Trail of Tears 2000
Sponsored, Endorsed, and Enforced by John McCain


April 22, 1999
Thanks Paula from bring this story to our attention

Senator McCain has been intimately involved in the largest forced relocation (to the site of the largest radioactive spill in the history of the US) of American Indians in the 20th century to facilitate the strip mining of native lands by Peabody Western Coal Company. He should be held accountable for his responsibility in the violation of human rights of thousands of Dineh (Navajo) Native Americans.


The Honorable Janet Reno
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice Constitution
Avenue & 10th Street, N.W.
Washington. D.C. 20530

The Honorable Bruce Babbitt
Secretary U.S. Department of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Attorney General Reno and Secretary Babbitt

I write to urge the Departments of Justice and Interior to proceed carefully in the coming months to settle the relocation of remaining Navajo families in a timely and orderly process. My paramount concern is to ensure the safety and wall-being of these Navajo families and the fair resolution to outstanding issues following the enactment of the Settlement Agreement for the Navajo and Hopi people.

I understand that the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation sent 90-day notices on January 25, 1999 to the remaining Navajo families who have not signed the Accommodation Agreement. The end of this 90-day period is quickly approaching and I have not received any further notice that the remaining families have agreed to sign onto the Settlement Agreement or applied far relocation benefits. I ask that you submit in writing to me the actions that the Department of Justice will take in the coming months to ensure compliance with P.L. 104 301.

Please keep my office apprised of further actions. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Sincerely

John McCain
United States Senator
cc: Christopher Bavasi, Executive Director, Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation


The following information was provided by Bill Sebastian

BACKGROUND NOTES

McCains Responsiblity:

He was the sponsor of Senate bill 1973: the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act of 1996, which ultimately became PL 104-301. He wrote the introduction to the bill, and the bill was pushed through Congress by him. The bill was disguised as a settlement that would prevent relocation, so that McCain's introduction to the bill sounds like his only interest is preventing relocation.

McCain has on many occasions declared that he is against forcible relocation. However, the bill authorized relocation for all people who failed to sign unfair leases with the Hopi gov't.McCain is the senior citizen from AZ, and thus Congress looks to him for leadership in establishing policy for the region. In this leadership capacity, he could propose a wide range of humane solutions, but instead chose to support an effort to complete the relocation process begun in 1974.

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS TO McCAIN

1) PL 104-301, which you sponsored in 1996, authorized the forcible relocation as of February 1,2000, of Navajo families who did not sign leases with the Hopi Tribe. A number of families have refused to sign these leases. Do you feel that the forcible relocation of native people who are living on their traditional land is a good way for the US government to open the new millenium ? Does this reflect the way that you believe the US government should treat its Indigenous peoples ?

2) PL 104-301, which you sponsored in 1996, ratifies a settlement agreement under which the Navajo families who sign leases are not allowed to vote or participate in the government which rules them. Why do you feel that Native Americans are not entitled to vote or to have civil rights ?

3) PL 104-301, which you sponsored, authorized $25 million for the Hopi Tribe if they could obtain the signatures of 85% of the 112 Navajo families on leases. Did you anticipate that placing a $260,000 bounty on each signature would lead to abuses in the process through which these signatures were obtained ? Are you familiar with reports from the Navajo families that signatures were obtained under the threat of jail or immediate eviction ? Do you feel that signatures obtained under these circumstances constitute an endorsement of your policy ?

4) PL 104-301, which you sponsored, set up a livestock permitting system for Navajo families that left many of the families without protection for their herds. Many of them are elderly people who depend on these herds for their survival. Do you believe that the confiscation of the sole means of survival of elderly people benefits the US government ?

5) PL 104-301, which you sponsored, completes the settlement of a land title dispute between the Hopi and Navajo Tribal governments. The key figure in the history of the land dispute was an attorney named John Boyden, who formed the current Hopi government and obtained BIA recognition for it in 1953, and who was the architect of the original relocation legislation back in the 1970's. Boyden was also working for the Peabody Coal Company. Do you believe that it is appropriate for Congress to continue policies that are based on land title established by a coal company ? Are you willing to consider legislation that revises the land title to reflect the traditional occupancy and use ?

6) Most other nations now recognize the right of Indigenous people to remain on their traditional land. S1973, which you sponsored, requires the relocation next year of people whose families have occupied the land for hundreds of years. Why do you believe that the US should not recognize their right to remain on their land ?



********************** POSSIBLE RESPONSES FROM McCAIN

McCain's usual responses to this type of questions include:

  • 1. He completely opposes forced relocation
  • 2. He and his candidacy are strongly supported by the Navajo Nation With respect to his supposed opposition to relocation

  • A. Why did he sponsor a bill that called for it to occur on Feb 1, 2000 ?

