New Fight brought to Utah Lands Issues using “racist” methods?

San Juan County showdown slated for Saturday at Recapture Canyon

(click to see story)

There is a new fight that is brewing against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the residents of Utah, namely in the small town of Blanding. While it might be understandable the frustration they are feeling because of the ineptitude of the BLM and its disorganized and seemingly arbitrary delineations of land demarcations, they do still have a job and they need to be accountable for doing it. Thus, the backlash against the federal government is beginning to culminate in the local White Mormon residents of Utah vs. the BLM, especially in the wake of the FBI raids of 2009 when they claimed that the alleged law-breakers were arrested with excessive force using “overkill” force by the feds.

Billboard upon entering Blanding, Utah: both Indians and artifacts

Billboard upon entering Blanding, Utah: both Indians and artifacts

As stated by MotherJones.com: “This Saturday, angry residents of San Juan County, Utah, plan to illegally ride their ATVs through Utah’s Recapture Canyon—an 11 mile-long stretch of federal land that is home to Native American archeological sites—because they don’t think that the federal Bureau of Land Management should have designated that land off-limits to motor vehicles. The protest was meant to be a local affair. But on Thursday, Bundy, the rancher who wouldn’t pay the feds grazing fees and sparked a gun-drenched showdown in Nevada, called on his supporters to join the anti-government off-roading event, E&E Publishing’s Phil Taylor reported. Bundy, whose crusade against the federal government became tainted by his racist comments, is looking to spread the cause from cattle to cross-country cruising.”

All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) can do damage on trails with fragile ecosystems and irreplaceable archaeological sites of indigenous ancestors which are all over San Juan County

This time, the BLM is the target for this same demographic and is supported by the son of Cliven Bundy of Nevada who is recently become somewhat popular among staunch Republicans as a poster boy for American land-owners against the BLM but is also…a recorded racist in talking about African-Americans. Apparently, these same people have forgotten that it is not a question about them owning the land or the government land because it is not their land: it is Native American land.

Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy of Nevada

Let me restate that so it sinks in: If this is a question about being an American with freedoms and rights to own land without as much government interference or regulation, then you couldn’t be more spot on when talking about Native American communities, everywhere, including there in Utah, who have had to deal with not just the government but the settler-colonial agents of Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny since the beginning of this Western imposed nation-state you call America. This argument does not include Indians because we are older than America and preclude these “rights” that were written for a similar crowd at the time of the Constitution (white land owners who were business man and developers). Whose land is this? This is Indian land. It has always been our land. It will always be our land. We are not going anywhere. We will not leave. This is our home. The sooner both ranchers like Bundy or San Juan citizens like Phil Lyman can get that, the more they can get to the root of the problem: Land issues.

Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner leading ATV protest

Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner leading ATV protest

Could it be that they are so desperate to talk about land issues that they are willing to use racists and their sons as symbols of their fight? Or is that just a natural inclination of San Juan citizens according to the treatment of American Indians in the local area in a number of cases (i.e. disrespectfully selling and collecting Native American artifacts in 2009, attempting to defy the Antiquities Act and Eastern Lands Bill for land use open to everyone by Congressman Bishop in 2013, etc.) Even Bundy’s argument misses the mark because there were the Dann Sisters, of the Western Shoshone tribe, who tried to fight for their land and their ranch but were not as publicly recognized or given as much attention about their land issues as Bundy seems to be getting now. Maybe its because the sisters didn’t say anything racist. I don’t know.

Western Shoshone sisters of Nevada

Western Shoshone Dann sisters of Nevada

Utah officials and citizens are hiding behind their “rights” as American citizens that they pretend to respect but are willing to literally tread upon their own government for their own benefits. In addition, they disrespect the local Native American populations as well by not listening, respecting, or leaving the artifacts that are not supposed to be collected alone. They are willing to destroy ancient archaeological artifacts and sites that are supposed to be protected, preserved, and acknowledged as spaces that should be respected. In this day and age, with both Native and non-Native peoples sharing a community and land, there is no excuse for this kind of ignorance mixed with privilege and power from a powerful group “asserting” its “rights” over another marginalized group. It is appalling to me the conduct of a supposedly Mormon town towards their own nation and other sovereign indigenous nations that live there in the area such as the White Mesa Paiute, Ute Mountain Tribe, and the Navajo. Do these Blanding citizens have no other way to show their protest than to destroy the place that they love by riding ATV’s over it and not including Native American perspectives in this conversation?

