News about Big Mountain - Black Mesa

Click here for A brief History of Big Mountain - Black Mesa

Also see this page for more news


Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 02:55:39 EDT
Subject: Please Post-The Numbers Game-An Answer to the US government line

The Numbers Game on Black Mesa

When commenting on the problems affecting Dineh who became trespassers on
their ancestral lands as a result of PL 93-531, US officials
frequently quote statistics indicating that the situation has been
resolved to the satisfaction of everyone but a handful of "Resisters".
They usually state that the number of these Resisters is around 12.
These statistics are intended to support an assertion that a difficult
situation has been successfully resolved except for a tiny group of
people who may suffer as a result of their failure to cooperate with a
program that everyone else accepts.  These statistics completely
misrepresent the situation in the region and the tragic situation facing
the many communities affected by these policies, and it hides the harsh
reality that may unfold as the US completes its "Final Solution" to the
problems in the region.

The government statistics make two fundamental errors. The first is the
assumption that two lists called the "A" and "B" lists include all the
Dineh currently living on what is called "Hopi Partitioned Land" (HPL).
The second error is the assumption that the number of signatures on
leases with the Hopi Tribe which the government claims to have obtained
from people on the "A" list indicates that 85% of these people accept
the terms of these leases and have reached a satisfactory solution for
remaining on the land.

The Lists
Official government policy is based on lists that were developed as part
of the mediation process between the two tribal governments, some
"representatives" of the people, and the US government. The current
solutions proposed by the US government only cover the people on these
lists, but these lists may represent less than 15% of the Dineh living
on HPL, so that the vast majority of people have no protection against
the impending evictions. This discrepancy is caused by three factors:

(1)  The people on the list are "heads of households", but in many
cases, their children and other extended family members supposedly
covered by their signature live elsewhere in the area. The lease
arrangements would require all these extended family members to give up
their own homes and livestock and move in with their
grandparents/ great-aunts/etc.  These extended family members will lose their
homes, their land, and their livestock.

(2) Where the officially listed person has died (which has occurred
several times since the list gives the eldest heads of household), the
eligibility to sign is not transferred to the succeeding generation, so
that the children and extended family do not have the opportunity to
move in with the grandparents as mentioned in (1).

(3). Many people are simply not represented in any way by the official
lists. These people fall into many classes:
(a). The largest group involve cases where someone listed as a head of
household in the Relocation Office accepted relocation benefits and was
moved away, but other members of the family never relocated.
(b). Some people have never appeared on any list or census. They have
been avoiding the government for the last 25 years.
(c). Another case is where a family was relocated, but some of them
eventually returned illegally, often living in makeshift shelters on
their old land as their original houses had been bulldozed down. This is
common for the ones who were moved into the cities, and found themselves
homeless and unable to survive in that environment.

The people in groups (2) and (3) above will be subject to forcible
eviction over the next year and to the loss of their homes and
livestock. These people are not even eligible for relocation benefits,
so that they will receive no compensation for the confiscation of their
land and homes.  The people in group (1) may avoid eviction if they move
in with their relatives, but they face the loss of their current homes
and livestock. Furthermore, in many cases they may not for various
reasons be able to move in with the elders, in which case they will be
subject to eviction.

As pointed out by Dr. Thayer Scudder, an authority on relocation issues,
governments usually underestimate the number of people to be impacted by a
relocation program. The US government originally estimated in 1974
that under 3,000 people would have to relocated. So far, over 12,000
have been relocated, and thousands more remain on the land. Preliminary
estimates collected by Sovereign Dineh Nation (SDN) from people in the
various communities suggest that as many as 3,000 Dineh are currently on
HPL.  SDN is in process of collecting hard data on the subject by means
of a comprehensive survey that will give an accurate count in the near
future. In any case, it is clear that a large group will suffer when the
US government attempts to remove all non-permitted people from HPL.

One question that often arises is where these people are and how the
government has failed to account for them. This has several answers. The
first is that in many case the authorities are aware of these people,
but have found it inconvenient to include them, as it exposes the
fundamental flaw in their plans. A second situation is where the people
currently are living in or near the homesites of eligible people. In
that case, they still are not eligible for residency under the permits
granted to the listed people, so that they are unprotected. The third
situation is where the government is simply not aware of the people,
because they have essentially been hiding for years: the government has
not examined every corner of the million acre area.

