Categories Archives: Colonialism & Conquest

Bears Ears Alternative Moves Into House of Representatives as Opponents Cry Land Grab

bears_ears_sunset-tim_peterson

The Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, touted as an alternative to granting National Monument status to 1.9 million acres in Utah, does not include the two sacred peaks that give the region its name. Photo by Tim Peterson

A congressional bill touted as an alternative to the Bears Ears proposal, an intertribal request to designate nearly two million acres of land as a national monument in southeast Utah, is moving forward to the full House of Representatives.

The Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, H.R. 5780, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) passed 21–13 in the Republican-majority House Natural Resources Committee on September 22.

Committee Democrats, including ranking member Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, expressed several concerns with the bill, saying it did not contain a tribal consultation component or protect half a million acres identified by the tribes in their larger Bears Ears designation request.

Grijalva offered an amendment that would remove the Bears Ears National Conservation and the Indian Creek Wilderness areas from the bill. The Public Land Initiative designates about 1.4 million acres of federal land for “conservation and recreation,” according to a media release from the bill’s sponsors, as well as “exchanges and consolidates certain federal and non-federal land; and provides for economic development within the State of Utah.” Opponents say the measure would open the land to natural-resources development and give a fair amount away to unspecified private interests.

Committee Republicans rejected a total of six amendments from Democrats, including one by California Rep. Raul Ruiz that would have protected land, water, roads or other resources within the Uintah and Ouray Ute Reservation. Calling H.R. 5780 “legislation that tramples over sovereignty and self-determination” and “a modern-day Indian land grab,” Ruiz said the Ute tribe was denied an opportunity to present their concerns to the committee in a formal hearing and that the bill was fast-tracked to avoid a hearing in the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs (IIANA) Subcommittee, where Ruiz is a ranking member.

“Without a hearing in the IIANA subcommittee we’re not able to fully discuss the true status of these lands within the Ute Indian Tribe’s reservation,” Ruiz said. “H.R. 5780 would be the first bill to take away these lands from these tribes. Attempting to justify taking away these lands based on misleading questions raised at the federal land subcommittee hearing last week is wrong and glazes over the disastrous impact on the tribe’s reservation and impact on federal Indian policy.”

Located in northeastern Utah, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation—made up of the Whiteriver, Uncompahgre and Uintah bands—is rich in oil and gas deposits. The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees land and minerals for sections of tribal land, but Ute officials, citing that the issue of ownership has been settled by past litigation, affirmed the BLM-managed land lies within its boundaries and say the land should have been placed under trust through the Indian Reorganization Act. The tribe opposes the bill, stating it “proposes to take Indian lands and resources to fix Utah’s problems.”

Democrats during the hearing continually referred to opposition from area tribes, including the bill’s exclusion of 500,000 acres of the Bears Ears region named after two 9,000-foot twin buttes, an area residents say is sacred and contains more than 100,000 archeological sites.

RELATED: Bears Ears 1.9 Million–Acre Monument Would Be Unique Tribal-Federal Collaboration

California Republican Tim McClintock said the movement to protect Bears Ears came from outside the Four Corners area, and several tribes in the area have supported the Public Lands Initiative (PLI), including a single elected Navajo official, Republican San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally.

“The testimony that we received from the county commissioner called the claim of the Native American support for the Bears Ears monument campaign a sham,” McClintock said. “She says, ‘I’m here to help you unmask it.’ She did. I’m sorry she didn’t have more sway.”

Ruiz took issue with the characterization of Benally as a spokesperson for the entire Navajo Nation and reminded McClintock about tribal sovereignty.

“First of all, saying that one woman, this Navajo woman acting as a commissioner, using her as a token spokesperson for her tribal nation, that is wrong and not right,” Ruiz said. “The Navajo Nation under their president and their council opposes this land grab and are in solidarity with the Ute Nation. It’s their land; they can decide what to do with their land.”

The Navajo Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Tribe and the Hopi and Zuñi Pueblos support the monument proposal, and created the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition last year after failed attempts to work with Utah representatives.

RELATED: Bears Ears Coalition Splits From ‘Disrespectful’ Congressional Reps

The coalition formally asked President Obama to designate 1.9 million acres in the area as a national monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the President signing power to create such monuments on federal lands.

RELATED: Tribes Ask President Obama to Designate Bears Ears as National Monument

During a press tour of the region in July, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the President plans to make a decision on the issue before the end of his term.

