Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stop Peabody Coal

In the 1980's I participated in actions to try and stop the forced relocation of Native Americans (Dineh/Navajo tribe) to make way for the corrupt Peabody coal company to pretty much destroy an entire mountain to mine coal. The issue continues today, as many of you may have noticed in past issues of this newsletter.

The issue has many componants. There is the environmental impact of mining coal, something that became painfully obvious recently in Tennessee, but really is something that poisons people every day in America. Then there is the impact on global warming of continuing to burn coal for energy, pretty much a 19th century idea whose time has long passed. There is the issue of native rights and the unfairness of the treaties that allow companies like Peabody Coal to pay pennies to Native Americans for the right to mine resources for millions of dollars in profits. Of course there is also the corruption behind companies like Peabody coal that buy off politicians so they can get away with violating environmental laws with abandon. And there is the injustice of forced relocations of people off land that their families have occupied for generations.

All of these problems come together at the place alternately called Black Mesa and Big Mountain (I knew it as Big Mountain when I visited it in the 1980's).

As an environmentalist Peabody Coal disgusts me to begin with. From the Sierra Club Ozark chapter:

Peabody has a long history of opposing efforts to mitigate the negative environmental effects of coal production and combustion. It was an active opponent of efforts to enact a strong Clean Air Act: in 1970, of acid rain provisions in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and throughout the current efforts to significantly strengthen mercury provisions. Peabody’s most blatant attempt to undermine environmental protections has been its efforts over the past decade to discredit the world’s scientific community research that ties emissions from the burning of fossil fuels - like coal - to global warming. Its efforts have included contributions of more than $1.5 million to federal candidates and parties during the past four years -- with more than 93 percent going to Republicans– and an average of $400,000 per year on lobbying between 1997 and 2000...

Through its sustaining contributions to groups with names like Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), Peabody has tried to cast doubt on the problem of global warming. Even though more than 2,000 scientists associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) long ago concluded that global warming was a threat5, Peabody continues its attempts to discredit their findings.

Peabody has collaborated with the Republican Party to poison our air, water and soil, and to ignore the warnings of climate scientists until it may almost be too late to deal with global warming (according to the most pessimisstic of those scientists). When you hear about high levels of mercury in your tuna, Peabody coal is one of the culprits.

You can read more about the irresponsibility and lies of Peabody Coal in this report from the National Resources Defense Council (PDF).

Back to Big Mountain/Black Mesa. The greed of this most irresponsible of companies has led to many abuses against Native Americans whose homes stood in the way of Peabody getting to mine the coal they wanted. And the Dineh/Navajo have been resisting for more than 20 years.

Winter Rabbit on Daily Kos recently had a diary on Big Mountain. This led me to a piece written by Bahe Katenay on Censored News:

The last few elder resisters and their few supporters (native or non-natives) will continue to provide the much needed humanitarian aide to our surviving history: traditional Dineh living and maintaining on their ancestral and sacred homelands. However, we all need to act in the best means possible and stop the daily Gestapo tactics and the potential demolishment of a sacred hogan or earth lodge. We all need to prevent any harm that may be committed on our elders or their helpers and most of all, prevent this growing hostility from getting out-of-hand.

All legal recourses are no longer an option since this is a challenge against a U.S. Executive Order, and The Peoples are the only option to bring about attention, focus and restoration.

I have attached a petition with addresses of officials and I am making a plead to you all, my relatives, to sign it and either send it directly to the listed officials or send them to the Black Mesa Indigenous Support. This situation is very urgent. These elders are very old now and they truly deserve much honor. They have lived in a way that, we or our future generations may never see humans live in this country. These traditional elders must live their naturally-given, old life in peace and harmony, Hozhon goh. Yaa'at'eeh goh.

I apologize for the long list of officials, but it has become long because of so many years of ignorance and because certain, minor sectors of society believed that these Elders would have been defeated already.

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely & In the Spirit of Chief Barboncito,
Bahe Y. Katenay (Naabaahii Keediniihii)
Dineh of Big Mountain

"A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky."
The words of Crazy Horse (As remembered by Ohiyesa, Charles A. Eastman).

Here is the letter proposed to send to the Obama administration. Please feel free to use parts of it as you like to write to call attention to this issue:

Dear Mr. President Barrack Obama,

Copies to:
Mrs. Katherine Smith & Mrs. Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain Sovereign Dineh,
Selected Kimongwis of the Independent Pueblo of Hotevilla,
Mr. William Means & Ms. Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council,
President Joe Shirley, Jr., The Navajo Nation,
Mr. Roman Bitsuie, The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,
Office of the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Hopi Lands,
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Phoenix Area Agency
Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining


The Sovereign Nation of the Big Mountain Dineh is located in northeastern Arizona on Black Mesa and is part of ancient indigenous shared-territories. Members of this nation were affected by the 1974 legislation to relocate from certain partitioned areas, but have rather chose to resist this policy and try to: maintain their ancestral and treaty lands, keep cultural practices, value universal-granted freedom, conduct their ancient rights to ritual ceremonies, and preserve their sacred sites. The proclamation of these Dineh in 1979 states that through divine creation they were, “provided with the Ni’tliz’ (sacred stones) as offerings and the Dzil leezh (sacred mountain soil Bundle) representing the universe. With prayers and songs we offer the Ni’tliz to the trees, to the hills, to the wind, and the thunder beings in the sacred rain. The Dzil Leezh is our power to live close to our mother the Earth and father Sky. These are our sacred ways to survive in this universe and to communicate with the unseen forces in the Natural life.”

