Navajo Who Resisted Land Transfer is Dead 
Woman Fought U.S., Hopis for Home

by Betty Reid
The Arizona Republic 
27 April 2002
   

The federal government tried but failed to move Roberta Blackgoat off of Tsť Ta'a', Thin Rock, her cherished plot of land in remote northeastern Arizona.

Later, the Hopi Tribe tried, too–and also failed.

On Tuesday, Blackgoat finally left. She died during a trip to San Francisco, family members say. She was in her mid-80s and was still resisting the decades-long efforts to transfer her land to the Hopis to settle a Navajo-Hopi land dispute.

The elderly Navajo woman, often dressed in a calico skirt and shirt gathered at the collar with a safety pin, told people during the past 30 years that her traditional Navajo faith tied her to the land, which she addressed as Mother Earth; and on numerous occasions, she scrimmaged with federal police officers over land issues.

On Friday, friends and family members were gathering in Tuba City to plan her memorial. The Hopi Tribe issued a press statement offering its condolences to Blackgoat's family.

Betty Tso, a 37-year-old Tuba City resident whose mother continues to live on Hopi land, remembered Blackgoat protecting an herb patch near her home. The federal government and the Hopi Nation had started work on restoring the land, bringing in bulldozers.

"Roberta stood in front of the 'dozer and said, 'You have to scoop me out of the way to do this project,' " Tso said. "She spent the night in jail with two other ladies, but Roberta stopped the project."

Though she lived in a cobblestone house 25 miles from the nearest highway and without running water or electricity, Blackgoat traveled throughout the world telling about the plight of Navajo families who wanted to stay on land they were born and raised on.

Percy Deal, president of Hardrock Chapter of the Navajo Nation, said the community is saddened to lose a prominent member who left a legacy. He admired Blackgoat's conviction of upholding traditional Navajo faith.

"She always said that someday we are going to be called back, and when the call comes, we will return back to Mother Earth," Deal said. "Her day has come. And now, she's back with Mother Earth, her mother."

Tom Benally, 49, described Blackgoat as an outspoken woman who stopped the eviction of Navajo families from land awarded to the Hopis. She argued with the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and constantly challenged Hopi leaders.

"Roberta was very intelligent," Benally said. "She wasn't afraid to take on people. What people have to realize is that the land dispute is based on the principles of modern society. It has laws. To Roberta, you can't separate religion from life.

"She lived the life she was taught. She had a song, a prayer and understood her creation story tied to the land she lived on. The land was her."

Reach the reporter at betty.reid@arizonarepublic.com  or call (602) 444-8049.

    


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html