RELATED: Sally Jewell Visits Bears Ears, Says Obama Will Decide on National Monument Before Leaving Office

The issue has deeply divided the Four Corners community. The day before the House Natural Resources hearing a group of Utah Navajos during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol opposed the monument, saying a monument designation would interfere with Bears Ears access and their traditional way of life. Six of seven Navajo communities in Utah have passed resolutions supporting a monument.

Standing with Utah lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert, Navajo resident Susie Philemon made a direct plea to the President, “Please do not take this land from us. Please don’t break more promises not again,” according to the Associated Press.

In a video posted on the day of the Natural Resources meeting, Rep. Bishop, who is committee chairman, said the Public Lands Initiative is a compromise after 1,200 meetings, 50 field trips, and public and private hearings.

“There has been no bill before Congress that has had this kind of transparency and this kind of scrutiny,” Bishop said. “And, in the end of it when we take it to the floor of the House, it will be a good bill that will solve the problems and provide stability moving forward into the future.”

US-controlled Hopi Government Arrests, Threatens Traditional People

By Black Mesa Indigenous Support

Hopi Rangers arrested two individuals and impounded 120 sheep this morning at the homesite of Tom and Etta Begay in Red Willow Springs.  Heavily armed rangers guarded and blocked nearby dirt road entrances as well.

“The Hopi Rangers came for our homestead early this morning. They tried to arrest my Aunt Etta who is almost 70 years old and my dad Bahe. They had barricades set up at the top of the hill with two police units, when we tried to get around the barricade they chased us for two miles, trying to hit us with their trucks, and they drew their guns at us.  When we got to the house they brought four more units and tried to block us in by the north hogan. They grabbed us out of our vehicles.  A male officer was grabbing me around my waist. I told them they were violating our rights and violating our elders. They were trying to arrest Etta who didn’t even know what they were saying [she doesn’t speak English]. She wasn’t doing anything. They arrested my younger brother Lance and me. Because we were a threat to them for voicing our rights and defending our family. It took three officers to detain me and another three to detain my brother.   We didn’t  go down without a fight. We were let go after six hours of detainment. I told them they are threatening our family who is all alone and elderly and they come out with guns and threaten and scare them. Who would have defended our family if we didn’t come?  We didn’t come with guns and knives; we are not violent, we just came to protect our family.  Who knows what they would have done if we weren’t there. We said, we are not scared.  We are protecting our elders, if you are going to take us to jail for that, do it. They took 120 sheep from our homestead.”–Milayia Yoe, arrestee.

The U.S government has always used “scorched earth policies” against Indigenous people–attempts to cut them off from their food supplies, decimate economies, or destroy infrastructure–as a precursor to forced relocations including the Long Walk of the Dineh. Livestock impoundments come under this category. There is increased surveillance on the families and livestock of the so-called “HPL” including the use of drones.

“We are in a battleground, the endless battleground of the Partitioned Lands. This is the front of the line and when it comes your family there is no yes or no, you have to stand up for your family and your relatives. This is what I was taught. The past was never really forgotten of the way the U.S. Government treated my people. It is still going on, it is still alive. We will fight- not with violence or armor, but with the old ways.  This is a stand for people to know who we are and how we live as Dineh.”–Gerald Blackrock  10/23/14

“The U.S. government is using the Hopi Tribe. We are Native People, we don’t work like this.”–Beulah Blackrock 10/ 28/14

Caroline Tohannie, the elder who had her herd impounded last week, has a court date coming up where she will be facing trespassing charges for being at her homestead.

These impoundments are stressful for the entire community, particularly the elderly:

“Our life is connected to the life of the sheep.  We are alive and strong because of them, and being close to them, being with them everyday, keeps us strong. Especially now in our old age the sheep are important to us. If we are too far from our sheep, we can become frail. “ Clarence and Mary Lou Blackrock, Cactus Valley Elders10/25/14

“I disapprove of the impoundments. They really affect the elderly. Ever since I was a baby I was carried on a horse to herd sheep. I have herded all my life and I am in my eighties.  You have the livestock in your heart, and they want to take that away.”–Jack Woody, Black Mesa Elder 10/25/14

“They way that the rangers are treating the people goes against the Dineh way; it is very taboo to point a gun at somebody. They are traumatizing an already traumatized community. If overgrazing was actually the issue they could just educate people. But it’s not. This is uncalled for.”–Marie Gladue Big Mountain Resident 10/28/14

Calls to Action:

