Big Sur Marathon 2008

bear_runningIt was a perfect day for running with a bunch of fun people. I did not make it under four hours as per my goal i did however beat my last years time by three minutes or so.

 

At four hours thirteen minutes and fifty one seconds I am glad i made it standing up. Thank you to everyone who pledged to support our spring trip this year. We will post the total amount when we figure out what it is.

 

Bear

Big Sur Marathon 2007

Bear, Mark and Somer finish the Big Sur International Marathon in April 2007. Nearly $1800 was pledged for us to run 26.2 miles, in support of the people of the Big Mountain, Black Mesa and Sand Springs region of the Navajo Reservation.

markathon somerathon bearathon

sandsprings

Spring planting has been limited by washed out roads. We left funds to repair the tractor the family needs to repair roads and plow fields. Next up is the fall tour and Thanksgiving Food and Supply Run.

Beauty Way Report November 2006

I have been asked to write an overview of this years Revive the Beauty Way tour
and Thanksgiving food and supply run to support the Dineh (Navajo) People resisting forced relocation from their homelands in northeastern Arizona.
Thanks to Mike Gerrel for his phone work, designing posters and live sound at the Ukiah Brew Pub and the West Point Youth Center.

Thanks to, Mark, Gary and Bear Dyken, and Somer Moon. The Clan Dyken band performed five benefit concerts which raised about eight thousand dollars total. That is a credit to the generosity of the communities that hosted these events. So lets spend some lines thanking those people now.

Libby Uhuru organized and promoted the show at the Ukiah Brew Pub. Year after year Libby has stood with the resistance by her good work facilitating this event. A long time friend of the family, she also put us up for the night and fed us breakfast. Thank you Libby and thanks to the good folks at Ukiah Brew Pub where organic is not just a word, but a way of life.

Thanks and prayers go out to Catherine Lambie for facilitating the show at the
West Point Youth Center. For many years Catherine has made the trip out to the rez. She also acts as the treasurer and does a lot of ordering and phone wrangling for the goods and services that we bring to the people. Sadly Catherine’s father passed away just prior to departure and so she could not make the trip. Love and healing to you dear sister.

The Nevada City/North San Juan contingent has supported the run with art, music, food, love, and allot of heart. Thanks to Darlene Markey, who was the main facilitator of this years event. Darlene also made the trip to the rez , bringing food, a kitchen, a pickup truck, good vibes, and all the stuff we left at the show. She came early and left late. Thanks to Wendy for organizing the dinner in Nevada City. Thanks to the Feather River Drum, Tamara, Star, and Laughter, and Root Down One for filling the night with music. Thanks to Ron for the sound. Thanks to the local Native Elder for opening the night with a prayer. The community of Williams Oregon came through once again for the Dineh people.

Thanks to Ohana and Windsong Martin for organizing this event and hosting us at their home. Thanks to Windsong and Kat Del Rio and their band for opening the show with their original songs. Thanks to the whole community for the corn dance, and the youth group for the food. Thanks to Abe for the sound.

Last stop before heading out to the res. was the Bayside Grange near Arcata
California. Thanks to Ed and Pam Grant for organizing this event. Thanks to the most awesome Joanne Rand and the Little Big band for the musical treat that kicked off the night. Thanks to Elk Thunder Drum for helping us with the blanket dance. Thanks to Andrew Christian for joining us on congas, his hot tub and putting us up for the night. Thanks to Moe for sound.

Special thanks to Leonard Benally, a Dineh resistor, from downtown Big Mountain who came all the way from his home to be a "voice for the voiceless". If you got a chance to
see him at the last three events you know he spoke eloquently on behalf of his people. We
owe him a great deal of respect.
Special thanks also to our trusty mechanics, Fred and Aaron of Precision Auto in
Martell California. Since the Clan Dyken bus was down and out we had to rely on my truck to haul equipment to the shows and supplies to the res. These heroes have been working to
keep this Frankenstein of a tank working well on bio-diesel. A work in progress, they
performed miracles under pressure, we couldn’t have done it without them.
And so we headed out, carrying your love in what ever form you gave it. Your
contributions bought boxes of a variety of quality foods and dry goods, put together by New Frontiers Natural Foods of Flagstaff. Bags of Bluebird flour direct from the mill, Dineh grown winter squash (thanks big to Louise Benally for pulling this important purchase together) and fire wood (thanks huge to Owen Johnson, Tree, the Herbert bros, and Tzade, Lution, and Taj Heatherstone for their Herculean efforts in gathering and delivering locally harvested firewood). Someone from Colorado, Craig I think his name was had come and gone leaving three cords of firewood and a whole lot of potatoes. Maureen of Honeydew had come and gone leaving a mountain of dog food which she had bought out of her own pocket. Dog food is important for the dogs who tend the sheep and Maureen has spear headed this part for the last four years. Robin and Barry brought coffee, purchased by their fund raiser in Sebastapol. A group from Santa Cruz/San Francisco showed up with construction tools, supplies and crew. There were folks from a radio station in New Mexico, Kate and Sarah who were there to help and interview supporters and spread the word. There were also people from other parts of Arizona, France, South America, the streets of Flagstaff and other places I’m forgetting. Thanks to Crystal, for being there and bringing your crew, Dixie and Black Mesa Indigenous Support Network for putting the word out and Mark Dyken for the radio show and the Clan Dyken news letter. In this way people from all walks of life were brought in to help when we needed it most.

We were hosted by Tim and Belinda Johnson and family at their beautiful home which is known as Dove Springs. This was our fourth year there and I can’t say thanks enough for the hospitality and teamwork. Tim leads the morning circles with gracious humility and Belinda cooks a mean thanksgiving dinner including a traditional vegan dish she calls blue marble soup. They keep the camp alive with their entertaining humor and storytelling skills.
Thank you.

So much happened on this trip and not all of it to me and so I’m just going to give you a couple impressions of experiences that I left with; having failed to find it on the first day of delivering, Somer and I finally found the home of the elusive Calvin Nez and his wife.

The smiles on the faces of these beautiful elders and the way that grandma cradled that winter squash like a new born baby makes my heart smile still.
And so we shine a little light into a dark world where the true cost of the life styles of excess and corporatism come to bear on these old people and the culture and traditions that they uphold. Sometimes it is sudden and brutal as in the recent case of Rena Babbit Lane who suffered a heart attack after being muscled around by rangers. The pressure of consistent cruelty is the norm. The increase in capping off wells used for drinking water, the buzzing and terrifying of elders with helicopters and ongoing livestock confiscations….

When we came to deliver to the home of Eva Lee on Sandsprings Mesa I was
astonished to see all the cars and people. They were there for Eva’s memorial service. We were told she had finally succumbed to the cancer she had been battling the last three years.
I said we had food to deliver and was directed to speak to the eldest daughter who was greeting the many people who had come to pay their last respects to this beloved elder. It was an awkward moment. I was feeling stunned,out of place, and suddenly very aware of our appearance (not much sleep lately, camping out, no bath) I was feeling ashamed of our scrappy little offerings and the not enoughness of it all. When the woman saw me she recognized me from deliveries before. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thanked me and all of us for the support and concern we have shown for her mother and her people over the years. I too began to tear up…then I heard my name being called from a table in the crowd of people. The entire Yazzi family was attending and suddenly I was greeting old friends as they were greeting cousins they hadn’t seen in decades and so on. They had come from far and wide to be here. We left the food and the gathering and rolled off for more deliveries. As we were leaving I was once again struck by how these old people hold space for so many others, including us. When they fall it’s like an ancient tree hitting the forest floor, leaving behind the rich soil and seedlings that are the hope of a future forest. I was also reminded that the work we are doing is not about hanging on to the past, but rather, how we are stepping into the future with respect for how we came to be here and the struggles of those who were here before us.. The dineh culture holds a broad overview of the surviving of the last five hundred plus years of imperialism and war against indigenous people world wide. They carry information about the land and history, seeds, and technology that may be critical to our very survival.

As far as supporters go, there were many new faces in the circle and not many repeat veterans from the past. The resisters are still there. We did our best and we did agood thing. Thanks everyone. For more information and updates please go to blackmesais.org.

On the way home we stopped at Corbin Harneys healing center near TecopaCalifornia. I have been hearing ominous rumblings of the condition of Corbins health of late. I have known the Shoshone spiritual leader for more than twenty years. With strength, courage, and persistence this powerhouse of a man has lead the charge against nuclear weapons testing by the U.S. and British governments on his peoples ancestral homelands. I have traveled many miles with him, prayed, sweated, sung, laughed, cried, and been arrested with him. He has been the inspiration of many of my songs.

