25 Mar 2010

Restore Sovereignty through Service

Testimony from a Sheepherder:

I have just left after a four month stay on the Land. This was my 14th winter staying with Dine’ families residing on the so-called HPL and resisting the relocation laws by continuing to live on the land of their grandparents of generations back. It has been an intense winter. The big snowstorm was a sight to see, and reminded the elders of storms 40 and 80 years past, when there were many more families out there, and most of the elders didn’t live alone. And yes, the National Guard and US Army did come out to the families. I wondered at the irony of the hay, water, and other supplies, thinking how the families have lived under the threat of the Guard coming in to take them from their homes.
The OSM Life of Mine permit getting denied was a pleasant surprise. I had been looking at the hills, meadows and rocks that I have come to know, as becoming ‘reclaimed’ land through the mine expansion, and thinking of the long, hard fight to come. A second generation Black Mesa miner, and “HPL” resident stated that he was glad about the permit, and ready to see a change back to the old ways of living and away from mining.
The Supporter caravan at thanksgiving was a fast and festive, and abundant time. About 120 supporters for the week, but by the end of January there were only a few supporters on the land, and a list of families asking for a sheepherder. We were desperately calling out for people to come, and a few did, but only a few. And I thought, this is where the real support is needed- in the long haul, the deep snow.
Back in 1997, and again in 2000 the families were living under a threatening “deadline”, and there were literally hundreds of supporters on the land for months. I am grateful that there is no deadline as such now, but I do wonder what keeps us supporters from committing to coming out, or coming back. I have personally placed several hundred supporters in the last 12 years, and I marvel at how much we struggle to ‘get the word out’ and ‘get support to the Land’.
I am so honored and humbled by the loving hospitality I receive from the families. My sons are treated as family, and are growing up knowing the elders, kids and supporters, and about fighting for and supporting what is right. I have been raised out there myself in many ways. The Dineh people have been my teachers and mentors, my inspiration. I believe in doing all that I can to honor their request and invitation to come into the home, the land and the lives of the people indigenous to the land -what that means and what they are fighting for and against. I believe it is at the heart of the most important work today.
And I am writing this to remind us, you, that their door is open and there is a job to do- something that we are needing to understand, a connection that needs to be made and honored. It is time to come. It is time to come back. Its time to give back. Please help us do this.
Tree, BMIS volunteer and volunteer coordinator

Statement of Pauline Whitesinger, elder Dine’ resister, Edgewater Clan 2/10/10

Greetings to my relatives. I want you all to be aware of an incident that has occurred at my residence (Sweetwater, Black Mesa) this past week. As you may be aware we have had a lot of snow this winter. BIA road grading crews have been slow, but they have been coming. Some of them are very friendly and supportive and I had given them permission to park their machine in my front yard. A different group returned for the machine and one of their crew offended me very much in a short conversation that we had. I became so angry with him that I threatened him and chased him off. I do not know at this time what repercussions I will be facing. We are subject to whatever the BIA sends our way. The type of comments that he made are typical of the abuses we have suffered over the years resisting relocation and struggling against the government. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the road grading ourselves. I hope that you will consider that I am alone here most of the time and I would like to have more supporters around to help with the day to day chores or matters of traditional living importance that will never be supported by the BIA or their employees no matter how big their budget is.
Thank You!
Translated by o. Johnson.

Non-native Sheepherder at Big Mountain: Call to Herders

What is it about herding sheep on Black Mesa?
By Owen Johnson, Irish-American volunteer herder for Dine

Cactus Valley, Black Mesa, February 2010 - Herding sheep and goats on Black Mesa makes a lot of sense. Enough sense that people have been tending herds of small livestock there forever. There’s room for them, and just enough water. But you have to make sure they drink, keep them eating the right plants, and help the dogs scare off the predators. It can get exhausting. Old people can do it, especially if they are used to the herd and its used to them. But even if they are able, they enjoy to have a break now and then. Many of these primary herders are also weavers and they can use time off to focus on their cultural art. It makes sense to keep the sheep and the lifeways on Black Mesa because they’ve been there forever, and they could very well last forever.

It’s been mostly Dine’, or Navajo people that have been herding sheep on Black Mesa forever. But other folks have come in and helped out. Some have been integrated on a more permanent basis: Mexicans, Apaches, and Hopis, for example. Euro-Americans, Europeans, and Japanese primarily have been coming to herd sheep and help out for about 40 years. This is mainly because of widespread invitation by traditional Dine’ matriarchs, who have traveled the world since the 70’s speaking of their struggle against relocation and the Peabody coal mine. Many are still living on Black Mesa and continue their interest to have “helpers” come and stay. Some get “adopted”, some marry in to families. But actually, in the last 40 years only a handful of non-navajos have made any long term connection with the community. And really, they have not done very much of the work that it takes to keep the struggle going or contributed the resources that sustain it. It is really the people living on the land and their extended blood relatives, many of whom have accepted relocation benefits and found a place in the ‘outside’ world.

So ‘support’ or ‘herding sheep’ is not really ‘all that’ but it is something, and it has potential. It needs to be done right; and then, more. A person does not need to come out to Black Mesa with judgements, or with a vision about how people out here could do what they do better (‘you know, if they would just be a vegetarian...”, or something). Two times in the ten years I have been around here I have heard of family members from the cities not wanting to come home to visit their elders because “sheepherder” is unpleasant to be around. This was a disgrace. I mention it as an example of the type of risks we face in attempting to “support”. We need to be vigilant and uncompromising with ourselves and each other in order to keep such scenarios from happening.

