Saturday, September 23, 2017
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.