At the end of an exceptionally hard winter of National Emergency status, and the beginning of a muddy spring, the Dine' (Navajo) families of Big Mountain, and surrounding communities on Black Mesa continue to stand strong on their ancestral homelands! For nearly four decades the communities have faced the devastation of the U.S government and multinational coal mining corporations exploiting their homelands and violently fracturing their communities. Although the permit for the Black Mesa Mine expansion didn't pass, and hopefully never will, families remain --resisting the Kayenta Mine and forced relocation.
"The Big Mountain Dine' elders have endured so much since the 1970s and at the same time, they have defended and preserved that human dignity of natural survival, subsistence and religious values. They have resisted the U.S. government's genocide policies to vacate lands that Peabody Coal Company recognized as the Black Mesa coal fields. The Big Mountain matriarchal leaders always believed that resisting forced relocation will eventually benefit all ecological systems, including the human race. Continued residency by families throughout the Big Mountain region has a significant role in the intervention to Peabody Coal's future plan for Black Mesa coal to be the major source of electrical energy, increasing everyone's dependency on fossil fuel and contributing to global warming. We will continue to fight to defend our homelands." --Bahe Keediniihii, Dine' organizer and translator.
Supporting these communities, whose very presence stands in the way of large-scale coal mining, is one way to work on the front lines for climate justice and against a future of climate chaos. There are also opportunities for long-term, committed supporters and organizers. Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) is looking for Regional Coordinators to organize year-round support and work towards movement building, which would maintain and enhance communication channels between the Big Mountain resistance communities and networks that are being established to support the Big Mountain resistance as well as other local forms of indigenous resistance, while building shared analysis, vision and movements for the liberation of all peoples and our planet. Please contact us for more information if you are interested.
The families are encouraging people to come to Black Mesa now! Support is requested all year long!
BMIS is a grassroots, all-volunteer run collective dedicated to working with and supporting the indigenous peoples of Black Mesa in their Struggle for Life and Land who are targeted by and resisting unjust mountaintop removal coal mining operations and forced relocation policies of the U.S government. One of the primary ways that we do this is to honor the direct requests of these families to extend their invitation to all people interested in supporting their resistance, to come to Black Mesa, to their threatened ancestral homelands, walk with their sheep, haul water and wood, whatever they ask of us. By coming to The Land, we can assist the elders and their families in daily chores, which helps us to engage with the story that they are telling as well as to claim a more personal stake against environmental degradation, climate change, and continued legacies of colonialism and genocide. We can support by being there so they can go to meetings, organize, weave rugs, visit family members who have been hospitalized, rest after a difficult winter and regain strength for the upcoming spring. With spring comes planting crops, shearing sheep, and lambing.
COME FOR A MONTH! Or Longer!
The elders on the land are very thankful for the support of their resistance over the last three decades. We at BMIS are asking those who have come before to continue the work you have started
by coming back.
And for those of you who have never come to the land, we encourage you to start.
Deep thanks to all who made the November Caravan happen: let us continue the support through the year.
BMIS can assist you in the process of being self-sufficient on the land, which is vital. We are happy to speak with you over the phone or email and we offer important online resources like the Cultural Sensitivity and Preparedness Guidebook found on our website. Volunteers must read the guidebook and register with BMIS to ensure your safety and be accountable to the families. There are also plenty of great documents about the current and background information found on our website--one of the only on-line resources documenting this resistance.
"This land is being taken away because they've got power in Washington. We were put here with our Four Sacred Mountains ~ and we were created to live here. We know the names of the mountains and we know the names of the other sacred places. That is our power. That is how we pray and this prayer has never changed." ~Katherine Smith, Big Mountain Elder
PO Box 23501 Flagstaff, AZ 86002 -
BMIS can send letters/packages to families, however we encourage you to be in direct communication with the families.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND PRAYERS!
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
Sheep shearing in May.
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