Earlier this year in August Corbin was scheduled to be at Bechtel corporate
headquarters in San Francisco for the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When we got the message that he had to cancel I knew something was really wrong. The Shundahai Newsletter recently confirmed that western medical doctors have diagnosed him with prostate cancer which has spread into his bones. On top of that the healing center just lost it’s main grant. Furthermore, even though the governor of Nevada and the D.O.E. frequently call Corbi for expert Shoshone advice and to engage his services to perform proper reburials when they accidentally dig up someone’s grave, Corbin is not recognized as Shoshone by the BIA and therefore cannot receive financial help for his medical costs. The man is eighty six years old as far as I can tell. English is his second language. He is not very good at asking for help for himself. He has been fighting for all of us and "all life on this Mother Earth" for decades. He has blessed us generously by sharing his wisdom, ceremonies, and knowledge of the Nature Way, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, or cultural background.

We arrived at Poo Ha Bah (the name of his healing center, which in English
translates to "doctor water") around midnight. At about four thirty a.m. I was sitting on a rock by the parking lot putting on my boots when I heard the door to the little trailer open. He didn’t seem to know I was watching from the darkness as he muttered something to himself, making his way down the steps. Pushing his walker, he clump clumped his way to the Subaru, got in and drove up to the area where he performs Sunrise Ceremony. Soon there was a small but cheerful fire burning and the steady heartbeat of his drum announced that he had once again made ready to greet the sun. That beat and the deep resonance of his voice have permeated my soul, sustaining me through my hard times. I will never miss a chance to attend sunrise ceremony no matter how tired I may be. The sun blasted the sky with glorious color as we danced around the fire in a circle, holding hands. Corbin sat in a chair, drumming and singing in his native tongue. I want everyone to know that although he is feeling a little shaky and off balance, frustrated at times by his foggy memory, and thought he is in pain and not taking pain killers, his sense of humor and timing remain fully intact. You can line up all the comedians in Las Vegas, for my money I’ll take Corbin Harney as the best sit down comedian around. Soon we were all laughing and sharing breakfast. We left for the rest of the trip over the mountains to our home in the foothills of the Sierras later that afternoon.

It has taken me awhile to process and write this essay. As I am finishing it I am planning to go back to Poo Ha Bah next week to bring more firewood and help repair the solar water pumping system. It is time to rally around Corbin Harney. If you have attended one of his ceremonies, heard him speak, read his book, If you support his life’s work, or have been touched by him in any way and you feel moved to help or connect, NOW IS THE TIME!
The
Shundahai Network is collecting statements to be read to Corbin, if you feel like sending him a short message you can go to http://www.shundahai.org/enews12o6.htm#corbin . To send money or contact him by mail: p.o. box 187 Tecopa Ca 92389.
One more thing: the day before Thanksgiving my daughter, Suneca, gave birth to a baby boy. Her oldest son, Solomon, and his friend Dylan (both 14 years old) came with us on the trip and were a big help.

Love, Bear

Beauty Way Report – March 2006

Here it is March, 2006.

I’ve been asked to update this page as it’s been a while since we’ve added anything. The articles below will give you a sense of the history and such pretty well. Note especialy the open letter from Huck Greyeyes. Huck has an amazing history himself. Born around the turn of the previous century, he grew up following his father’s sheep all over the pinon and sage hills and canyons around Coal Mine Mesa. Educated in the military during World War II, he worked for the railroads after the war. He and his wife Genevive lived in their little stone house for decades raising a family along with their corn and their sheep. All they ever asked was to be left alone. Huck and Genevive have had to move to a trailer in Tuba City now. They’ve become too infirm to live out on the homestead by themselves. In the traditional way they would be the elders in an extended family living together but their kids have had to move off the rez. I suppose their little house will stand empty for a while, much as the Blackgoat house does. No doubt the HTC would love to bulldoze both. HTC cattle have been stealing Hucks water for years now. He pins it just right in laying the blame on corporate greed.

So what’s new on Black Mesa? Well, the answer is complicated. From the outside the immutable cliffs, prairies, and washes, the coyotes, jackrabbits, dogs and sheep all seem to have been there from time unending. Tho i’m told there used to be a lot more sheep.

One small blessing: as a result of the shutting down of the Laughlin Power plant Black Mesa mine is shut down as well which shuts down the heinous slurry line. So the blasting will stop and the toxic dust and chemicals will settle for a while. Oh, they plan on being back in the not to distant future,. Peabody plans to restart as soon as they can begin stealing water from the Loop community. But they are gone for now. Shutting the mine will put a couple hundred people, almost all of them Navajos, out of a job. That will make an undeniable dent in the local economy. And i’m sure the coporate spinners will work up a way to blame the people resisting the relocation. And the resisters will go on as they have, living on the land in the old way, honoring the ceremonies and holding on as best they can.

Meanwhile the Mcain bill makes it’s way thru the congress. This legislation is an amendment to the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act which required the relocation of 12,000 Navajo Families and 100 Hopi. It calls for the eviction of all remaining resisters before ultimately closing the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Office and "bringing the relocation process to an orderly and certain conclusion.", by 2008. The conclusion they’ve been working towards inexorably all along, complete depopulation of the Northern part of Black Mesa and eventualy the whole Mesa. Thus the anxiety level is increased as the threat of eviction at gun point becomes palpable.
It is very difficult to describe in words the connection of these traditional First American people to their specific places on the land. It is only after you’ve looked into their eyes and seen the fierce hardships they must endure in order to remain that you begin to get a glimmer of an idea.

Revered elder Roberta Blackgoat said: "If they come and drag us all away from the land, it will destroy our way of life. That is genocide. If they leave me here, but take away my community, it is still genocide. If they wait until i die and then mine the land, the land will still be destroyed. If there is no land and no community, I have nothing to leave my grandchildren. If I accept this, there will be no Dine, there will be no land. That is why I will never accept it. I will die fighting this law."

And she did. I have heard these same sentiments expressed by every resister i have ever spoken with. They have a saying: "Land Is Life". And they mean it literaly.

We here in the central Cali hills continue to keep the traditional people of Big Mountain and all of Black Mesa foremost in our hearts and minds. We have no intention of halting our work in support of the People. We will continue our yearly fall benefit tour in support of the annual Food and Supply Run. In recent years we’ve begun to make the Spring Gathering a focal point for supporting a small farm in Sand Springs. We will go out there again this Spring.

Our good friends at Black Mesa Indigenous Support (we have a link to them here) are calling for a caravan from the SF Bay area to bring work parties to the homesteads where Dine elders continue to struggle under the yoke of constant harassment from the BIA and the HTC rangers. We say Right On. We’re already planning on being out there and we have room on the buss. So come on, get yer shit together and join with the folks at BMIS to bring support in a very real way. If you’ve been on the rez before you know what’s required. If you haven’t been yet, please do contact BMIS for a supporters packet. You can find the whole sordid history of the relocation on the BMIS web site. It’s highly recomended reading.

A short peice of their call to action: "This is not a conventional ‘volunteer trip’. Participants are not charity providers, and it is imperative that they not view themselves as such. While their assistance will be appreciated, the opportunity to learn from traditional elders is an honor and a privilege that few will ever know." And a privilege we thank the creator for each and every day.

Arrick

Arrick

Sitting by the wood stove,
in a small wooden house, dirt floor,
a cold, moonlit winter night
on the high northern desert
overlooking a crevassed wash
covered with sage, juniper,
and pinon pines,
a solar-charged radio performance
of Mozart’s delicious g minor quintet
sweeping away all thoughts
of 20 year-old Arrick’s death
five days ago.

Arrick,
growing seamlessly from boyhood into man,
widely, deeply, and dearly beloved,
with effortless grace
you took on the tasks
that held your family to the land,
and practiced the skills
to keep your nation alive,
sheep healthy,
hogans secure and warm,
language and ceremonies intact,
you defended them,
all the time gripping the hands
of your younger sisters and brother,
a smile on your face,
peace in your heart.
“He was my backbone,”
your mother cried.

Arrick,
free of the male disease,
not a mean spark in your spirit,
now friends and clan are gathering,
stunned,
now a medicine man will put a feather
on your heart, and close the casket,
returning you to the same land
the profit-driven beast
is moving to drive your people from again,
shot by an 18 year-old neighbor,
his family also perched
on the brink of destruction,
a damaged youth,
lusting for violence,
now a murderer.

