Peabody opponent says elderly suffer from stress disorder
By Kathy Helms
FOREST LAKE — Eighty-seven-year-old Mae Paulinos is
one of the Black Mesa elders suffering from symptoms
commonly diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.
But she is not by herself, according to Norman Benally,
long-time Peabody opposition leader whose family home
lies in the shadow of the mine.
"They have post-traumatic stress disorder, a
lot of the elders do. It's like the same situation
that the Vietnam veterans had after they returned from
war," he said, because a lot of the cultural ties
to the land have been destroyed over time.
seeing Black Mesa residents protesting over destruction
of sacred sites. "But Peabody
and the mine workers just went through them with the
bulldozers. There's thousands of Navajo historic sites,
sacred sites, even Anasazi sites that have been destroyed
by strip mining.
that's where they get a lot of the stress. It affects
their health and brings them down. That's
what she's (Paulinos) had a real problem with."
Paulinos and Benally were among a group of residents
who turned out Saturday at Forest Lake Chapter for
a meeting on the C-aquifer, which possibly will be
used to replace the higher-quality N-aquifer water
Peabody now uses to slurry coal to Mohave Generating
Station in Nevada.
Peabody hopes to expand its operation and increase
its water usage. Residents want running water in their
homes. They say they're tired of giving up their resources
and getting little in return.
Paulinos lives on the same piece of land where she
was born 87 years ago. She's spent her whole life there.
She said she does receive some compensation once a
year for the land but that it's not enough to live
her family have an underground storage tank which
her children haul water to fill. "That's
the only replacement water that they've gotten," said
Benally, who recently toured Paulinos' home with members
of the Navajo Nation Council's Resources Committee.
lives in a house that Peabody built about three years
ago, according to Benally. "I saw
that there were some cracks already in the new house
that they had built her. The other people said the
ground was shifting, too."
Paulinos' home is located near Peabody's Kayenta mine,
and the strip-mine operation is headed south, in
her direction. She said she used to hear blasting,
but that has now stopped. She said the ground shook
"There's a lot of blasting damage that does occur
to the houses up there," Benally said. "During
the public hearing here, one of the guys that had been
relocated from HPL (Hopi Partitioned Land) said the
relocation home they got from the Hopi land dispute
was already getting cracks.
Peabody said that a lot of the cracks in floors of
the houses were because of the
poor construction of the homes. Now, these are government-built
homes and Peabody-built homes and they're experiencing
the same problems."
of Black Mesa works at the mine. Even so, he takes
issue with how the Navajo Nation and its people
have been compensated for their coal. He said that
years back, Peabody was paying "12-1/2 cents for
anything that they get under from the earth. Then they
wanted to raise up 7 more cents, saying, 'Now, I'm
going to pay you 20 cents. I'll pay you 20 cents for
this coal a ton.' "
"Then people agreed and didn't know anything
about the prices like that, whether it was fair or
not. That's how Peabody tricked the Navajo," Clark
here, our leader says, 'Let's go for some more.'
No! We've been ripped off. 'Let other countries
get rich on us and we end up with nothing,' is that
what he's saying to us? To me, our leader doesn't protect
Clark said he believes some tribal leaders do not
want to see life improve for the Navajo people. He
also questions those looking out for the legal rights
of his people.
lawyers getting paid in Window Rock, they're not
doing their homework for us. Seems to me that we're
not going to get anything for what is in our land,
and we're going ahead just to let somebody make it
better for their future. Why do we have to be like
that? It's got to be stopped."
interpreting for a 72-year-old grandma who didn't
want her name used, said she lives a few miles
from the J-7 area south of Black Mesa mine. She says
the dust from J-7 strip mining and the strip-mine operation
itself is coming toward her home. "She don't like
it," he said.
Grandma" lives on customary-use lands which were
determined before the mine came into existence. At
the time, it was based on historical land use, with
many of the customary use lands overlapping, according
"Their kids inherited the customary land use
rights, but their kids moved out of the area," he
said. "So they're paying people that are not actually
customary land users now. They pay people that moved
away years ago. The real customary land users, a lot
of them are cut out of it."
Grandma is one of the "unwashed" grassroots
people of Black Mesa, as one union worker recently
referred to them. "She said they used to use the
bathhouse facilities over at the mine, and that they
shut the community out of it; so they don't take a
bath anymore. She said that's probably why they said
what they said."
to Benally, when Peabody leased the land, "they
said if they took out a well or a spring or whatever,
that they would replace it with equal or better value." Locals
considered the bathhouse a replacement because the
company removed the community wells, he said.
windmills and hand pumps and wells "that
you throw a bucket down and scoop out the water, those
have been taken out by Peabody. They were polluting
it. The bathhouse, in our opinion, is one of the replacements
for community wells that they decommissioned," he
has two water pipe stems, one by the Human Resources
building and another in the northern section
where Black Mesa residents and others from up to 50
miles away come to haul water, Benally said, adding, "After
hauling water for livestock and home use, then you
don't have much water left for bathing."
Grandma's home is in the Hopi Partitioned Lands area,
which is also leased to Peabody. She feels she's under
attack from two directions. From the south, the Hopi
say she has to relocate. From the north, the strip
mining operation is coming at her.
he said: "Her question is, 'Where
am I supposed to go? Are they just going to come up
and scoop us up with the drag line and dump us out
somewhere?' She said she's been there all her life
and she has no intention of moving, ever. The land
is the only place she knows as home.
has a decent home, built out of her own pocket and
that's her investment. She will never part
with the land because she's tied to the land. She said
despite all the harassment she's getting from the federal
government to relocate, or the Hopi Tribe to relocate,
or Peabody to relocate, she has really set her mind
on remaining on the land and not moving."