by Betty Reid
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
"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."
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or call (602) 444-8049.