SENAA West Report
Big Mountain Spring Survival Gathering 2004

by Sara Hayes, Director


Note: Names were not given here in hope that they will face no more repercussions as a result of this gathering.

Big Mountain Spring Survival Gathering 2004, held to honor the memory of Grandmother Roberta Blackgoat, brought together supporters of Diné People still residing on the HPL who continue to resist relocation. As a result of this gathering a sense of renewal of this support emerged; it also allowed all who attended to interact with one another, thus building the support network, as well as giving them the opportunity to interact with some of the residents and family members who also attended. The numbers of those present varied as there were comings and goings all the days of this gathering.

Each day began with a sunrise ceremony, participants joining together to welcome the new day with prayer. So the day began with good feelings and thoughts that continued throughout all the days of this gathering, some spending time completing everyday chores like chopping wood, readying the soil for planting, sheepherding, looking out, and cooking meals. Some spent their time listening to the residents as well as speaking to them about their concerns, what was needed, how they could continue their support.

One resident asked that officials be contacted to tell them to stop the mining. This included the OSM (Office of Surface Mining). It was also asked that people write to the BIA in Washington, DC, asking them not to fund the Hopi Tribe for relocation, telling them that this is "destroying the (Diné) People and their lifehood." It was said that Washington, DC is funding this as well as livestock impoundments. When asked about talking to members of Congress regarding the repeal of PL 93-531, there was no confidence that Congress would listen. However, the word must continue to get out accurately about what's going on at Big Mountain.

The days and nights were full. The prayer fire burned continuously so that those who felt the need could go there, and offer prayer throughout the day and evening. In the evenings, supporters gathered together, again listening to family members, sharing ideas, talking about the day's events, talking about the land, watching the night sky, and joking amongst themselves. Some also participated in ceremony at sundown.

While resistance territory is deep in the HPL, those attending were not deterred by the narrow, rough roads filled with rocks and ruts that twisted through dry washes, and up and down canyons as they came to join together in solidarity. What they found there was peace most of the time when the uninvited company, the Hopi Rangers showing up at least twice daily, wasn't around. When they did, the tension was immediately felt. There were the notices delivered like that from the HTC chairman, telling them that they needed a permit to hold this gathering. Shades of Sun Dance 2001 came to mind with this one. There was also supposed to be a letter from the other side, asking that this permit be granted. Nothing came of either.

However, the visits continued, one with two armed FBI along with two Hopi Rangers. I'm not sure what the FBI expected to find at the gathering. Both of the agents were wearing bulletproof vests, one firing questions at one of the organizers of this event after demanding to know who was responsible for it while the other checked out the area around where all this was happening. The agent asking questions inquired about non-Indian squatters (he was told there were some here or so he says), about permanent structures being built, about "protecting the land for the Indians," and much more. These questions were handled with total disrespect for the one being questioned as well as for the Diné grandmother present. The agent really didn't want to listen to anything either had to say, and continued to try to coerce the one being questioned to separate from the crowd who witnessed these actions so that they could hold a "normal conversation." This never happened.

Another Hopi Ranger came the next day, one who said this was his "territory" for patrol, trying to "clear up" matters, saying he knew nothing about the FBI coming until he got back to the "office," that he wanted to check to see "how everyone was doing." saying that the FBI were no longer in the area, that they were looking for "a female on an outstanding warrant." Strange that this was never mentioned while the FBI was present. He also said he wanted to make it perfectly clear that this was "not harassment." Then, as he was leaving, another Hopi Ranger drove by, waving. There had to be a second one. They always appeared in pairs, armed. They always refused to remove their firearms.

Speaking to one who was helping a family out by taking care of the homesite and sheep, he thought he had made good connections with the Hopi Rangers in the area and the members of the Hopi Land Team who often showed up. This wasn't to be the case, however, when they showed up after most attending the gathering had left, telling him to get rid of the livestock, to clear out the belongings in the house and hogan, because they are to be demolished. The day before this, one of the Diné grandmothers expressed her concern about the preservation of this homesite. This must be something on their minds, those who continue to resist.

Now there is concern for what will happen to this homesite where this gathering was held. The threat of the destruction of this historic site is very real. But there isn't only concern for this. There are the grandmothers who attended this gathering. Now that those who attended have left, who is there to witness the harassment they will endure as a result? What message does this promised demolition send to those resisters still living on the HPL? This isn't just a "house" or dishonor of one who fought so hard to preserve their way of life, and their right to remain on the land. It is yet another attempt to break the resistance. 

As one Diné grandmother put it, "This land, the Hopi do not want it. I've been conversing with a Hopi who says we don't want this land here. It was taken for no reason.... They're sorry we are going through some hard times." 

Another younger resident described the continual harassment as something done in a "quiet manner but hostile." 

Please see the press release to see what you can do to help.


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.