 

Ancient indigenous archaeological sites

Ancient indigenous archaeological sites of San Juan County

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San Juan residents talk back: Eastern Lands Bill comments

In order to better understand the land issues in the film, we need to see the current events concerning the land today. Because it was originally in the hands of the Navajo, other outside entities have contested claims to these lands, rightfully or wrongly, but they often neglect the voice of the indigenous peoples who live there despite outsiders’ own claims.

Here is a document that shares some local points of view about the proposed San Juan County wilderness areas and various perspectives on it. There is a media sharing happening now with all the documents floating around the internet concerning the Eastern Lands Bill and the stakeholders associated with it. What is interesting about it is the pointed and biased views of the Navajo people from locals, an obvious prejudicial tendency to stereotype Navajos as trying to take “their” lands away from them. For more information on the overt dislike for Navajos voicing their opinion, click “The Petroglyph”, a local news media outlet  for residents of San Juan County: http://thepetroglyph.com/dine-bikeyah-sells-their-traditional-life-style-for-say-in-bishops-land-bill/ Obviously, there are a number of things wrong with their arguments, not the least of which is the Manifest Destiny claim against Navajos. Evidently, the author doesn’t know the meaning and origin of the word.

Most notably, the commission meetings are held in the town areas away from the borders of the Navajo Nation, some of those lands which are in San Juan County, leaving the voice of the local Utah Navajos out. Many of those local Navajos there do not have transportation are elders, don’t speak English, or are able to be fully informed of the current events intended for these meetings.

Commission Meeting:

October 22nd Monticello Utah– 7:00 PM at the Monticello High School

October 23rd Blanding Utah – 7:00 PM at the Blanding High School

October 24th Bluff Utah – 7:00 PM at the Bluff Community Center 

For more information about the scheduled meetings for the discussion about the land issues that leave out consideration for Navajo input: http://thepetroglyph.com/san-juan-county-lands-bill-open-houses/

As you can see, there is not as much consideration for the Navajo population in San Juan County to meet them where they live at and build more meaningful and positive relationships with Non-Navajos as one would hope. The least SJ residents, leaders, politicians, and community representatives could do is hold a meeting in Mexican Hat, Monument Valley, or Montezuma Creek. These are closer towns to the Navajo Nation and their chapters. Incidents of not extending the services of San Juan County to Navajos and not just Non-Navajos have been rising in recent years. Some would call that discrimination. If want to see the full schedule of proposed meetings, access here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/179509421/San-Juan-County-Lands-BIll-Survey

Please take the time to look some of these comments over and see that there are many sides to the issue but just because residents feel strongly about their local residency doesn’t mean Navajos feel any less strongly. Arguably, they feel more connected and responsible for the lands here because we were already here before the settler-colonial expansion into the West, not more than a couple hundred years ago by them, lest they forget.CITIZENS SAY NO TO BISHOP’S LANDS BILL

This is the land area that everyone is talking about either making a wilderness conservation area, a free-for-all for business and tourism, or a balance between both.

For more information about the current events for the land dispute occurring in San Juan County, access the documents at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/183792272/San-Juan-Alliance-Proposal-for-Bishops-lands-bill

While I don’t agree nor condone most of the views from this electronic press outlet, I do think alternative views are in order to see what other perspectives are out there: http://thepetroglyph.com

I believe if one reads their articles, people can ascertain for themselves whether or not they want to invest their time and energy into a publication that is slanted against Navajos and conservationists while endorsing Republicans and Mormons. Regardless, it is helpful for residents, Navajo and Non-Navajo, to educate themselves about what is going on in their backyard.

Link

The Navajo Times Online

This is a fantastic source of news and information about the latest and greatest on the internet with the events and news of the Navajo Nation. Of course, not all the news makes the online edition alternate sources are good for local and regional news. For instance, “Into America: The Ancestor’s Land” made The Navajo Times but only in the printed edition of last week’s paper. Regardless, this is a widely recognized fixture of Navajo life reporting the news around the nation to any place of business that will distribute it. Be sure to stay current on news, land issues, politics, and possible film showings through the online link. Thank you!