  • Lawyers needed! If you are a lawyer or have connections to lawyers, residents are requesting legal assistance.
  • Call protests at your local Department of Interior or Bureau of Indian Affairs offices, donate funds here, come to the land as a human rights observer (email blackmesais@gmail.com for more information),
  • “Call the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Hopi Rangers, and the Department of Interior. Ask they stop impounding sheep on the HPL. This is current day colonialism, our food sovereignty is being attacked and ask that they stop the unjust impoundments.”–Louise Benally

Call:

  • The BIA superintendent Wendel Honanie at (928-738-2228),

  • Hopi Chairman Herman G. Honanie,  Email: hehonanie@hopi.nsn.us, Phone: (928) 734-3102

  • The Hopi Rangers Clayton Honyumptewa at (928-734-3601),

  • The Department of Interior at  (602-379-6600)

From Black Mesa Indigenous Support: http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bb9ecfdb5d711f67f04ee3551&id=b4bf977851

Cultures of Resistance

The book Deep Green Resistance studies the American Civil Rights Movement, the British Women’s Social and Political Union, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. All these “cultures of resistance” provide loyal support for their members, so they may do the difficult work of demanding social and political change. I’ve looked into a few other such cultures and offer them here:

An excellent example is the diverse resistance put up by many ethnic minorities to Burma’s military dictatorship. The State Law and Restoration Council (SLORC), a military junta of General Ne Win, took control of Burma in 1962 and renamed it Myanmar. Already troubled by decades of British colonialism and a 1942 Japanese invasion, Burma’s diverse peoples—Rohingya, Karen, Padaung, Mons, Kachins, Akha, many more—were subjected to enslavement, rape, forced prostitution, all the usual manner of violence committed by the powerful against the powerless.

The military government also (as usual) sold off great swaths of forest to foreign timber companies, and seized slaves and land for other economic enterprises like railroads and agriculture. The Burmese human-rights disaster is somewhat well-known for the politician Aung San Suu Kyi, kept under arrest by the SLORC despite her overwhelming 1990 election win. The movie Beyond Rangoon also has publicized this struggle. Though exactly the sort of entrenched oppression supposedly condemned by the West, the very opposite of democracy, no serious intervention was ever mounted from outside Burma. One reason, perhaps, is that the SLORC’s business partners were familiar to anyone in the US: Amoco, Texaco, and PepsiCo, then owners of Pepsi-Cola, Taco Bell, Frito Lay, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut. Admiring the bravery of Aung San Suu Kyi is one thing—she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her devoted, nonviolent activism—divesting from an obscure overseas horror when there’s cash to be made, quite another.

Though there were some UN efforts to alleviate the suffering in Burma, by and large the people were on their own. There would be no cavalcade of outraged freedom fighters taking on the SLORC or its army, the Tatmadaw, on behalf of the 300,000 Rohingya refugees forcibly displaced into desperate camps in neighboring Bangladesh. It’s frankly impossible for most people in the US to imagine just how terrifying this sort of frontier resource warfare really is; I surely can’t begin to grasp it. Human rights activist Edith T. Mirante writes: “[T]he Refugees described a systematic campaign of terror-rape by the Tatmadaw. A military buildup in the area had apparently been accompanied by one of the largest-scale uses of tactical rape in Asia since Japan’s 1937 occupation of Nanking, China. It is worth noting that present-day [1993] Burma is ruled by a general trained under that same Japanese fascist military.” Women and young girls from the frontier zones were also abducted and sold to Thai brothels. They were advertised as being “AIDS free,” but as Mirante writes, “they don’t remain AIDS free for long.”

Women traditionally held positions of respect within their pre-colonial communities, and this carried forward into the resistance to the military dictatorship. The Shan people believed a woman’s bullet could defeat an enemy’s defensive magic, and I daresay they were right. Mon women—the Mon are a Buddhist people—served in the rebel army in combat roles, “perhaps inspired by Chama Devi, queen of an ancient Mon empire.” There was scarcely anything so fearsome to Burma’s tribal people as a tattooed woman with a gun. A well-organized, complementary non-violent strategy played an important role, as well: “[E]thnic minority women in exile have worked tirelessly to make people in other countries aware of Burma’s plight. Shan, Karen, Kachins, Pa-O, and other female activists have organized demonstrations around the world, lobbied governments and international organizations for refugee aid, and publicized issues like the destruction of Burma’s rain forests and the threats of AIDS and forced prostitution.”