So sing, Mozart,
let your playful strings sing,
make them laugh and dance teasingly,
shimmer sweetly,
and soar breathlessly,
lifting my spirit
up over the hard rocks
on the desert floor grieving,
sing as if life has meaning,
sing as though all life depended on it,
as if there is a time and place
for such epiphanies,
sing, Mozart, sing to my heart
of life worth living.

Big Mountain Food & Supply Run

black_mesaBy any measure, the 2002 Big Mountain Food and Supply Run was a major success. Thanks to all of you who contributed in so many ways. You came to the shows, were generous during the blanket dances, made donations of food, clothing and items for the silent auctions. You helped make things happen by renting halls and volunteering to work or perform your art. You made and shared meals and magic. You pulled together as community to work for a better world, in solidarity with people of Big Mountain, who are walking the Beauty Way for all of us.

Over the past three months you have raised energy and awareness while reaching out to strengthen the connection to indigenous people who are holding on to sacred land. Over $10,000 was raised and once again it multiplied like loaves and fishes. Combined with contributions and discounts from organic farmers and merchants more than 5 tons of food and supplies were distributed to about 80 families.

Organic fruits and vegetables including oranges, apples, dates, dried fruit, beets, potatoes, a variety of squash, carrots, turnips, leeks and onions. Coffee, beans, rice, blue corn meal, Blue Bird flour, tea, herbs, spices, incense cedar from Oregon and a whole lot of love were in packed into huge boxes for distribution. There was more than a ton of dog food, 13 cords of dry, split wood and several chain saw crews were out getting even more. We were able to leave $2500 cash behind to repair the homes of a few elders.

It was the biggest work crew in ten years and everyone was riding a high vibe. Three busses anchored a wonderful camp- the Big Purple Bus with the Clan Dyken crew, Tom’s San Juan Ridge Runner and the Bio-diesel Express from Arcata,- which was packed with a most enthusiastic North Coast crew, under the direction of the esteemed Deacon Rivers of the Elvis Underground. They kicked in $2000, four chains saws, a generator and all kinds of upbeat mojo. Other contributions included a 1000 gallon water tank, assorted building materials, warm clothes, and of course songs and stories around the fire in the evenings.

beautypicThis sacred land brings out the best in the people who go there to work on it. The efforts of a small group made a difference, for the people on the land and for each other.

On Friday morning after Thanksgiving, we gathered for a morning circle. Most of the food had been distributed and many chores completed. People gave thanks, shared thoughts, songs and stories. During one song I went from face to face around that circle, moving my gaze from one set of eyes to the next with each shake of the rattle. I counted 51 faces in that circle, from babies to elders, men and women of the four sacred colors – red, yellow, black and white- were all represented there. It was a beautiful site, so easy to see and feel the emotion of the moment -love and unity in action.

We heard from Louise, John, Leonard and Kee Benally, siblings who grew up in the area we were camping on. They thanked us for coming, told of some of the hardship they are facing, talked of being on the land without parents or grandparents anymore. They spoke so eloquently -of lost loved ones and the struggle to keep their culture. Of dismantled wind mills, livestock impoundment and the fierce determination to hold on.

Then two members of the Arcata crew stepped forward with gifts they were sent with from the Yurok elders of Northern California. There were blankets, an elk hide, rattles, and cedar sent from the Yurok to the Dine’ and the Benally family in attendance accepted them with grace.

It was Elvira who brought us all to tears. She is one of the Aunties who comes to the camp while we are there and makes sure everything goes along smoothly. In a shaky, but clear voice she told the circle she wanted to thank each and every one of us for coming. She said this food drive means a lot to all the people here.

"It’s a way of knowing that we are not forgotten." She said as her eyes swelled with tears. "You give so much and I have nothing to give you back."

It is of course sad to be reminded of the conditions the people of Big Mountain live under, but even sadder to hear that Elvira wouldn’t know how much she has given all of us.

Later that day one of the work crews dug out some of the old water holes in the wash behind Louise’s hogan. Water used to seep into the holes from the ground as well as collect there after a rain. It has been a drought for more than two years and the holes are filling in with sand. Combine that with the coal mine using over a billion gallons of water a year to move coal and you can understand why water is harder and harder to find. Later that night and into the following morning we were blessed with the first rain in a long time. Louise said it was a female rain- soft, gentle and nurturing- activated by the attention paid to the water spots. It was a hopeful sign for the future.

What of the future? Why do the people hang on? How could they possibly win? What are the chances for survival of the traditional Dine’ people and culture? There is hope and there are concerns.

Let’s start with hope. Southern California Edison is a 59% owner, as well as the operator of the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. Coal from the Black Mesa Mine, which is operated by Peabody Coal, is mixed with water from the Black Mesa aquifer and slurried through a large pipe to reach the plant, some 275 miles away. When it arrives in Laughlin, the water is turned to steam and the coal is burned to make power for Southern California. The Navajo and Hopi tribes are saying they no longer want the water to be used in this way. Very wasteful and dirty. This has caused SCE to consider the coal supply unstable and no new way of transporting it has been presented. As part of their contract to operate the plant SCE agreed to make over 58 million dollars in air pollution control improvements to the plant in 1999. To date none of that work has been done. The expense of the pollution control improvements, which would also require a six to twelve month shut down to install, combined with the uncertainty of the coal supply has caused SCE to say it may close the plant in 2005, which would effectively shut down the mine. That would be very good news for the resistance. The mine is the reason people are being relocated. We have the window of opportunity to lobby SCE and the California Public Utilities Commission to follow through on plans to close the Mohave plant, which has been labeled as the "…biggest uncontrolled source of sulfur dioxide in the Southwest-a prime contributor to the gaseous haze that clouds visibility over the Grand Canyon." (LA Times).

Now is the time, especially for people who live in California to call the PUC and let them know we want clean energy from sustainable sources. Let them know you don’t want power from the Mohave Generating Station. You can read more about the PUC and the decision to close the plant at www.cpuc.ca.gov , use the search feature on the site to find Mohave Generating Station. You can call them at 1-866-849-8390 in San Francisco or 1-866-849-8391 in LA. You can also reach Norm Carter, a PUC advisor who is familiar with the situation at 1-213-576-7056 or public.advisor.la@cpuc.ca.gov . When I spoke with him he was very open to hearing from people and told me that written or email comments have the same weight as testimony in a public hearing. Send email with Mohave Generating Station in the subject line and your views will be passed on to the commissioners who will make the decision to either spend the money and keep the plant running or close it. Time is of the essence, as this decision needs to be made soon. Let them know California can do better with renewable, clean energy that doesn’t destroy the environment and the lives of the people at Big Mountain/Black Mesa.

Of course there are plenty of people who want things to stay as they are. The mine operators are lobbying for a relax of the environmental regulations and the people who make money on this operation, from the corporate heads down to the miners and plant workers are crying about the loss of jobs and income. They pack public hearings, hire the lobbyists and have methods of influence we can only imagine. That’s why each of us is important, we have the numbers, we just need to express ourselves. There are other jobs, better investments, cleaner sources of power and more at stake then the profits of these companies. If this plant could be closed it would be a sign that thirty years of resistance to forced relocation has not been in vain.

Then it would be time to focus on the lives of the people who live here. The hardships are mounting and taking a toll.

More elders are passing on or moving away with no one to look after them or learn from them. Less and less children are using the native tongue. There is alcoholism, drug abuse and violence. Health care is minimal at best, non-existent for the resistors. Fewer traditional doctors and medicine people are practicing their craft. Sacred sites and clean water wells have been destroyed.

The Grandmothers have held it all together all this time, through tremendous adversity. They kept the flame alive and continue to nourish hope for the future. They were the ones to call for the Sundance, to tend the sheep and weave the rugs. They called for our help and keep inviting us back. I think it’s because they believe in the future. If they believe, so do I. It’s a race for survival. Fortunately it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Our work and exchange with the Dine’ is ongoing. Please check the web site www.clandyken.com to keep up with us. We have some more projects in the planning stage. Stay in touch if you want to be part of the next trip.

Draining the Life From the Land

– Mining and Indigenous People

Earth Island Journal,Summer 2002 Vol. 17, No. 2

www.oneworld.net

grandmother"Every time we take a breath," says former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ferrell Secakuku, "another 50 gallons of water are gone." As Peabody Western Coal Co. pumps three million gallons of pure drinking water a day from beneath Black Mesa, Hopi and DinÈ (Navajo) residents are watching the ancient springs and washes that have sustained their way of life for centuries dry up. Peabody has been sucking the life out of Black Mesa for over 30 years, and with the Bush/Cheney Energy Plan’s emphasis on fossil fuel extraction, Native communities are facing new threats to their water supplies and environmental integrity by the coal industry.