“Utah Dine Bikeyah”: Eastern Lands Bill Position of Local Navajos

Utah-Arizona Border

Help keep the lands intact and free from exploitation from outsiders

This short letter comes from some local Utah Navajos who are taking a side in the discussion about the new hotly debated contested use of Southeastern Utah lands bill which encompasses the area which is discussed in the “Into America: The Ancestor’s Land” documentary film. San Juan County, is taking comments from all sides by allowing stakeholders, whoever they may be, to state their position and tell the government what they think should be done with the lands. Of course, we as Navajos, are limited to only one position to take although we know that there are far more opposing parties looking to exploit, harvest, and allocate the lands for non-Navajos and other outsiders, especially businesses and land-owners. For more informationhttp://www.sanjuancounty.org/lands_bill.htm

“The Navajo Nation in cooperation with the Utah Diné Bikéyah, is proposing the creation of the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area within Navajo ancestral land in southeastern Utah. The 1.9 million acre conservation area includes wilderness designations, as well as a co-management relationship to ensure the sustainable continuation of culturally important activities. Protection of the rich cultural heritage sites within San Juan County is a top priority for the Navajo. Diné Elders speak clearly and consistently about their desires for a voice in determining land management in San Juan County. Development, recreation, and grazing impacts are negatively affecting cultural sites and land uses of the Diné people. Federal agencies have not been able to protect these resources alone. Therefore, stronger policies, and the means by which the Navajo can assist with monitoring and enforcement activities are needed.

The goals proposed for the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area are: 1) provide clear management prioritization toward the protection of cultural and biological resources over other land-uses; 2) increase funding allocation to improve management of resources for this region; 3) create a process that recognizes the legitimate interests of the Navajo on federal land; and 4) provide a means of incorporating the extensive and valuable knowledge of the Navajo into land management decisions.” – Mark Maryboy, former Navajo Nation Council Delegate for the Utah Navajo Section of the Navajo Tribe.

For more information about the proposed mapped plan of this group, click Dine Bikeyah Proposal and the official website: http://utahdinebikeyah.org/

Great Reception at American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco!

Dear Supporters,

Thank you for a warm and positive reception at the American Indian Film Festival! It was a great experience for everyone present to share a film years in the making featuring my grandmother and our family. I especially enjoyed being able to talk to the Native community here in San Francisco and others who were genuinely interested and curious about the Navajo issues of land, identity, culture, and language.

The crowd asked great questions and were a lively bunch who were very diverse in background and culture. There was a bunch of kids who were asking great questions, fearless as ever, and getting to participate as part of a field trip from a local school. They were my favorite and probably asked the most interesting questions of every presenter that day.

I want to thank the American Indian Film Festival and the community of San Francisco for their support and great words of respect and warmth. The film festival staff, judges, and supporters are wonderful and gracious hosts. I also want to thank my collaborator, Nadine Zacharias and the crew, as well as my family who worked tirelessly to bring this film to the screen. I also want to thank the Navajo Nation and my home community for their additional support and their participation of which it would not have been possible to make this film and bring it to the people of the world to see.

I made some great connections there and hope that we can show this film at other film festivals. I’ll also give an update of the many other wonderful new Native films out there at the film festival that I saw for an unofficial review here. They are impressive and I wish I could see every single one! The sheer talent and ability of our Native storytellers is inspiring and motivates me to keep doing this work, not only for me, but for all our relations. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Angelo Baca

The Navajo Reservation

The Navajo Reservation


Situated in the northeastern portion of Arizona and in the northwestern part of New Mexico bordering on Colorado and Utah is the Navajo reservation.

Now the largest Indian reservation in the United States, comprising as it does nearly ten million acres, or nearly fifteen thousand square miles.

Being equal in size to the combined areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The home of the Navajo Indians has always been considered one of the most arid and barren portions of the Great American Desert.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor's Land) focused upon in this film.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor’s Land) focused upon in this film.

This land area is the central focus of land issue contention between several entities. Among them, the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Land ManagementSan Juan County, Utah Land Trust, the Aneth Chapter, and Montezuma Creek. The rapid development of natural resource exploitation facilitated the removal of the Yellowman family and pressured others to concede their lands to many of these outside entities. Now, the development continues literally today in the discussions proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R) of Utah to further develop natural resources in these very areas. For more information, click here.

The link to the San Juan County official website regarding the information available to the public here. It is also known as the Eastern Utah Lands Bill on the same site with additional information available for the public including options to comment here.

