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September 12, 2009 by  
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A Snapshot of Life For Residents of the Big Mountain Regions of Black Mesa &
An Opportunity To Support Indigenous Resistance To U.S. Colonization in 2009

On behalf their peoples, their sacred ancestral lands, and future generations, more than 350 Dineh residents of Black Mesa continue to carry out a staunch resistance to the efforts of the US Government, which is acting in the interests of the Peabody Coal Company, to devastate whole communities and ecosystems and greatly de-stabilize our planet’s climate for the profit of an elite few. This land is the basis for the Black Mesa peoples’ traditions, livelihoods, and spirituality.

Indigenous nations are disproportionately targeted by fossil fuel extraction & environmental devastation and Black Mesa is no exception. At this moment, Peabody still planing ways to continue their occupation of tribal lands under the guise of extracting “clean coal,” which does not exist.   Peabody’s Black Mesa mine has been the source of an estimated 325 million tons of CO2 that have been discharged into the atmosphere.   In 30 years of disastrous operation, Dine’ and Hopi communities in Arizona have been ravaged by Peabody’s coal mining, which has taken land from and forcibly relocated thousands of families, has drained 2.5 million gallons of water daily from the only community water supply, and has left a toxic legacy along an abandoned 273-mile coal slurry pipeline. Additionally Peabody has completely dug up burials, sacred areas, and shrines designated specifically for offerings, preventing religious practices.

Ignoring protests from Dineh and Hopi communities and their allies, the U.S. Government (Office of Surface Mining) recently permitted Peabody Energy to extend it’s massive strip-mining operations until 2026 or until the coal is gone. Peabody Coal Co. plans to seize another 19,000 acres of sacred land beyond the 67,000 acres already in Peabody’s grasp at Black Mesa. Coal from the Black Mesa mine could contribute an additional 290 million tons of CO2 to the global warming crisis!*

Peabody Energy, previously Peabody Coal Company, is the world’s largest private-sector coal company, operating mines throughout North America, South America, and Australia and is the twelfth largest coal exporter. In addition Peabody is proposing new coal-fired power plants in several states.   Peabody’s coal mining expansion  could exacerbate already devastating environmental and cultural impacts on local communities and significantly add fuel to the fire of the current climate chaos we face globally.

“The Big Mountain matriarchal leaders always believed that  resisting forced relocation will eventually benefit all ecological systems, including the human race.” Bahe Keediniihii, Dineh organizer and translator states. “Continued residency by families throughout the Big Mountain region has a significant role in the intervention to Peabody Coal’s future plan for Black Mesa coal to be the major source of electrical energy, increasing our dependency on fossil fuel and contributing to global warming. We will continue to fight to defend our homelands.”

Daily life for Big Mountain residents hasn’t changed too much over the years, except that more of them have become elderly and now struggle with daily chores. Institutional racism has fueled neglect and abandonment of public needs such as water, maintenance of roads, health care, and schools. Due to lack of local job opportunities and federal strangulation on Indian self-sufficiency, extended families are forced to live many miles away to earn incomes and have all the social amenities which include choices in mandatory American education. It is increasingly difficult for families to come back to visit their relatives in these remote areas due to the unmaintained roads and the rising cost of transportation.

“What is happening at Big Mountain today is a traditional struggle to resist US policies of human removal and corporate occupation by Peabody Western Coal Company. First, image yourself thinking about your ancestry whether it happens to be Celtic, German, Slavic, Irish, or indigenous of Turtle Island. Think about them as they might have seen their elders and how those ancestral elders might have tried to stay on the lands, to keep the language, to continue farming, and to freely hunt game. Then at the same time a greedy empire with military-might is forcibly taking over their lands and sometime back in that history, your ancestors are witnessing the loss of sovereignty and the control of their own cultural and ritual destinies. Today, this is the very experience that is taking place at Big Mountain.”**

“Since my childhood, I have seen the rapid changes in our indigenous lives at Big Mountain. Once upon a time, the mode of travel was mostly by horses and horse-drawn wagons even though there were occasional automobiles. The Dineh of Big Mountain were still having their large ceremonial gatherings, and communities were overseen by the authorities of the Clan Mothers. That was just over forty years ago! Today our youth do not speak the language, U.S. laws prohibit us from gathering the herbs, spring water, tobacco, and the necessary minerals for the endangered healing ceremonials that we try to conduct. The morning twilight and the evening twilight that we still pray to today at Big Mountain are tainted and obstructed by brown haze of global, industrial pollution. There is only a very few of us left on Big Mountain, and our aging elders and matriarchs are trying their best to encourage us to keep up the fight for mother earth and the future.”**

Furthermore, as of fall 2009, it’s been an extremely dry year. Monsoon season really didn’t happen and everything is brown and dried up.