In a challenge to this renewed corporate threat, a group of Hopi and DinÈ runners gathered April 21 on the San Francisco Peaks outside Flagstaff, Arizona, where Ferrell Secakuku performed a traditional prayer ceremony to commence a 200- mile run to Window Rock, Navajo Nation. The prayer run, organized by the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC), with the help of runners Bucky Preston (Hopi) and Cardenas Redsteer (DinÈ/Chiricahua Apache), was designed to send the message to the Hopi and Navajo Councils, as well as the government and energy corporations, that the wasteful use of their drinking water for industrial purposes must cease. The run was also intended to restore bridges between the elders and youth, and to unite the DinÈ and Hopi communities behind this vital issue.

"We are asking that Hopi and Navajo work together and put aside their harsh words and politics," says DinÈ Enei Begay of the BMWC.

Peabody – whose parent company, Peabody Energy, is the largest coal company in the world – has attempted to divide the Hopi and DinÈ since it brokered its secret deals with the tribal councils in the mid-1960s. It is not surprising that the leases stressed corporate profit, not environmental or cultural protection, since it was later revealed that the Hopi’s lawyer, John Boyden, was also working for Peabody.

Government agencies partitioned and fenced the land, impounded DinÈ livestock and evicted thousands of families. The breach created between Hopi and DinÈ has benefited only one sector – the corporations seeking more energy leases on Native land. Slurrying coal to Nevada As documented by the Black Mesa Recovery Campaign, Peabody applied for a "life of mine" permit for its Black Mesa Mine to the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in January 2002, which if approved, would allow it to strip the previously untouched region of Hopi land known as J23, as well as increase their pumping of the N-aquifer by 32 percent. Most of the water taken from the N-aquifer is used to mix coal into slurry and pump it 273 miles to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report has gathered data from the OSM, the US Geological Survey, Peabody and a private firm, concluding that "since Peabody began using N- aquifer water for its coal slurry operations, pumping an average of 4,000 acre feet – more than 1.3 billion gallons – each year, water levels have decreased by more than 100 feet in some wells and discharge has slackened by more than 50 percent in the majority of monitored springs."

Since many of the region’s other aquifers are contaminated with uranium or coal, the N-aquifer remains the primary source of water for drinking, subsistence farming and sacred religious practices. Activists feel the Department of Interior (DOI) should uphold a clause in the original leases that requires Peabody to find an alternate source of water if the tribes’ supply is endangered.

While Peabody claims to use only a small fraction of the aquifer’s water and blames any negative impact on increased municipal use and drought, the corporation sucks up almost three times the amount used by the two Indian nations combined. Most Hopi, for example, must haul their daily rations by hand, and therefore use water sparingly. "We feel strongly that Peabody is threatening the culture of our people," says Hopi Lillian Hill of the BMWC.

Local residents also fear that a Peabody expansion would bring more air pollution, respiratory problems and the destruction of burial sites and medicinal plants. While those who live in close proximity to the Black Mesa Mine feel they bear only the negative effects of coal extraction, the Navajo and Hopi governments depend heavily on royalties from Peabody. For this reason, activists are not calling for the closure of the mine. But they are urging the tribal councils to look at more sustainable forms of energy production, like solar and wind-generated power, to loosen the grip of the outside, corporate influences on the two Native nations.

"We need to stop financing the dominant society with resources from here," says DinÈ Roberto Nutlouis of the Indigenous Youth Coalition, and "to develop in a way that is sensitive to the culture of our people."

English only The lack of sensitivity for the Native cultures was demonstrated when Peabody placed the required announcements of its "life of mine" application in local newspapers. Both Peabody and the OSM have been criticized for printing the ads only in technical, legal English, which many Hopi and DinÈ don’t understand. The 30-day comment period following the last notice took place concurrently with Hopi prayer ceremonies, which strictly limited Hopi participation. Rick Holbrook of OSM claims Peabody fulfilled the legal requirements, and that the "OSM can’t hold them to anything more than is required." Holbrook says the OSM has determined that the permit will require an Environmental Impact Statement, a two-year process that will allow for continued public input.

Activists are calling for Peabody to stop its pumping of the N- aquifer no later than 2005. The company has considered building a pipeline from either Lake Powell or the Fort McDowell Reservation near Phoenix, where it has acquired water rights, but neither option will eliminate the waste caused by the archaic slurry line, the last one in the US. Activists have proposed that Peabody consider using reclaimed wastewater, or shipping their coal by truck or rail – the common but more costly method.

The slurry line may shut down regardless of Peabody’s wishes. The Mohave Generating Station is legally required to make a commitment by 2003 to install pollution-control scrubbers, and its owners are considering switching to natural gas, which would eliminate Peabody’s buyer of Black Mesa coal.

Peabody might have gained a new customer as Reliant Resources of Houston entered the scene, with promises of jobs, revenue, and a long-term solution to the water needs of the Hopi. But at the end of May, the Hopi Tribal Council cancelled its agreement with Reliant, citing the corporation’s "internal troubles." Reliant Resources’ parent company, Reliant Energy, is one of the power companies being sued by the State of California for price-gouging and "over- scheduling" during 2001’s power shortages. Reliant’s CEO Steve Letbetter has been documented by the NRDC to have raised $200,000 for George Bush’s campaign and inaugural committee; the Sierra Club points out that Bush’s hands- off stance toward the California energy crisis has enriched Reliant and other Houston-based energy corporations.

The Hopi Tribal Council is currently undecided as to whether it will pursue a similar project with another company, but opponents feel that other alternatives must be considered.

"This issue provides the opportunity for the Chairman to call a summit of Hopi people to talk about a sustainable economy for the tribe," says Vernon Masayesva, Executive director of Black Mesa Trust.

Many Hopi say they were ignored during Reliant’s initial consultations with their Tribal Council, and are opposed to the invasion of another corporation that will continue to devour their water and coal and funnel the energy to air conditioners and microwaves in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

The lake of tears Strip mines in desert areas are difficult and costly to reclaim, so their scars are often left unhealed as they are abandoned by the government as "National Sacrifice Areas."

The Zuni people have seen the homelands of numerous First Nations in the Four Corners region sacrificed for coal, uranium and profit. So as the Phoenix-based Salt River Project (SRP) threatens the Zuni Salt Lake with plans of a coal strip mine, a strong opposition has solidified into the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition – composed of the Zuni Pueblo, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Coal Council, Water Information Network and Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Program.

For thousands of years, the Zuni, Laguna, Acoma, DinÈ, Apache and other tribes have journeyed to western New Mexico to collect salt from the lake for domestic and ceremonial use, and to make sacred offerings to the deity Salt Mother. The different nations could gather without fear of conflict, since the lake was respected as a traditional neutral zone.

SRP’s Fence Lake Coal Mine would operate on 18,000 acres, approximately 10 miles northeast of the Zuni Salt Lake. The Coalition, citing hydrological studies conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and a private firm, is convinced that the mine’s pumping of a nearby aquifer will lower the level of the lake. They are also worried that mining and the construction of a railroad to ship the coal to SRP’s Coronado Generating Station in Arizona will destroy burial sites, ancient trails and the habitat of antelope and golden eagles in areas that are Traditional Cultural Properties.

The mine’s state permit was recently renewed for another five years by the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD). The DOI issued a Federal permit on May 31, which will enable SRP to begin excavating coal by 2005, before the supply from its mine near Gallup disappears.

Brian Segee of the Center for Biological Diversity says his organization is calling for a new supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and is appealing the state permit. The Zuni coalition will also litigate federal approval, since as Segee says, if "this mine goes in, there will be immediate proposals for expansion and other mines."

Jim O’Hara of the MMD says it is stipulated in the permit that if the water level of the lake is affected, then SRP must cease pumping the aquifer, but Segee argues that the BIA has declared that the system of monitoring being used is faulty, and the baseline data skewed. SRP claims to have consulted with the Zuni, and that the project will bring them jobs and benefits, but Zuni Coalition member Cal Seciwa writes that the approval of SRP’s permit is "all for the sake of revenue for state and local counties around the development site," and that "very few benefits will materialize for our Native people and communities."

SRP, a co-owner of the smoke-belching Mohave Generating Station, claims that "you can buy clean, green energy from SRP."

But if SRP "is being as ‘Earthwise’ as they claim," states Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Program, "they will drop plans for the Fence Lake Coal Mine and look to energy from wind and solar, not dirty coal."