As you may be aware that, the relocation of thousands of Dineh (Navajos) and Hopis has been in process since 1977 after 1.8 million acres was partitioned and that, the Dineh elder leaders at Big Mountain began their resistance to U.S. government court orders to vacant areas partitioned to the official and federally-recognized, Hopi tribe. These traditional Dineh communities still continue to resist the harsh relocation policies and coal mining encroachment to this day. Despite a few elders are now left, they continue to reaffirm their ancestral land rights which are contrary to all court decisions related to the fore mentioned communities from 1974 to 1998.

U.S. Judicial System has had a vital role in this land rights issue ever since energy companies of the southwestern United States became interested in exploring the coal reserves of Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona. In 1962, there was a well-orchestrated rush to establish an Indian Land Claims on the behalf of the Hopi tribe and which was guided by a Peabody Coal Company attorney, and this allowed Peabody to acquire mining leases. The U.S. courts and corporate attorneys eventually, thereafter, help created the relocation and land-partitioning policies which only made way for coal exploration. None of these court rulings were based on proving that an actual “land dispute” did exist between the Dineh and Hopis.

Big Mountain on Black Mesa is the only place in the United States where two Indian nations can still define cultural coexistence and shared territories, and now have become endangered aboriginal peoples. The U.S. courts have ordered continued pressure on the remaining traditional Dineh and keep the areas sealed and isolated. The United States is allowing this tragedy and genocide to be sustained under the guise that relocation are on voluntary basis and that Indian police are being used rather than state authorities to carry out enforcements. These traditional resisters hold great knowledge and wisdom of ancient information and natural existence that are irreplaceable, and it is the world society’s responsibility to stop the United States and its largest coal-producer, Peabody Energy, from executing this human and mega-environmental destruction.

Additional documentations ( of human rights violation and religious intolerance are as follows:

*Limitation or complete denial of: crop cultivation and livestock husbandry, community and religious activities, access to or maintenance of water wells, and elder residents’ safety needs to attain wood fuels for heating and cooking,

*Forced relocation to foreign settings that does not support or replace loss culture and religions,

*Deliberate breaking up of family and clan structures,

*Controlled national media that portray the Big Mountain story as a result of legitimate and humane court decisions,

*Peabody mines create: daily detonation that causes micro-quakes, depletion of pristine aquifers that causes subsidence and fissure zones, and massive emissions of coal dust and engine exhaust.

We the undersigned hereof state our demand that the United States cease all forcible relocation enforcements on the Dineh, and reverse the decisions made for Peabody Coal Company’s Life of the Mine Permit on Black Mesa.

It will be furthered recommended that:

*Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights to their homelands be recognized and respected,

*Traditional tribal communities be allowed to reinstate and restore the inexorable ties to fundamental existence and spiritual practices,

*There must be serious reviews about the conclusion that Black Mesa coal is the primary source for energy, and that being reviewed in the context of global concerns for greenhouse gas emissions,

*Acknowledge that indigenous being has sustained all human cultures’ moral obligations throughout the ages, and it is much more crucial in this technological era that the demands and rights of indigenous peoples be received with greater human understanding.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



U.S. President Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Phone Numbers:

Comments: 202-456-1111 Switchboard: 202-456-1414 FAX: 202-456-2461 U

Bureau of Indian Affairs Department of the Interior 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240 Office of Surface Mining Department of the Interior 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240

PHOENIX AREA OFFICE: Bureau of Indian Affairs P.O. Box 10 Phoenix, AZ 85001 P: 602/379-6600 F: 602/379-4413 Hopi Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs P.O. Box 158 Keams Canyon, AZ 86034 P: 520/738-2228 F: 520/738-5522

Navajo Nation Office of the President Joe Shirley, Jr.
Communications Director George Hardeen: Phone: (928) 871-7917 Cell: (928) 309-8532

Staff Assistant Gloria Bowman Phone: (928) 871-7915 Fax: (928) 871-7005

Administrative Assistant Desiree Etsitty Phone: (928) 871-7916 Fax: (928) 871-7807

Hard Rock Chapter P.O. Box 20 Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039 Phone: (928) 725-3730/3732 Fax: (928) 725-3731 E-mail:

Forest Lake Chapter P.O. Box 441 Pinon, AZ 86510 Phone: (928) 677-3252/3347 Fax: (928) 677-3320 E-mail:

Black Mesa Chapter P.O. Box 189 Pinon, AZ 86510 Phone: (928) 309-7056 E-mail:

(To traditional Dineh or Hopi Kimongwis, or other Communiqué to Sovereign Dineh.) ATTN: TRADITIONAL ELDERS
Black Mesa Indigenous Support P.O. Box 23501
Flagstaff, Arizona 86002 Email:

Help if you can. This has been a long and difficult fight for some of America's most powerless and poorest people. And they are being destroyed for the benefit of a corrupt, pro-Republican, global warming denying coal company. For more info, go to Black Mesa Indigenous Support.

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