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BMIS Newsletter Fall 2013

October 23, 2013 by  
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Sovereign Dineh Nation Survival School 2013

Last year, the SDN Survival School reconvened after a 20 year hiatus. This year, the revival continued! For two weekends in October—the 5-6th and the12-14th—there was an “intergenerational forum for the sharing of traditional and contemporary survival skills” hosted at a family’s home site.  This year’s activities focused on weaving, pottery, and traditional foods in addition to workshops on watercolor painting, beading, archery, Dineh bi’zaad bo’hoaah’ (Dineh language) and more! Host, Elder Mae Tso,  had this to say of the event (translated by Bahe Kateny):

Mae Tso, Mosquito Springs Community – Big Mountain, October 13, 2013. At last day of BM-SDN Survival School, speaking to all Dineh and non-Native supporters:  “This will be a memorable little gathering we had. There were much cultural teachings and exchange like the archery, gifts of harvest variety, our sister Etta Begay sharing wisdom about the corn meal bread making, and there were the knowledge about butchering animal to make meats. I, too, wish for this SDN school to keep growing and we are going to try again to plan for next year, but this time we have to see if our peoples really care about our traditional survival ways. We need our peoples’ input because our dreams within this resistance are that, we like to bring back the songs of the Ndaa’h, stories about the T’aache’, more crafting skills like arrow, bow, rawhide rope, wool weaving, and pottery making. We need our children back and our grandchildren to return so that they can experience the empowerment of spending time on their Homelands.  We have resisted all these years so that they can continue on these lands but instead, they have urbanized themselves far away from these places out here. Most of them never come out to check on us.On behalf of the elders in resistance and to you non-Native supporters, we wish to inform you that we know about the many obstacles you face in terms of the political and economic processes. We know that you have to volunteer your time to come out and assist in whatever way you can, and you do have to deal with many more challenges out here on our lands. But together and in the spirit of trust, joy and understanding, we have made it this far. Most importantly, we did not meet in a normal quiet social setting but instead you all came out in the midst of our calling because our homes and lands were under siege by inhumane activities. You all came out when we were trying to stop the partitioning fences, stop the impoundment of the sheep and the horses, and to stop the police from disrupting our lives. Our long lived relationship is based on these, and many of you also volunteer your time in other places where the earth and peoples’ culture are being desecrated. Here at Big Mountain, we have loss many of our strong elders and some are now so old, and we still do our best to stay in solidarity with All Relations that are in defense of all living things and all indigenous existence. We continue to stay on our homelands and we shall maintain this native resistance.

Fall Caravan/Wood Run Update

We’re so grateful for the last five years of fall caravans/wood runs and all the energy, learning, building, and the inspiration from the elders that comes with them. Since many people in the network have returned regularly over the years, there’s been an exciting amount of consistent, smaller work parties organized throughout the year. These are great opportunities to bring new people out to the land, connect with families, and get a number of projects done. This year BMIS will not be organizing a centralized fall gathering in late November, but are calling for the network to organize smaller work parties in order to respond to the communities’ requests for wood. At this point a couple of regional coordinators are planning small wood crews and we can put groups in touch with families to spend ThingsTaken (Thanksgiving) break out on Black Mesa herding sheep, hauling water, cutting wood, and other winter preparation.


Decolonizing the Mind/Mine Reportback

Below are a few short participant reflections on the June 2013 “Decolonizing the Mind/Mine” gathering on Black Mesa.  BMIS would like to express our immense gratitude to the community and those who attended the gathering for bringing about such powerful cross- movement dialogue. Community member Marie Gladue’s facilitation, using the four directions traditional planning process, led to rare connections made between spiritual practice and resistance, and created possibilities for joint struggle among frontline resistance communities as well as several organizations operating in solidarity.

From the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:  
“This June, IJAN U.S. organizers attended a gathering held at Big Mountain/Black Mesa that focused on decolonization. Big Mountain/Black Mesa is a portion of the ancestral homeland of the Diné (Navajo) people who since the 1970’s have been resisting relocation by Peabody Coal and the U.S. Government over coal extraction. The gathering, organized by Black Mesa Indigenous Support in collaboration with the community of resisters on Black Mesa (the Diné organizers involved in the resistance struggle), sought to lay groundwork for joint struggle by bringing together organizations working on the front lines of anti-colonial struggles, as well as allied organizations.

The week included a powerful lineup of workshops on the struggle on Black Mesa and the history of the Diné people; the Hawaiian sovereignty movement; the Palestinian Struggle against settler colonialism and Zionism; hip hop as a culture of resistance; the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border; and resistance to mountaintop removal, a form of coal extraction in the Appalachian region of the U.S. IJAN was asked to facilitate a discussion about the frameworks of solidarity and joint struggle.

