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Originally Published AUG 2000

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Photo courtesy of SENAA Sweden, Frame by Al Swilling.
Used with permission.



a regular feature of SENAA West


This month's message was provided by Uncle Jake.


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21 August 2000


Introduction by Uncle Jake

Roberta has asked me to send the following statement to you all. It is a from more than a year ago, but I think it timely to remind you

all about what is going on here. The Federal government is currently planning how it will forcibly remove approximately 100 traditional people from their homes. This is happening now. This is not history.

STATEMENT To the United States Congress by Dine (Navajo) Families

February 1999.

On January 25, 1999, Roberta Blackgoat, a Dineh Elder and traditional woman, was issued a letter by the Federal Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation program. Identical letters were also issued to seven other Dineh families that continue to reside on their ancestral land which was awarded out from under them in 1978, to the Hopi Tribe, by the United States District Court of Arizona.

According to the current related federal law (PL 104-301 and the Accommodation Agreement that accompanies it) Roberta Blackgoat and 6 families whom all disagree with the Agreement, must now (Before April 25th, 1999) accept relocation or accept eviction. Should they fail to make relocation arrangements, according to the January 25th notice, they "..will no longer have the right to reside on..." their ancestral lands "... and will be subject to eviction..." These families have stated their refusal to relocate from their ancestral lands since PL 93-531 went into effect, 1974.

On February 11th, 1999 these families met to discuss the implications of the notice. They made this statement to the United States Congress:

To Roberta Blackgoat it meant, "... the notice is telling me that I have only 90 more days to live..."

To Laverne Shorty, a young mother, "... I tried to explain in Navajo to my elderly grandmother (Irene Yazzie) who is 98 years old what eviction means, there just isn't any simple way to explain this...." I try not to show my tears in front of my kids; I only cry when I am alone. I think about that awful day when the federal government will actually be evicting us. What will really happen to us? Will they bring the national guards, federal marshals with their heavy equipments.."

Sarah W Begay also says, ".. when the federal employees came in January, 1999 to deliver the notice they also threatened me and my family that if we do not accept the relocation assistance within 90 days, my home and religious sites will all be destroyed. This threat puts a lot of fear in us"

While no-one is exactly sure what will really happen, the fact is that their lives will become the decision of the U.S. Attorney, the Secretary of the Interior and the Hopi Tribe "for action as they deem appropriate". The families talk about their strong conviction to their religion, land and family.

Sarah W. Begay who also takes care of her 98 year old mother, Irene Yazzie, says.... ".. the great spirit planted us here and we have commitment to uphold and follow our religious ways. The Holy Ones gave us sheep and our way of life, we cannot leave these and begin a new life somewhere else."

Roberta Blackgoat also talked about what her forefathers taught about her ancestral land..... " we are taught that the way our fork-stick hogans are built actually is a replica of our religion, prayers, songs and the sacred mountains surrounding the Dineh land. Where we live is actually where ceremonial paraphernalia and other sacred items are placed during ceremonies. Because of my convictions to this belief, I just simply cannot live any other life anywhere else. We must remain here, we cannot be forced to re-live the long walk."

To Laverne Shorty who is 32 years old with 7 children, says, ..."as a young parent I think about the teaching of our elderlies. I prefer my kids to learn more about these teachings, and caring for livestock, tending to cornfields and having greater respect and appreciation for nature, than to live with my kids in cluster type homes like in Tuba City or the New Lands. In these new communities there is so much crime and other social problems which kids easily get into. For the sake of my kids I would prefer to stay here."

To Ida Clinton, an Elder from Teestoh, ..." the federal government must understand what it is doing to us; it must be corrected and must not abruptly carry out its eviction. It will only waste its money and resources and face a national disgrace. I shed tears just thinking about it."

Because these families feel that they are caught between two laws (supernatural laws and federal laws) they make another plea to the United States Congress and request that they make every effort yo UNDERSTAND them and take the APPROPRIATE action this time.

Sarah W. Begay says, " What is wrong with just letting us be and let us continue to live in harmony with nature, with our religion and our belief as the Holy Ones intended us to live? I always humble myself before my Maker and ask for restoration of peace and harmony. I just want to relax and enjoy my life into the old age. We are not committing any wrong; we are just living a life we are meant to live."

Roberta Blackgoat says, "... I just want to remain here where my ancestries and forefathers remained. I wish to reach my final destination right here through old age. What possible harm could I commit to anyone, to nature and to the environment, I am 81 years old now. I have not committed any harm in all my life while living on my land."

Ida Clinton says, " Our situation should be thoroughly thought out and discussed and resolved in a favorable way. The government needs to slow down  and not jerk our lives around and change that part of the policies that are meant to harm us."

William Begay Jr., request that,...." The laws be amended by the U.S. Congress and Federal Governments, so these families and their future generations can live on their traditional-use areas, caring for the land, offering prayers, gathering traditional healing herbs, and raising livestock. Living in this traditional Dineh life way is like, for us, every breath is a prayer, life is not separate from religion or the land. We are all connected."

END of Roberta Blackgoat's Statement...


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© January, 2000. All Rights Reserved.


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