Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A delegation of 12 indigenous leaders from the traditional Dineh, traditional Hopi and traditional Lakota nations visites Lehman Brothers in New York City

April 3, 2001 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

The following is a synopsis prepared by the organizers of the friendly takeover of Lehman Brothers. Be sure to check out the Pacifica archives (www.pacifica.org) for the Democracy Now show (nationally syndicated pacifica morning show) which aired April 3rd, 2001, featuring Roberta Blackgoat, Chief Joe Chasinghorse, Leonard Benally and Arlene Hamilton.

Lehman Brothers Update:

The public pressure on Lehman Brothers was mounting as we had arrived in New York on the 31st with a delegation of 12 indigenous leaders from the traditional Dineh, traditional Hopi and traditional Lakota nations. After being told by Lehman Brothers, that they could not meet with us before the shareholders meeting, we received 10 phone calls from their corporate secretary Shawn Butler that they had changed their minds and they wanted to meet with the organizers of the Peabody protest April 2 at 9 am.

The morning of Apr 2nd, organizers met with Lehman Brothers for 2 hours before the rally, to negotiate bringing the Indigenous leaders into the shareholders meeting, not only to attend, but also to speak with Lehman Brothers corporate executives. Lehman Brothers’ first objection was that none of the Native Americans had shares to their company, but they were reminded that they were taking coal from the land without the traditional Dineh and Hopi’s consent; therefore they had the right to attend. At first Lehman Brothers said we could only bring in five indigenous delegates and they would only have five minutes to speak. Negotiations continued and organizers continued to state that all delegates should be in attendance with reserved seats, with at least five to seven minutes to speak each. Lehman Brothers said they would take the matter to their executives and would meet with us again that evening. The organizers also requested a meeting between the entire delegation and the executives before the shareholders meeting.

Of course, we did also state that members of the rally outside (there were at least 30 people present) would not enjoy knowing that the leaders who had traveled thousands of miles would not be able to meet with Lehman Brothers and that we did not want them to stop traffic. [We reminded them that protesters were there to protect the indigenous leaders rights and making them accountable by opening the ears of the corporate executives to the indigenous delegates.] Ultimately, it was finally decided sometime on the afternoon of Apr 2 that we could bring in all 12 indigenous leaders with reserved seats and that five representatives of the delegation would get at least 3-4 minutes each to address the shareholders.

That afternoon, all the indigenous delegates met with Lehman Brothers and were treated very well. They were offered drinks, and they were met with at the oak round table in the Lehman Brothers building. The Lehman Brothers executives included Jeffrey Welikson, Tony Vahnder, Jo Polazzotto, and Fran Kittredge, managing directors. The indigenous leaders spent 2 hours speaking for themselves and on behalf of their people to the Lehman Brothers executives. Lehman Brothers listened and took notes.

The Hopi traditional gave them warning of the Hopi prophecy stating that if they continued with their greed for wealth and power, everything would be polluted, the sky would darken, and things would end the way we knew it. He spoke of technology and industry polluting water and becoming sick because of it. He told of John Boyden’s lies and of the Hopi Tribal Council, created for corporate and government interests. He told them that the Indian land of the Hopi and Dineh is a refuge and that when the sky darkens; the air will no longer be clean to breathe. The only refuge will be Dineh and Hopi land. Many warnings were given by the Hopi Traditional.

When Glenna Begay and Mae Shay spoke they said “no more mining.” They told the executives of the disease, pollution and illnesses that have resulted from Peabody Coal mines both Black Mesa and Kayenta.

John, Louise and Leanord Benally spoke clearly about the continued resistance on Big Mountain, that they would not allow future coal mining in their area as well as the importance of their traditional way of life. Louise made it very clear they were there to demand a stop to global warming by demanding alternative energy and sustainable economic development. Peabody must leave the coal and water in the ground.

The next day April 3, the delegation entered the shareholders meeting with respect, honor and integrity. All the way up to the last minute, the security of Lehman Brothers was making the organizers continue to promise that there would be no disrespect. Out of the 20 non Indian supporters that were present for the event, they would not allow any of them into the meeting for fear that civil disobedience would take place.

It then became a priority of the organizers that the delegation be heard. They had microphones tied on strings with security guards out of everyone’s reach and only gave the opportunity for four delegates to speak (though we had been told five), and cut their time from 15 to 10 minutes. Lehman Brothers’ CEO (Richard Fuld) said that it was enough. The cut off for him was after the 4th speaker. The indigenous leaders that spoke to the shareholders were chief Joseph Chasinghorse, John Benally, Roberta Blackgoat, and Hopi traditional from Hopi nation.

Chief Joe Chasinghorse, stood up in the shareholders meeting and said to some of the richest men and women in America, “you have taken all of our land and now we have come to teach you how to take care of it.” He spoke of the buffalo being saved and being given back to tribes instead of being slaughtered. Over 140 calves were given back to indigenous nations and he spoke about he fact that they have recently closed the gold mines in the Black Hills of South Dakota for environmental and spiritual reasons. Roberta Blackgoat spoke of the Dineh altar and the religious significance of Black Mesa.