Ways you can support:

* Join the Caravan & Be Self-Sufficient! By joining one of the volunteer work crews, you are expected to be adequately prepared and self-sufficient prior to your visit on Black Mesa, which is a very remote area in a high desert terrain. There is no electricity, no central heating, and no running water. You must come prepared, and bring everything you will need.  There could be extreme weather, and it will be cold especially at night! Each participant will need to bring food, water, outdoor camping gear (although we will likely be staying inside with families), very warm clothing, and appropriate attire for hands-on manual work.   Coming equipped with chainsaws, trucks, shovels, axes & mauls dramatically increases your effectiveness as a work crew!

* Read and sign the Cultural Sensitivity & Preparedness Guide: All direct, on-land supporters of Black Mesa are required to thoroughly read over and sign the Cultural Sensitivity & Preparedness Guide. This document is an in-depth guide that contains important information that you will need prior to and during your visit with a host family on Black Mesa. This guide gives you crucial information about what to expect, what to bring, how to be adequately prepared, background and current his/herstory, safety and legal issues, cultural sensitivity, code of conduct, and a suggested list of what to bring with you. We want to ensure that each person is informed about the agreements & basic requests by these communities, that each person is safe and accounted for, and that we have your contact and emergency contact info should an emergency arise. It is of the utmost importance that each caravan participant understand and respect the ways of the communities that we will be visiting. Please print out, sign, & bring this guidebook with you during your visit to Black Mesa.

* Pre-register: To help us estimate how many people to expect as well as to help us make necessary accommodations for all.

* Host or attend regional organizational meetings in your area: We strongly urge participants to attend or organize regional meetings. Caravan coordinators are located in Prescott, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Colorado, Ithaca, NY, and the San Francisco’s Bay Area. The meeting locations and dates will be posted at the BMIS website as coordinators set them up.  If you are interested in helping coordinate, contact BMIS. This caravan will be collaborating with the annual Clan Dyken Fall Food & Supply Run on Black Mesa.

* Raise Awareness about Black Mesa and the caravan. You can obtain literature from BMIS.

* Organize fundraisers: At the weeks prior to every caravan, grassroots supporters from all over throw benefits to raise the much-needed funds, for such things as supplies, wood, and direct, on-land people-support. Please contact BMIS for guidelines prior to any fund-raising in the name of Big Mountain and Black Mesa.

* Collect supplies: Chainsaws, axes, mauls, axe & maul handles, chainsaw files, tools of all kinds, organic food, warm blankets, and especially trucks (either to donate to families or to use for the week of the caravan) are greatly needed on the land to make this caravan work! Building materials, tools, & supplies are needed for projects.  Check out our Projects Needs List!
We are not receiving nor relying on any institutional funding for these support efforts, but are instead counting on each person’s ingenuity, creativity, and hard work to make it all come together. We are hoping to raise enough money through our community connections for gas, specifically for collecting wood and food for host families, and for work projects.

* Stay with a family on Black Mesa: Families living in resistance to coal mining and relocation laws are requesting self-sufficient guests who are willing to give three or more weeks of their time, especially in the winter. Since it is crucial to have good help out there and not create more work for the families, all supporters are required to read and sign the Cultural Sensitivity Preparedness Guide. Contact BMIS in advance so that we can make arrangements prior to your stay, to answer any questions that you may have, and so we can help put you in touch with a family.
May the resistance of Big Mountain and surrounding communities on Black Mesa always be remembered, and supported!

Black Mesa Indigenous Support

*BMP DEIS / Black Mesa Water Coalition

** Excerpts from ‘Chief Loner Sailed to Alcatraz Island to Re-Discover Columbus’ by Bahe Keediniihii of Big Mountain (www.sheepdognationrocks.blogspot.com):

Black Mesa Indigenous Support
P.O. Box 23501, Flagstaff, Arizona 86002
Voice Mail: 928.773.8086

Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) is a grassroots, all volunteer run collective dedicated to working with and supporting the indigenous peoples of Black Mesa in their Struggle for Life and Land who are targeted by & resisting unjust large-scale coal mining operations and forced relocation policies of the US government.

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