In several Native religions of the Four Corners, it is the Kachinas that bring rain to the land. Without it, crops wither and livestock dies. In the Desert Southwest, it has been one of the driest years in history, sending a message to people that sacrificing water to obtain coal-produced energy will not only affect the lives of the Hopi, DinÈ, Zuni and other Native peoples – but will unbalance the entire ecosystem."We truly believe that water is life," says Bucky Preston. And all life needs water.

For further information and more numbers, contact: Andy Bessler; Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Program; P0 Box 38, Flagstaff, AZ 86002-0038; (928)774- 6103. Brad Miller is a freelance journalist currently working out of the Desert Southwest somewhere between the Navajo Nation and the Mexican border.

Big Mountain Parts 1 and 2

stop_peabodyThe 2001 Thanksgiving food and supply run is as good as over and most of the supporters have gone back to their communities and their lives. The Altar is once again quiet and the People are mostly left to themselves, which is the way they like it. A light fall show has left patches of the white stuff under sage brush and pinion tree. Forage will turn green and provide the fattening that will get the livestock thru the winter. Once again the cycle of time and life will renew themselves.

After a very shaky start due to some confusing words from a respected individual and some musical uncertainty in the Clan Dyken camp, the short benefit series stumbled on. Thanks to a small group of more generous contributors our fund reached the sum of $4700 plus a very exciting donation of $5000 earmarked for the livestock. Many thanks to Bear, Mark, Gary and all the producers and everyone else involved in helping raise these funds. It couldn’t be done with out ya.

The food and supply run began for me with a packed truck (Little Wing, faithful steed) and a hug goodbye from my niece Sherry. No one to caravan with this time as all the others were starting from disparate places in NoCal and SoOre. The ride over the Sierras and down the Western valleys was beautiful and uneventful. I was caught by surprise when an Amiee Mann song came on the radio from Big Pine just as the sun was setting and dark settled over the road ahead.

I was the first one to reach Poo Ha Ba and was greeted warmly and fed a hearty bean stew for supper. Thanks Viola. Corbin had already hit the hay as did I very shortly after eating. The rest of the crew, Mark, Catherine, David, James, Melissa, Lief, Marty staggered in, a rich rag tag tradition. Sunrise ceremony saw about half a circle. Corbin’s prayers were strong. The inspiration moved us and we dedicated ourselves to the work ahead. We got away from Tacopah around noon and headed East to Flagstaff. We noted the military road block at the Hoover dam. My first direct experience of the militarization of America. Hold on to your hats kids, it’s gonna be a hard rain. With Dixie and Marita riding shotgun we slid into Flag with only one other small hassle when a very courteous Arizona Hiway Patrolman pulled us over to give us a warning about my license plate lights being out. We found Louise’s house and before long a group of folks gathered to stratagize last minute for the work ahead. It was good to see Tom and Klee and Danny and the other brothers and sisters from the land.

Supporters from as far away as New York City and Wisconsin sat in the circle with us and new friendships were formed readily. It was agreed that some of us would meet up in the morning to do the buying while another crew would head up to Anna Mae Camp and set up the distribution center there.

Those of us who stayed behind went first to see Dan Martin at the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market who had been dealing with various farmers and suppliers trying to get us the best deals on produce and other food items. He generously supplied a large truck at his cost to carry the food up the heavily rutted red dirt roads to our distribution center at Anna Mae Camp. So most all of the materials were on the Mountain by Monday afternoon. We stragglers wandered into camp Tuesday afternoon with a small load of dog food to find that the crew had been hard at work and the donations were boxed up and ready for distribution.

We found 81 households still resisting in one form or another the destruction of a way of life on Black Mesa. This is fewer than we found last year by slightly more than 20. Not a good omen for the People nor Mother Earth. Some of the stalwarts have passed in the last year and the rest are another year older. We are thankful for the young men and women who continue to stand for the land and the People. They are the future of the Altar. We pray that they find it possible to remain strong in the face of daunting pressure and harassment. May they stay connected to the songs and stories of the ancestors thru their elders.

The hugs and good natured ribbing that greeted us when we arrived temporarily distracted me from the destroyed Sundance arbor and sweat area just up the hill from our hosts hogans. Soon however, I found myself approaching that sacred place with horror and a sharp pain in my gut. The arbor where so many good people shouted encouragement to the dancers and sang along with the prayer songs was gone. The shade structure where the dancers rested between rounds was gone. The Tree of Life had been ripped from her place in the center of the dance grounds and chainsawed into pieces, her trunk sections left to rot along with the debris of piled Pinon branches that had shaded the People in Prayer. The sacred Arc of grandfather stones that had been lovingly laid to their rest after blessing the People in the Sweat Lodges had been bulldozed and scattered or pushed into the mud. The Sweat Lodges themselves were piles of broken willow and torn coverings. I had to cover my tear filled eyes and weep.

This action taken by the HTC with the blessing of the Federal government was an act of terror, let there be no mistake. This destruction of a sacred shrine was no less than the burning of the synagogues by the Nazi thugs in Germany in the 1930’s. The ones responsible should be made to answer for their flagrant disregard and contemptible arrogance. Who are these men of no heart?

I want to thank my brothers and sisters who helped begin the healing of that sacred ground by clearing the debris and making a walking prayer over the bulldozer track scared earth. The People’s prayers did not die as the Tree of Life came down. They are still there and will be forever. This is one thing the destroyers did not count on. It is my prayer that this action will prove to be the undoing of the Relocation and the undoing of the fascist thugs who perpetrated it. From the highest ranks of the Federal Government down to the military police units that watched and laughed as the deed was done, let this be their undoing.

I will carry on with the tale soon.

To carry on with the story from my point of view:

We got a few deliveries out the Tuesday afternoon and were pretty much done by Thursday afternoon. We couldn’t find anybody to guide us to Low Mountain and most of the People say that there is no one there anymore. Friday morning some of the crew went over to Kee Watchman’s for a sunrise ceremony with Corbin. He had come up to the Altar for Kee’s wedding to Mellissa on Saturday.

Some of us made the trip to Tuba City for the traditional Dineh ceremony. I felt truly honored to be included. We made it back to Camp after dark. The wind was howling and the campfire didn’t seem sufficient to warm us. So I trundled off to my camp to get some much needed sleep. I woke up in the night to find that my windows were covered with snow.

In the morning we found ourselves in a white winter desert, the crunchy snow under our feet. Since I had to get Louise’s kids back to Flagstaff in time to get ready for school we decided we’d better get outta there fast. Six of us piled into Little Wing (faithful steed) and off we went. It took us almost four hours to get to Flag.

Meanwhile the intrepid Tzoddite had to find a new water pump for his truck and then install it. I’ve gotta say the man is unstoppable. He overcame the obsticals of no tools and the dark and cold of night to get the thing fixed and himself back to the job of bringing firewood to several of the elders who were in need.

The next task before us was to ransom the Benally horses from the auction yard where the Hopi rangers had taken them. We had to travel over a hundred miles, East of Winslow and then bid on them as if they were just any other horses for sale. Actually we got them for a fraction of the impound fees of $2000.

After many phone calls and some negotiations the hay delivery was arranged with the Navajo Agricultural Products folks in Farmington. Many thanks to Carol Halberstadt at the Weavers for Land and Life and Daniel Tso at NAPI. A heavy snow storm on Thursday evening had me worried that the semi’s wouldn’t be able to make it over the pass. But when I pulled up to the Hard Rock Chapterhouse early Friday morning there was one of them waiting and the other wasn’t far behind.

People began to line up for their hay soon after I arrived and the two semis were unloaded by 1pm. I took off for the South soon after and am now sittin at home writing this for you. Another Food and Supply run successfully completed. Thanks to all and stay tuned for more news from the Altar.

Walk in Beauty m.g.

Big Mountain Corn Planting

viewLouise left a message on my answering machine. "The corn is coming up." She said "It looks really good." Not many words, but I noticed a hopeful note of optimism in her voice. It was an important message to me, small as things go in this world, but significant due to where it was coming from.

Louise Benally is a life long resistor to the forced relocation of her people from their ancestral homelands in Northeastern Arizona. A mother, activist, teacher, sun dancer, and proud voice of the traditional, indigenous, people of the Sovereign Dineh Nation, her ancestors have lived in the Black Mesa/Big Mountain area of the Navajo Reservation for uncounted generations. They have been planting corn in these parts for as long as anyone can remember.

But it’s getting harder and harder every year to stay on the land. The story is long and complicated (check the web sites at the end of this story for details) but right now it boils down to this; Louise and her family are trespassing in the eyes of the federal government on the very land she was born to and raised on. The Dineh are being told to move from a small section of land in the middle of the reservation because the worlds’ largest coal strip mine needs to expand.

