Hopis Bulldoze Navajo Sun Dance Site

By Jim Maniaci and Diné Bureau
August 20, 2001

WINDOW ROCK — In a spectacular and surprise pre-dawn raid Friday, the Hopi government ripped out Camp Anna Mae, the Benally family Sun Dance site on Big Mountain.

The Hopi action prompted the strongest words yet from Navajo President Kelsey A. Begaye.

Hopi spokeswoman Claire Heywood called it “a definitive act of asserting Hopi jurisdiction over its land.” The leading resister family hosted the Sun Dance, as well as other unauthorized gatherings, she said.

Begaye charged, “The Hopi government appears to be persecuting these families for their religious beliefs, as well as for their heartfelt desire to stay on their ancestral lands to continue their traditional ways.”

The resisters said, “Awakened by the sounds of machinery, several witnesses observed the desecration of the sacred Sun Dance ground. Land management employees were observed cutting down arbor logs and the Sun Dance tree with chain saws.

“A front-end loader destroyed sweat lodges, fire pits, sweat rocks, altars and the Sun Dance arbor. Religious paraphernalia, which included tobacco ties, flesh offerings, and eagle feathers, were seized or left behind and trampled by machinery.”

Two arrested

Two people were arrested on trespassing charges, Heywood said. She identified one as Arlene Hamilton, who was excluded from the Hopi Reservation in April 2000 for entering and remaining on the Hopi Reservation without the permission of the Hopi Tribe.

She said the other, a young man, did not heed police warnings to stay back and was arrested on the trespass charge.

Resisters identified him as Eric Crittenton, a minor and Camp Anna Mae resident who was trying to photograph the dismantling. He was home alone when the Hopi workers arrived, guarded by Hopi rangers, Bureau of Indian Affairs police, and the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, resisters said.

Resisters arrived around 8 a.m. to take part in a weekly prayer and sweat ceremony and were shocked at being blocked from the area by lawmen. Residents counted 15 vehicles leaving the area, including trailers piled with confiscated arbor logs and the Sun Dance Tree of Life, they said.

Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor signed notices posted in the area saying, “Do Not Enter. Do Not Enter. The Hopi Tribe has hereby closed the area known as ‘Camp Anna Mae’ (Range Unite 262) until further notice for natural resource development purposes. No entrance into the closed area is authorized without permission from the Hopi Tribe. Individuals who fail to abide by this notice will be subject to arrest, in accordance to Hopi Tribal Ordinance No. 21, Section 3.3.77. No trespassing! No trespassing!”

Hopi Land Team Chairman Cedric Kuwaninvaya said that both Marsha Monestersky and Arlene Hamilton were excluded from the Hopi Reservation in 2000.

“Yet they were both caught on Hopi land this past week. They claim to be human rights activists, but by deliberately disobeying the laws of the Hopi Tribe they violate the rights of the Hopi to control access to and use of their lands,” he said.

Eye on site

He added that the tribe will keep a close eye on the site “to ensure that the trespassers do not try (to) establish another camp at which they hold unwanted gatherings and celebrate their lawlessness.”

The dismantling crew included a convoy of trucks, trailers, police vehicles and a bulldozer, Heywood said.

She added an unidentified Navajo family asked for police monitoring in the area to protect its family and property because of possible repercussions from the Navajo trespassers living at Big Mountain.

“In addition, the Hopi Tribe alerted Hopi ranchers with livestock in the area to be on the alert for possible hostile overtures and livestock harassment from the Navajo trespassers. Hopi field monitors also were placed on alert,” she said.

Begaye’s statement, issued through press officer Merle Pete, said the Hopi action was deplorable. “In the strongest terms, I object to such a violent action against the Navajo families who reside on Big Mountain and who participate, as part of their spiritual beliefs, in the Sun Dance ceremony,” he said.

He called the Hopi action religious persecution.

The president said the ceremony, performed for many years at the families’ request, has become an important part of their spiritual lives.

” Like all peoples, including the Hopi, the Navajo families on Big Mountain should have the freedom to practice their non-violent beliefs without government interference,” he said.

