Staff writer An American Indian recently visited Japan to solicit support for the Dineh people, also known as the Navajo, facing relocation from their home in the Big Mountain area of northern Arizona. Lecturing in English and saying a prayer in his native tongue, Bahe Yazzie Katenay, 42, spoke about the forced relocation that he and about 200 other Dineh now face. He told audiences in Tokyo, Kobe and Kameyama, Mie Prefecture, that for these Dineh, Feb. 1 is a fateful day because that is the deadline for their relocation from their ancestral sacred lands. In response to his calls for help, about 40 people began a march on New Year’s Day from Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. Others are expected to join as the march proceeds. The supporters will visit the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Saturday to submit a petition for a halt to the relocation. Several will visit the Big Mountain area in time for the Feb. 1 deadline. Big Mountain is located in the Four Corners region, which straddles the borders of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. In 1882, U.S. President Chester A. Arthur set aside reservation land for the Hopi and “other Indians as the secretary of the interior may see fit to settle thereon” after the formation of a reservation for the Navajo to the east. The inhabitants of the reservation for the Hopi and other Indians included many Dineh. Because the Dineh continued to settle on this reservation, the area was declared the Joint Use Area in 1962, surrounding the smaller District Six, which is exclusively for the Hopi. The JUA was to be administered by both the Navajo and Hopi tribal governments. According to Kazuro Kawamoto, a supporter of Katenay and one of the marchers, most of the inhabitants in the JUA were Dineh. For the stated purpose of resolving land disputes between the Hopi and Navajo, the U.S. Congress in 1974 passed the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act. Under the law, the JUA was partitioned into the Hopi Partitioned Lands exclusively for the Hopi and the Navajo Partitioned Lands exclusively for the Navajo. The law required the relocation of more than 10,000 Dineh from the HPL and about 100 Hopi from the NPL. Although the Dineh, whose society is based on sheep-herding, and the Hopi, traditionally dry-crop farmers, have completely different languages and cultures, they lived as neighbors without conflict for centuries until the land dispute was artificially created, Katenay said. The 1974 law required that the relocation be completed by July 1986, but this deadline was not met due to resistance mainly from the Dineh. Black Mesa, the most sacred place for both the Hopi and Dineh, is barren dessert. But the area is believed to be rich in coal. Traditional Dineh and Hopi, who do not recognize their tribal governments, think coal-mining interests were behind the establishment of the JUA and the land partition, Kawamoto said. Establishment of the JUA and later the HPL and NPL effectively make clear what entities have legal rights concerning the lands and make it easy for parties seeking to lease tribal lands to sign legal documents, he said. Citing Hopi prophecy, Katenay said, “People knew that some day, strangers would come and take the land. “Big Mountain is a sacred place. From the top of Big Mountain, all animal life was created,” Katenay said of the Dineh belief. “God, the great spirit of our myth, told people never to leave this place. “This is why the elders made the decision (to remain),” he said. About 50 Dineh in his community and an additional 150 in other communities are resisting the relocation, he said. “Most of my people left the land. Today, my leaders are mostly elderly women,” he said. “Mostly women, because the American system destroyed men.” During the last 25-year struggle, about 45 Dineh and 10 non-Indians have been sent to prison, he said. “They (the Bureau of Indian Affairs) use 20 (Indian) policemen to tell one old woman that the land does not belong to her anymore,” Katenay said. “They also started using helicopters to watch everyone’s activities.” Katenay said his community has no electricity or running water. A lot of wells were destroyed beyond repair and people must travel by truck about 35 km to get drinking water, he said. He also said there is the possibility that coal from Black Mesa is being exported to Japan. With the help of the Walk in Beauty Project, a group based in Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, Katenay is collecting signatures that will accompany a request addressed to President Bill Clinton. The request demands a hearing on the relocation and urges the U.S. government to find out the role energy and mineral companies played in the passage of the 1974 law. About 6,500 Japanese have signed the request. Katenay visited Sweden and the Netherlands a few months ago for lectures and a signature drive. Other Dineh visited other European countries, he said. “We don’t have any telephone lines or computers on the reservation,” he said, noting that although the number of supporters outside the Dineh communities is small, they are effective because they have facsimile machines, computers, e-mail and access to the Internet. “The (Feb. 1) deadline will put a lot of people in a test. The elders are asking people to keep sending their signatures to the U.S. government,” he added.
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