"Navajo Sun Dances on Hopi Land"
Subject: Dine'h Response To: Traditional Lakota denounces Navajo Sun Dances on Hopi land
My name is Klee Benally, I am from the Bitter Water and Wandering People Clans.
I consider myself to be a spiritual person that identifies with the traditional Dine' ways of life.
I am very disheartened by your statement and feel compelled to respond. I will try to do this with as much compassion and respect as I can at 2 a.m. I would appreciate it if you or whoever else gets this email would treat it in the same fashion as the one I am responding to, and forward it along with your email so they might get another picture. I have included your full email at the bottom so that anyone who might get this can still read yours. I only speak for myself here, no one else.
First, why wasn't your email signed? This leaves me to doubt a lot about what you say. Who do you work for? I have heard similar statements come from people who work for the U.S. government.
You do not sound like a spiritual person to me. I am thankful that your letter was shortened from 5 pages, I would be afraid to see what other prejudices crept out from between the lines.
I am not a sundancer nor have I ever supported the sundance on big mountain for many of the reasons you have expressed, but I have never expressed my concerns as resentfully as you.
On august 17th of last year I was taken on a journey I never expected to be on. As you might know on that date the Hopi tribal Council, whose government "partitioned land" you are saying these Dineh people are trespassers on, destroyed the Camp Anna Mae sundance grounds. They came at 5:30 a.m. with a backhoe bulldozer, ambulances, and up to 60 armed BIA, state and tribal police. They destroyed the sundance grounds, they cut down the tree of life with a chain saw, chopped it into pieces, put it on a flatbed and hauled it away. They bulldozed the sweatlodges, the arbor and trampled prayer ties, the area looked as if a massacre had taken place.
When I heard the news I was frightened, many of those so called " tress passers" are my clan or blood relatives. I became even more frightened when I heard that one of my cousins was arrested, 18 year old Arrick Crittendon was arrested and charged (and later convicted) for "criminal trespassing", even though his home-site is about 50 feet from where the sundance site was.
This journey began when I visited the site a few days after the desecration. I asked my elders how they felt about this and what it meant to them. Many were crying as they explained the history of how the Lakota ceremony came there.
You said "Several years ago a few Navajo people that live at Big Mountain started to hold Sundances, the Navajo people also claim to have permission for this? I would like to challenge there claim".
My grandmother, who has since passed, explained to me that the ceremony was brought over 18 years ago (not several as you claim) to Big Mountain, she explained that a delegation of Dine' elders traveled to Washington D.C. in order to protest PL 93-531 the "Relocation Act" passed by congress in 1974 that initiated the forced removal of over 14,000 Dine' people from what they know as their traditional homelands. The elders met a delegation of Lakota traditional leaders (she didn't say if they were chiefs or not, but I'm sure if you are as resourceful as you sound you can find out) and expressed their concerns. The Lakota leaders offered the sundance ceremony to the Dine' and Hopi people in order to heal the wounds that were made between them by the U.S. government law.
Did you know that there were Hopi people dancing at the Camp Anna Mae Sundance? What words do you have for them? Or is this something solely against the Navajo People?
Another point I feel I must make now is this; when a patient comes to a medicine person and asks for help, the medicine person cannot refuse them, if the medicine person is truly traditional. I know we have cultural differences but I have seen this be the case with every nation I've had the opportunity to talk with.
Your statements reveal to me something about your perception of history and traditional value.
First, I would expect you, claiming to be a traditional person, would know that no one can own the earth, not Hopi, not Dine', not Lakota. And as such Congressional distribution or division of land would go against that belief as well, yet you use "ownership" language as basis for your argument: "The land at Big Mountain is officially Hopi Land, it was declared Hopi Land by congress in 1974."
Do you know what the Accommodation Agreement is? You bite at Navajo People for not practicing their own ceremonies yet you seem to have a very one sided picture of history. One could accuse you of appropriating the "white-man" way of looking at an issue. As a "traditional" person I would think that you might look into these issues with more heart and compassion, maybe then you would find out a few of the disturbing things about the AA; you're a tenant with a 75 year lease on what was once to you your homeland, you have to get permits to have ceremonies, if you have 3 "strikes" against you, you will be evicted, no true redress. the list goes on.
"The Navajo people do have a history, many believe "The Long Walk" was a result of Disrespecting Traditional Teachings. Apparently they have not learned from there past."
How dare you blame the victim of this horrid atrocity that was committed by the U.S. Government. Are you trying to justify this atrocious tragedy of the past by condemning those Dine' who are expressing a need for healing today? This statement feels tinged with racism. What would you say of the holocaust? the Trail of Tears?
Who are the many that "believe The Long Walk was a result of Disrespecting Traditional Teachings"? I would really like to know. I sense some post colonial influence, to who's history are you referring?
"The Navajo that are still at Big Mountain must ask for and receive permission for any ceremonies, this is true for ALL tribes that want to hold ceremonies on land that is not part of there reservation."
And you think this is right? You are only adding to the argument against your claim to being a "traditional" by vocalizing what you know as "true". Reservation are U.S. imposed boundaries that sometimes don't include our traditional homelands, you put so much faith in these borders, one might think you work for the government or hang around the fort too much. Of all the traditional medicine practitioners I know, my father being one of them, not one feel it right to be required to get a permit to pray, to go to church, or to hold any type of ceremony.
"when the Hopi people exercised there right to stop illegal ceremonies."
How many Hopi people do you know? Of all the ones I have talked to even excluding my friends, none of them supported this desecration. I challenge your use of the word "illegal" in relation to spiritual practice, only the creator, not the law, should have the power to enforce or judge whether someone has the "right " to heal or not.
