & the Desecration of the Red Road
The 1983 agreement between Chiefs from the northern nations and Dineh resisters was that the Dance will be conducted for four years and its fourth season would fall on the federal government’s deadline for forced removal of Dineh, July 1986. In 1987, Dineh re-negotiated for another four years and by 1994, four more seasons was approved again by both the Dineh resisters and some Lakota leaders. Then in 1996 and at two more years to ago for that negotiated period, a mysterious event occurred. Some local Dineh youth were turned back at the entrance of the Sun Dance camp area because they were drunk. They were told they will be invited after they sober up. However, the intoxicated individuals began a fight at the security gate but they eventually left only to stop a short distance away and fired shots with an automatic rifle. It was a strange incident because the BIA Hopi Police were monitoring the Sun Dance but they were not presence when the shots were fired. Dineh security for the Sun Dance immediately went into a high level mode by securing the area within which the BIA Police were also patrolling. There was another encounter with the intoxicated youths a few hours after and more shots were fired. A day followed as the Dance commenced and there was a larger police presence in the area. There was only one Dineh arrested because he fought back when he was attack at the Sun Dance security gate the day before. This investigation is still open and federal prosecutions may still be pending even after 17 years.
The U.S. Department of the Justice have always been distrustful and have carried out much surveillance on the Lakota Sun Dances especially during the 1970s’ Oglala Sioux civil rights movement which invited AIM to provide protection. The U.S. Marshals and the FBI also monitored the Survival Camp Sun Dance very closely especially around 1986 when they suspected the Dineh and other Indian security volunteers were potentially accumulating weapons and conducting training for the “final showdown” in the resistance to relocation. The federally backed Navajo Nation and Hopi tribal officials also jumped to those conclusions that the Survival Camp could be a militant training camp, and they also were influenced by the federal agents that the Sun Dance was a means to recruit and was a ritual preparation for arm resistance. In early 1986, one FBI agent in Flagstaff made comments to certain tribal officials that, “if there is a Big Mountain showdown and you compare that to Wounded Knee 1973, Wounded Knee would be nothing but peanuts.
This should be nothing new if you are a conscious person and are aware about policies of limited or unguaranteed rights and freedom. We know about these types of infiltrations and counter intelligence activities of instigating internalized disruptions that affect most movement organizations. But today and if you live that “merry savage life” or choosing to be that satisfied American Indian then, you must truly wake up because this war is still taking place at Big Mountain, the birth place of your ancestors.       
Today and in contrast, the new (Big Mountain) Sun Dance has drastically changed from the original purpose of being a resistance ritual and a nation revitalization ritual to a now, more general and contemporary ceremonial gathering. This new Sun Dance occasionally allows speeches that promote the recognition of American patriotism like military services and other tribal governmental influences of progress. Sometimes there are speeches intended to inform about environmental issues but they fall short of relating that to the local cultural state or to community futures. There are no more mentioning of that Dineh resistance to relocation and coal mining, or to the great elders that once lead a traditional uprising and who were the original host of the first Sun Dance on Dineh lands. 
Could it be just Colonization and the new identity known as, Native American?
There are only a handful of Dineh at Big Mountain in this second decade of the 21st Century who still associates themselves with those old traditions of being in balance and in peace with nature and its eco-systems. But that could also be a Sun Dancer’s role in life among his or her nation, community. Unfortunately, it is not that way. The Indian world has changed and we have embraced almost every aspect of American culture even though we lead our own individual family circles and direct our prayers accordingly. However, it seems like that old teachings of the Sun Dance Way or the Way of being a Barrier of the Sacred Pipe are as forgotten as those Big Mountain elders whose Sun Dance was taken. Many Dancers and Barriers of the Pipe at this new Sun Dance will not have any clue about how such Sun Dance originated in Dineh country, and if they do know about the forgotten elders, they will simply shrug off the relocation resisters and consider them as remaining hostiles.

The original nations of the Sun Dance taught the seriousness of that way of carrying the sacred pipe and to practice that discipline in wearing the marks of your vow to offer your flesh to the Great Spirit. You were also the brave one who shall protect the old, the small children and your homelands. The pipe will always be carried on behalf of your family and secondly, your community or band group. One would live that Sun Dancer life because you would not shy away from aggression that may invade your lands or that exist within your village. Instead, you would take your Canupa (sacred pipe) and make prayers for those that pose ill feelings and attempt to commit harm to others or to you. There were many orders of virtues and morality that a so-called Sun Dancer must have. None of what use to be ingrained in Dancers’ mind in the past, as it was done in South Dakota when I first entered the Sun Dance circle, is taught in these new Dineh forms of worship.

