There is something going on in the Four Corners area of the United States and the time has come to realize the intensity of the situation. The story begins in the 1600s with the Navajo and Hopi tribes and a handshake between them, symbolizing a decision to live in peace for the rest of time. They lived as agreed upon, until the 1900s when large deposits of coal were found on their reservation.
Once discovered, requests for exploration permits and mineral leases were presented to the Interior Department. Unfortunately, unanimous consent was required by the owners of the various allotments of land. The solution to this was introduced into Congress in the early 1900s in the from of the Tribal Council. This one body was able to make decisions that concerned the land and the natural resources of the reservation. Regrettably, this one body became a puppet for the federal government.
In the mid-1900s, Peabody Coal Co. established itself in the area and a Relocation Act was passed in 1974. The Act set boundaries for each tribe to live within and the result was that many Navajo, already living with the Hopi, were caught on "the wrong side of the fence."
The problems existing now, stem from this history and the involvement of Peabody Coal Co. (whose parent company is Hanson PLC) on the reservation. The relocation has put great strain on many families. For hundreds of years, they have lived in a traditional manner. Their ceremonies and livelihood are tied to this land and being forced to change and live our Western ways has been traumatic for most. Suicide rates have increased dramatically. There is also a high incidence of starvation and debilitation, as they cannot adjust to this new lifestyle. The land itself is under attack. Since the mining began, ground water has been depleted dramatically and the ecosystem increasingly polluted. High incidence of selenium poisoning and loss of plant species are now being documented. As many of the people are resisting relocation, they are experiencing harassment by the mining industry, the military (fly-bys etc.) and tribal council police. Fences have been raised that partition the land and laws that force livestock reduction and impoundment have been imposed.
Aside from these problems, there is evidence of conspiracy and corruption leading to the present circumstances. It seems to be of no coincidence that the land the people are to be moved from is the same area that Peabody Coal is trying to obtain. As well, it seems curious that the tribal council was established after the mining industry had trouble obtaining necessary permits. Other conflicts of interest can be seen with lawyers representing two parties involved in the same issue and working against each other. Over the years secret negotiations between the government, Peabody Coal and the tribal councils have also been revealed. Fabricated stories and publicity concerning the tribes and their "land dispute" are also rampant.
We have all seen the capability for corruption within our government (i.e. Watergate, Contras, etc.) and have felt the grip of lobbying forces and monster corporations. The people of Big Mountain, as it is called, were living a peaceful lifeÄ not taking from any one and not intruding upon others. Still, they have been manipulated and used, and now they are suffering from the games of power and money in the higher echelons. The Native people of our country should not have to endure such actions anymore than they have in the past 500 years- no one should. The people closest to the earth are being killed as the land itself begins to die. This is a symbiotic relationship. We can all see one aspect of this as the destruction of our planet affects us as humans all over the world. Why should the greed of a few destroy the many?
These people of our Arizona community need our help. And, in fact, there is a great deal that we can do to alter these events. To find out more please contact SEAC at 322-9819 or come to our meetings at 5 p.m. in the Cactus Lounge Room 285 every Monday or The Black Mesa Permaculture Project at 745-7875 ext. 24. Thank you.
Christine Graziano is a wildlife and fisheries sophomore.
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