Friday, May 15, 2020

Big Mountain Dineh (Navajos) "Hopi Partitioned Lands" - Essential Water

May 15, 2020

Good Greetings, Yaa'at'eeh.
President and First Lady, Jonathan and Phefelia Nez
Vice President and Second Lady Myron and Dottie Lizer
Navajo Tribal Council, Counsel, and Chapter Leaders

I was born at Big Mountain and I grew up on those pristine lands. Since I was very young I live the sheep herding and farming cultures, and nearly 85% of our subsistence was land based like natural farming, raising meat, weaving, hunting, building from local lumber - reused or fresh, and harvesting water and maintaining natural springs. There were also the old health care systems of herbalist and chanter healers. Eventually at the age of nine, my parents were forced to give me up to the BIA boarding school. Upon graduating from high school, I took advantage of higher education, but the U.S. law of partitioning of our lands came about and I returned back to Big Mountain to help with translation.

Over 30 years, I have worked intimately with the traditional elders in their struggle to remain on the lands and show the world who they were and that, as Dineh communities, their hopes were to someday be able to revive the language, culture and ancient ritual practices. Unfortunately, most of the original elder Matriarch and Patriarchs are gone and despite that, extended families who were displaced had no other choice but to returned back to their elder parents' homes. The laws of relocation to a certain extend has failed causing economic and social fracturing like, divorces, loss of property, joblessness, homelessness, and severe mental anxiety. Number of residents, legal or illegal, of have increased, and that is something the U.S. government or the Hopi Tribe wish not to hear. However, the Hopi Tribe should be well aware of the number of Dineh inhabitants.
 Today, these small scattered population are further being driven to the brink. These elder survivors of relocation and displaced extended families are horrified by news of Covid 19. That on top of the thought of forcible removal. Big Mountain communities are merely traces now. And they certainly are not higher in uniqueness of despair than other reservation communities, in terms of the Covid 19 situation. These traces of former communities mentioned, hereof, have endured the attempted elimination of their existence. Still they undergo daily jurisdictional issues like being unclaimed by either the Navajo Nation or the Hopi Tribe in terms of social and health services. Nurses have told about attempted home visits on sometime treacherous road conditions only to be denied entry into the partitioned areas. And like other parts of the reservation, elders do not have transportation for doctor visits and prescription refills.
 The few remaining Dineh home sites are mostly remote and more so due to the varies restrictions enforced by the relocation policies. They have repeatedly requested the uncapping of water wells and those wells be restored to IHS standard, drinkable water. Waters are now way more essential in these time of uncertainty, and so crucial for the prevention against the unseen killer virus. Major safe water distribution are needed urgently. Not only cases of plastic bottled water, but delivery of large water storage containers or cisterns to each "resistance" family home site. These to include a coordination of water hauling trucks and personnel to set up each storage or cistern with spout for basic hygiene. Remaining residents (aka "relocation resisters") will be instructed that those waters are for human use only and to protect themselves from the spread of Covid 19. Scheduled water deliveries will be implemented.
I can request and demand hundreds of resolutions from the Navajo Nation and related agencies, but this is only one critical issue I present here. It is time to take drastic measures of humanity, and not allow these precious community members to be subjected to greater suffering.  It is time that the Navajo Nation and its responsible department work cooperatively with the Hopi Nation to finally bring about hope and genuine humanitarian response. Finally, due to the jurisdictional aspects, property issues of the cistern set ups can be clarified understandably among parties involved. Thank you for your consideration.Sincerely,Bahe Katenay KeediniihiiDependent historian and ethnography of Big Mountain and On-Land support coordinator. 

Photos by Andy Dann

Thursday, February 6, 2020

New Campaign to Support On-Land Native Resisters at Big Mountain

Greetings to All,
Having been involved in D7neh (Navajos) land cultural issues, other Indigenous sovereign efforts and Non-Native community solidarity network since the mid-1970s, I have worked for positive resolutions for Big Mountain communities in northern Arizona, Navajo reservation. I hope, once again, we come together to bring refreshed understanding both politically and spiritually, and restart with new ideas for comforting solutions.
As you may be well aware that, I have always been concerned about policies that deny societies of their natural and free human existence. In the past, tremendous attempts have been made, on behalf of Big Mountain, at all levels of human rights forum and native treaty conventions to stop U.S. forced relocation policies. Workable and alternative solutions have been attempted through the years at national and international community levels, and that has prolonged the spirit of hope for the Big Mountain peoples.
Unfortunately today, we are faced with multitudes of crisis, globally and locally. At the same time and for those of us involved in environmental and human rights issues for some time, our age or hopelessness has drained our hopes and spirit that, we have limited and ceased active roles in movements. The few who now state their involvements for native rights and struggles give minimal or short-termed support like food, supplies and gestures of thanks. The major and effective needs of the last, land-based native resisters are not quantified into the elements of cultural and societal recovery.
In order to call out to refocus on strategic support for the last D7neh resisters, their current conditions and the external political corporate dynamics must be understood. There are the advance-elder-age factors which inhibit their commitments to keep an ancient lifestyle of herding sheep, stay close to their birth places, maintain a sense of cultural identity, and embrace their will to protect the pristine lands. The political atmosphere from the federally-supported tribal headquarters and Washington is the usual obscurity, deceptions and a growing presence of authoritative occupation despite the coal mine shut downs. Laws of forced relocation for the purpose of mineral and aquifer extraction continues as if more future industrial grids await.
With this letter to initiate a new support campaign, and despite our defeat-stricken perceptions, we must undertake the efforts to reach out to community based coalitions, culturally and creative inspired youth groups, and simple friends to ensure that this land-based native struggle, those isolated frail elder sheepherders, are known about. Understand and make honor to these last few D7neh resisters to U.S. colonialism by escalating this call far and wide.

“In a time of climate change and rising global tension, it is important that we counter the growing uncertainty by grounding ourselves and fostering authentic connection with one another and earth. Now more than ever, we need to take the necessary steps to get back to the basics of uplifting humanity. Our young peoples, especially, are desperate for guidance and direction.” source unknown
Acquiring enhanced skills like living in nature, among traditional grandmothers, and managing livestock care are challenging, but all this can be the alternative means of survival. Get involved in this new, not last, campaign of support to set an example of proper changes.
Due to not having any Big Mountain support networks, I will manage this call. I am also limited on contacts or mailing lists, and it would help myself if you can forward this email or post it. Send well-committed and interested sheepherders out. Contact myself,, so that volunteers can be guided, and/or if you wish to contribute to petro expenses.
Kat (Bahe)

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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