A similar coalition of indigenous peoples in Canada has recently formed to fight tar sands pipelines and oil tanker traffic in the lands and waters that have sustained them for thousands of years. In a rare, breathtaking show of solidarity, “more than 130 First Nations governments in western Canada have firmly declared that they do not support the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and that they will not support such projects anywhere in the traditional territories of opposed First Nations; as a result, there is unprecedented unified opposition to both the Enbridge and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker projects,” according to West Coast Environmental Law. Canada’s tar sands mines are so outrageously destructive, so obviously the last desperate grasping of the end of the oil age, that opposition is finally beginning to match the scale of the psychopathology driving such activity. The coalition-building and superb organizing is a model to be admired and duplicated.

In a very different part of the world, the alliance Moskitia Asia Takanka has defended the tropical Moskitia rainforest and Patuca River from the occupying Honduran government for thirty-five years. As the international human rights group Cultural Survival notes, “For 3,000 years, Indigenous people have plied their dugout canoes up and down the Patuca River, the central artery of Honduras’ vast Moskitia lowland rainforest. On its rich floodplain they grow cocoa, oranges, rice, beans, cassava, and other crops for subsistence and sale, and its fish provide a vital source of protein. ‘The river is our life,’ says Lorenzo Tinglas, president of the Tawahka people’s governing council. ‘Any threat to the Patuca is a threat to four Indigenous Peoples—the Tawahka, Pech, Miskitu, and Garifuna—and we will fight to the death to protect it.’”

Danielle DeLuca writes in Cultural Survival Quarterly: “Despite years of protest from local Indigenous Peoples and international environmental groups, in January 2011 the Honduras government signed a contract with a Chinese company to start construction on the first of three dams that would have many irreversible consequences in the Moskitia, Central America’s most biologically diverse tropical wilderness…[C]ommunities are fighting for their futures as dam construction gets underway.”

There are plenty more examples: The 1980s militant resistance of the Bougainville islanders to a copper and gold mine owned by industrial giant Rio Tinto-Zinc and the Papua New Guinean government, that successfully closed the mine. This struggle was popularized in the documentary film The Coconut Revolution, and is fascinating not only because the small Bougainville population took on the Papua New Guinea Army and won, using resources like coconut oil for diesel fuel, but for its tidy representation of every facet of the global situation: their landbase was being destroyed for a limited resource they themselves had no use for, their water was being poisoned and they had nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, commodity prices are pressuring the mine to reopen.

Endnotes

http://mendnigerdelta.com/ Accessed 3/7/12.

McBay, Aric; Keith, Lierre; and Jensen, Derrick. (2011.) Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. New York, NY.: Seven Stories Press. 113-192.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aung_San_Suu_Kyi Accessed 3/2/12.

Another story of women’s important role in armed struggle is the Nepalese People’s Liberation Army, “Maoist guerrillas, who were waging an underground war to abolish monarchy in Nepal and promulgate a constitution of, by and for the people.” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106139 Accessed 2/21/12. Thanks to Premadasi Amada for bringing this to my attention.

Mirante, Edith T. (1993.) Burma’s Ethnic Minority Women: From Abuse to Resistance. In: Miller, Marc S., editor. (1993.) State of the Peoples: a global human rights report on societies in danger. Boston, MA.: Beacon Press. 7-14.

Mirante, Edith T. (1993.) Burmese Looking Glass: A Human Rights Adventure and a Jungle Revolution. New York, NY.: Atlantic Monthly Press.

http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/first-nations-north-south-and-interior-stand-against-oil-tankers Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/02/13/nation-building-how-enbridge-pipeline-issue-unified-northern-bc Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G5KtqPSW8Q Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sustainability/2012/01/17/enbridge-northern-gateway-joint-review-panel-smithers-finds-100-opposition Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/enbridge-pipeline-first-nation-says-an-oil-spill-is-inevitable-and-would-wipe-out-their-1627405.htm Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/02/13/nation-building-how-enbridge-pipeline-issue-unified-northern-bc Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/honduras-dont-dam-patuca-river Accessed 7/8/11.

http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/pursuit-autonomy-indigenous-peoples-oppose-dam-construction Accessed 3/4/12.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDpvxQe_Jhg&feature=gv Accessed 3/4/12. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bougainville_%E2%80%93_Our_Island_Our_Fight Accessed 3/4/12.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/bougainville-president-backs-panguna-mine/story-e6frg8zx-1226058523408 Accessed 2/19/12.

http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2010/s2900363.htm Accessed 2/19/12.

http://www.mpi.org.au/1new-page.aspx Accessed 2/19/12. See also: http://www.mpi.org.au/about-mpi.aspx