Begaye added, “The Hopi government’s action seemed to have been intended to intimidate, by a show of force, all the Navajo families who continue to reside on Navajo ancestral lands within the Hopi Partitioned Lands.

“Let me remind the Hopi government that the Israeli military uses a similar tactic of bulldozing homes in Palestinian villages. The outcome of that strategy has not brought peace to the Middle East.”

The president said he understands the Hopi government’s frustration, but added, “The land dispute has taken its toll on everybody just ask those Navajo families who live on the HPL and have sought spiritual strength through the Sun Dance ceremony. They feel the land dispute’s harshness more than anyone else.”

‘No moral right’

Begaye questioned whether Hopi jurisdiction over the Sun Dance gives the Hopi government officials the moral right to act as “violently” as they have.

Begaye and Taylor normally try to meet the third Friday of each month, which turned out to be the morning of the raid. The president also visited a half-dozen resister families last week, something he has done about a half-dozen times since being council speaker.

“The politics of destruction can start a terrible downward spiral that we must stop now,” he said.

Begaye said after all those arrested are freed and the Hopi government apologizes he will commit to working with the Hopi government to address its reasonable concerns.

“We must build bridges of trust, not walls of fear and intimidation. We must rely on reason and diplomacy, and the law, not acts of force, to resolve our disputes,” he said.

Begaye said, “The actions of the Hopi government have cast a long shadow over all the Navajos who reside on the HPL, as well as put a chilling effect on the relationship of our two nations. Nonetheless, our two people are here, together, as neighbors this is the creator’s will. We should honor that will with good hearts, good intentions and good actions.”

High Court To Review Navajo Tax

By Laurie Asseo, Associated Press Writer
Monday November 27, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to use a case involving a hotel on the Navajo Indian Reservation to clarify whether tribes can impose taxes on nonmembers’ activities on non-Indian land within a reservation.

The court said it will hear a hotel owner’s argument that its guests who are not tribe members should not have to pay a hotel occupancy tax to the tribe.

The Atkinson Trading Co. operates the Cameron Trading Post on land it owns within the Navajo reservation near Cameron, Ariz., in the north- central part of the state near the Grand Canyon. The trading post consists of a hotel, restaurant, curio shop and recreational-vehicle park.

In 1992 the Navajo Nation Council enacted an 8 percent hotel occupancy tax on guests, requiring hotels to collect the tax and pay it to the tribe.

Atkinson Trading challenged the tax, saying the tribe lacked authority to require the hotel’s guests to pay the tax. Tribal courts ruled against the company, and Atkinson Trading – which is based in New Mexico – went to federal court in that state.

A federal judge ruled against the company, as did the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the appeal granted Supreme Court review Monday, the company’s lawyers said tribes’ sovereign powers “are limited to those necessary for tribal self-government.” Tribes do not have authority to tax nonmembers’ activities on non-Indian land within reservations, the lawyers said.

The 10th Circuit court’s decision “opens the floodgates to all manner of tribal taxation of non-Indians,” the company’s lawyers said.

The tribe’s lawyers said it has an “inherent right to impose taxes for the privilege of engaging in economic activity within its borders.” The tribe provides police and fire protection, emergency services and health inspections to members and nonmembers on the reservation, the lawyers said.

Casino Boom Bypasses Indians

By David Pace, Associated Press Writer
August 31, 2000

SAN CARLOS, Ariz. (AP) – The plaque outside the Apache Gold Casino declares the $40 million hotel, golf and gambling resort has “helped enable the San Carlos Apache Tribe to give a better quality of life to its tribal members.”

But seven years after the casino opened – and four years after the debut of a glittering new complex – many Apache families still crowd in small apartments or mobile homes.

The reservation’s unemployment rate has climbed from 42 percent in 1991 to 58 percent in 1997, the latest year available. The number of tribal members receiving welfare has jumped 20 percent. And the tribal government still grants home sites without water and sewer connections.

“We get no help from the casino, no money, nothing,” said Pauline Randall, 75, a lifelong resident of San Carlos.

