Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Hopis bulldoze Navajo Sun Dance site

August 18, 2001 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Jim Maniaci
Diné Burea
The Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK — In a spectacular and surprise pre-dawn raid Friday, the Hopi government ripped out Camp Anna Mae, the Benally family Sun Dance site on Big Mountain.

The Hopi action prompted the strongest words yet from Navajo President Kelsey A. Begaye.

Hopi spokeswoman Claire Heywood called it “a definitive act of asserting Hopi jurisdiction over its land.” The leading resister family hosted the Sun Dance, as well as other unauthorized gatherings, she said.

Begaye charged, “The Hopi government appears to be persecuting these families for their religious beliefs, as well as for their heartfelt desire to stay on their ancestral lands to continue their traditional ways.”

The resisters said, “Awakened by the sounds of machinery, several witnesses observed the desecration of the sacred Sun Dance ground. Land management employees were observed cutting down arbor logs and the Sun Dance tree with chain saws.

“A front-end loader destroyed sweat lodges, fire pits, sweat rocks, altars and the Sun Dance arbor. Religious paraphernalia, which included tobacco ties, flesh offerings, and eagle feathers, were seized or left behind and trampled by machinery.”

Two arrested

Two people were arrested on trespassing charges, Heywood said. She identified one as Arlene Hamilton, who was excluded from the Hopi Reservation in April 2000 for entering and remaining on the Hopi Reservation without the permission of the Hopi Tribe.

She said the other, a young man, did not heed police warnings to stay back and was arrested on the trespass charge.

Resisters identified him as Eric Crittenton, a minor and Camp Anna Mae resident who was trying to photograph the dismantling. He was home alone when the Hopi workers arrived, guarded by Hopi rangers, Bureau of Indian Affairs police, and the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, resisters said.

Resisters arrived around 8 a.m. to take part in a weekly prayer and sweat ceremony and were shocked at being blocked from the area by lawmen. Residents counted 15 vehicles leaving the area, including trailers piled with confiscated arbor logs and the Sun Dance Tree of Life, they said.

Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor signed notices posted in the area saying, “Do Not Enter. Do Not Enter. The Hopi Tribe has hereby closed the area known as ‘Camp Anna Mae’ (Range Unite 262) until further notice for natural resource development purposes. No entrance into the closed area is authorized without permission from the Hopi Tribe. Individuals who fail to abide by this notice will be subject to arrest, in accordance to Hopi Tribal Ordinance No. 21, Section 3.3.77. No trespassing! No trespassing!”

Hopi Land Team Chairman Cedric Kuwaninvaya said that both Marsha Monestersky and Arlene Hamilton were excluded from the Hopi Reservation in 2000.

“Yet they were both caught on Hopi land this past week. They claim to be human rights activists, but by deliberately disobeying the laws of the Hopi Tribe they violate the rights of the Hopi to control access to and use of their lands,” he said.

Eye on site

He added that the tribe will keep a close eye on the site “to ensure that the trespassers do not try (to) establish another camp at which they hold unwanted gatherings and celebrate their lawlessness.”

The dismantling crew included a convoy of trucks, trailers, police vehicles and a bulldozer, Heywood said.

She added an unidentified Navajo family asked for police monitoring in the area to protect its family and property because of possible repercussions from the Navajo trespassers living at Big Mountain.

“In addition, the Hopi Tribe alerted Hopi ranchers with livestock in the area to be on the alert for possible hostile overtures and livestock harassment from the Navajo trespassers. Hopi field monitors also were placed on alert,” she said.

Begaye’s statement, issued through press officer Merle Pete, said the Hopi action was deplorable. “In the strongest terms, I object to such a violent action against the Navajo families who reside on Big Mountain and who participate, as part of their spiritual beliefs, in the Sun Dance ceremony,” he said.

He called the Hopi action religious persecution.

The president said the ceremony, performed for many years at the families’ request, has become an important part of their spiritual lives.

” Like all peoples, including the Hopi, the Navajo families on Big Mountain should have the freedom to practice their non-violent beliefs without government interference,” he said.

Begaye added, “The Hopi government’s action seemed to have been intended to intimidate, by a show of force, all the Navajo families who continue to reside on Navajo ancestral lands within the Hopi Partitioned Lands.

“Let me remind the Hopi government that the Israeli military uses a similar tactic of bulldozing homes in Palestinian villages. The outcome of that strategy has not brought peace to the Middle East.”

The president said he understands the Hopi government’s frustration, but added, “The land dispute has taken its toll on everybody just ask those Navajo families who live on the HPL and have sought spiritual strength through the Sun Dance ceremony. They feel the land dispute’s harshness more than anyone else.”

‘No moral right’

Begaye questioned whether Hopi jurisdiction over the Sun Dance gives the Hopi government officials the moral right to act as “violently” as they have.

Begaye and Taylor normally try to meet the third Friday of each month, which turned out to be the morning of the raid. The president also visited a half-dozen resister families last week, something he has done about a half-dozen times since being council speaker.

“The politics of destruction can start a terrible downward spiral that we must stop now,” he said.

Begaye said after all those arrested are freed and the Hopi government apologizes he will commit to working with the Hopi government to address its reasonable concerns.

“We must build bridges of trust, not walls of fear and intimidation. We must rely on reason and diplomacy, and the law, not acts of force, to resolve our disputes,” he said.

Begaye said, “The actions of the Hopi government have cast a long shadow over all the Navajos who reside on the HPL, as well as put a chilling effect on the relationship of our two nations. Nonetheless, our two people are here, together, as neighbors this is the creator’s will. We should honor that will with good hearts, good intentions and good actions.”

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