Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Sun Dance Tree of Life & Arbor Destruction Press Release

August 18, 2001 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Hate Crime on Indian Land

For information please contact cellular phones:
928-380-5490 or 928-380-6125

August 18, 2001

Big Mountain, AZ. Yesterday, 8-17-01, at approximately 5AM, Mountain
Standard Time, the Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Range Management, Resource
Enforcement Services, Hopi Tribal Police, Navajo County Sheriff, and US
Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) impoundment
trailers entered Camp Ana Mae, a sacred Sundance site in Big Mountain,

Awakened by sounds of heavy machinery and chain saws, several
witnesses observed the desecration and total destruction of the sacred
Sundance ground. Witnesses observed a paramilitary squadron of police
surrounding land management employees chain sawing the Sundance tree,
the tree of life and bulldozing the ceremonial structures. A huge back
hoe destroyed sweat lodges, fire pits, sweat rocks, alters, and the
Sundance arbor. Religious paraphernalia, which included tobacco ties,
flesh offerings, and eagle feathers were seized or left behind and
trampled by machinery.

Eric Crittendon awoke his uncle John Benally to tell him about the
destruction of the Sundance site. Eric and John came up to the Sundance
entrance which is Eric’s lifelong homesite. There were Hopi police
vehicles blocking the entrance. They were told they could not enter the
grounds. John left his truck which was stolen by the police. He walked
up to the Sundance arbor to find it surrounded by police.

John Benally says, Eric Crittendon and I separated while I was talking
to the BIA police. At that time, Eric who just turned 18 years of age
was arrested by the Hopi police and charged with criminal trespassing.
The Sundance is a traditional orthodox Native American religion. This
Sundance is not political, it is a way to pray. This is how we worship
and pray for the healing of our family and all our relations.

Local residents arrived at Camp Ana Mae around 8:00 AM to take part in a
weekly prayer and sweat ceremony. To our shock and disbelief, we who
live in the area were blocked by local, state and federal law
enforcement, told by Officers that all trespassers would be arrested for
criminal trespassing. Residents counted fifteen police vehicles, 2 BIA
impoundment trailers and a flat bed piled with arbor logs, the sweat
lodge and the Sundance Tree. We believe this hate crime is equivalent to
bulldozing Vatican City or Mecca. This land is our spiritual center.

This is the official press release of the residents of Big Mountain, AZ
who observed the destruction of the Sundance ground.


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