Tuesday, April 16, 2024

KEE WATCHMAN 1945 – 2005

June 29, 2005 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Tuba City, Arizona, 29 June, 2005

Co-workers, Associates, Family and Friends;

I am very sad to tell you that today, at University Hospital in Tucson
Arizona, one of the great and gentle warriors of our time, Cactus
Valley/Red Willow Springs spokesperson and Dineh Nation traditional Kee Watchman,
passed out of this world to begin his journey to the home of his
ancestors. He had suffered from cancer for some months and had gone through
several ups and downs, but he always maintained his courage and sprit until the end.
Several members of his family and close friends were at his side as he
left his life in this world today.

Kee was a respected long-time member of the Advisory Council of the
International Indian Treat Council. He participated in many IITC
delegations to the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Working Group
on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, and accompanied us at many IITC
conferences in and outside the United States. Of course he was best
known and respected around the world as one of the traditional leaders of the
resistance against forced relocation and the devastation of his
homeland by coal mines at Big Mountain Arizona. Kee’s commitment to the survival of
his Nation, the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, the protection of our
sacred Mother Earth and the unity of the human family were unshakable. His
wisdom and courage, dignity, humility and gentle kindness in the face of
relentless repression and struggle were an inspiration to his community and to all
of us. We will not forget him.

One of the true great ones has passed from our midst today, and while
we are happy that he is free from the bonds of his terrible illness, it is only
natural that we also feel the loss and sadness of his passing. Our
condolences go out to all who knew him, especially his family and
friends who are feeling the sharp pain of this loss today.

I will close by sharing with you Kee’s own words to the 59th session of
the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003 as a member of IITC’s delegation.
These words were presented as a written statement to the Commission, and
reflect his deep commitment and profound spiritual understanding of the
struggle that we are facing as we continue to resist the destruction of
the natural world and the sacred lands and waters which sustain all life:


Mr. Kee Watchman, Dineh (Navajo) elder and spokesperson for the
traditional Dineh Cactus Valley/Red Willow Springs Sovereign
Community of Big Mountain, Arizona, United States asked that the
following statement be presented by the IITC to the members of
this Commission concerning the devastating social, cultural,
environmental and spiritual impacts of continue coal mining on his
Peoples’ traditional lands and water:

“We, the traditional Dineh people, are still holding on very strongly
to our religious rights on our ancestral homeland. Everything on this Land
is connected to our prayers, our songs, and our culture. So we are very
strongly protecting our Land because the energy company, Peabody Coal
Company, as well as the U.S. government, the Navajo and Hopi Tribal
governments, and the BIA are looking at this land – Cactus Valley/Red
Willow Springs Sovereign Community/ Big Mountain are to be strip mined in the
next 2-10 years.

“We have only a very small piece of our Land left. This Land has a lot
of things that are still here with us as part of our traditional way of
life: ceremonial sand painting, sacred springs that are used for ceremonials, and also
our shrines, offering places, and burial sites. Many of the elderly still
follow our religion and pass it on to the young generation.

“After Peabody Coal Company destroyed those places and those things by
putting up the strip mine, every one of those medicine people who lived
there lost their lives because their prayers and songs and the place
where they connected with the Spirits was destroyed. This is what we have
seen. This is why we need the Land to be protected under the International
Human Rights and Religious Freedom laws. We need to ask the International
Body to do more research and take strong action on our concerns.

“In our religion we have our songs and prayers about the rain and the
water and the Mother Earth, to use in the ceremonials. We feel like our
prayers and our songs have all been wasted by the strip mining, drained with the
liver (coal) of the Mother Earth over 287 miles away by coal slurry
line. The power from this coal is used by millions of people in the big city.

“However, our Grandfathers and Grandmothers are still holding a bundle
to pray for the water to return, and to bring back a good rain and a good
snow for the Land, for the people who remain on the Land, for their
grandchildren and the animals.

“Our Grandmother said, “the Mother Earth needs healing. Black Mesa
needs to be healed, because she had a big surgery. Her liver (coal) and other
things have been taken out. This is why we, the Grandmothers, can’t heal
ourselves even if we try to pray.” This is what our Grandmother used to say,
Roberta Blackgoat. Even though she left us for another spirit world we still
respect her words and keep it alive on these sacred lands.”

We will remember these words and continue to pass them on, along with
the loving memory of our respected and beloved advisor, teacher and friend
Kee Watchman.

I have also enclosed a photo of Kee that was just sent to me by our
friend Sky Crosby, who was with Kee when he passed away today and was a great
source of moral support to Kee and his family throughout his illness.

For all our relations,

Andrea Carmen
Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council
Web Site: www.treatycouncil.org


A presentation by a friend at the service for Kee:

Ya’a` teh

We have come here today to express our condolences, and pay our respects to
Kee Watchman, spiritual leader, environmental and cultural conservationist,
gentle warrior and friend, a humble, inspirational, active voice, and
light, in the darkness of oppression.

Kee loved the land and the people of his homeland and his nation. He talked
tirelessly about the sacred plants and herbs that are used traditionally
for healing, and how they were being destroyed by the mine. He talked about
how the water and the air were being misused and polluted by the mine, and
he questioned why these basic natural resources were being violated by
ignorant people who didn’t care, or were more interested in their power and
greed to do something about it. For years he fought the forced relocation
of his people from their homelands and the destruction of their ability to
practice their traditional ways, their religion.

So he went to the Navajo Nation and fought for the basic human rights to
their traditional lands, their sacred ways and their sacred sites.

So he went to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva,
Switzerland to talk about the human rights violations in Cactus Valley, in
Red Willow Springs, in Big Mountain, and about the international plight of
Native Peoples. He met people from all over the world in the same
predicament, and he joined them, supported them and fought for them.

How can we thank him enough. We owe him respect, and honor, that his work,
his life and his sacrifice were not in vain. He knew that we must never
give up this work, that we must apply endless pressure endlessly. We’re all
in this together. We owe him a commitment to carry on his work, because
this work is not finished.

I honor and pray for Kee’s family, especially Sara Begay, who have had the
courage, and strength, to release Kee, with his agreement, into the Spirit

I knew Kee for many years. I sponsored much of his work here at home and at
the UN.

People all over the world knew Kee and have responded by sending their
thoughts and photos which you see around you. Here are a few quotes:

From Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty
“Kee’s commitment to the survival of his Nation, the human rights of
Indigenous Peoples, the protection of our sacred Mother Earth and the unity
of the human family were unshakable. His wisdom and courage, dignity,
humility and gentle kindness in the face of relentless repression and
struggle were an inspiration to his community and to all of us. We will not
forget him.”

From Annmarie Sauer, Chloride, AZ, Strasburg, Germany. From her new book
on the Navajo and Hopi:
Muskrat Spring: here too water for ceremonials was gathered, offerings were
made, hand prints can be seen. On the rocks there used to be salt gathered
for ceremonies. Kee says: Just as this spring, many others have dried up
because of the use by Peabody Coal Mine of the Aquifer. Peabody Coal
destroys the springs, contaminates the land and the water. A good
ceremonial is needed before the water comes back. (I can see a black dust
film on the small puddle that used to be a flowing spring.) The
grandmothers living over the coal feel threatened by the coal company who
tears out the liver of mother earth for electricity in Las Vegas, Phoenix
and Los Angeles. Mother earth needs help. The sacred springs and burial
sites have to be saved. The land should be restored. We pray, each in our
own way to restore harmony to these mesa’s.

From Linnea Karlsson in Sweden
“I wish to give thanks to Kee Watchman’s family for sharing Kee with us
here in Sweden. I am honored for that gift. I want you to know that you are

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