Kavitha expresses concern for the Dineh Navahoe living on Big Mountain in Arizona. The Dineh Navahoe, more commonly known as the Navajo, are consistently in grave danger of being forced from their ancestral sacred land, where they have lived off of the land peacefully for thousands of years. Yet more alarming is that the Government has no problem relocating these people to known contaminated wastelands. The so-called "new lands," near Sanders, Arizona, are located just down stream from the nation's largest known uranium spill. The spill occurred when a dam containing more than a hundred million gallons of radioactive water burst in July 1979.
Most of the Traditional Dineh are elders and know no other way to live other than on their land, as their ancestors did. Most of these people do not speak, read or write English. They live self-sustaining lifestyles herding sheep, weaving and dry crop farming. The very nature of their lifestyle makes it imperative that these people not be removed. Nonetheless, since 1974, over 12,000 of these people have been relocated from their ancestral land.
Why are the Dineh being driven from their land? It just so happens that they are situated on top of coal reserves with an estimated worth of billions of dollars.
The trouble started in 1949, when Kerr McGee Corporation discovered uranium deposits in the area. In 1951, McGee began mining and milling operations. Finally, Peabody Western Coal Company, the biggest player in the area, stepped in and leased huge tracts of land for massive strip-mining.
In 1974, Public law 93-531, the Relocation Act, was passed. The law requires the partition of 3,000 square miles of land and the removal of more than ten thousand Navajo people. Apparently, no one was given an opportunity to voice their concern and no hearing was held. The people effected did not even know about the law until after it was passed.
President Clinton signed Senate Bill 1973 in 1996 despite objections by Representatives, Senators, Indigenous organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from the United Nations and concerned people. SB1973 removed the Black Mesa coal mines from an immediate threat posed by the federal court action initiated by local residents in the area to stop the mining. This bill worked against the Dineh people, and for the coal corporations. As with its predecessor, the Relocation Act of 1974, the real issues have nothing to do with Hopi-Navajo inter-tribal disputes, but rather with the desperate need by the mining companies to evict local residents. The real dispute exists between Peabody Coal's desire for profits and the human and environmental rights of the families living on Black Mesa.
The trouble will not stop until the coal companies are stopped or all the Dineh are re-located. Do you think it is fair for these people to be moved from their homes when their ancestors have been there for thousands of years? When their continued survival depends on it?
What would you do if a rich man in a three-piece suit came to your door and threatened to tear down your home because there is coal underneath?
What if the Government passed a law that let him do it?
Out here in Peru, it is difficult to stay up on current events. Currently, we do not know exactly who you can write in order to voice your opinion. However, here are some web sites that might help.
Check out SOLSITE or more general information concerning the plight of the Navajo. Thank you for caring.
For a complete chronology of the incidents at Big Mountain, check out: http://www.applicom.com/vbm/Chron.htm
Or Contact Black Mesa Dineh Support Office:
Postal Address: P.O. Box 30865
Flagstaff, AZ 86003