BMIS’s Decision-Making Process
BMIS’s Decision-Making Process, In Brief
BMIS is an all-volunteer, non-Native collective that is committed to long-term, relationship-based, request-based solidarity with the communities of Big Mountain/Black Mesa who are in their fourth decade of resisting massive coal mining operations on their ancestral homelands
We develop proposals, literature, and updates based on the direction of these communities. For over a decade, BMIS has committed to direct engagement with the land-based struggle. We stay with families, herd sheep, help with daily chores, and bear witness to the impacts of massive coal mining, the Relocation Law, PL 93-531, and its subsequent Accommodation Agreement. We strive to regularly attend on-land organizing meetings, respond to requests to raise awareness among non-Native communities about the struggle, and bring volunteer supporters to the land.
Our process for getting direction, guidance, and collaboration is unique. Because of the impacts of relocation and mining on this traditional community–unrepaired and ungraded roads, lack of electricity, phone, and Internet, and the sparse population–communication requires a lot of travel and intention. Additionally, many of the elders speak only Navajo so we rely on the translation skills of several of our collective members, and of our advisors (also community members).
We have a larger twelve person advisory board —residents and family members of Black Mesa/Big Mountain communities. This group gives feedback and approval to proposals through emails, phone calls, or visits. With them, we work to respond effectively to community requests around livestock impoundments, harassment, continuation of Peabody’s mining and the Navajo Generating Station’s coal processing, and access to water and the broader cultural landscape. We also help create opportunities for them to participate in anti-coal gatherings, protests, and speak about the impacts of relocation and the importance of cultural survival, rights of mother earth, and sacred lands.
There is a smaller group within that advisory board made up of six community members who are able to consistently read emails, meet with us, and talk on the phone. With them, we collaborate closely to develop proposals for statements, actions, gatherings, and the various forms our collective takes in response to guidance from community members. Everyone on the board is committed to speaking to their parents and grandparents and other community elders who don’t speak English, as their input and direction is a priority.
Whenever possible, we hold meetings on Black Mesa regarding proposals and decisions. This is the form of direct community guidance that we strive to receive on a regular basis. We only make decisions—for actions, literature, financial support, etc.—after consulting our twelve person advisory board at the very least, if not more community members.
We support the vision of the 300 or so community members who signed the Declaration of Independence of the Sovereign Dineh Nation. The late Roberta Blackgoat’s six demands for the HPL–including the repeal of PL 93-531 and an end to all mining operations to maintain cultural, religious, and traditional land-based practices–inform our work along with current framing from the community around climate justice, decolonization, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.