portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

human & civil rights | indigenous issues

Black Mesa Caravan of Support Report Back

Caravan in Support of Communities On The Front Lines Of Resistance at Big Mountain, Black Mesa, AZ.

The legacy of genocide suffered by America's indigenous nations is ongoing, too few United States citizens realize, even while making mortgage payments on stolen land. The Dineh (Navajo) are presently resisting relocation and are constantly harassed by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents. Previous to Peabody Coal's profitable interest in mining Big Mountain there was intermarriage and peace between the Hopis and Dineh.
This excerpt of background goes on detailing their situation:

"In 1974 the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 93-531 allegedly to settle a so-called land dispute between the Dineh and their Hopi neighbors. This law required the forced relocation of well over 14,000 Dineh and a hundred plus Hopi from their ancestral homelands. The "dispute" being settled by PL 93-531 was, in reality, fabricated by the US government as a way to obtain easier access to strip-mine one of the largest coal reserves in North America. The land known as Black Mesa is home to thousands of traditional sheepherders, weavers, silversmiths and farmers. For hundreds of years before Europeans came to the Americas the Dineh and Hopi existed in balance with each other and with Mother Earth.

The genocide on Black Mesa has been recognized internationally. In the late 1980's the United Nations described the case of the forced relocation as one of the most flagrant violations of indigenous peoples' human rights in this hemisphere. More recently, this is the first time the United Nations ever formally investigated the United States for the violation of religious freedom.

On Black Mesa Peabody Coal Company mines over three million gallons a day, and 1.4 billion gallons a year of pristine, potable groundwater used to slurry coal. It's the only source of drinking water for the Hopi and the western Navajo people. According to data compiled by the Department of Interior, Peabody's operations appear to be causing or contributing significantly to a range of groundwater-related problems, with profound environmental, cultural, and religious implications for the region's tribal communities.(source Natural Resources Defense Council) Peabody Coal Company in the Black Mesa region operates a 103-square-mile mine, the largest privately-owned coal mine in the world."

*more @  http://blackmesais.org/2000/10/a-brief-history-of-relocation-on-black-mesa

**also please see the documentary 'Broken Rainbow' available at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iN3zdpdgvY

The caravan of support began in Olympia, WA on November 18th, loading activists & donation supplies in Portland, Eugene, Ashland, Berkley, Flagstaff, and a group drove in from Santa Cruz, NM. The opening circle commenced upon the arrival of more than 100 supporters in the afternoon on the 21st. Seeds of Peace provided an ample & delectable meal before everyone dispersed to the families they spent the week with. Three of us stayed with a family whom began receiving support for the first time since the caravans began.

The first day we awoke before sunrise and were delighted to find that our Masuna (Grandmother) prepared oatmeal, coffee, tea and more. Throughout the stay we were confounded by their generosity because we came equipped to nourish ourselves and their resources are awfully meager, yet they receive government assistance that regularly consists of processed industrial waste products ("food" ?). Their sovereignty is severely compromised since the aquifers are being exhausted and polluted.

We pulled about 1000 nails with our Che (Grandfather) so that the materials from a previous building can be reused. I found a large, 20lb grinding stone (for rendering cornmeal) under the pile and set it aside with great hope for it's future use and disgust about the disregard of traditional ways which "assimilation" ensures. After lunch we followed the herd of sheep and goats to their windmill, then into a scenic canyon and returned with the sheep dogs pointing the way.

The second day was much like the first except we took a different route to another water tank where ice had covered it overnight. The nights are well below freezing in the high desert of northern Arizona. It's commonplace to encounter pottery shards from ancient Anasazi village sites that are shattered as trampled where it behooves the herds. Tame horses roam the land and occasionally fall prey to cougars who blend seamlessly into the walls of vast canyons.

On Tuesday the 24th we pulled nails in the morning and headed to the ridges near big mountain to take firewood back for the sweat lodge. Che and his nephew sang a story of the origin of the sweat lodge in Dineh as the other male-bodied supporter and I panted in the pitch black lodge. Masuna and the female bodied supporter took a sweat bath after we finished. They usually sweat each Wednesday, yet there was a Thanksgiving ceremony and feast planned to begin Wednesday night.

Through the ceremony they took turns leading songs and sending prayers out with the fire smoke into the star brightened cosmos. It was an exceptional pleasure to be invited for the spiritual ritual and treated as a fellow among them. Unfortunately, I was unable to partake in most of the feast on Thursday morning because I adhere to a vegan ethic and they don't. I honestly felt amply nourished by the experience itself and thoroughly enjoyed a piece of flat-bread followed by Tai-Chi practice while washed with the first rays of sunrise.

Friday, after recuperation time on Thursday, we dug a square foundation trench where they are constructing a new building. Gathering our belongings and straightening the guest house, we prepared to depart after the week we spent passed too quickly, as if impatient with our lack of commitment to stay on longer. Many people have been staying several months, up to semi-permanently, and others frequently travel from Flagstaff, where the info shop rallies support and spreads knowledge of the resisters.

We gathered for closing circle and ate a big dinner, provided again by the awesome people with Seeds of Peace. We said "see you later" rather than "goodbye" and the return journey commenced. As we entered Flagstaff it had begun lightly snowing and it became worrisome as we slid around on I-40 in a giant school bus. The bus had also been on support missions to Chiapas and elsewhere to the south, in the region the United States' treats as if a toilet bowl. Perhaps humorously, that brings to mind a quote from Micheal Reynolds, the architect of Earthships outside of Taos, NM. In the documentary film "Garbage Warrior" he states, about proposing legislation for experimental sustainable building to the New Mexico congress, "I've crawled up their asshole and I'm going to change them from the bloodstream."

Blessings and "a hyeh heh" (thank you) to everyone who organized the caravan and to the families who shared their vulnerability with us, accepted our help, and offered a guiding light toward a sustainable future culture. May the vision manifest of societies that refuse to accept the standardization and indoctrination of hierarchical imperialistic tyrants, refuse to be used for the exorbitant gains of others through accepting extensive personal losses, and resist dividing the day into commodifiable increments and quantifying our lives purposefulness as labor capital.

In cooperative resistance,

Peabody's Water Permit Just Withdrawn by EPA This Week 03.Dec.2009 07:30

Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity atwood@biologicaldiversity.org

More information forthcoming, but this week EPA withdrew a controversial water permit allowing Peabody to discharge heavy metals and pollutants into tribal waters, threatening human and ecological health.

The withdrawal was done in response to an appeal of the permit by a diverse coalition of tribal and environmental groups, including Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine CARE, Dine Hataalii Association, Inc., Dine Alliance, C-Aquifer for Dine, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. The organizations were represented by Brad Bartlett of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colorado and Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity based in Portland, Oregon.

great work Amy & the coalition! 03.Dec.2009 09:53


How did they ever get a permit to dump toxins in people's watershed in the first place? More dangerous than the greed of vile elite lords is the complacent apathy of the masses.

Also,  http://oybm.org/ have put together great videos about the struggle around Big Mountain.

Hopi Tribal Council debates coal vs. renewables 03.Dec.2009 22:59

Vegan Cabal

Video Report 10.Dec.2009 14:44

Vegan Cabal

Here's the video record of my trip to Black Mesa with the caravan this year.