In 1974 the U.S. Government legally endorsed genocide when Congress
passed Public Law 93-531, which enabled Peabody Coal Compaany to strip
mine Black Mesa by ripping the traditional Navajo and Hopi peoples from
A Millenia of Co-Existence
The Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi have been the inhabitants of
the Four Corners region since time immemorial. The Hopi way of life -
living in pueblos atop the mesas and farming the arid land - was
harmonious with the rhythms of the desert. Beyond the Hopi mesas Dineh
sheepherders moved with the seasons between summer and winter
settlements, living in accordance with ancient traditions. The Dineh and
Hopi regularly interacted, exchanging food, weavings, pottery, and silver
jewelry. Intermarriage between the peoples was not uncommon, allowing
centuries of cultural exchange. These people describe their relationship
as being based on a "covenant of neighborship" established in the ancient
past with the exchange of sacred objects and renewed in the last century
as well as recently in the early 1990's.
The Longest Walk
After the Civil War, excess troops were directed west to complete
the conquest of Native Peoples and their lands.
With the momentum of Manifest Destiny and under the direction of
Colonel Kit Carson, the US Army began a brutal campaign to open up
Arizona for white settlement. 9,000 Dineh surrendered to Kit Carson
after a military campaign aimed at destroying their agriculture. The
people were marched 300 miles from Fort Defiance, Arizona to Bosque
Redondo, adjacent to Fort Sumner. Living under armed guards, in holes in
the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than
3,500 Dineh men, women, and children died while in the concentration
camp. The genocidal mentality and actions of the U.S. policy makers
would find similar expression years later when the Nazis, under Hitler,
studied the plans of Bosque Redondo to design the concentration camps for
It was not the inhumane conditions of the internment, but rather
the high cost to U.S. taxpayers and the government's desire to avoid
scandal (they were prosecuting the Confederate Army for similar
concentration camps at the time) that led to the Dineh's release and
relocation to a federally recognized reservation.
Frome One Cage to Another
In a successful attempt to impose itself against the traditional Hopi,
the U.S. Government passed the Executive Order of 1882 shortly after the
formation of the Navajo reservation to the east. This established the
Hopi reservation and was to include "other Indians as the Secretary of
the Interior may see fit to settle thereon." Continuous Dineh settlement
within the Hopi reservation, as well as the return of Dineh relocatees,
led to the 1962 delaration of the area as a "Joint Use Area" (JUA)
surrounding the autonomous Hopi reservation. In the meantime, a series
of federal mandates had increased the size of the "Navajo Nation" until
it surrounded the 1882 Executive Order boundary.
Corporate Interests and Puppet Governments
What was once thought to be barren desert "only fit for Indians
to live on" proved to be rich in oil, coal, uranium, and copper. In the
early 1900's corporate mineral interests wanted to exploit the profit
potential of the land but were met with stiff opposition by the
traditional leadership of the Hopi and Dineh. To counter this
resistance the U.S. government hand picked tribal councils so that "legal
documents" could be signed in order to lease tribal lands. Thus began a
history of disruption of traditional ways in the face of "energy
development". This includes the forced relocation of people from their
Public Law 93-531
Black Mesa stands on the northern end of the 1882 Executive Order
area. Hopi prophecy foretold that one day outsiders would want to
devastate it, and that if they were successful it would be the
beginning of the end of the world. With the discovery of extremely rich
coal fields in this area, Peabody Coal Company's public relations and
lobbying firms created a "Hopi-Navajo land dispute", portraying the two
peoples who had peacefully co-existed for hundreds of years as being
embattled in a bloody "range war". One of the key figures in the
fueling the dispute was a lawyer named John Boyden. Boyden's two main
clients were the Hopi Tribal Council, which wanted to lease out the
coal rich land, and Peabody Coal Company, whose interests are quite
obvious. In 1974, despite the protests of traditional Hopi and Dineh
peoples and in light of an expose by the Washington Post of the
conflict as fictional, the Relocation Act (P.L. 93-531) was pushed
through Congress. The main lobbyist, Harrison Loesh, a Department of
the Interior employee, became Vice-President of Peabody Coal Company
immediately followwing the signing of P.L.93-531.
Supposedly in the name of conflict resolution, the law mandated
that the Joint Use Area be partitioned into exclusively Hopi and
"Navajo" sides. More than 10,000 Navajo and 100 Hopi found themselves
on the wrong side of a fence.
Low Intensity Warfare
Those resisting the government relocation have been subject to
livestock reduction to levels below sustenance, as well as bans on
wood gathering, home repair, and new construction. Wells and springs
have been destroyed, forcing people to haul water on unimproved dirt
roads. Religious ceremonies have been disrupted by F-16 fighter jet
flyovers "so low that you could see their helmets". Other means of
intimidation include 24 hour surveillance by government agents.
In order to transport coal cheaply, Peabody Coal Company uses the
only illegal slurry line in the U.S. The slurry line pumps over one
billion gallons of water each year from the aquifer which once fed the
springs of Black Mesa. People can no longer water their crops and
In effect, P.L. 93-531 is a declaration of war on the people of Black
Mesa, who have now lived under a state of siege for twenty-one years.
P.L. 93-531 must be repealed.
To Resist Relocation
Five Presidents, the Congress, the courts, and the multinational
corporations have been unable to uproot the Dineh who resist
relocation. The question must be asked. Why?
Land is at the center of Dineh religion and life. Traditional
Dineh practice their religion as their ancestors have for centuries,
performing ceremonies and making prayer offerings at sacred places.
The traditional Dineh believe they were placed by the creator on
their land and have a responsibility to remain on and care for it.
Their sacred land cannot be abandoned or replaced.
Peabody Western Coal's Kayenta Mine permit expired in the spring
of 1995, but has been renewed by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM).
The OSM's go-ahead was granted in spite of overwhelming testimony by
local residents concerning serious and severe effects on their
health, livelihoods and well being caused by mining activities.
These activities include blasting, surface vegetation stripping,
inadequate reclamation, and air and ground water contaamination by
particulates and chemicals in amounts known to have injurious effects
on the health of humans, plants, and animals.
The OSM has disregarded its charge to enforce the Surface Mining
Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), as well as its Trust
Responsibility to Native American Nations, and has refused to
remedy the causes of virtually every complaint made by, or on behalf
of, Black Mesa residents.
Attempts by relocation resistors to gain justice from U.S. and
Tribal governments have been altogether unsuccesful. As a result of
the Federal Court mediation attempting to resolve the dispute, an
"Agreement In Principal" (AIP) has been proposed which states, in
effect, that the Hopi Tribal Council will be the landlords of the
traditional Dineh. Stipulations include prohibitions on business
ownership and gravesites. The Dineh resistors rejected the AIP by a
vote of 206 to 1. This rejection was met with an intensified
livestock impoundment campaign as well as a tenfold increase in
release rate fines for the livestock. Otherwise, the mediation
process has reached a standstill.
At the behest of the Dineh Alliance and other Environmental
Justice advocacy groups, two investigations were undertaken regarding
the legality of Peabody's mining operations. The first
investigation, by the General Accounting Office (GAO) was terminated
upon Republican takeover of Congress. The second investigation was
conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Characterized by its disregard for the input of
affected residents, the final report irresponsibly exonerated
Peabody Coal and the OSM of any wrongdoing, despite overwhelming
evidence to the contrary.
The one current that has shown itself effective is grassroots
action by resistors and outside supporters. Permaculture and
other material support projects continue and are maturing,
proving the validity of operating under the direct guidance of
and with fully open and transparent accountability to the elders
of the traditional resistance communities.
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