Relocation Victims Tired Of Status Quo.
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – It's election time on the Navajo Nation and everywhere, people are talking change. Politicians promise better times ahead, but the Forgotten People say they have been hearing the same stories for more than 40 years. They are tired of the talk. They want action.
John Benally is the Water Flows Together Clan, born for Water Edge People Clan. He was raised in a remote area of Black Mesa known as Big Mountain.
He traveled to Window Rock Wednesday for the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the Forgotten People against the Navajo Hopi Land Commission, the Navajo Nation and others regarding an accounting of the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund of 1974.
Trust fund monies were supposed to help Navajos displaced by the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, but Benally, a resister still living on Hopi Partitioned Land, said, “It's been many years now that we hear the same story.
“I feel for the people that have relocated. I feel for the people that have been displaced through various towns and are walking the street to panhandle. They gave up their way of life which was once Beauty. ... They had ceremonies, they had kinship, and they had a land base.
“It's a lot of suffering – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. What it does to you as a human being, it messes with your mind and you give up hope.”
Benally wants to know what happened to the money that was to be used to provide housing, economic and educational improvements. “If people are honest ... they would bring it to say, 'This is what the fund was used for.' If they're honest enough, they say, 'I misused it.' What's wrong with telling the truth?”
Robert Begay is Towering House Clan born for Red House People Clan. Originally from Coppermine, he found himself displaced because of the Bennett Freeze. His story is similar to that of the relocatees – uprooted from his homeland by government politics.
“I was compelled to go serve in the Korean Conflict because the draft law was in place then. I tried dodging the draft and I was threatened by the draft board that they would send FBI after me and I would sit in jail. So I decided, 'Well, if I go and survive, I will get the FBI off my back,' he said.
“When I came back, the Bennett Freeze took place. I built a hogan at Coppermine. When my hogan was halfway completed, I had a visit from the Hopi, and they said, 'You're in the Bennett Freeze, you can't do that.' So we left there and we went to Bodaway and we built a stone house there.”
Just as that house was completed and they were digging a water line, they had another visitor who told them the same thing: “You're in the Bennett Freeze.” But at that time, he said, the boundary was not carved in stone and no one really knew where the line of demarcation was.
“Everybody just said, 'Well, we think it's over there,' or 'We think it's this way.' We always selected an area that we thought we were outside, but both times we ended up in the Bennett Freeze.'” By that time, he and his wife had a family and moved to Page, where they rented a house from the city, and later Kayenta, where they also rented.
“I had children that were going to school and they had to have a place to live,” he said. They also stayed for awhile in Moenave near Tuba City. “We lived in a tent. We hauled our water and we built a fire for our cooking. We used to haul water so our little ones could take a bath and go to school and do their laundry by hand.”
They ended up in Tuba City at Rare Metals, a former uranium mill site, and then learned that it was contaminated. Eventually they bought a used trailer and put it south of Tuba City, where they live now.
“My children do not have a piece of land. They do not have a home of their own,” he said. “When I went to the Korean war I was told that I was fighting for my country and my right and religious right and all that. But that was denied because of the Bennett Freeze.”
Glenna Begay is Red Running into Water People Clan, born for Red House People Clan. She was born in Black Mesa where her family has lived for eight generations. She grew up as a sheepherder and farmer, living in an area now known as Hopi Partitioned Land. Even though she lives near Peabody Western Coal Co., she said she has no running water and no electricity.
“We were taught by our elders if we have our sheep we will always be taken care of and live a good life. ... Our family used to have 400 to 500 head of sheep,” she said, and migrated throughout their customary use area. From 1963 to 1974, Begay's family raised cattle. They had about 70 head of white-faced cattle and three horses.
In 1974 the land was partitioned with barbed wire and Hopi Rangers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs began monitoring the livestock. They were forced to reduce their herd.
“Everything I built came out of my pocket,” she said. My roads are not graded and my water wells are capped off. ... I want water and housing for me and my children that are living near me.” She said the government only recognizes her residency. Her children and grandchildren are not included.
Due to the political situation, families that have remained together and tried to endure the conditions, are cramped because they can't expand or build new homes, Begay said.
But no matter what happens, she's not going to leave her homeland. “I'm not going to leave no matter who comes around and tells me to leave,” she said, speaking through interpreter Don Yellowman, president of Forgotten People. “I would love for them to pack up and leave.”
Begay told Yellowman she is inspired by the fact that the Forgotten People are questioning the Relocation money.
“She's tired of hearing 'you can't do this, you can't do that,' and looking over her left shoulder to see if somebody's checking on her. She just wants to build and get on with life like anybody else,” he said.
Betty Scott, 75, lives in a small cinder block house about 20 miles east of Flagstaff and about 2-1/2 miles from the Navajo Nation's proposed Twin Arrows casino site. Scott is Red House Clan born for Edgewater Clan. She was raised in Canyon Diablo where her family has lived for five generations.
She believes the Navajo Nation is using monies from the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and Office of Navajo and Hopi Relocation to get the casino under way. “I do not know how this use of money is supposed to help people,” she said through Yellowman.
“She does not view the casino as a positive energy and she is very disappointed for the fact that it is going to be right in her back yard,” he said.
Norma Scott, the seventh of Scott's eight children, said her mother advocates for many people across the Navajo Nation who are in dire need, especially with housing.
“People should be given the basic amenities of housing, water and electricity. We need to see that and we need to have it visible. She wants to make sure the monies are accounted for and returned and used to improve the lives of the people,” Norma said.Red Cliff Band To Benefit From $23.5 Million SMSC Loan
by Tessa Lehto,
Prior Lake, MN – A $23.5 million loan to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will enable development and upgrades to a new casino/hotel/entertainment and conference center.
This development, which will be located on the shores of Lake Superior and adjacent to the Apostle Islands, is being designed to fit into the pristine environment of the area. Financing for the Isle Vista Casino and Hotel near Bayfield, Wisconsin, project is to be provided through the loan to support improvements and upgrades to the existing marina/campground.
The new facility will provide 300 slot machines, eight table games, a 60 seat bar and restaurant, a 24 seat snack bar, a 50 room hotel with a swimming pool, and an entertainment and conference center with a banquet capacity of 300 seats.
Construction of this new facility is expected to commence this late summer/early fall with completion and opening approximately 12 months from then. The complex will create up to 110 construction jobs. The operation of the complex will add 50 new jobs to an existing casino staff of 90.
“This development is extremely important to the Red Cliff community and to the surrounding area. It will provide a major tourist destination in an area which relies heavily on tourism to support its economy”, said Rose Gurnoe-Soulier, Chairperson of the Red Cliff Band. She further, “The Red Cliff community has been waiting for this for some 30 years. We are very grateful to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for providing us the financial and other supportive resources to help us develop and manage this complex. It will create needed jobs and revenue to this tribal community.”
“We support this economic development project because it will help improve services for the Red Cliff Band and its members, which is the purpose of Indian Gaming,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks.
In fiscal year 2008 the SMSC gave the Red Cliff Band a grant for $966,000 which funded debt consolidation and community development.
The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation is located on the southern shores of Lake Superior, in northwest Wisconsin. It is immediately adjacent to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The exterior boundaries of the Red Cliff Reservation spans approximately 14,093 acres. The tribal enrollment is approximately 6,247 members.
For more information about the SMSC’s charitable giving program, go to www.shakopeedakota.org/donations/html
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