What today’s Dineh Sun Dance families and participants do in terms of claiming for themselves as caring and considerate are merely acted out behaviors. Today’s ritual theme, “Walk in Beauty,” is only an expression just like pierced eye brows and lips. Elders are made to stand for an hour or more under the hot sun while waiting in the circle. At feast time, elders and children are ignored instead of being next in line after the Dancers. A few or a couple of natives might dress up traditional for the occasion of partaking of the Dance or that was just normal for being an Indian, but they would obviously be looked-down upon. Hip and gangsta clothing are the proper dress code. Dineh Sun Dance community does not care about trying to live in balance and in peace with their environment, and instead they ram their automobiles through vegetation, ant hills and destroy open undisturbed soils. They bring with them large amounts of American trash like Styro-foam and endless amounts of plastics. To most, recycling is not a means of respecting mother earth. There are no efforts in promoting healthy lifestyles but rather, there is a tremendous proportion of Americanization. Certain modern day ritual figure, the Sun Dancer or Dineh ritual practitioner, is much like his or her own community: Christian holidays are honored, federal colonial celebrations are never missed, giant corporations are worshipped like Walmart or Starbucks, and culture is that grand way of life, militarism.
It is definitely the macrocosm of the rest of the world, the causes of industrialization and the run away greed and global warming. And there are the wars and global poisoning of this mother planet to top it off. Who cares? A few of us do it seems. Ancient ritual ways, who cares about that? We know nothing about the ancient except something called dinosaurs or the ice age creatures. We are today but why should we care that we have endangered ourselves? All we need is now that which is a temporary satisfaction of false tastes of indulging, and we are blessed! “Healed!”
End Note:
The Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance is no longer in existence. As one Sun Dancer of today asked, “The dust has finally settled, right, with the Elders who were trying to resist relocation?” I wondered who taught him that?! The traditional Dineh struggle to maintain that life of harmony and live in accordance to Great Spirits’ kingdom and that, which inspired them to resist colonization and genocide, are all but reduced and silenced. Standing with these Elders in resistance, since I was about 14, gives me some hope. I hope that in some hidden, ignored and lone corner of the Big Mountain lands, perhaps, there will be a continuation of the original chants of Earth and Universe.
© SheepDogMedia 2013, NBK   

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Global Wars & A Broken Sacred Hoop at Big Mtn.

Global Wars and the Broken Sacred Hoop at Big Mountain
By Bahe “Kat” Katenay, May 1, 2013

Today, we all live in a world that is in turmoil and in constant war. But unfortunately, this world or “our world” is not new to this kind of atmosphere of instability. World history and religious accounts like the Bible have shown examples of such chaotic and brutal human existence. All the news about today’s wars are quite new to us citizens on Turtle Island (so-called America) because ‘normally’ wars were fought elsewhere. The many aspects of “U.S. sponsored interventions” in the last half-a-century with economic and military aggressions have only brought wars to the streets of Turtle Island. Network media has influenced majority of society to ignore any other probable facts about these secret international affairs.

Secondly, there is that state of the world that has institutionalized destruction of the environment and indigenous cultures, and this is taking place at an alarming rate and all because of the growing demands for industrial consumption. That is a war on planet earth’s eco-systems and on the few remaining land-based human cultures and religion. It is a war because riot police and counter intelligent agencies are implementing a state of seize on something that was known as “guaranteed constitutional and civil rights.” Citizens try to mobilize to bring attention to the injustices and the industrial threats, but their “freedom” to do so are overridden by corporate justices of tear gases, silencing of the message, marginalization, and even brutality of imprisonment and mental tortures.
Finally, the third stage of wars is within us. We have each become so individualistic that we reject the old human practices of collectivity and following the foundations of faith. We may think that this is not as dangerous or as destructive as militarily-executed wars, but they are. I am absolutely not talking about so-called terrorist or those mental disorder induced rage, but I am talking about our inner self, our soul perhaps, are altered by pop culture, mass media, materialistic comforts, and institutionalized racism. It is probably not appropriate to use the so-called Native Americans as an example, since they are less than one percent of the U.S. population, but these indigenous communities’ integrity and natural pride has all been conquered within a span of a half century. These former red nations of Turtle Island have adapted to the American identity and on a daily basis, they celebrate this (foreign) military culture and consume America’s artificial illusions. Individualistic based wars within these small grouped communities promote progressive tribal members to invoke subtle forms of prejudice on those who try to advocate for the purity of traditional culture and ritual practices.

