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(en) Peabody Coal relocates Navajo - background+update

From MichaelP <papadop@PEAK.ORG>
Date Thu, 8 Jul 1999 06:26:48 -0400

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Bombing Arizona by Omar Jabara ojabara@sprynet.com 
   Now that we have succeeded in halting most of the ethnic cleansing in
Kosovo, we need to fly NATO's warplanes stateside to bomb the S.N.O.T
(Systematic Native Oppression & Torment) out of Arizona. 

The reason?  Ethnic cleansing by your old Uncle Sam. 

By February 1, 2000, all remaining Navajo Indians (about 3000 elders) on
what are called Hopi Partition Lands in the four corners region of Arizona
are to be "relocated" from their tribal homes to a desolate tract of land
on the Rio Puerco, just downstream from the worst uranium mine disaster in
U.S. history (Church Rock Mill). To date, 10,000 Navajos--known as Dineh
in their language--have been exiled to this site, with 25% of the first
group resettled in 1980 dying within the first six months of arriving at
the "New Lands." The remaining survivors suffer from increased rates of
birth defects and poisoned livestock. 

In order to force the remaining Navajo elders from Big Mountain, the
government forbids them from repairing their homes, denies them access to
fresh water, and confiscates their livestock and firewood. In fact, Alice
Begay, a great grandmother whose family has lived at Big Mountain for
generations, had to buy back her cow from a livestock auction earlier this
month after the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seized it from her. 

You see, it all starts in 1863 when Colonel Kit Carson and the U.S. Army
went on a rampage to exterminate the Navajo who had been residing in the
Big Mountain region for the last 600 years. After Carson spent weeks
killing thousands of Indians, the survivors were forced to march 400 miles
on the infamous "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico. Those
who escaped Carson's grip hid in the canyons of the Big Mountain region
currently inhabited by the Navajo and the Hopi peoples. 

The Hopi, an agrarian people, occupy permanent settlements in the lowlands
of the area relying largely on farming. The Navajo rely on sheep-herding
and dry-crop farming. In 1974, President Ford signed a bill partitioning
the Big Mountain area and ordered the Navajo to leave. This was done in
spite of a 1962 U.S. District Court ruling that the lands in question were
a Joint Use Area (JUA) cooperatively developed by both Hopi and Navajo
peoples (with the exception of the small portion occupied by the Hopi

So why would the government care if the Navajo lived there or not,
especially since many Hopi elders believe that the Navajo have just as
much right as they do? Just follow the money: It turns out that during the
1940s and 1950s, massive deposits of low-sulfur coal, oil, and uranium
were discovered in the mountains and canyons occupied by the Navajo. The
Peabody Western Coal Company began operating a 103-square mile coal strip
in the area in the mid-1960s (after first displacing 200 Navajo families). 

The Navajo and Hopi tribal councils--created by the feds--get royalties
from Peabody's mining operations but those Navajo living in the mining
permit area get nothing (estimates show they live on top of 18 billion
tons of coal just six feet beneath the surface). In 1964, with the Bureau
of Indian Affairs (BIA) acting as an "agent" for the Navajo, Peabody paid
less than 2% in royalties to the Navajo under its original lease with the
tribe. In 1984, the tribe sought to adjust the royalty rate to 20 percent
to reflect market standards. The Department of Interior, which includes
the BIA, approved the increased royalty rate but Peabody (the world's
largest private coal producer) pressured then-Interior Secretary Donald
Hodel into overturning the decision. Last week, the Navajo announced they
were fighting back with a $600 million lawsuit against Peabody for
shortchanging the tribe since 1984. 

Nevertheless, the lawsuit won't prevent the expulsions of the Navajo
elders from Big Mountain. If you want to help, please call
1-888-41-PRAYER, or, e-mail
<mailto:sdnation@earthlink.net>sdnation@earthlink.com. For more
information on this issue, visit the Navaho web site at


For Big Mountain and other activist internet resources, visit "The Activist
Page" at

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