Elder Faces Threat
Big Mountain Elder Faces Threat of Charges for Ceremonial Lodge. Elder Served Notice That Rebuilding Ceremonial Lodge is Illegal.
Big Mountain, Black Mesa, AZ, June 2, 2008 – On Wednesday, May 20th, key traditional elder resister to the relocation laws, Pauline Whitesinger, was served a notice to halt “new” construction of an earth lodge commonly known as a hogan, and this notice was served by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agency deputized officers, Hopi Tribal Range Technicians.
In addition to this warning about “illegal” construction activity, officers attempted to get personal information from a non-Indian volunteer helper and sheepherder. The issued notice also stated that elder Whitesinger is having an “unauthorized” guest and thus, she is violating ‘laws’ of the Hopi Tribe.
Pauline Whitesinger, a traditional Dineh (Navajo) matriarch and is about 76 years old, has defied federal laws to relocate and to not practice her ancient traditional livelihood anymore. Whitesinger is one of the only few elders left in the Big Mountain area who has stood her ground to not recognize the U.S. Congressional mandate to give up the culture, her history, her peoples’ ritual ways, and to ultimately relocate. Big Mountain region is the largest area that was partitioned to a non-Dineh territory status in 1977. Along with other key elder resisters, many who are now deceased, Whitesinger has based her purpose and principles to resist these harsh, federal Indian policies on what can only be translated as aboriginal sovereignty and on the spiritual obligations to Big Mountain area’s sacredness. Today, these elders and some of their extended families are also opposed to Peabody’s coal mining operations and proposal to expand operations.
The Hopi Tribe is a ‘recently’ formed local and tribal institution (circa 1964), and it has been and is still funded and backed by the BIA under the U.S. Department of the Interior. The original Hopi sovereignty was once based on village authorities known as Kwimongis or Village Chiefs, and there are documented evidences that show how the U.S. BIA has attempted for over three decades to undermine and ousted the Kwimongi authority. It was not until the late 1950s when coal and utility companies were interested in the Black Mesa coal fields that a part time attorney for Peabody was hired to form a ‘federally recognized’ tribal council in Hopi country. This is how all modern-day tribal governments were created and they were not formed by “two-thirds of all adult male members of the tribe” as the treaties have specified. Despite evidences and equitable claims that showed how Peabody and utility companies conspired by secretly lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass the Indian Relocation Act (P.L. 93-531), the modern Hopi administrators exert a false authority to repress traditional indigenous practices and to segregate a rightful universal human association.
Conquering of the Indians: A final strife or just a resurgence of native resistance
Some Big Mountain residents celebrated their 30th anniversary for their traditional resistance in October of 2007. A few local elder resistance leaders were in attendance when, in her keynote address, Pauline Whitesinger stressed the rebuilding of the indigenous identity by facilitating cultural learning programs and that such coordinated efforts would lead to reclaiming the indigenous existence and the restoration of the ecological balances. Whitesinger had also emphasized that Big Mountain Dineh must stop the way they respond to BIA-Hopi law enforcement threats: “Do not let (them) take control of your lives and our lives by instilling fear in you. This is our country which our ancestors kept and passed down to us. This country has never belonged to Washington…”
On June 1, 2008, Pauline said that she will continue building and finishing her earth lodge which she says is a replacement for the one that recently began to collapsed due to age and government restrictions to rebuild or improve residencies unless “authorized.” Pauline has never signed any agreement with any tribal nor federal agencies because she believes in the traditional and spiritual agreements that she has with Creation since she is a carrier of the sacred mountain soil bundle. It is so obvious that the BIA-Hopi administrators will not give authorization even if Pauline requested a new structure or even if she requested for an “authorized” gathering on her land.
Pauline has taken an initiative, on her own, to request some assistance from Navajo officials responsible for the welfare of the residents living inside the partitioned lands. A local tribal official has written a letter to the Office of Hopi Lands (OHL) explaining that Whitesinger’s new earth lodge is not a “new” construction but that it is a rebuilding of an old existing ‘hogan’ that has become dangerous to live in or to have ceremonies in. New logs were added because former log-parts were unfit for structural use. Furthermore, the Whitesinger extended families are planning one of the most sacred Blessing Way ceremony, the Kinaldaa’, and that like all other ceremonies requires the circular earthen lodge.
As of this writing, there has been no reply from the OHL to the local tribal official headquarter but the notice issued to Whitesinger in May concludes, “failure to comply may result in legal proceedings to enforce ‘rights’ against you.” Pauline’s response to being asked what message she would like to be heard among those that sympathize with indigenous struggles and among her non-native friends: “I will finish my lodge. It has always been my right to maintain ritual ways like the Kinaldaa’. I must mention also that it is my right to live in a sustainable way even though we, Dineh, are accused by the BIA-Hopis that we have polluted the lands. Those pollutions we were never aware of because when Washington introduced modernization upon us they never said we were acquiring dangerous pollutants. Finally, I told that tribal ranger officer that if they try to interfere with my construction, ‘I will pick up one of those thin logs and ‘wack’ your head from behind and perhaps then, we would have a real Navajo-Hopi land dispute!’ Tell my friends and those who will understand my struggle that, what has been done to me recently is like what happens when you disturbed a napping rattle snake.”
Support the Matriarch’s Stand: you will be learning about reinforcing humanity
All over the world the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to exist with their spiritual cultures and ecologically-based aboriginal territories are under attack. These attacks are taken place in the name of maximized corporate profit. Peabody coal company is not only the world’s largest producer of coal but it also has its hands in the blood and in the suffering of indigenous population whose lands are rich in mineral and natural resources. Pauline Whitesinger is still one of those examples of indigenous leaders who are speaking out to save mother earth and speaking out on behalf of all races and cultures of the world. There are definitely consequences to altering the eco-system and now, accredited scientific studies are verifying that the root cause of climate change is fossil fuel burning industries. It must be understood that the ‘unaccredited’ wisdom of indigenous wise people like Pauline have warned societies that earth is not a commodity but a living being with greater intelligent than we might realize.
Help rebuild indigenous communities that are struggling to maintain their sovereignty. Stop the local and global madness of urban expansions that believe there will always be water and electricity. Stop the global madness of industrialize wars that believe there will be always be petroleum and the power of market economies.
For more information about how you can contribute or to learn more about the Black Mesa & Big Mountain resistance to Peabody coal mining and federal relocation policies, visit the Take Action page on the Black Mesa Indigenous Support website.
Send comments and/or demands regarding elder Whitesinger’s case:
Hopi means People of Peace and with this great honorable name, Hopis are to be steward of mother earth and they are to meditate and pray for all humanity and life. To dishonor this, you are no longer a Hopi. Furthermore, the so-called Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute never existed but only existed in colonial fabrication. Pauline Whitesinger whose people and nation are victims of such fabrication, and she should not be interfered with in her efforts to maintain ancient ceremonial obligations.
Mr. Clayton Honyumptewa
Office of Hopi Lands
(928) 734-2441 Ext. 207
Written letters to:
P.O. Box 123
Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039
Also you can help by informing your Congressional Representatives:
This continuous infliction of human suffering on Black Mesa and at Big Mountain needs to be address, and since the United States created Public Law 93-531, they are accountable to decades of human rights violation and religious intolerance. A Congressional Oversight Hearing is long overdue and it is immediately necessary to evaluate the outcomes of the policies mandated through the Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation Commission and P.L. 93-531, 25 U.S. Code Section 640d-1 ET SEQ. , (as amended by P.L. 96-305, 1980).
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©Sheep Dog Nation Rocks, June 2008