Please speak out against the continued resource exploitation and destruction of traditional Navajo lands and natural landscapes of the Utah desert country. Join us in our effort to make our voices heard. Wilderness is not currency and we don’t want Rob Bishop to sale our lands or San Juan County to dissolve the Antiquities Law. Our environment, our Mother Earth, and our cultural, traditional, and spiritual ways of life are not for sale.

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Barre Toelken and Academics

Barre Toelken, an American folklorist at Utah State University, has done lengthy research on American and Native American folklore. His academic publishing and research in this field is widely recognized and accomplished. What many do not know is that Barre is also an old family friend of the Yellowman family who have helped him develop his approaches to folklore and the Navajo worldview. Some of Barre’s own life story can be found here.

In this documentary, he talks about his experience and first interactions with the Navajo in Northern Utah. He speaks of his early prospecting days before he become a scholar in which he became lost only to be found by a Navajo family who took him in. This early relationship developed closely with the family over decades demonstrates a different and holistic human approach to how and why academics should be culturally sensitive and adaptable to the needs and requests of the indigenous communities collaborating with scholars. This is also recognized among his peers and colleagues as written in this blog.

His books and works are numerous but among the most notable are:

Some of his writing and publications can be found online as well:

“Beauty Behind Me, Beauty Before Me”

“The Yellowman Tapes, 1966-1997”

“The Heritage Arts Imperative”

Barre is an example of someone who is not native or Navajo but did his best to work and collaborate on equal grounds with the Navajo families and communities he connected with. He has made a great contribution to our story by being a part of it: witnessing the outsiders coming in and exploiting the land for mining and oil, testifying to the removal of the Yellowmans from their homes and having firsthand knowledge of their relative Little Wagon, who was first asked to concede those lands. In addition, he was pressured by folklorists, historians, institutions, and archivists to keep the culturally sensitive data of his Navajo folklore research and ultimately decided to give them back to the family it belongs to. His approach is something that all scholars, academics, and researchers can learn from.

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Behind the Story

Helen Yellowman, a Navajo elder who does not speak English, and her grandson, Angelo Baca, are the two main characters in this journey film about two Native American people who are traveling across the western United States from Seattle to Navajo country.

Angelo travels back and forth from the University of Washington in Seattle to his home in the Four Corners, the American Southwest, where the edge of the Navajo Nation Reservation and the borders of the four states meet. It is here where Helen lives and has always lived with her family and tribal community, a traditional Navajo woman and elder.

When she decides that she is going back home, he must take her back on this long ride home but it is, for the two of them, a shared experience of two Navajo travelers, young and old, who are blood relatives who take the time to talk, share, tell stories, and relate to the past, present, and future of their family, tribe, land, and country. As they travel, they encounter the traditional lands and territories of the indigenous places and people never forgetting the recent historical traumas and past injustices, echoes of the effects of colonization, assimilation, and acculturation of Western expansion into Indian Country.

She traces back to the old days of when outsiders first came to her country and lands. How she was pushed out by oil companies, uranium miners, community members, and local Mormons to live somewhere else and forced to be a refugee in her own lands. The original land where she lived is now a hotly contested area in the southwest region of Utah state and San Juan County, a place called Montezuma Creek, with various entities vying for resource control.

The film is about making choices in today’s modern and contemporary world about who you are, where you come from, what your place and destiny in the world is, and about returning back to the place that you call “home”. This film is more than about walking in two world but traveling between them, often as much as one can while not forgetting who they are or where they come from. A young Navajo who struggles to maintain his connection with his culture, language, tradition, and family. An elder who has seen the better part of century of changes, independent and traditional in every way. Ultimately, her story is the story of every native community who have endured similar experiences but her hope is still strong that one day, her children and herself can return to the place they have always known as home.

ANETH OIL FIELDS OF UTAH

Pumping unit

Click on this image (above) to learn more about the contentious history of the Aneth Oil Fields of Utah

At the same time that the uranium industry in Monument Valley was booming, a second industry, oil, became increasingly prominent in the Aneth-Montezuma Creek area. Starting in 1953, Humble Oil and Shell Oil initiated agreements with the Navajo Tribe and the State of Utah to exploit the rich petroleum reserves locked beneath the Aneth lands. The Texas Company drilled its first well on 16 February 1956 and welcomed a rapid flow of 1,704 barrels per day. Other companies responded immediately; suddenly the tribe found itself administering leases and rentals throughout the northern part of the reservation, known generally as the Four Corners Oil Field.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor's Land) focused upon in this film.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor’s Land) focused upon in this film.

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