Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Working Group on Indigenous Populations 19th Session, 23 to 27 July 2001

July 23, 2001 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Statement by Kee Watchman, Cactus Valley/Red Willow Springs Sovereign
Community, Big Mountain, Arizona

Item 5 : Review of recent developments: General Statements, including on
land issues, education, health

Thank you Madam Chair, all distinguished leaders and all my relations.

I am a representative of the very last traditional Dineh (Navajo) whom
are being forced to remove from their very own ancestral homelands under
the US law, such as the 1974 Relocation Act PL 93-531 and the 1996
Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act S1973.

Madam Chair, the indigenous Dineh ancestral land rights and our
religious rights, human rights and fundamental freedoms are not being
respected under the US law. Today at Big Mountain Arizona some of our
Grandmothers and their grandchildren are facing forced removal in the
near future because they refused to accept and sign the Hopi Tribal
Government’s and the US Government’s law.

Since 1 Februray 2000 we are living under the jurisdiction of the Hopi
Tribal Council and violations of our human rights have increased since
then. We are being denied to practise our religion. Just recently at the
beginning of a Sundance ceremony, five of our people have been arrested
and fined on the charge of not having a permit to hold this ceremony,
for trespassing and for disobeying Hopi order. Among these five people
were elderly women who were being physically brutalized by Hopi Police
Forces. 300 to 500 citations were given to participants and observers of

The Hopi Tribal Government has also intensified livestock impoundments
thereby reducing our subsistence base and threatening the survival of
our people and culture. All this happened on ancestral Dineh homelands
now under jurisdicton of the Hopi Tribal Government. The UN General
Assembly just passed its first resolution protecting religious sites
such as these past may. The physical removal of the Dineh, land-based
peoples, is a form of genocide under the 2nd article of the UN 1948
Geneva Convention on Genocide.

I would like to inform this body that we are in the process of mapping
our ancestral land including sacred sites with the help of the
Navajo-Hopi Land Commission in order to have our ancestral lands and
sites legally recognized and protected under UN General Assembly
resolution for the protection of religious sites.

Therefore, Madam Chair, the indigenous Dineh People respectfully ask for
a visit and investigation of the ongoing problems by the Special
Rapporteur on the violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms
of Indigenous Peoples.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, I would like to thank you on behalf of the
Dineh peoplefor all the work you have done to promote the rights of
indigenous peoples. And especially for your visit to our lands 1988.

Thank you Madam Chair.

Working Group on Indigenous Populations
19th Session, 23 to 27 July 2001

Statement by Kee Watchman, Cactus Valley/Red Willow Springs Sovereign
Community, Big Mountain, Arizona

Item 6: Standard-setting activities, including a review of indigenous
peoples’ relationship with natural resource, energy and mining companies

Madam Chair, I would like to state my deepest concerns regarding the
devastation of both the environment and life and culture of the
indigenous peoples, Dineh and Hopi, of Black Mesa, Arizona, as a result
of irresponsible energy practices. The energy plan proposed by the US
administration contributes to the ecological and cultural destruction of
this region.

Numerous sources of documentation have shown that Peabody Western Coal
Company’s operations on Black Mesa, which holds the largest coal deposit
in the US is a main driving force behind the relocation of the Dineh
people. Peabody’s operations result in the damage of our peoples’
health, the destruction of irreplaceable religious shrines, ancestral
graves/burial sites, and other sacred areas, the decline of the
aquifers, the contamination of natural springs and of the vegetation
that our animals use for food and the herbs for our medicine.

Scientific data compiled by the US Department of Interior shows that
Peabody’s operations appear to be causing or contributing to a range of
groundwater-related problems with profound environmental, cultural and
religious implications for the region’s indigenous communities. The
Dineh and Hopi people of Black Mesa are both threatened by Peabody’s
removal of over 1 billion of their sole source of pristine, potable
groundwater per year to slurry coal 287 miles to southern Nevada.

When coal mining by Peabody Western Coal Company started in 1963, our
people at BM were never consulted. We only became to know of it when
they started installing their equipment and when the deal between the
Tribal Governments and the Comapny was done. There has not been an
evaluation of the environmental, social and cultural impacts prior to
the start of the coal mining activities. Of the Royalties our Tribal
Governments receive from these operations, the people living in the
affected areas never see anything. We, who are living in direct vicinity
to the coal mine live without electricity and have to travel more than
40 miles a week to get water. We are the ones affected most by the
pollution caused by mining activities.

After more than 25 years of struggle against Peabody’s operations which
caused forced relocation of our people there has not been an adequate
recognition of our human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, we respectfully request this international
body and the US and Hopi Tribal Governments as well as Peabody Western
Coal Company to recognize the UN General Assembly resolution on the
protection of religious sites.

And once again, thank you Madam Chair and all my relations.

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