I used to go up there, to the mine area, when the pinions would come in. I went to gather them.
Navajos lived there. At that time there was no mine, no word of it. It was a beautiful place. Those people were living beautifully too.
There were incredible mountains. They stood along each other like a picture. Some seemed to wear hats.
Probably the very way that they were set when the mother earth was designed and decorated. Now when I go there that area merely resembles the surroundings right here at my present home. Those mountains are gone.
There’s just these holes there. Way way down, who knows how far down, to the bottom of the earth perhaps. Its not a pretty picture. And rises up some god awful thing that looks like smoke. In pillars. Its disturbing.
This is the thing here, those picturesque mountains are gone. In Window rock the same situation exists, there were a group of remarkable rocks, again with hats. Those rocks have been scratched out. They were replaced with a dull grey hill.
When you observe this process, the erasure of the careful designs on the land, the artwork of the Holy People, it disturbs you.
The moral is that the mother earth has been manipulated at our expense.
There’s springs there. And they come up with some heat to them. It never snows there. No snow, and then there are green grasses that rise up. Special places.
There’s some spots like that over here, by “Coalmine”, well, it was like that, now it is all being dug out.
So my grandmother would say, this that we are sitting on, it is a woman mountain laying up here. She said the coal is the liver of this woman.
Over towards Window Rock there is a man laying there. Further on he holds his head up.
The northern mountain is her head. She is a woman lying across.
That’s why you don’t burn coal. If you have to do something with it, there’s a certain sacrificial offering that you do. You offer hard goods, jewels, and you just take so much up out. That’s how it was done, as far as the coal.
So that’s whats causing the womens’ hearts to hurt, the men even. That’s it. That’s what’s doing it to us I think. This liver. This is the price we pay for people to have work.
In Tuba city, they sell it in sacks this big. Ten bucks. I just look at it. I think to my self, people didn’t used to carry this stuff around for free, without having made a proper offering for it. There they go, hauling it along. Over this way it’s the same story, over toward window rock, they stash it in with loads of firewood and sell it for cash.
So the male mountain lays this way. Over here, there is a woman. They have grandchildren. The place called ‘white rocks stretch down’ is the girl grandchild. This way too a place called ‘white rock’ is a boy grandchild. He sleeps there with his grandpa, they say. That’s the way the old women used to talk about it.
That’s why you do the offerings, white corn and yellow corn, in the light of dawn, in prayer.
In the evening too, offerings.
That’s how its been done.
Just two or three days ago, I started to incorporate these concerns into my prayers and daily corn pollen offering:
“This is a matter of great importance.”
“Whatever happens, let these illustrious mountains not be overturned.”
They are causing a hard time on this mother of ours, this mountain woman. That’s what I think. She is lying there sacred. What else?
Bodies, surgeries. People are off to the hospital to be cut up and here the mountain separates from itself.
Over this way, a stretch across of land separated where it once was joined.
And now it has grown back together.
I never have been there, just my mother saw it. She was coming up this way and it unveiled itself to her.
My grandchildren have been to this place and they tell me it has recently grown back together. It has obviously grown back together and even appears to have a scar of sorts where the incision was made.
That must be why it happened in the first place, so that what has happened now could be.
So the bottom line is this, the strength is here: the fire. The fire is our foremost mother.
Look. There’s the fire, here we sit around it. Here we live.
The water too. The water is also our mother. One drinks, one is well.
We heat the water, we make food with it.
Let’s talk about the Firestick. It is called “honeeshgish”
They are made and handled by people.
The honeeshgish is used to tend and manage the fire.
You tell it where you are going. You spit on it.
You draw a mark on the ground with it and it gets placed in the eves pointing in the direction that you are off to.
This way, this way, maybe this way.
“Here’s their house. Theres’ the honeeshgish, pointing over…there. They must’ve gone that way.”
Its like where people stick a piece of paper on their door to tell where they are gone to.
We have the honeeshgish to do this for us. The firepoker.
You talk to the fire stick, you put your saliva on it. You tell it where you are headed.
This is the manner that it is utilized. It is not just a firepoker.
It is not left outside. It is carefully placed by the right hand side of the door.
I want all the people who are defending us to have honeeshgishes.
People have honeeshgishes. The honeeshgish is a persons’ leader. A leader is the one with the plan.
Poke in the fire with it, spit on it, tell it, ’I’m going here’. ‘You stay here. Take care of things.”
When you get back, you look at it." ~ January 2013 Statement from Big Mountain Elder Matriarch Resister, Pauline Whitesinger.
(Translated by Owen Johnson)
Now that summer’s heat is on and fall is soon to come. the grandmothers and families on Big Mountain/Black Mesa, who stay at the front lines of massive coal extraction operations, request assistance. Due to the ongoing impacts of the relocation law, elders are often alone to endure the challenges of holding down a homestead in the face of the resource colonialism of Peabody Energy and the U.S government. It’s a tall order, and they are asking for supporters.
The US Government and globalized corporations will not stop colonizing and conquering Mother Earth by their own accord. If it was not for the unified resistance of the Sovereign Dineh Nation of Big Mountain in the 1970s, the land would be gone, eaten by Peabody Energy. The legacy of that revolution still exists in the hearts of the resistors. Again, they are asking for help in their resistance and in maintaining their traditional lifeways. The people among this struggle ask for strong, able-minded folks, willing to walk with the sheep, haul water, work in the cornfields, build, etc.
If you are interested in joint struggle and fighting colonialism with the residents of Black Mesa/Big Mountain and have a mutual goal of decolonization, please consider giving direct on-land support. Contact BMIS for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Mesa Indigenous Support