Monday, June 24, 2024

A Changed World and A Divided Family for A Relocatee

May 18, 2002 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

By Bahe Y. Katenay, Dineh Resistance Historian, March 2002

“It is wonderful to hear that some people that are caught in the ‘HPL’ are still resisting. It is good for those who were freed from being tried by the tribal court. This kind of news inspires me to live on and makes me proud that I was once a resistor, too.”

-Beatrice Big Eyes, Dineh Elder Relocatee, Tolani Lake (February 6, 2002)

Northeastern Tolani Lake. There is a small cluster of very modern, four to five bedroom houses each of different colors but their colors are not standing out so brilliantly against this desolate and barren sandy desert. There is no lake here, but in the old days when the atmosphere was less altered from the increased industries due to the exponentially increased in human population in the western states, the normal summer monsoons created small and scattered shallow lakes. The land is nearly flat and the slight incline of the land is totally unnoticeable. These clustered houses can be seen from a distance, and it appears to be set away from the rest of the community on purpose. Though, with its modern and attractive appearance, these houses don’t have running water or the full conveniences except for the large solar panels mounted on their rooftops.

A Dineh elder woman walks towards me very curiously as the breeze kicks up a bit of dust between us as I approach her quickly so that she doesn’t have to walk into the nodules of grasses with her settled limp movement. I greeted her, “Yaa’at’eeh!.” She calls back, “O’h, Yaa’at’eeh.” The scene is a real western picture as the wide blue sky dominates the flat terrain with a line of red mesa cliffs in the distanced backdrop. She worn her contemporary but traditional style skirt and blouse with some turquoise jewelry, and her thick gray hair was pinned up into a bun instead of the traditional tie. Her face gave a pleasant look even though it is aged by weather and the years of living in these flat plains of the reservation. Her dark eyes sparkled and her smiles are truthful as she talk about things and even when she talked of bad times, she did it with assurance and seriousness.

I explained the purpose of my visit, and she told me where the people that I’m looking for were at. I also, told her that I have relatives out here even though I’m from the Black Mesa region. Then, I took a moment to look about while she watch me, perhaps, she was thinking that our conversation was over. Then, I asked, “So, how far away did you all moved from to out here, outside the boundary?”

Mrs. Beatrice Big Eyes:

“Well, myself and my family, we use to live way beyond that line of cliffs –these ones that are closer. [She points northeastward but a bit more eastward, perhaps a distance of about 15 miles.] I use to live near or up against the old District Six boundary line. When the enforcement of the relocation and livestock impoundment laws became to difficult on our lives out there we talk with our relatives, most of them here now, and we all decided we would move together and eventually just live together. So, that is what we did. The area where I moved from was a very open area, and there weren’t any other families close to us. We were by ourselves.

“One of my older brother still lives in the ’HPL.’ He signed the accommodation lease and a house was built for him. But he is alone out there. His children and grandchildren, and myself too, worry about him. He has been asked to just move out by his relatives because his place got vandalized which makes us all feel more worried about his safety. It doesn’t seem to be Hopis that are doing this because my brother believes that these vandals seemed to be Dineh. The only Hopis that come around his home are the Rangers and some ranchers.

“My brother, his name is Calvin Nez, just doesn’t want to move, and he rather live his life out even if he has to be the only one out there. [I mentioned to Mrs. Big Eyes the way the traditional Dineh have love for their birthplace is amazing because I seen that at Big Mountain.] I think that’s what it is: he loves the only land he knew and has worked so hard on it to build a life. I, too, wish for our ancestral homeland up near Jeddito where I seen Dineh living up next to the old District Six boundary. If time and laws were to allow me, that is where I would want to start all over, again.”

[Mrs. Big Eyes asked if the resistance at Big Mountain was still happening, and that she doesn’t hear much these days. I gave her a brief update and mentioned a little about the five Dineh lady resistors whose trial was thrown out because of technicalities in the Hopi tribal ordinances.]