The Signatures
The apparent signatures of 85% of the 112 "A" list heads of households
does not in any way reflect that these people have entered into a
voluntary and workable arrangement for continuing as tenants under the
government program. The 85% figure originated in a condition placed in
PL 104-301 which awarded the Hopi Tribal Government $25 million if it
could obtain this number of signatures. At over $250,000 per signature,
the tribal government had every reason to use any means possible to
obtain signatures. The US government, wishing to obtain the public
relations benefit of announcing a successful settlement, was equally
complicit in the process of obtaining these signatures through
questionable means.

The signatures that were obtained do not reflect voluntary acceptance of
the terms of the agreement. The people were simply told that if they did
not sign, they would be evicted. In many cases documented by SDN, the
officials used verbal threats of jail or immediate eviction without
confiscation to extort signatures. In most cases, the people were not
offered legal counsel or any detailed explanation of the terms of the
agreement or of their rights in the process. The government's goal was
to obtain signatures by any means possible, not to insure that people
understood the process, the terms of the leases, or the significance of
their signatures on these documents.

Furthermore, many of the signatures were obtained by fraudulent means.
For example, Katherine Smith, who was jailed many years ago for shooting
over the heads of the police, is listed as a signer, even though she
never signed. Alice Benally, a lifelong resister, died from heartbreak
and embarrassment shortly after finding out that her name had been
forged onto a lease. Some people found out that documents that they
signed to release their animals from impoundment or for some other
purpose were actually these leases.

The reality is that the leases do not provide a realistic or humane
mechanism for Dineh people to remain on their ancestral land. The people
will have no civil rights and live under the dictatorial control of a
government that is openly hostile to them. The leases deprive
subsistence herders of the ability to maintain the herds they need for
their survival. Most importantly, the leases turn people into tenants on
their ancestral lands, and deprive the people of their right to protect
and preserve their land for future generations as they are bound by
their traditional religion. As one attorney phrased it, the procedure
was like forcing people to sign their own death warrants.

Many of the people who are officially considered as "signers" are people
who are as totally committed to resistance against loss of their
ancestral land as anyone. For the government to flaunt 95 signatures as
evidence of the people's acceptance of its policy is a gross
misrepresentation of the choices that were presented to the people and
of the process through which these signatures were obtained.

SDN is in the process of collecting detailed and in-depth information
concerning all of these issues using procedures that will hold up under
court scrutiny in various legal actions. Because of the enormous
physical obstacles in reaching all of the people who have to be
surveyed, completing this process may take several months. In the
meantime, we have compiled a large amount of individual testimonies and
anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the basic points described above.

The US government is playing a fraudulent numbers game to mask the
failure of its policies and the tragedy that can be expected to unfold
as the government completes its final solution to what it calls the
Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute.

From BIGMTLIST From: Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 02:53:17 EDT Subject: Please Post URGENT Appeal for hay and feed for Anna and Ella Begay's corralled animals Dear Big Mountain Supporters, Ella Begay came to Kaibeto today, Monday, April 5, 1999, to tell me personally how much they appreciate the support she has seen. She is happy from the bottom of her heart that she got her animals back. It is something she never thought would happen. We could not have done it without your help. The reason I am sending out this URGENT Appeal is for hay and feed for the 2 donkeys and 1 horse that have to remain penned inside a corral in order to avoid confiscation. This costs money and Ella and Anna Begay, as you know, have no money. On behalf of Ella and Anna, I am issuing this appeal for you to send money for hay and feed to Anna and Ella c/o their niece Phyllis Widehat who went with them to get their animals from public auction: Please send your donations to: Phyllis Widehat P.O. Box 3583 Tuba City, AZ 86045 Also, if you can contribute to a hearing aid for Ella it would be most appreciated. Please write a note and indicate how you would like your money to be spent, whether for hay and feed or for a hearing aid. Thank you for your support and understanding. Yours sincerely, Marsha Monestersky Consultant to Sovereign Dineh Nation


Send comments to: Webmaster

© 1998-2006 AICS and or Mike Wicks