Deep Background

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 the land.

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 Jews.

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 ancestral lands.

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 livestock.

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.

Current Events

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.

Back to Traditional Support Caravan Home Page