Short History of Big Mountain - Black Mesa

This page is intended to give a brief history of the Big Mountain, or Black Mesa area, Navajo-Hopi existence in this area, the murderous and genocidal practices of the BIA, and Peabody Coal, and of course - the U.S. Government.
Links are provided for more extensive descriptions or histories if you wish more detail.

1882 Hopi Reservation Created

The BIA agent created a reservation centered around his offices, which were located near the Hopi villages on the mesas. The Dineh occupied the vast rangelands surrounding these mesas, so that 60% of the land within the reservation was occupied by Dineh. The land surrounding the 1882 reservation would later become part of the Navajo reservation. For the next 70 years, these arbitrary borders had little affect on the people, as both Hopi and Dineh continued their traditional way of life and peaceful relationship.
A link to an execellent history page. Although the author of this page passed on in the summer of 1997, her page still tells the history of this area better than others. Paula Giese's work is timeless.


1951 The Coal Rush Begins

The richest known deposit of coal in the U.S. was on the northern part of the 1882 reservation. The Hopi did not have a government that could sign leases, as the people practiced their traditional self-government; and their religion forbade coal mining. In 1951, John Boyden was appointed by the BIA as a land claims attorney for the Hopi and began organizing a government which would be able to issue coal leases. The coal rush had begun. In 1955 his government was recognized by the BIA as the sovereign government of the Hopi people. A similar process was underway on the Navajo reservation, where their appointed land claims attorney obtained a contract giving himself 10% of all future coal mining revenues.


1958 Healing Vs Jones

The land title was unclear as to who owned the rights to the coal deposits; Norman Littell's Navajo government, because the land had always been inhabited by Dineh, or John Boyden's Hopi government, because the land was within the 1882 reservation. The lawyers filed a friendly suit asking the courts to clarify the land title - Littell's government even offered to loan funds for Boyden's expenses. The resulting decision in 1963 said the governments could lease the land and split the revenues 50/50. The Hopi were given exclusive surface rights to the area they traditionally inhabited near the mesas. The Dineh land became a Joint-Use area shared by both tribes.


1967 Peabody Coal Lease

After the leasing authority was established, a lease was quickly agreed with Peabody Coal giving them the right to mine the area. The royalty rates to the tribes were far below standard commercial rates, as John Boyden, who negotiated the leases for the Hopi, also worked for Peabody Coal! (that is - he was on their payroll as an employee) The traditional Hopi leaders filed a lawsuit opposing the lease, as the Black Mesa area is Sacred to both the Hopi and Dineh religions, and strip mining violated their traditional religions. While the Hopi demonstrated that Boyden's government acted in violation of it's own BIA-approved constitution, the U.S. courts rejected the suit because Boyden's government was recognized as a Sovereign power and thus, was immune to lawsuit in U.S. courts.


1974 Relocation Act

Boyden requested Congress to partition the Joint-Use area into separate Dineh and Hopi areas, so that the Hopi could obtain better access to the land traditionally inhabited by the Dineh. The 1974 Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act was pushed through Congress by a group representing the coal-fired power industry, which believed their industry would benefit by having the U.S. government finance the eviction of all the people living in an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. In their rush to promote national energy self-sufficiency, Congress never considered where the people would go or how relocation would affect their lives. Nor did they consider the wishes of the people they planned to relocate. John McCain authored this "relocation" bill.


1980 A Site for Relocation Purchased

The U.S. government purchases a uranium-contaminated site near Chambers, AZ as the "New Lands" for the evicted Dineh. This site qualified as a candidate for the Superfund cleanup after the worst RADIOACTIVE SPILL the world has ever known!
Instead of spending money for a cleanup, they thought it could be purchased for a very few dollars, and used for the "New Lands" for the evicted People!
The spill figures;
When = 1979, Jul. 16
Place = Church Rock, New Mexico
Parent company = United Nuclear
Cause = dam wall breach, due to differential foundation settlement
Released = 370,000 cubic METERS of radioactive water,
(that's 94 million gallons!)
PLUS 1,100 TONS of solids from a uranium mine tailing pond
Contaminated = Contamination of land area as well as Rio Puerco river sediments up to
110 km downstream
And - a prior spill from the same source - and contaminating the same land - but
to a lesser extent than the one later. Note: the term "Lesser extent" is used only
in comparing these two spills to each other - both spilled deadly radiation onto
the lands that the BIA has choosen for the relocation site!!!!
1976, Apr. 1
Place = Church Rock, New Mexico
Company = Kerr-McGee
Cause = dam failure, due to differntial settlement of foundation soils
Released = "minor quantity"
Contaminated = ??????? Excellent, but long
description of the spill - An interview with Lisa Tso in her home

"According to the Southwest Research and Information Center Report entitled "Progress Report of the Puerco River Education Project, April 24, 1986, revised and updated May 8, 1986, it states: "The water quality of the Rio Puerco is characterized by concentrations of radioactive materials and heavy metals that exceed federal and state drinking water standards up to 100 times higher than Arizona maximum limits. 1.5 million tons of uranium ore that was processed and left in contaminated waste piles covering 72 acres next to the San Juan River near Shiprock, New Mexico. Both the Little Colorado and the Puerco are carrying radioactive contamination into the Colorado River and Grand Canyon."

Legal documents Navajo vs Kerr-McGee


1996 The Final Solution

Congress passed the 1996 Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act, which required all Dineh remaining on the land in defiance of the 1974 law either to sign leases with the Hopi government ceding all of their property and civil rights, or to be forcibly evicted by the year 2000. Congress offered the Hopi government $25 million if it could get 95 families to sign these unfair leases, unleashing a campaign of coercion, fraud, and forgery. With their remedies in U.S. courts seemingly exhausted, the people turned to the UN for help, resulting in investigation in 1998 by a representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Letter from Thayer Scudder renowned Anthropologist to Mr. Abdelfattah Amor Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
This final solution - the Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act, was sponsored by Senator John McCain. Senator McCain comes from a very wealthy family, and has some very close personal and political ties to; the mining industry (coal, uranium, etc.), the power generating industry, and at the time he sponsored this genocidal bill - he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs! To state the facts in plain blunt english, he sold out the lives of these Indian people, relocating them to radioactive contaminated lands, so that his "friends" in the mining and power generating industries would profit. Genocide for profit.


NOW! Current events and NEEDS

Current news on events at Big Mountain

more Current news on events at Big Mountain

more Current news on events at Big Mountain

Current needs on Big Mountain

Send comments to: Webmaster

© 1998-2006 AICS and or Mike Wicks