You might imagine it’s hard to stand in resistance to the will of multi-national corporations seeking billions in profits, backed by the US government. But it is harder for most of us to imagine what it would feel like to face the end of your culture and way of life as well. To watch the plants, animals, water and land itself disappear as the traditional Dineh dwindle in numbers has taken a toll on Louise and many others like her. It has gotten to the point where the simple act of planting corn has become a major act of resistance against great odds.

The corn Louise was speaking of when she left her message was some Black Aztec flour corn I had planted with the help of my good friend Catherine Lambie in early June near her hogan (the traditional eight sided dwelling of the Dineh). We made the trip to plant corn-which was grown by my brother, Bear- with the blessings and support of extended family and friends. We have all been part of a loose network of people making trips to Big Mountain since 1991 to offer support and assistance. We have made many trips to the area in all seasons for many reasons, but this time we wanted to plant some food in hopes of harvesting it when we return in the fall for the annual Thanksgiving Food and Supply Run.

We arrived at Anna Mae Camp in the lingering heat of an early June evening. Anna Mae Camp is located on part of the Benally family’s’ homestead. It is situated in the high desert, surrounded by rising mountains and colored sandstone among the sage, pinion, juniper and chaparral. The camp has a history of gatherings and organizing events during the thirty plus years of resistance. It was also home to the sacred Sundance ceremony for the past ten years.

In August of 2001 agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Hopi Tribal Police bulldozed the sacred Tree of Life and the circular cedar arbor of the Sundance. Louise’s son, Eric was arrested for taking pictures of the desecration. The BIA and Hopi Tribe say this was done to prevent illegal gatherings, it is being investigated as a crime of religious intolerance. Can you imagine bulldozing an active church or synagogue anywhere in this country without a major uprising? Last week a fence was erected around the area by armed Hopi Rangers in an attempt to prevent access to the site.

gardenThe lingering reverberations from that traumatic event combine with the lack of rain and oppressive heat to lend an aura of harshness to this already difficult situation. The coal mine has been taking one billion gallons of water a year out of the aquifer beneath this land. Wells and springs have been slowly drying up and the BIA has been capping other working wells in an effort to force people to move. There has been almost no rain for a year and the hot westerly wind is blowing constantly, taking the precious little topsoil with it. People in this area had been getting water from the well at the Rocky Ridge School, hauling it as far as ten miles but the flow has been shut off due to "vandalism". It’s hard enough to get by when you have to travel 20 miles over rough desert sand roads in an old vehicle to haul water for a household. Nearly impossible if you are trying to grow food or raise livestock. Now people are traveling to the coal mine for water, over a fifty-mile trip for some.

Louise wasn’t home when we arrived at the hogan, but her two youngest children; Waleesa and George kept us company. They are bright, intense kids who love to joke and laugh. Grade school kids who live in a gap between two cultures. The traditional land based one their mother is fighting so hard to hang on to and the encroaching contemporary one that wants them to move.

When Louise arrives from Flagstaff we have a happy reunion. It’s good to see her and catch up on the news of the area, even if a lot of it is disappointing. We make plans to visit the home of recently deceased elder, Roberta Blackgoat. Her son, Danny may be staying there taking care of the buildings and animals. Roberta was one of the pillars of resistance, refusing to move despite many threats and attempted bribes. She traveled the world, telling the stories of the Big Mountain struggle and opening people’s eyes to the beauty of this area through her incredible weavings. Her rugs and blankets are prized around the globe. Well into her eighties she kept a flock of sheep, continued weaving and being a passionate spokesperson for the rights of native people everywhere. We will head out in the morning.

mark1It’s a long, dusty, hot trip across the high desert to get to the Blackgoat compound. We bounce through washes and canyons that seem better suited to horseback than Forerunner. The sky is massive and brilliant blue, the sun steady and bright, the land full of color, and the wind constant. It takes over an hour to get there and when we arrive the place seems deserted. Roberta lived in a neat, clean stone house. The home and surrounding area are rather barren but well kept. A few small juniper trees sway in the ever-resent wind, dark green branches against the subtle desert orange, yellow and red. A sign still hangs along side the front door, big, black letters on a white piece of plywood, it reads "IF YOU WANT ME TO MOVE, SUE THE CREATOR".

It is somewhat comforting to know she stayed strong to the very end. It is sad to see her place looking so empty. No people, no animals, no wool, no weaving, just an empty house, empty corrals and the howl of the wind pushing sand through all the cracks. When people like Roberta leave this earth some of the indigenous ways go with them. No one knows the things and life she knew. Each of these elders has a special story, one their own children can’t even tell. I feel I’m standing in a time flux, wondering if anyone can ever live here again. We didn’t stay long, but the visit stayed with me for the rest of the day.

kidsThe next morning Louise had to go to work and tie up some loose ends before leaving on a trip to Oregon. She and her companion, Ethan were planning to leave the next day. They would also be taking the kids to see their father. While she was gone Catherine and I did some hiking and corn field exploring with Waleesa and George. They fully understand the circumstance they live in. Their grasp of politics and the oppression they live with is at a high level. I think of how comfortable my family has always been in comparison to the uncertainty and difficulty these young people live with and I’m amazed at how well they handle it all, even thrive.

Louise had suggested we plant in one of the old corn fields about a mile down the Dinnebito wash from her house. These fields have been planted many times, then left to rest for awhile. The sandy soil makes it easy for the corn roots to travel deep underground, where water from springs and early summer rains would be stored. This method of dry farming has been practiced out here for a long time. Now with the water being sucked out of the ground for the mine and very little falling from the sky, many fields in the area are turning to brittle orange dust. So it is with the three fields we visit. Fences broken down, ground hard and dry with lots of large tumbleweeds and other dried up desert plants covering the surface.

We decide to plant in a small garden area close to the hogan. It will mean hauling water to keep the corn alive. Fortunately Louise has a sister who teaches and lives at the Rocky Ridge School. Her little house on the school grounds has running water and a hose we can fill containers with. It’s about eight miles south on the main dirt road, an easy trip compared to most of the travel on this part of the reservation. We load the back of Catherine’s Forerunner with about 100 gallons worth of empty water containers and make the trip as the sun begins its final decent.

By the time we return Louise, Ethan and the kids are loaded up and ready to go. Hugs and farewells are followed by tail lights through the dust as darkness takes the camp. Catherine and I are left with the chickens, rooster and dogs. After a simple a meal we are ready to rest. The night is so black the milky way drifts overhead like a white cloud. The sky seems to bleed bright light through large, precise holes. The wind finally dies down to a soft, gentle breeze. I watch the stars move across the sky until sleep takes hold.

The rooster starts crowing after what seems like a few minutes of dreaming. He is a very early morning bird. I look to the east and there is only the faintest hint of light behind the distant hills. I know we have to get started early and work long if we are going to finish this project in the two days we have, but I lay on the ground and wait for the red streaks of dawn to appear before leaving the sleeping bag.

Catherine gets up and starts water boiling on the out door stove for tea. The young chicks are scratching, the rooster continues crowing and the wind begins its song as the sun starts to peek over the hills. We tune the Forerunner radio to the local Hopi Community Radio station, KHYI and catch some early morning prayer songs.

The station will be a great companion for the next couple days as we inhabit Anna Mae Camp. Locally owned, programmed and staffed, KHYI broadcasts from a trailer outside of Keams Canyon. With a repeater tower on top of one of the mesas the signal reaches all over this part of Indian Country. They feed us a great diversity of native music-both traditional and contemporary, stories, information and news from a native perspective and plenty of rock and roll. A lot of time is given to youth programming and the kids do a great job on the air. Songs from many nations and languages can be heard at any time of the day.

There is a strange relationship between the Hopi and Dineh/Navajo people. As individuals, especially among traditional people of both tribes, there is mutual respect, understanding and solidarity as indigenous neighbors. I have met many several Hopi here at Anna Mae Camp, including respected elder Thomas Banyaca. They speak of cooperation and a need to stand together against the forces that created the supposed land dispute between the two nations. Many friendships and marriages cross tribal lines. I have seen and heard Hopi people speak out against the forced relocation of Dineh who live on redivided land that now supposedly belongs to the Hopi Tribe. Many were appalled at the destruction of the Sundance grounds.

Yet the Hopi tribal government, backed by the BIA is openly hostile to the Dineh, especially those who have not signed the "accommodation agreement", which gives them permission to remain on the land in exchange for a number of concessions that make it difficult to stay. They are confiscating live stock, threatening elders and spying on residents in the area. You can see the Hopi Rangers cruise the dirt roads in unmarked pick up trucks with antennae sticking out, wearing dark blue ball caps and sunglasses. They are always heavily armed, supported with weapons and other gear from the BIA.