Another extension of this individuality based war are those based on faith of a superior race and which is not new at all either. However, as far as America is concern, I would have to say that (they) do have a legitimate claim about what “America” should be. The U.S. constitution and its Bill of Rights were designed primarily for the white colonies and for its big white government. “We the People” did not mean Africans or the Indians (colored people) and so the U.S. declaration of independence established barriers of segregation so that, colored people can be considered as and treated accordingly as the inferior races. This particular conflict or war is intensifying because of the unfortunate (fortunately maybe to many) circumstances that the U.S. government has been faltering on its superior race obligations. On this continent, the intensification of this uprising has a hidden effect, and it ‘maybe’ played out in certain and current political activities like the legislations for gun control and immigration.

Obviously, much discussion and debate can be elaborated on but this Blog has been dedicated to the point of view from, perhaps one lone aboriginal habitant of Turtle Island, or from a larger representation of indigenous existence. And back to northeastern Arizona at a place called Big Mountain, where there are at least 100 - 300 of us who still proclaim our intimate and ancient bond to the natural forces of earth, sky and air. We still remain after thousands of our fellow Dineh have been relocated or killed off by the US’s psychological warfare policies. We still walk upon earth’s enduring natural beauty and tending to the little culture and rituals that has been spared by America’s war and industrial machines. There are also about 40 non-Natives supporters that come here on a yearly-seasonal base to help the old Dineh who cling on to what the U.S. government considers as illegal like having livestock, dry farming and residing on lands of their birth. And 40 years before, Big Mountain had prospered with a total population of nearly 5,000. Now the ancient cultural and ritual ways, the language, the family teachings of honor, and a few down-to-earth, Dineh Christians are rapidly disappearing.
The struggle at Big Mountain is now so minute compared to other indigenous culture-based and land-based resistance like Chiapas and South America’s indigenous movements. However, my home, Big Mountain, now holds a self-destructive element, which does not have to do with American patriotism, but it has to do with narrow mindedness toward false luxuries. This self-destructive element creates a struggle within a larger struggle that is already weakening. It is like a body struggling against a disease but then there is a certain organ inside the body that is infected and it struggles to maintain a function. The U.S. Public Law 93-531partitioned these Dineh and Hopi lands, here, and it only has one sole purpose, which is to extract coal for America’s addiction to electricity. And this is the implanted virus. Dineh who falsely feel they have escaped the forced relocation policies are ignorantly chosen to forget about their own elders’ struggle a few miles away. These Dineh, despite claiming themselves as religiously committed by chanting “To All My Relations,” they now reject vigorously the calls and reasoning from those in resistance. I, as a longtime spokesman and ethnographer for the traditional resistance, have only become the enemy among my own peoples. My voice of sovereignty and survival are like venom to them just because they fear the laws of the U.S. war machines. War brings complex decisions between primary and instant objectives and how to execute them, but still we are all on the same donkey, neither a camel nor boat.
What hope is there now? We have held such hopes for the last 40 plus years, but we asked why? Our most recent histories was that the imperial Europeans came with their weapons of mass destruction against our weapons of little or no damage. I have stood with my traditional Dineh and my traditional Hopi neighbors, and we have survived somewhat. Now the war has come to me personally, it comes against my disciplines of Dineh tradition, against my family and against my hopes. I am sure some of you may share this same experience of the threats, the misunderstanding and the ignorance from your own kind, and especially when you think that you have sacrificed enough for the healing. One can only stand strong and maintain humble thoughts before the Creator, and try as hard as possible to not be overcome by the colonized minds. Though, it is the End either in Biblical term or in terms of indigenous prophecy we have to accept those terms. We cannot resort to some temporary relief from techno-drugs or indulge in certain desires and there will be no escape. However, there is still that hope to collectively and in faith stand up to the war policies against the earth and to the greed of progressive tribal puppet governments. Relatives, the alternative path to peace and balance may still await.

© sheepdognationMedia, byk, 2013