Similar complaints echo across the 1.8 million acre reservation in east Arizona, but they could just as easily be heard on many other Indian reservations across the country that have built casinos in the past decade.

Despite an explosion of Indian gambling revenues – from $100 million in 1988 to $8.26 billion a decade later – an Associated Press computer analysis of federal unemployment, poverty and public assistance records indicates the majority of American Indians have benefited little.

Two-thirds of the American Indian population belong to tribes locked in poverty that still don’t have Las Vegas-style casinos.

And among the 130 tribes with casinos, a few near major population centers have thrived while most others make just enough to cover the bills, the AP analysis found.

Despite new gambling jobs, unemployment on reservations with established casinos held steady around 54 percent between 1991 and 1997 as many of the casino jobs were filled with non-Indians, according to data the tribes reported to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“Everybody thinks that tribes are getting rich from gaming and very few of them are,” said Louise Benson, chairman of the Hualapai Tribe in northwestern Arizona, one of two tribes with casinos that failed during the 1990s.

Of the 500,000 Indians whose tribes operate casinos, only about 80,000 belong to tribes with gambling operations that generate more than $100 million a year.

Some of the 23 tribes with the most successful casinos – like the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe in Minnesota – pay each member hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

In Scott County, which includes the Shakopee reservation south of Minneapolis, the poverty rate declined from 4.1 percent in 1989 to 3.5 percent six years later. The reservation’s unemployment rate also plummeted from 70 percent in 1991 to just 4 percent in 1997.

Such success stories belong mostly to tribes with casinos near major population centers.

The tiny Mashantucket Pequot tribe of Connecticut reported more than $300 million in revenue in the first five months this year from its Foxwoods Casino, located between New York and Boston.

And the Seminole Tribe’s Hollywood Gaming Center on Miami’s Gold Coast generates more than $100 million a year with pull-tab slot machines. The unemployment rate on that reservation, however, still was 45 percent in 1997, and the average poverty rate in the two counties it touches rose from 10.4 percent in 1989 to 12.1 percent in 1995.

For many of the 130 tribes with Las Vegas-style casinos, like the San Carlos Apaches, gambling revenues pay for casino operations and debt service, with little left to upgrade the quality of life.

In counties that contain reservations with casinos, the poverty rate declined only slightly between 1989 and 1995, from 17.7 percent to 15.5 percent, the AP analysis founds. Counties with reservations with no gambling saw their poverty rate remain steady at slightly more than 18 percent.

Nationally, the poverty rate hovered at near 13 percent during the period.

In California, the Tachi Yokut Tribe in the San Joaquin Valley brags on its Web site that its Palace Gaming Center has provided employment for tribal members, helped raise education levels and upgraded housing.

But the poverty rate in Kings County, which includes the tribe’s small reservation, climbed from 18.2 percent in 1989 to 22.3 percent in 1995. The reservation’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 49.2 percent in 1997.

Jonathan Taylor, a research fellow at the Harvard University Project on American Indian Economic Development, said many investments gaming tribes have made in social and economic infrastructure don’t translate into immediate improvements in quality-of-life indicators like poverty.

“You see investments arising out of gaming taking hold slowly in greater educational success, greater family integrity, greater personal health, greater crime prevention,” he said.

There are some optimistic signs that tribes hope to build on when the casino construction loans are repaid.

The analysis indicates casino gambling has slowed, though not reversed, the growth of tribal members on public assistance. Participation in the Agriculture Department’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations increased 8.2 percent from 1990 to 1997 among tribes with casinos, compared with 57.3 percent among tribes without them.

And economic development has been spurred in communities near tribal casinos, according to an analysis of county business patterns.

The Oneida Indian Nation in central New York has become the largest employer in Oneida and Madison counties, thanks to a casino that’s generating more than $100 million in annual revenues. A championship golf course and convention center are under construction.

But the new jobs have not reduced unemployment for Indians. Tribes with established casinos saw their unemployment rate rise four-tenths of a point to 54.4 percent between 1991 and 1997, the AP analysis found.