Hopi Radio doesn’t receive or want any support from the tribe. In this way they remain independent. Navajo, Hopi and many other tribes are represented in the music and stories we hear on the radio over the next couple days. I was really touched by the vice-chairman of the Hopi tribe telling the story of the traditional way to care for a newborn baby. With great detail and tenderness he explained the roll of extended family, the reasons for keeping the child indoors for the first month and how to mark the child and the walls of the room they are in with special corn pollen paint. It was hard to believe he could be part of the same political body that is making life so hard for the children who live next to this corn patch.

This will be a small corn field. A dilapidated fence of juniper posts and torn up chicken wire, topped with rusty barbed wire make a 100 foot wide circle around a bunch of dried weeds on parched, cracked soil. The wind begins to pick up as we search the grounds for fencing material to keep the hungry critters out. It continues to blow with increasing strength and warmth as we remove the barbed wire, drive in a dozen steel posts and stretch a new fence. Hopi radio gives us Keith Secola and His Wild Band of Indians singing about his Indian Car as we repair the gate and start pulling weeds.

When the ground is cleared of weeds we double dig four large beds in the sandy soil and work in a few loads of sheep manure from a near by abandon pen. Then 120 individual holes are dug about six inches across and 10 inches deep into the beds and filled with a mixture of soil and manure. The holes are soaked in water and by the time the sun is ready to hide behind the hills in the west we are ready for planting. It was a long, hot day, but the area has been transformed and is ready to receive the seeds. We decide to make another water run before turning in for the night. With another truck full we will be able to wet the seeds as we plant in the morning and leave some water for Louise when she returns.

We start at first light with a cup of tea and the Sunday morning Indigenous Hour on Hopi Radio. Johnny Bob is a great local programmer, who again plays a wide variety of native songs that enhance the beauty of this planting morning. Each prepared hole receives about 10 kernels of sprouted Black Aztec corn and a little song or blessing as they go into the ground. They are buried in the earth, watered, covered with a mulch of old alfalfa hay and watered again. I feel how the sun and wind have dried me out in just a few days and wonder how a seed that can’t move to moister could survive in this environment.

Then I realize just like the people who call this place home, the growth of these seeds depends on the roots. If the roots are firmly established the plant can hold on and even flourish. The root will find the water and nourishment the plant needs. Like the people, the plants have an even harder life due to the coal mine and the interference of a material driven culture. The seeds and the people are fighting against overwhelming odds just to survive, yet both can bring great gifts if they are allowed to grow. The meals made with corn grown like this will feed the whole being and a people fed in this way can teach the world about a life in balance. The people have the roots, but the land and water they need are being taken from them.

I want to live in a world with real corn, not a Monsanto genetically modified organism or terminator gene, hy-bred super plant. I would rather go to a Sundance than the grand opening of another Wal-Mart. Given the right circumstance and care, this corn can fulfill its mission even in the toughest of times, so can these people. They need the land as we all do. This is a critical time, the actions taken by the US Government, the BIA and the Hopi tribe have been increasingly hostile and aggressive. If we want to continue to plant on this earth now is the time to take a stand. Consider the following open letter from Huck Greyeyes a respected elder and healer from the Black Mesa area.

We wish to submit this open letter to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and
the US government to demand corporate accountability in light of the
Bush administration’s decision last week to relax air-quality rules
governing older coal-fired power plants, the Enron scandal in Black Mesa
and the current drought disaster.

Can’t you see we are suffering from the effects of corporate greed in
collusion with the US and tribal governments? "Grandfathered" coal-fired
power plants in our region constitute the largest source of greenhouse
gases in North America. Fossil fuel emissions impact global climate
change.

We are directly affected because our ancestral homeland contains major
deposits of coal which are being extracted by Peabody Coal Company owned
by Lehman Brothers. The coal from Peabody’s Black Mesa mine is
transported to the Mojave Power plant through a slurry pipeline owned by
Enron Corporation that pumps 3.3 million gallons of pristine water from
our sole source aquifer each day. Stop the corporate waste! In a region
where water is extremely scare, our only source of drinking water is
being depleted and contaminated to transport coal without any permit
from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And all this is
happening during a drought emergency.

We pray you will act now to fulfill your trust responsibility to us and
demand corporate accountability by Peabody, Enron and Lehman Brothers
who are operating in collusion with the US government. We pray you will
stop looking at the $45 million in revenue you receive each year from
them, long enough to see that water is more precious than gold and not a
drop should be wasted.

Our distinct identity as a people is crucially linked to the lands we
have occupied since time immemorial. Displacement from our territories
means death and the destruction of our identity, culture and way of
life. Without water we cannot survive.

We believe our human rights should not be denied and should take
precedence over national sovereignty-whether it be the sovereignty of
independent nations or the dependent sovereign status accorded to tribal
governments.

Catherine and I pulled out of Anna Mae Camp late on that Sunday morning. Tired and a little frayed by the circumstances, yet energized by the possibility of new life in the garden. Leaving a stumpy scarecrow to stand guard over the sprouting corn, we run the risk of complete failure, the odds are certainly against those plants surviving. But I’ve been thinking about that corn and that place every day since and I’m glad we did it. I’m happy to hear Louise on my answering machine. I’m looking forward to the harvest.

Who will you stand with? Where will you plant? Please visit http://www.blackmesais.org for information on the situation at Big Mountain/Black Mesa.

Big Mountain Summary

bigmt_2001The trip to Big Mountain on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northern Arizona is a long one. No matter where you come from. You will cover more than miles on the red dirt roads of the high desert plateau. The winding, bumping hours you spend will take you from your comfort zone. It will feel like another time, one governed by the movement of heavenly bodies and seasons instead of blinking digital numerals.

Here days are spent among people who have an understanding with their creator about the place where they live and how to care for it. And in that way care for themselves and others. A way of life know as The Beauty Way.

Traditional Dineh (Navajo is Spanish) people have the language, songs, ceremonies and culture from time immemorial. They are descendants of people who have lived in this area for thousands of years. They will tell you stories of the land, plants and animals. They can talk of special relationships with all of them.

The people of the Black Mesa and Big Mountain area can also tell you about ancestors who hid in the mountains during the time of the “Trail of Tears” marches to Oklahoma and back. People who never left the area. That spirit lives on in the resistance to forced relocation at the hands of the US government today. It’s more of the same old story these traditional people are facing.

It’s an ugly tale of greed and deceit. A tangled web of strip mines, multi-national corporations, environmental destruction and government corruption. The level of disrespect and intimidation brought to bear on the Dineh, combined with the spiritual degradation prompted an investigator from the United Nations to file a very critical report on human rights violations by the US government in 1999.

Through it all these powerful, beautiful, mostly elderly, traditional Dineh carry on a way of life that people dream about. Raising sheep, spinning, dyeing and weaving the wool into the ancient art that is yet so vibrant in the moment. Life in the hogan, with the door facing east. Corn pollen and sage bundles. Sundance and ancient prayers.

Native culture and wisdom is more sought after than ever. Indian art, literature, music and events are becoming mainstream. It’s ironic that the real keepers of this earth wisdom are being systematically removed from that life as a matter of government policy.

It’s a world that should be revered and honored for the national treasure it really is, instead of shoved out of the way as an inconvenience to a multi-national corporation trying to make money. It’s the third world within the first world. The extreme poverty of the “first Americans”, who have riches we don’t even know how to ask them about.

For the past ten years I’ve been involved in a cultural exchange with the Dineh resistors from this special world. There are many mediums of trade in this program, but music has been the centerpiece.

My brother Bear and I have been playing music together since childhood. He’s a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. I play drums, tell stories and try to sing a little. Since 1986 we have played with various members of our family and lots of friends in a group we call Clan Dyken. We have played thousands of shows all over the US and the world, met people from many nations and cultures and been profoundly influenced by these experiences.

The music we make continues to evolve from its rock and roll roots, passing through world beat, folk, and back to basic acoustic. You might see Clan Dyken rock out at high volume on a festival stage with a full electric band playing to a crowd of thousands or in a small circle with a big drum beside the fire on a moonlit midnight deep in the woods.

Over the years we have built what some people call a cult following. That’s code in the music business for a small, but dedicated fan base. We have self-produced and released eight recordings, sold a few thousand, given away nearly as many and continue to work on new songs.