  • B. If his bill did not threaten relocation, no one would have signed the Accommodation Agreement he supports. The only reason anyone signed the leases was that they were told they would be relocated if they didn't. Relocation was used as a threat to force an unjust and inhumance solution upon the people: it was the foundation of McCain's policy. McCain's saying that he opposes relocation is like someone who is robbing a bank with a gun saying they oppose murder with guns because they only shoot the few people who resist.

    With respect to his support by the Navajo Nation government:

  • A. The question is not whether government officials support him, but rather whether the policies that McCain advocates represent a just and humane solution to the issue. State and tribal officials do not always respect and protect all the rights of all the citizens within their jurisdiction - for example, look at the role of the Southern governors in supporting discrimination in the 1960s.


    
    U S. Senator John McCain 
    241 Russell Senate Office Building
     October  1, 1999
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    
    Dear Senator McCain: 
    
    It was my privilege to be present at your September 16th book signing in 
    Century City, Los Angeles, where you were kind enough to autograph a copy of 
    your book for the grandmothers of the Sovereign Dineh Nation. 
    
    Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Victor Phelps and I am a 
    volunteer with Sol Communications. Sol is a nonprofit organization who for 
    the last three years has been providing humanitarian aid to the traditional 
    Dineh residing at Black Mesa and at their request educating the American 
    public in regards to their condition.
    
    As a result of the Bennett Freeze and S1973 their ability to sustain 
    themselves with food, clothing, and shelter has been severely reduced. Their 
    livestock has been confiscated because they do not have permits and cannot 
    obtain them unless they sign the Settlement Agreement, in essence sign or 
    starve. As recently as three days ago half of Rina Babbits' sheep were 
    "confiscated" as she is one of the more outspoken grandmothers and as 
    retaliation for our September 18th food drop. It is illegal for them to pick 
    up firewood off the ground, sign or freeze. It is illegal to make repairs to 
    their homes Grandfather Grey Eyes was cited for building an outhouse and 
    having a tent in his front yard, sign or live in the open without even a 
    place to relieve yourself.
    
    Senator McCain, in your April 22, 1999 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno 
    and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior you stated, " I write to 
    urge the Department of Justice and Interior to proceed carefully in the 
    coming months to settle the relocation of the remaining Navajo families in a 
    timely and orderly process. My paramount concern is to ensure the safety and 
    well being of these Navajo families and the fair resolution to outstanding 
    issues following the enactment of the Settlement Agreement for the Navajo and 
    the Hopi people." You close this letter; " I ask that you submit in writing 
    to me the actions that the Department of Justice will take in the coming 
    months to ensure compliance with P.L. 104 301." Correct me if I am wrong, but 
    that appears to be in direct contradiction to the statements you made on two 
    occasions in Century City on September 16, 1999 where you stated you "opposed 
    relocation." Are you aware of the fact that since it's inception thousands of 
    Navajo have died as a direct result of their relocation?
    
    Senator, I have grave concerns that a forcible relocation on February 1st 
    2000 will not result in a peaceful conclusion. To the Dineh relocation is 
    tantamount to death and there is every indication that out of desperation 
    they may take action and these people will come to further harm. I would ask 
    that you please meet with the Dineh Elders and hear their concerns yourself. 
    This would do much to help diffuse a volatile situation that has the 
    potential to rival Wounded Knee 1973.
    
    Permit me to explain. The $25 million authorized by S1973 to obtain Navajo 
    signatures has led to the horrific abuses of not only threats of jail and 
    intimidation to the people, but physical abuse of tribal elders. There is an 
    atmosphere of fear, anger, and outrage by both the Dineh and the traditional 
    Hopi. As recently as July 16, 1999, law enforcement officers with weapons 
    entered sacred grounds and attempted to prevent a religious ceremony that has 
    been taking place at Black Mesa for sixteen years. By these peoples' 
    religious beliefs, Black Mesa is a holy place, the equivalent of Jerusalem to 
    Christians and Jews. They believe it is the home of the earths' liver and 
    that they must protect it or the earth will die. They have endured the 
    desecration of strip mining, but a forced relocation will result in only one 
    end. Many of the 3000 residents at Big Mountain are committed to die there if 
    necessary. Of that 3000 more than 300 are over the age of 70 and feel they 
    have nothing further to lose, gunfights have already broken out among the 
    children on the reservation over this issue.
    