Immediately upon the closing of the meeting the shareholders approached the beautiful indigenous delegation and said that they were the most real thing to come to the shareholders meeting. They started yelling to Richard Fuld (CEO) and the other leaders “why don’t they have water?” At that point the Richard Fuld ignored them and had security escort the delegation immediately to a private room, because it seemed the shareholders were struck with kindness and compassion and were approaching the delegation.

In the April 2 meeting, Shawn Butler had promised to provide Lunch for the delegation before we met again after the shareholders meeting. This did not happen. The elders were tired and hungry after the shareholders meeting, and the executives who came in offered one small bottle of water to share. Their attitude was that they had not promised anything. Shawn Butler later admitted she had forgotten about it. That day, the Lehman Brothers executives seemed rude and apathetic. They were no longer as concerned with serving and welcoming the delegation as they had been the day before. Jack Lentz, who had been the one to say that the coal was extremely valuable and Alan Washkowitz who we had referred to as the humanitarian in the company, stated there was nothing they could do to meet our demands. We knew we would not accept that.

Richard Fuld had suggested to us that we meet with Peabody Executives so that they could help us. We insisted that they begin with water. People on the NPL have been waiting for six years for water, looking at half finished bathrooms as a reminder that they have been forgotten. We demanded their water by May of 2001. Walter Begay, Peabody representative told us that Lorenzo Bedoni was supposed to have completed that project 2 years ago, it had been funded and should have been completed by now. He stated he would look into what it would take to get the water and that perhaps it was just a matter of “fixing the pump” the residents of the HPL requested that at least six more water wells be untapped in the area of Dineh nation. However the Hopi traditional stated they do not want the water projects completed in their village, they are resisting water and electrical development and they are standing for a simple way of life according to their traditional teachings. The traditional Hopi also do not want mining in their area.

After all these years traditional Dineh and Hopi leaders traveled 2000 miles together to stand united in protecting the Hopi and Dineh sacred life, with a Lakota Chief standing with them for religious freedom rights, no more interruption of ceremony and demilitarization. They stood united for religious freedom rights, water rights, land rights and human rights. We have been told by Walter Begay and his associates, Alan Waskawitz, that they would work on these issues and bring all of the demands to the senior directors and be back with us in 3 weeks. They stated they would do something about clean water rights. We requested that the following meeting be on the sacred land so they could see what we want preserved as a National Historic Cultural Preservation Site.

When we came back to Arizona there were headlines on 3 major Southwestern newspapers including “Peabody protesters take objections to NY.” The articles tried to minimize our efforts but the Navajo Times will be coming up with a detailed story and detailed statements from the leaders.

It has become clear that Lehman Brothers can do something but to them coal is more valuable than the indigenous people and their land. Our work has just begun, changing relations with corporations. While the indigenous leaders spoke, the executives first acted uninterested but as they continued you could see the eyes of the executives focus on the leaders and come close to tears. Even Alan Washkowitz said he had never felt so much compassion for people in all his life. In the end we pleaded him to take that compassion and do something and move the water to the people. Its going to be 120 degrees on the land soon and getting water is a matter of life or death. We want to thank the American Indian Community House and Rosemary for providing lunch; Carol at the IITC (International Indian Treaty Council) for being a great support system; the Silver cloud drummers, Anthony for his work in New York; Larry Wood for his research, Dianne Patterson for her music; Kelly and Mike Gerell for their support; Sharon, Martha and Jennifer for taking care of the elders and the Indigenous Leaders that took time from their homes and families to face the beast on behalf of the people, water and land.

We stand in solidarity with the Zapatistas

For more details look up the Navajo times article on Apr 13. Contact Sharon at slungo@enviroweb.org for copies of the statements made by the traditionals. For info on upcoming march in NYC April 26 e-mail

Leonard Benally would like to close this update with the following words:

Statement, Leonard Benally, Big Mountain resistor

To all the honest struggles, that united with us in NY

Thank you for being there and for all of your prayers. Our voices were heard and we will receive and answer for our demands for water on HPL and NPL in 3 weeks. We have also invited Lehman Brothers to Big Mountain to see the indigenous land we want to preserve as a National Historic Cultural Preservation Site.

We hope that by doing this action and the support and all voices united together to open the ears of the deaf beast. Yes brothers and sisters we still need your voices and a lot more voices to protect our indigenous people and make our cry strong. The support of good people, yes the support is still needed. Even though we are saying these things in retaliation they still want us to go ie. This weeks headlines in the SW papers said “Navajos will be ousted from Hopi Land.” In the Newspaper about our New York protest the paper said we came there for sympathy and that Lehman Brothers felt this sympathy. We did not got there for sympathy. We went there for indigenous rights, water rights, religious freedom and human rights, not their rights

We’ve been like this 510 years. We had no rights, but now we are talking about what is rightfully ours and our dignity is not for sale. The coal and the water stay in the ground. We will never give up. We have a right to live our culture and our beliefs as indigenous Dineh and Hopi people. We are the Resistance, We will remain… Resist! Resist! Resist!
In solidarity

Leonard Benally
P.O. Box 2104 Venice, Ca 90294
(310) 396-3254 ph (310) 392-9965 fax www.arcweb.org,

Black Mesa Indigenous Support

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