The pressures of what Danny Blackgoat calls “the dominant society” are increasing—even if the mine is forestalled for the moment. Entering the Navajo universe as a herder is a means of acknowledging the responsibilities of yourself and your relations in the acceleration of these pressures--and a significant step in counteracting the encroachments of white culture on this vital and still vibrant community of traditionals. If you are a non-native, this is an opportunity to accede to and integrate into your life the wished and interests of traditional native people as to what to do and what not to do with your time and energy—how to do it and how not to do it. Maybe this is what is called “decolonization”.

Many people in the counter-culture, being “resisters” themselves of some sort, “rebels”, or what have you, have come to admire the people of Black Mesa/Big Mountain for defying Washington and their tribal government's orders to leave their homeland, even to the point of arming themselves. As it should be. Let’s transform the admiration into day-to day, year-to-year support for their ongoing struggle—not only to avoid eviction, but to keep the homesite running smoothly, to stop impoundments and harassment, to keep the herd strong, and to co-exist well with each other. As Rena Babbitt Lane said to me last year, “the time has come for us to stop ignoring each other,” referring to traditional natives and the surrounding world. We all have much to gain from each other.

So sheepherders, I’m talking to you as a fellow (non-native) sheepherder. How can you set aside some more time? Can we support each other directly to do this? Are you in touch with other sheepherders when you are on and off the land? Lets build or re-build the collective consciousness about keeping the herd covered, or keeping Grandma soandso taken care of. Are you in touch with the family when you are not there herding? Do they know how and where to contact you? Are you keeping up on current events on the rez?

Don’t rely on BMIS for this—support BMIS on this!

There are strategic times to come out. First week of October, it was recently pointed out to me, has always been impoundment season. There’s times in the spring too. Let’s get to know these as our rythms. The impoundments at T’iisyaato last fall could well have been forestalled by the presence of supporters. Lets not let that happen again. Impoundments are a big financial burden for the family—to recover the animals costs hundreds of dollars, and it does permanent damage to the animals. They come back scarred and scared. The families did everything they could to stop it. Did you?

Right now, as we prepare to leave for our other camp on the east coast there are almost no ‘supporters’ here. We have pending requests from 9 of every 10 families that we work with for on-land, live-in support. That means you. So get healthy, get sober, pull your connections—get creative. There’s a lot at stake! We thank you in advance.

***The preceding sentiments do not represent Black Mesa Indigenous Support and the organization is not to be held accountable.

~ this song is obviously not representative of traditional Dine' culture, since the words are English and the performance is from California. I included it for personal reasons.

The Navajo Reservation is actually a Sovereign First Nation, which the people who live there call the Dinetah. They call themselves the Dine', not Navajo.

Their traditions and songs and dances are silenced by corporate pressures for coal, uranium and water... also by the U.S. Government's fear of autonomy.

For example, when the Traditional resistors began celebrating Sundance Ceremonies on Black Mesa, the grounds were bulldozed by our government.

When their livestock herds grow, the sheep and goats are confiscated.

New construction of traditional hogans on the contested land that Peabody Coal wants to mine is forbidden by authorities in the name of unjust laws.

The People are beautiful, wise, proud, fun... ingenious artists and fantastic cooks!

they know what to do with their land and how to restore forgotten joys.

Us outsiders, those who have not grown up within the boundaries of four sacred mountains, CAN make a difference...

Acknowledging and respecting the Dine' and Dinetah is surely a necessary reversal of the Bush Cartel and all that Corporate NeoLiberalism is doing to destroy Earth.

Let me attempt to put this all in the simplest, most direct terms.

I have herded sheep (and goats have herded me) within the Dinetah. I tried very hard to help and learn and grow as much as possible. The shame of my suburban First World culture (which i carry with every breath i take) became petty and irrelevant near the majesty of that land, life, sky, water, fire and People. They welcomed me, fed me, sheltered me, showed me how to pray with them.

They need supporters willing to forsake the electrical grid, running water and telecommunications. They need people that want to learn their language, listen to their stories and songs.

As i listen to Sirius Satellite Radio and watch You Tube Clips of Philly Youth Flash Mobs creating the next logical step of the Bush Cartel for them

and post this blog rant

i am convinced that i am one of the two disgraced supporters

and i take another shame filled breath

and remain insane at the continued existence of the Bush Cartel.

Beautiful Babylon Babies Unite !!!

This Blog existed after Bush II "the lesser" stole 2 elections, before Google ate Blogger,

This Blog existed after Bush II "the lesser" stole 2 elections, before Google ate Blogger,
Love Trumps hate.

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Poetic HyperLinks Defeating the Impossibilities of Peace

Also sprach Zarathustra to the brothasistahs lost out in the woods…
Rolling stones and hurricanes prime us for the rapid eye movement of whose dream?
A stairway to the dark side of the moon reveals an orchestrated King
singing the blues while sexual pistols whip Jesus’ son.
Who’s influence weens us?
Me and my friends gratefully raged against the machine for three days
in the shadow of the valley of the dead
so big brother and company held us down while the wind cried
nothing to be gained here (except copied rights),
Then a questing tribe of beastly boys found a digable plant
where a buffalo soldier picked up a Gideon’s bible from the Godfather
in joe’s garage (or was it in one of 200 motels?)
Anyway, on a Holiday, the pinball wizard boy (Billie)
followed his heart and stopped pretending he was the king of the little plastic castles
while education, missed in the house of the naked apes, evolved and mutated
into and with ~ Nature Art Love Truth ~ and we do too…
And somewhere over the rainbow dancing fools send clowns and purple rain
into imagine nations where everything is now sacred
and there are no more public enemies or rusted Roots or minor threats
or bad brains or busted rhymes or widespread panic
and everyone can read the hieroglyphics on the wall
and we are all refugees of courtney’s love attaining nirvana….
But then again, you’re so vain, you probly think this poem’s about you-
we are everywhere and we cannot be beaten
it’s all over now baby blue, all we need is Love
Legalize It