Jacob Coin, former executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, said that’s because 75 percent of jobs in tribal casinos are held by non-Indians.

At the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation along the California-Arizona-Nevada border, the unemployment rate climbed from 27.2 percent in 1991 to 74.2 percent in 1997.

Tribal administrator Gary Goforth acknowledged few of the 675 jobs at the tribe’s two financially troubled casinos are filled by tribal members. “Not everybody wants to be a dealer, or a housekeeper or even a manager in the restaurant,” he said.

San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Raymond Stanley said about 80 percent of the 360 casino resort employees are tribal members. He said the casino also provides a $65,000 monthly dividend to the tribe that has paid for seven new police cars and small clinic.

But Stanley said it’s not enough to meet the needs of the 10,500 tribal members, 6,000 to 7,000 of whom remain on public assistance. Because the tribe’s unemployment rate remains above 50 percent, it is exempt from the 1996 welfare reform law that limits recipients to five years.

“We really don’t have a lot to show for it at the moment,” he said. “The real benefit right now is employment.”

Hopi Eagle-Taking Brings Conflict

By Matt Kelley, Associated Press Writer
July 21, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) – Every spring for centuries, Hopi Indians gathered fledgling golden eagles from nests perched on the red-hued cliffs of what is now northeastern Arizona and used them in religious ceremonies.

But Wupatki National Monument officials stopped the practice last year, saying it violated federal laws prohibiting taking wildlife from national parks.

The case is the latest in a string of disputes involving Indian cultural and religious traditions, the government and environmentalists.

To the Hopi, what’s at stake is the essence of their religion, which is older than the 12th-century ruins their ancestors built at Wupatki.

“The practice of eagle-gathering is central to Hopi religion and cultural life,” tribal chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said. “The Hopi regard the eagles as embodying the spirits of their ancestors.”

Interior Department lawyers have been considering the issue for nearly a year and hope to have a ruling before 2001, said Patricia Parker, the National Park Service’s Indian liaison.

Critics say the Park Service cannot give the Hopi an exemption without giving all other tribes the same rights in other national parks and monuments.

“If the long-standing prohibitions of taking animals from parks can be waived for religious purposes of the Hopis, then how can you not waive it for the religious purposes of Navajos or Blackfeet or Quinault, or other tribes that claim they want to take wildlife from parks for traditional ceremonial, religious or even subsistence purposes?” asked Frank Buono, a retired Park Service official.

Buono is a board member of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, one of the environmental groups pressing the Park Service to stop the Hopis from gathering the eagles.

Some Indian leaders complain that environmentalists show ambivalence toward tribes. For example, they joined with the Hopi and other tribes to try to block mining on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, but opposed the Makah tribe’s whale hunts in Washington state.

“There is still an anti-Indian bias about traditional native religions among a lot of people in environmental groups the same way there is generally,” said Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne-Muskogee and director of the Morning Star Institute, an Indian rights group based in Washington.

“You find a lot of environmentalists who are only too happy to appropriate the words of Chief Seattle, or take the thinking of other great people of native history about the environment,” she said. “There are people who are only too happy to adopt those trappings as their own and continue to disregard the living people who are related to that legacy.”

The Hopi have permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gather 40 golden eaglets a year for use in religious ceremonies, during which the birds are killed. The ceremonies are exempt from the 1962 federal law protecting golden eagles, which are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The permits do not specify where the eagles can be taken. The U.S. Forest Service allows them to be gathered in federal forest land.

Wupatki Monument Superintendent Sam Henderson said he intervened because federal law does not exempt Hopis or other Indians from the ban on killing or capturing wildlife in the monument.

Parker said the prohibition was enforced last year because it was the first time the Hopi made a formal request to gather eaglets in the monument.

Harjo, who helped write a White House report on Indian religious freedom in 1979, said federal law has plenty of exemptions for capturing or killing animals in parks for religious, scientific, safety or other purposes. For example, Sioux tribal members are allowed to hunt for religious and subsistence purposes on part of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. They are the only people allowed to hunt there.