"The Navajo people at Big Mountain never asked or was granted permission for a Sundance. Many people got angry at the Hopi people for stopping some Navajo people for performing a Lakota Ceremony. I personally was GLAD the Hopi people tried to stop the Navajo Sundancers."
The case against you being traditional is growing, one might as well charge you with being racist.
I don't know anyone who was glad when they burned Black Churches in the south. The correlation isn't hard to make; African American people aren't "traditionally" Catholic or Baptist yet they practice nonetheless. Although how they historically came about practicing those religions is laden in tragedy through colonization, the story of how the sundance came to Big Mountain is quite different.
A few questions here:
Is the Sundance a religion or ceremony?
Do you deny the people the right to heal in whichever way they choose, so long as it doesn't harm another being?
How is the Sundance in Big Mountain harming the Lakota people?
I personally think its clear how the Hopi Tribal Government's repression of the Dine' peoples of Big Mountain is clear, the sundance desecration is only one of many examples of the impeding of the Dine people's right to practice their religious way however they peacefully choose. Now we ask: which side in this so called "dispute" hasn't been peaceful?
Did you know that some Hopi Villages do ceremonies in honor of the Dine' People, and some Dine' medicine people have Hopi Patients? I share this to show that there has been constant trading and exchanging of our cultural tools throughout our histories, though I don't agree with the sundance being on Big Mountain, I will not condemn anyone for desiring to heal.
"I was proud the Hopi people were willing to stand up to these trespassing Navajos and stop them from performing ceremonies that they shouldn't be performing."
Were you proud when they bulldozed flesh offerings?
Were you proud when the Hopi Tribal Council arrested 85 year old Ruth Benally who doesn't speak any English, for attending not participating, in the Camp Anna Mae sundance one month before they destroyed it. They charged her with trespassing, even though she and others remember the stories of her grandmother and great grandmother and so forth and how they were all raised up there on Big Mountain.
Were you proud when the Hopi Tribal Police handled her so roughly that her stitches from previous surgery opened up and started bleeding?
"They ARE performing Lakota Sundances, and are claiming to be Lakota Sundancers!"
Have you been to one of the Sundances up there? I have, and no one has claimed to be Lakota.
"I have personally asked Lakota Sundance Chiefs, they ALL they never gave permission or never will give permission for a Sundance to be held off a Lakota Reservation! There are a few Lakota people claiming to be Medicine men/Shaman and Elders, that are going around giving permission for many Lakota ceremonies. These Lakota people have no right to do this, if the Navajo people at Big Mountain would have taken the time to contact a Lakota Reservation and spoken or written an Actual Chief, Elder, Medicine man they would have learned this."
I know there have been many opportunists appropriating our culture, even many of our own people. Many of our elders have traveled to your land and I have seen many elders who say they are from yours, its hard to know who's a "real Indian" these days, are you one? Am I? I have an enrolment # that says I am, so does that mean the government gets to say who's Indian and who's not? I would like to know who these "actual" people are you speak of, may I ask them what you have asked as well? Maybe this could help me clarify some concerns I have. I travel once in a great while to your area, maybe we can talk or you can direct me to talk to some "actual" people who could share with me their stories of the sundance, this journey began on August 17th 2001, and continues with this email, I know this journey is not over yet.
"be NAVAJO !!!"
Its funny that you say this `cause were up here being Dine', I don't want to be Navajo.
I look forward to a response and hopefully some answers to some of the questions I have posed, I don't claim to "know it all" or to be a "hard core traditionalist", I just can't sit by and do nothing when people are suffering.
Here's some interesting facts, which ARE verifiable:
-After the sundance desecration the Hopi Tribal Land Team put up a sign that said" The hopi tribe has hereby closed the area known as "camp Anna Mae" (range unit 262) until further notice for natural resource development purposes."
- ".the exploitation of Black Mesa's natural resources as a landmark battle that started in 1966, when Peabody lawyer John Boyden secured the rights to strip-mine the largest coal deposit in the United States; more than 20 billion tons of "black gold" lie beneath reservation land, which was named for the shiny black walls of its dry washes. In the 1940s massive deposits of low-sulfur coal, oil, and uranium we rediscovered in Black Mesa. In 1951 Boyden was appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a land claims attorney for the Hopi Tribal Council, which had been formed in the 1930s by U.S. interior secretary Harold Ickes. Despite objections from Hopi traditional leaders, he successfully brokered a deal granting Peabody a 35-year developing lease. Since then, Peabody has bulldozed topsoil and blasted mineral beds with dynamite to reach the coal,turning the land gray and killing off vegetation, filling the air with coal dust, and contaminating groundwater with toxic sulfate runoff."- San Francisco Bay Guardian
-check out a map of the estimated coal resource boundaries when you get a chance, then check one out of the fence that divides the HPL, maybe the picture will become a little more clear.
They should have one at www.blackmesais.org
-the HTC is currently in negotiations with Peabody Coal Company (from which they receive around 80% of their budget from the coal royalties) to expand operations into areas where Dine' families have been relocated from and are still resisting relocation.
- the HTC is also planning on building coal fired power plants on Black Mesa.
-you can always go to any of the villages and ask them what they really think about their tribal council, I'm sure it's the same in your nation as in ours, most of the councils were set up by the U.S. to access natural resources and they still act that way.
"If anyone would like to post this anywhere, PLEASE do, you have my permission. I was asked to officially go on the record about what was going on at Big Mountain, and how the Lakota felt about it. Everything listed is verifiable fact if anyone would like to challenge what is in the letter. In fact it originally was about 5 times longer, there was so much information, Nativebadass""
Who were you asked to "to officially go on the record" by Nativebadass? Next time you have "verifiable facts" you might want to do a little more research and ask yourself, "what would the creator do"? ehh. (if you are a native badass you would get that joke)
[The above is a response to