Mrs. Big Eyes gives out a good laugh, and:

“That is wonderful to hear that some people that are caught in the ‘HPL’ are still resisting. It is good for those who were freed from being tried by the tribal court. This kind of news inspires me to live on and makes me proud that I was once a resistor, too. Before I relocated, my community asked me to be a spokesperson, and I joined a group up there in Jeddito. We went to many meeting and gatherings. I remember I met some of and listened to the people from Big Mountain mostly women and men folks. Then, when we accepted the relocation as a group-move, I still help to make sure that we got what we wanted before we signed anything.

“Even when we moved here the BIA Rangers still bothered our animals. One time they brought animal trailers and started rounding up everyone’s animals. We had tried to talk to their police previously, but they didn’t care about what we had to say. It was only their laws, laws that Washington made, which were the only thing that was important and supreme. [She gives out another joyful giggle and continues.] Yeah, they won’t listen that day, and I didn’t care at this point either. I got a rifle and begin to shoot into the air, and they ran to their vehicles. They all drove off so quickly that we were left with the long horse trailers. A few days later, they returned peacefully and retrieved their equipment, and that was it, we weren’t bothered anymore by them.

“Now, the Navajo Nation and the BIA are starting to regulate the number of animals that we are (supposed) to graze around here. So, I have a few sheep and goats left. There are a few cattle that I have been permitted which makes my life okay. I just hope that the Navajo Tribe and the BIA don’t start going beyond what they are enforcing, today. So, these are how our lives are as victims of relocation and by losing our homeland.”


Time has past with many experiences in the struggle of the Dineh. Parts of these experiences belongs to the traditional Hopis who have opposed the relocation programs and how it infringed upon human lives. Their opposition wasn’t basically just because their neighbors were being treated cruelly but they believed we were one people who carried the sacred stewardship of the Earth in this region called today as, the Four Corners. This experience of a relocatee is also part of these injustices and violations of Human Rights. Then, there are those who were once apart of the actual resistance whether our birthplaces were inside the ’affected,’ partitioned lands or that, we grew up among the Dineh resistance elsewhere. Together, our spirits long for our connections to the natural settings of the lands, to the smell of freedom when we protested with our camps and our fires, and the thrill of victories when we carried out the ancient authority in defense of the earth and the religion.

Time has also brought us chaos. So many of our peoples and especially the younger generations have been taken far into a distance of the Amerikan culture of disrespect and cultural retardation. An example is like the life experience of Mr. Calvin Nez whose property got vandalized by, perhaps, his own people –a collective of drunken and drugged out thuds that go out on Joy-Rez-Outings to abuse lives of elders. Forcible assimilations had taken its toll, and a small few of us try to give a real value and pride to a vanishing Dineh Culture and Religion. Now, these few have become fewer and they are left to battle the federal government’s corporate privileges which is removing our elders. Now, it seems like our elders have to be protected from the angers of our own lost relatives who are now attacking and accusing one another of false assumptions or petty causes.

We have been divided as a family, an indigenous family and a human family. Have we lost our pride, too? Are we about to lose our identity? It seems true the prophecy of the ancestors: If we don’t return to the original road of Creator [The Red Road, The Corn Pollen Road and The Road of the Mystery Circle (the Sun Dance and the like), the Earth will no longer recognize us. Then, there will be great suffering. The land might dry up. Great storms will reek havoc. How many, now, identify with such a spiritual identity and purpose whether they are traditional Indian, Christian, Buddhist or believing in Judaism? In the Dineh resistance, some of us tried to keep our identity and have actually labored to keep up the cause: we built and organized “illegal” compounds or gatherings. Certainly, there are still those who’ve never ’lifted a finger,’ and they only await that others do all the laboring while they indulge on these good-intended labor of others.

It is hard to show the pride anymore. It is hard to maintain the anger or not be too discouraged about all these divisions and changes. Sometimes it helps to just be Okay. Maybe, for the newer generation’s pride would be different or not as strong as the elder, Mrs. Big Eyes, when she still can smile and laugh and say, “the few cattle that I’m still permitted to have makes my life, okay.” To see and listen to such mothers is healing because she respects love and the prophecy of the land. She knew about what real value was in relation to tradition and culture. Before I left Mrs. Big Eyes, I told her about who I was related to and that he was known as Mr. Spotted Hat. (An old man long gone and he was from Big Mountain who married into this area by the traditional way of arranged marriage.) She gave me an answer that I didn’t expect, “We acknowledged him as our Elder, and we still think about him. He is now only in memory as the original Dineh men, the real Old Timers.”