“Allowing an Indian religious taking, especially on lands that are only under federal ownership because they were stolen from Indians, that’s the least they could do,” Harjo said.

Buono said the issue is broader than Hopis and eaglets.

“I think it’s important for the Americans of the future of all races to be able to go to places and see wild animals that are not being pursued, hunted, trapped, captured or killed,” he said. “If they want to capture eagles and sacrifice them for their religious purposes, fine, but don’t come into the parks and do it.”

Court Gives Indians River Rights

By Laurie Asseo, Associated Press Writer
June 19, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court jeopardized the allocation rights of urban water users in Arizona and Southern California today by ruling that an Indian tribe is entitled to seek additional rights to Colorado River water.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices said the Quechan tribe should have the opportunity to prove its claim that it owns about 25,000 acres of Fort Yuma Reservation land straddling the river on the border between the two states.

Unless the tribe is found to be the land’s owner, it would have no claim to the water.

The decision, although it does not end the dispute that in one form or another has been before the nation’s highest court since 1952, is a victory for the tribe and the Clinton administration. It signals a defeat for Arizona and California officials who had argued that the tribe sold the disputed land to the federal government for $15 million in 1983.

The Quechan tribe’s claim is the last unresolved part of a case that began as a water-use feud between Arizona and California.

Just last month, California and six other states appeared on the verge of a historic agreement that would give Southern California a 15-year deadline to cut its use of Colorado River water.

Under a 1922 agreement, California, Arizona and Nevada share 7.5 million acre-feet of water from the river’s lower basin, with California getting 4.4 million, Arizona 2.8 million and Nevada 3,000.

An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or a year’s supply of water for a family of four.

The upper basin apportionment is also 7.5 million acre-feet – with Colorado receiving 3.8 million, Utah 1.7 million, Wyoming 1 million and New Mexico 838,000 in a normal year.

But California’s average demand over the last decade has been about 5.2 million acre-feet, and the state traditionally has taken surplus water from Arizona and Nevada.

The Quechan tribe’s claim on river water is relatively small, at about 1 percent of that allocated from the lower basin.

But the 78,000 acre-feet “is not an insignificant amount of water,” the justices were told when the case was argued in April. “It comes out of the hide of the Arizona and Southern California urban water users.”

Monday’s decision ordered a court-appointed special master to study the tribe’s claim to the land and, if it is legitimate, how much water should accompany the land. The special master then would make a recommendation to the justices, who would decide whether to accept it.

The tribe contends it has owned the disputed lands since the reservation was created in 1893, and that $15 million it was paid in 1983 was to compensate for previous trespassing and a history of broken promises by the federal government.

“We hold that the claims of the United States and the tribe to increased water rights for the disputed boundary lands of the Fort Yuma Reservation are not precluded by the consent judgment” in 1983, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.

Her opinion was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.

Dissenting were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas.

Writing for the three, Rehnquist said the federal government and the tribe were barred from raising the claim now because it could have been decided in an earlier phase of the case.

The case is Arizona vs. California, 8 Original.

The Hopi tribe has purchased 170,000 acres of privately-owned ranch land in northern Arizona. The acquisition was made with $23.5 million of the $550.2 million the tribe was awarded in the 1995 settlement of a lawsuit against the U.S. government for not protecting Hopi land from Navajo encroachment. Another 170,000 acres of state land that is in the checkerboard pattern within the perimeter of the recent purchase may also be acquired by the tribe.
Since tribal lands are not subject to state taxes, the U.S. government will compensate Arizona up to $250,000 for lost tax revenue. The new lands will be placed in trust with the BIA. The negotiations (which resulted in the land purchase) were conducted in secret, partly to guard against price increases and partly to avoid the kind of “intense non-Hopi public opposition” that ensued when the tribe tried to purchase off-reservation land in 1992-93.

Indian activist/actor Russell Means claims the Navajo tribal court does not have jurisdiction in a case in which he is charged with beating his father-in-law. Means pleaded innocent and filed his motion for dismissal, claiming that since he is a registered member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, the Navajo court lacks jurisdiction.