Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Signatures from Germany handed to Gale Norton

August 8, 2001 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

This morning, 8th of August, I got the chance to say some words to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton at a press conference near Flagstaff.

I handed out an open letter to her and copies of more than 5.500 signatures from Germany against relocation of the Dineh people.

The letter and the signatures were initiated by the FIAN groupe in Hamburg (an international Human Rights organisation) and Harald Ihmig, Hamburg.

Please read the text of the open letter:

Harald Mueller, Wustrow/Wendland (Germany)


Gale Norton
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C. Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Mrs. Norton,

Many people in Germany and in Europe as a whole observe with alarm the abuses to which the Dineh/Navajo are subjected in a country that considers itself a leader in human rights.

As testimony, we send you 5568 signatures against relocation of the Dineh people.

For more than 25 years these people, to whom the ancestral land surrounding Big Mountain is sacred, have been uprooted or driven below subsistence level. Continuing reprisals are designed to crush their
resistance: ruling their presence illegal, impounding livestock, blocking access to pasture land, springs, and wells, and subjecting them to capricious acts of rangers and BIA agents. The so-called Bennett Freeze has halted construction and prohibits even the most urgent repairs of dwellings. Most of the more than 12,000 Dineh already relocated have been settled in conditions where they are exposed to the impact of disastrous radioactive contamination and without sufficient opportunity to earn their living either by traditional livestock raising or through income-generating work. This is a violation of fundamental human rights. Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stipulates “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” Though the United States regrettably has not signed this treaty, it is bound to article 25.1 of the General Declaration of Human Rights, which states the same right.

Quite recently, the Sundance ceremony-which has been practiced for years at Big Mountain-was severely obstructed by Hopi police. Water was shut off, and several Dineh women were arrested and maltreated. Measures against participation of guests from outside, who had been invited and welcomed, demonstrated a strategy of isolation against Dineh people put under foreign jurisdiction. All this proves that the Accomodation Agreement of 1996 (P.L. 104-301) does not work. Even free exercise of religion, which is guaranteed by Article 18 of the General Declaration of Human Rights as well as by Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and by the American Constitution, is violated.

The legal basis of all these obvious violations of human rights is the so-called Relocation Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-531). It adopted the story of a centuries-old, implacable land dispute between two Indian tribes. The real motive has proven to be the evacuation of a region for the sake of economic interest. Stripmining the most extensive U.S. coal deposits at Black Mesa is destroying an integral indigenous culture and has severe environmental effects. Extreme water waste by a slurry line is depleting the N-Aquifer, the only source of drinking water for this region. Both Dineh and Hopi elders have opposed the division of land and the policy of exploitation of resources. While the tribal councils, who profit economically from the arrangement, approved the division of the territory, which made a great number of Dineh trespassers on their own land, they did so over the heads of the people affected.

So we urge you in the name of the signers to bring your influence to bear on a thorough revision under constitutional and international human rights law of the procedures that led to forced relocation and the mentioned encroachments on religious, personal, and land rights of Dineh people, including the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1974. Meanwhile, responsible agencies should redouble efforts immediately to improve health, education, and welfare standards for American Indian people in general and the Dineh in particular.

We remind you of the European Parliament’s resolution on February 17, 2000, titled “Native Americans in the U.S. – Dineh” and of the detailed comment sent by the expert Judith Nies to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on July 4, 2000; and of FIAN International’s intervention, directed to the President, on March 6, 2000.

Although the Dineh People of Big Mountain are a small minority, these signatures testify that the wrong done to them personally and to their culture is observed by many people in the world. Their case is a historical test of whether the centuries-old maltreatment of first nations will be stopped and how the USA respects human rights in its own territory.

Harald Mueller

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