Hopi government and U.S. Interior Department renew War on Navajo families

Hopi Rangers arrested two individuals and impounded 120 sheep this morning, Oct. 28, 2014, at the homesite of Tom and Etta Begay in Red Willow Springs.  Heavily armed rangers guarded and blocked nearby dirt road entrances as well. (Photo courtesy of Black Mesa Indigenous Support Group)

Hopi Rangers arrested two individuals and impounded 120 sheep this morning, Oct. 28, 2014, at the homesite of Tom and Etta Begay in Red Willow Springs. Heavily armed rangers guarded and blocked nearby dirt road entrances as well. (Photo courtesy of Black Mesa Indigenous Support Group)

On Tuesday, Oct 22, 2014 the US Bureau of Indian Affairs launched a campaign intended to be the final solution to the long-standing Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute. The BIA and Hopi police have established barricades on roads leading
to the Hopi Partition Land, and neither outsiders or residents are allowed to enter or leave.

That according to an Oct. 28 PRESS RELEASE from two Navajo grassroots organizations, Forgotten People and Doodah Desert Rock.

Also on Oct. 28, Navajo Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon called out to the Navajo Nation government for assistance for the Navajo families that were under attack.

Witherspoon stated in an Oct. 28 LETTER to Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety Acting Director Herbert Tsosie, “Things are getting tense. Nephew of Sarah Blackrock has armed himself and taken the sheep into the canyon, stating that he will battle it out with the Hopi’s if he has too. The Blackrock family is going home to talk him into disarming himself.

“Two step children of Bahe Begay’s family were arrested this morning while Hopi impounded livestock from Bahe Begay family who lives on Hopi Partitioned Land,” the Council delegated added. “Hopi goes early in the morning with large amount of force and starts taking sheep out of the corrals. They have a helicopter to get an aerial view.”

“Navajo families on HPL really need help,” Witherspoon emphasized to Tsosie. “I would like for you to provide staff or request federal agent(s) to monitor for public safety.”

Witherspoon added that Tsosie needs to send staff to the Navajo Hopi Land Commission meeting on Oct. 30 at 10 a.m. in the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee conference room, where he’s asked Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie to provide an update; legal options to assist Navajo families on the HPL, who are having their livestock impounded, and to identify lands that the Navajo families may take livestock to until this matter is resoled with Hopi.

The Black Mesa Indigenous Support Group announced that Dineh families from Big Mountain and Black Mesa will be gathering at the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot in Window Rock, Ariz., to begin marching to the Council chambers at 8:30 a.m. The Budget & Finance Committee conference room is north of the Council chambers.

“I am advocating for (Navajo) DOJ (Department of Justice) to file in Federal District Court to request Hopi to honor the Accommodation Agreement to increase the sheep units up to 2800 and for grazing in additional range units,” Witherspoon noted. “We will be asking for an injunction as well.”

Witherspoon, in a SEPARATE LETTER to Navajo Hopi Land Development Office Director Raymond Maxx, also urged Maxx to attend the NHLC meeting on Oct. 30 and a Nov. 2 meeting at the Navajo Nation Hard Rock Chapter. The Hard Rock Chapter is located adjacent to the HPL.

According to an OCT. 24 LETTER to Hopi Tribal Chairperson Herman Honanie from Maxx, the Navajo Hopi Land Commission was notified about the Hopi Tribe’s impoundment of livestock belonging to Navajo families living on the HPL during the week of Oct. 13 from “residents, newspaper reporters, activists, U.S. Department of Justice and social media.”

Maxx explained to Honanie that the NHLC office was aware of the Hopi Tribe’s livestock tally count of livestock belonging to Navajo families on the HPL and that the Hopi Tribe notified livestock owners “that livestock in excess of permitted may be subject to impoundment.”

He urged Honanie, “To avoid creating a situation that will harm both tribes and the HPL residents, NHLCO requests that the Hopi Tribe cease and desist from further impoundment activities and allow NHLCO an opportunity to confer with residents to request they remoe their livestock in excess of permitted from the HPL. The grace period is recommended for ten days from notice of approval.

“We believe that the procedure will diminish any potential traumatic situations associated with livestock impoundments being imposed on the resident livestock owners,” Maxx added. “We make this request in the spirit of cooperation.”

Witherspoon, in separate Oct. 28 letters to the Navajo HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE Director Leonard Gorman and Navajo Nation LAND DEPARTMENT Director Mike Halona, he urged both administrators to attend the NHLC meeting on Oct. 30.

Witherspoon asked Gorman to provide an update report on any assistance the Navajo Human Rights Commission could provide to the Navajo families of the HPL.

The Forgotten People and Doodah Desert Rock reported, “Behind these barriers, the combined forces are going from home to home, removing the livestock on which the families depend for their survival. All of the livestock of Caroline Tohannie, an 84 year old great grandmother, was confiscated on Oct. 22, and two neighbors, Zena and Jerry Lane, who tried to console her, were beaten and Jerry was arrested.

“On October 28, the confiscation of the sheep owned by Bahe Begay led to the police surrounding their children Milayia Yoe and Lance Sells with guns
pointed and then arresting them. Many other families are being similarly attacked each day,” the two groups stated.

They stated, “These livestock confiscations are not based on a desire to improve the range ecosystem – their goal is to make it impossible for Dine’ to remain on HPL.

“Hopi and BIA officials have also informed Dine’ that the confiscations will be followed by eviction proceedings against families without valid leases with the Hopi Tribe, and that they do not intend to renew livestock permits for any Dine’,” the Forgotten People and Doodah Desert Rock stated.

“They intend to complete the final settlement of the Navajo-Hopi land dispute,” the organizations stated.

Background on the Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute from the Forgotten People and Doodah Desert Rock:

The Hopi-Navajo Land dispute began when attorneys for the two tribes filed the Healing v Jones lawsuit in the 1950’s to establish land title needed for issuing coal leases on lands on the Hopi Reservation occupied by Navajo families.

The decision in 1962 stated that coal royalties were to be split 50-50 and people from both tribes could reside in a “joint use area”.

In 1972, the Hopi became dissatisfied with the joint use arrangement, as the lands were primarily occupied by Navajo, so they engineered passage of US Law Public Law 93-531 which would replace the joint use arrangement with separate titles for each tribe to 50% of the land.

Since the joint use area was occupied almost exclusively by Dine’, this law mandated the forcible relocation of many Navajo. The program cost the federal
government over $500 million, but many Dine’ resisters defied the federal government and remained on their traditional land.

In 1996, PL 104-301 attempted to resolve the issue by offering lifetime leases and limited grazing permits to the heads of households, but many Dine’ refused to acknowledge their loss of land rights and did not sign these leases.

The law authorized the government to use force against these resisters, but a massive outcry by over 250 religious and other non-governmental organizations in 1998 and an investigation by a Rapporteur from the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights forced the US to suspend enforcement of those provisions.

That truce has held for over 15 years, until the BIA, for reasons not publicly announced, decided that the time had arrived to implement the final solution.
Mary Lane, President, FORGOTTEN PEOPLE, 928-864-6413
Elouise Brown, President, DOODA (NO) DESERT ROCK, 505-592-1453, thebrownmachine@hotmail.com

Black Mesa Indigenous Support

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