The gathering was attended by Black Mesa community members, Diné youth, and representatives from the Palestinian Youth Movement, Forgotten Peoples, Ka Lei Maile Ali’i Hawaiian Civic Club, Idle No More Central Oklahoma, Great Plains Tars Sands Resistance, Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival (RAMPS), the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, No More Deaths, the Just Seeds Artists Cooperative, Shining Soul (an O’odham and Chicano hip hop duo) and IJAN.”
From Nick Mullins:
“My family and I recently had the honor of joining these elders thanks to the efforts of groups like Black Mesa Indigenous Support and their affiliations with Appalachian groups such as the RAMPS Campaign. High on Black Mesa we joined dozens of other people to camp out on a Navajo homestead for a week,  working to help the elders and to share stories of struggle from other places.
It was a different life, rising with the sun, herding sheep through desert landscapes where the kids often met with the needle of a prickly pear, found their socks covered in Russian thistle, and fought off the constant biting of desert fleas. We sheared sheep the old fashioned way using sheep shearing scissors, we cooked for the elders, and my children even shoveled sheep manure out of a corral. We only spent hours doing what people are accustomed to doing all of their lives and we learned a great deal of respect in doing so.
Back at camp we heard stories from Palestine and Hawaii, from the Lakota of Oklahoma, and more about the struggles on Black Mesa. In many cases it was the same story, people who only wished to live by the old ways of caring for the land, not asking for much in return, and yet finding themselves fighting each day, hoping that the spoiled reckless greed of our civilization will not continue destroying the lands and culture they have clung to for thousands of years…Standing on a hill above the homestead I watched the massive booms of drag lines swinging back and forth on the horizon and the plumes of dust rising from blasts. I knew the the mine was ever approaching and feelings of deep sorrow mixed with feelings of tremendous respect for the people living here. Thousands of miles away from my Appalachian home in a foreign environment, I began to feel even more strongly the connections: the power of all life, the struggles we all face, and the need to protect our children’s future. If only people could understand as the native elders do—that the land, the water, and the air are more important than any man made economy ever could be.”From Rebel Diaz:
“The Din’eh people are waging a courageous struggle against years of genocide and land theft from the US government and the Peabody Coal Company. We were honored to spend a week in Black Mesa with the brave Din’eh grandmothers who have refused to leave their ancestral lands. We helped plow the land, herd sheep, build an outhouse and finished the week with a performance under the bright stars of the Arizona desert.”

Navajo Generating Station

From Katherine Locke (Navajo-Hopi Observer): “On Sept. 25 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted an alternate proposal by the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) Technical Working Group for reducing harmful emissions at the northern Arizona power plant. Under the proposal one of the three units will be shut down. In exchange the owners would have until 2030 to install selective catalytic reduction scrubbers on the other two units.”

The EPA will hold five open house and public hearing events on NGS’s lease renewal at locations throughout Arizona onNovember 12-15, 2013:

November 12: LeChee, Ariz.Open House/Hearing: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. LeChee Chapter House

November 12: Page, Ariz. Open House: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Public Hearing: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Page High School Cultural Arts Building,

November 13: Kykotsmovi Village  Open House: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Public Hearing: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Hopi Day School

November 14: Phoenix, Ariz. Open House: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Public Hearing: 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Phoenix Convention Center

November 15: Tucson, Ariz. Open House: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Public Hearing: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Pima Community College West Campus Proscenium Theatre, Center for the Arts Building

For More Information on the EPA’s ruling and comment period on NGS, check here.

From Big Mountain Resident and Climate Justice Activist Louise Benally: “NGS, Peabody, SRP, they are all a part of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) a group of politicians and corporate CEOs that write laws to ensure profit while they undermine democracy, Treaty rights, the very balance of the planet. These colonial powers are undermining our water rights, rights to ancestral homeland, clean air, health of communities and plants and animals and use the same techniques to undermine government’s power all around to world to access resources. Extinctions, air pollution, the survival of our people and way of life, our Tribal government doesn’t consider these things. To give coal development more time, they’re giving away our future.”

Missourians Organizing Against Peabody

A St. Louis-based organization called Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) has launched a ballot campaign against Peabody Energy, which has its corporate headquarters in St. Louis.  They are gathering signatures to stop the city of St. Louis from giving Peabody tax breaks.  Part of their open letter describing their campaign reads:

“We do not believe that companies like Peabody Coal who profit off of the destruction of the environment and their workers deserve our taxpayer dollars. Similarly, we do not believe that those who support Peabody and other extraction companies deserve our money.

Recent controversies surrounding Peabody have raised even more reasons why Peabody should not receive our public money. In the past year, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has marched downtown many times, demanding Peabody provide the healthcare benefits owed to 10,000 retired miners. Dine (Navajo) from Black Mesa, Arizona have traveled all the way to St. Louis to insist, after decades of exploitation, that Peabody stop its forced relocation of Dine families to expand coal mining operations. Peabody is also under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission about its role in the development of the Prairie State Energy Campus that has left Missouri towns like Marceline and Hannibal on the hook for large electricity rate increases. We can no longer treat Peabody as if it is a good neighbor to St. Louis while, just beyond the city limits, Peabody is exploiting miners and communities. Peabody’s dishonorable business model is not one on which to base our local economy. “

Keep up the good work MORE! You can follow their work on Facebook @ Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.


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