As I drove across the wide alluvial flats of Tolani Lake, I thought of what is disappearing and what is already gone. Things of great traditional values that we won’t be able to live-up-to. Ways that won’t be there for us to feel, touch and hear. This Dineh elder lady was a warrior like my grandma, Katherine Smith, who also ‘fired the shot that was heard all around Big Mountain.’ So did, my great grandfather, Mr. Spotted Hat, who shot (and wounded) a government surveyor for trespassing in the early 1900s after the Indian Agent at Keams Canyon authorized the mapping of Dineh and Hopi country. Just how will these lands and its culture from hereon be protected, respected and preserved. Maybe, the only thing we can try is to live up to being afraid of the prophecy knowledge. The bravery of the warrior, women elder must be instilled in our knowledge, too. The history of the traditional and the original Dineh-Hopi era must be made valuable again so that, it can be taken along in our memories of tomorrow. The leadership must be recognized as to belong to the more honorable and caring, traditional elders of the resistance. Authority of the Dineh struggle must be returned.

Author’s note: Tolani comes from the Dineh word, To’hne’he’lii, meaning The Place Where All the Water Settles. This area is where the Oraibi Wash and the Polacca Wash come together which are nearly half of the surface drainage or run-off that comes out of Black Mesa. This has created a large alluvial plain. It was once covered with endless plots cultivated cornfields owned by the Dineh. Today, a large portion of it has been partitioned and earthen dams have been built within the partitioned areas. None of Oraibi or Polacca Wash’s’ flash flood reaches the Little Colorado River since these new dams were installed within the “HPL” portion of the Tolani Lake alluvial plain.

A Bit Of History:

In the late winter of 1906, factions among “the hostiles and the friendlies” had escalated in Hopi country because of controversies over sending all children to the government school. The factions were so intense that during one of the Bean Dances the “friendlies” took crops from a Kiva, and a “hostile,” Chief Tawahonganiwa, and his people defected to Oraibi. Chief Youkioma was the only “hostile” leader in Oraibi but immediately they were all forced out of the village. The old Chief Youkioma was carried and set down on the north side of a line drawn on the ground and was instructed to never cross back into the Oraibi side.

The deportees gathered near a spring (now, modern day site of Hotevilla), and they tried their best in their makeshift shelters and did the best to ration the little food they had or send out hunters and trappers. A U.S. Army lieutenant realized that the factions had taken authority into their own hands and so, he arrested Chief Tewaquoptiwa of Oraibi for not informing the Army about these “hostiles.” The Army and the detained Chief waited in the sand dunes south of the (present day) village of Hotevilla, and Chief Youkioma was summoned. Chief Youkioma realized that his ‘days were numbered,’ and he informed his people that if he did not returned alive, they must keep moving on to “a site picked out somewhere in the north called, Kawishtiwa, a ruin in a canyon near Navajo Mountain.” (p. 22, Nequatewa, 1936)

The Army Lieutenant handed the Oraibi Chief a pistol and told him that if he is Chief of the “friendlies,” the Army orders him to kill this “hostile” Chief Youkioma because what he is doing will start major trouble in Hopi. Chief Youkioma stood alone before the mounted cavalry and a Chief with the pistol. Youkioma farther explained to the Army about his purpose in believing that: “he had as much right to do this as the Chief. He was going to follow out what his great-uncles had taught him of their traditions which was to destroy Oraibi or be destroyed himself. Also, that he belonged to the Fire or Masauwu Clan.” (p.24, Nequatewa, 1936) Chief Youkioma said he was prepared for whatever the outcome will be, that day. The lieutenant ordered the “friendly” Chief to shoot but instead the Oraibi Chief trembled and began to sob. The Army was disgusted and they rode off. Chief Youkioma returned to his peoples’ camps, and they eventually started to build a village. The resettlement of Kawishtiwa never became a reality.

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