Through all the miles and songs our trips to Big Mountain have been some of the most memorable. The people have impacted our lives and music. The 1999 Clan Dyken album Revive the Beauty Way features a Traditional Dineh dwelling, known as a hogan, on the cover and songs that tell stories from our trips to Big Mountain and Black Mesa.

With the help of manager Michael Gerrel we have organized a food and supply run to Big Mountain every year since 1994. The efforts of a great number of people have made it possible to deliver tons of food, building supplies and clothes to the traditional resistors of forced relocation. We also provide labor for woodcutting, sheep herding and household repairs.

2bigmt_2001The trip is supported by a series of benefit shows in the preceding fall months. From September through early November food, supplies and funds are collected for delivery to homes on the reservation. Concerts are organized by local supporters in small towns throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon. Places like Murphys, Arcata, Hayfork, Takilma, Ashland and Sonoma. Residents of Big Mountain often travel with the band, speaking to audiences about their life on the reservation. Every stop on the tour has a special flavor, with contributions from the area added to the traveling show.

Local bands, dancers and speakers mix with the Clan Dyken music and drumming.

Each year is a new adventure. A grass roots people to people outreach and exchange. At the concerts we invite the hardy and willing to make the trip to the reservation with us. They see first hand what like it’s like when you are the target of corporations and the US government. Every year the people who make the trip for the first time are amazed and awed.

Amazed at what is being done to the people of Big Mountain/Black Mesa in this day and age, by a government that points fingers around the globe at other countries for human rights abuses. Awed by the beauty and power of a life that has a connection to the real world in a way that most of us moderns have trouble grasping.

During this time we have developed a closeness with the people. They have honored us by extending invitations to ceremonies, sharing meals and stories and always asking us back.

I have sat in wonder as grandmothers tell stories about their lives as young women. Sometimes I miss part of the story because I forget to listen to the interpreter. Grandmothers voice, even though it’s speaking in a tongue I don’t understand, gives me a special feeling. She is speaking of the fire and how her grandmother told her to keep it burning always, for her relatives live in that fire. I watch the flames dance among the logs in her dilapidated wood stove while the music of her language entwines with the high desert wind blowing the sand up against the hogan and get a sense of what she means without understanding the words.

Yes we are all like that fire. Here only in this moment, yet connected to every previous flame. Her ancestors, my ancestors and all the ones gone before have become fuel for that fire and will soon be ashes waiting to return to the earth and start over again.

Grandmothers are keepers of the sacred fire. They will share this wisdom if the world will listen. They are watching their culture die and I can see it in their faces. Faces that remind me of the desert with eyes that shine out like stars in the early morning on Black Mesa.

They have seen the bones of their ancestors scraped from the ground by the blades of bulldozers as they tear up the land in advance of the worlds’ largest strip mine for coal. They have seen the sheep die en masse with tumors from drinking contaminated water.

They know what it’s like to have their ever shrinking livestock herds rounded up and confiscated for “overgrazing”, only to be sold back to them. They watched the sacred Sundance grounds and arbor fall before the bulldozer, the blessed Tree of Life carved up with chainsaws. They have seen the wells dry up as water is sucked from the ground to slurry the coal on its way to the giant furnaces that foul the air with toxic black smoke. Furnaces that burn the earth to provide power to people in far away places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Even as the towers that hold the lines to carry the power criss-cross the reservation and hum with the crackle of electricity, grandmother often sits in the dark and cold with no wood to burn or candle to light. It’s illegal to gather firewood under the laws of relocation.

They tell stories that make me cry. They also serve fry bread that makes me laugh. They are gracious and powerful, yet vulnerable. They are facing a loss so grave there are no words for it in their language. To relocate or move from the land is to disappear. Every US presidential administration since Richard Nixon has set a deadline for their removal, but they remain. They have been bribed, coerced, threatened and tricked. Brute force and intimidation, false sweetness and cooperation, every tactic possible has failed to remove the hardiest of them. I know the world is a better place and we all benefit when these people are living the Beauty Way.

They are always gracious when we arrive. We usually set up base camp deep in the reservation on a part of the Benally family compound known as Anna Mae Camp. Anna Mae Aquash was an American Indian activist who died under suspicious circumstances in the 1970s. The camp is set in the high multi colored desert at about 6000 feet above sea level, surrounded by juniper, sage and pinon with a beautiful view of the San Francisco peaks rising over Flagstaff to the south west. This windblown homestead has been the sight for the Sundance ceremony and other gatherings for many years. The Sundance arbor and grounds were attacked and destroyed by agents of the Hopi Tribal Government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs last August as part of the ongoing war of intimidation. The camp has seen its share of confrontations and trouble, but it has always been a peaceful, welcoming place when the caravan arrives.

Louise Benally lives in the large hogan near the Sundance arbor. A single mother with four children, she has grown up in the resistance movement. When she was only twelve her elders instructed her to learn to speak English, so they could deal with the outside world. Since that time she has traveled around the world speaking (in English) about what her people are facing. She attends meetings, hearings, court battles, conferences and public gatherings of all sorts. She has a heart that’s bigger than the land she works so hard to preserve. A woman who stands in two places; she is savvy and articulate in the white world, but at home with the natural world of her people. Louise is our host and one of our guides to the even more remote and isolated homesteads on the reservation.

After a round of hugs and animated greetings the work begins. Crews are put together for the different jobs and the place jumps to life. Thousands of pounds of food, clothes and supplies are unloaded and divided for delivery. Wood is gathered and fires for cooking are started. Families who live close enough and have transportation start showing up shortly after we pull in. Grandmothers with jewelry and weavings will come by to show their wares, share some food and talk with Louise. Families stop by and soon children are running around the camp and balls are flying through the air over the sound of laughter.

After the goods are divided, trucks are loaded for the trips to homesteads. This is one of the most enjoyable and intense parts of the job. To drive for hours down rutted, sometimes wet and slippery, sometimes dry and dusty roads to arrive at a hogan that looks like it would have two hundred years ago and meet a timeless couple who are happy to see you is a special feeling that can only be found here. Even though they don’t speak English they make you feel welcome. The boxes of food, tools or clothes seem so small, yet Grandmother and Grandfather thank you with great sincerity. The gift of the life they lead seems so much greater than the few items we can deliver. But there is an exchange and we are all grateful to be a part of it. Grandmother is happy to know people remember and are thinking of her family. It’s a real life lesson to see people actually live off the land. No electricity, no phone, no TV, no computer, no VCR, just the real life. They don’t need all the things their home is being sacrificed for. They live with the land, animals, plants, weather, mountains and water. I’m happy just to see them. I could listen to the stories for days, but there is always another family to visit. It’s down the long road for another delivery and then back to camp for another load.

When the light fades the trucks straggle back to camp. The crew gets together for a meal. On warm nights we stay outside around the fire with the drums, guitars and voices. On cold nights we gather in the hogan and keep our spirits warm with stories and song while the wood stove warms our bodies. There have been long nights listen to Louise sing, trading stories and recounting the days events. Finally we fade off to sleep. Perhaps it’s the shape of the hogan or maybe the land it’s built on, but my dreams are always intense when I sleep there.

The sun rises through the cracks in the hogan door, which always faces east. I like to get up and start a fire before the rest of camp starts stirring. Mornings in November on the reservation can bring you many surprises. The red streaks of dawn may reflect off the new fallen snow or shoot across high clouds in a bright blue sky. There may be frozen drinking water and frost on the cars and trucks or a massive thunderstorm bearing down on the mesas across the canyon as a warm, moist wind blows into camp. I enjoy being there early and alone for a few minutes to get ready for another busy day.

The days fly by in a flurry of activity. Wood cutting, home repair, food delivery and sheep herding. One of the truly amazing aspects of the trip is how all the people rise to the occasion. There is something about performing a true service that lifts people up. Time and again I have seen the best side of people come out when they have the chance to really help make the world a better place. It’s a loaves and fishes effect, especially where labor is concerned. The work just keeps getting done. Thanksgiving day rolls around and all the deliveries are just about complete. Food to 200 families for the winter. We spend the day getting to the last homesteads, feasting and celebrating.

All too soon it’s time to go home. This place that once seemed foreign and remote has become familiar and comfortable. The trip back to another reality seems even farther than the one to get here. It will take a while for re-entry. The artificial colors of the chain store signs, the bright lights of 24 hour convenience stores, the hard smooth pavement, the chatter of radio and television, the speed of cars and pace of life all seem out of balance now. No matter where the traveler goes from here it’s a long way. The comfort zone doesn’t seem to fit so well anymore. Perhaps it should be left behind more often.