    You may be being told that what is occurring up there is the work of outside 
    agitators. It is not. We and other groups from all of the world are there at 
    the request of the non-English speaking indigenous people who have asked for 
    advocates to make their voices heard, because it appears to them that no one 
    is listening. These people do not have telephones or even electricity or 
    running water, most do not speak English. There is literally no avenue for 
    them to communicate. Are you aware that when they sign leases, Navajo 
    families also give up their right to participate in the government that rules 
    them? Surely this is not something that you support.
    
    In the past year there has been significant print and televised media 
    coverage of what is occurring at Black Mesa and there will be more to come. 
    Support for the Dineh is not only national, it is global and the world is 
    watching. It is hard to believe that your sources have not brought this to 
    your attention. The United Nations having investigated Human Rights 
    violations and religious intolerance at Black Mesa has recommended that the 
    parties involved meet for mediation. In reviewing some of the past 
    legislation you have sponsored regarding Native Americans it appears you have 
    done a number of things that have resulted in positive outcomes for Native 
    Americans, however S1973 and the Bennett Freeze are not one of them.
    
    Some feel that this is an issue you inherited, and were not aware of the far 
    reaching consequences or the potential for abuse. As U.S. Senator for the 
    State of Arizona, you are now the only one in the position to correct it and 
    prevent a potential catastrophe. You stated in you April 22, 1999 letter 
    that your "paramount concern is to ensure the safety and well being of these 
    Navajo families". Please come to Black Mesa and meet with the Dineh Elders 
    and see and hear for yourself what their experience has been and what they 
    have to tell you. Please seriously consider declaring a moratorium on the 
    February 1, 2000 date and the Bennett Freeze and allow these issues to be 
    resolved in the courts. If you would consider meeting with the Dineh Elders I 
    can be reached by mail at the Sol Communications address on page 1 or by 
    telephone at (310) 837-0155. 
    
    Senator, particularly with your bid for the Republican Presidential 
    nomination I know that you are an extremely busy man and I want to thank you 
    for taking the time to read this letter. As you make this bid for the 
    Presidency please consider the world's view of a man who took the time to 
    hear the plight of Native American Elders and single handedly prevented what 
    surely would have been their total annihilation. 
    
    
    Sincerely
    
     Victor Phelps
    

    
    SPONSORING GENOCIDE
    
    Senator John McCain's Final Solution
    
    Rena Babbitt Lane is a Dineh (Navajo) elder living on land on
    Black Mesa in Arizona that has been inhabited by her Dineh ancestors
    for many centuries. Living without electricity or running water, she
    and her husband sustain a profoundly traditional life, and survive by
    raising sheep, weaving rugs from their wool, and growing a few crops. 
    On Tuesday, September 21, 1999, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents
    raided her homesite and confiscated 17 sheep, 3 goats, and 6 cows. She
    was weaving and preparing a meal at the time, and did not even know the
    BIA was there until later, when all her animals did not come home. She
    saw the tracks of two impoundment trailers and a police vehicle where
    they had been grazing, and knew they had been taken away. When she went
    to the BIA offices the next day, they served her with papers stating
    that the rest of her livestock will be confiscated in five days
    (Tuesday, September 28). The BIA is confiscating without compensation
    everything she owns, leaving her to die in the harsh winter soon to
    follow. If she survives until spring without her livestock, she will be
    forcibly relocated to the "New Lands," an area that was contaminated by
    the largest spill of nuclear waste in US history. Rena Babbitt Lane,
    who is in her late seventies, was severely injured--her hand broken--in
    a previous livestock impoundment. She has undergone surgery for a 
    heart condition, and wears a pacemaker.
    
     
    
    The BIA offered her one way to save part of her herd and to avoid
    relocation. She could sign an "Accommodation Agreement" that was
    included as part of PL 104-301, which was sponsored by Senator John
    McCain of Arizona. By signing this agreement, she acknowledges the loss
    of her land title and agrees to live as a tenant in her own house.
    Under the agreement, she is not allowed to vote or to participate in
    the legal system except as a defendant. She and people like her must
    live in a system in which they are blatantly discriminated against
    because of their ethnic origin. Permits are required for everything
    ranging from possessing firewood to performing religious ceremonies.
    The people are not even allowed to bury their dead according to their
    traditional religious beliefs. Government regulations control who is
    allowed to live in her house and who is allowed to visit her. Permits
    for scarce commodities like grazing permits are allocated according to
    a priority list on which Dineh like Rena are placed at the bottom to
    insure they never receive any.
    
     
    
    In an effort to obtain signatures on these leases and thereby make it
    appear that a fair solution had been reached, McCain and his followers
    in Congress attached a provision to the law that grants the Hopi
    government $25 million if it can obtain signatures from 95 families on
    these leases--over $260,000 per signature. The federal government then
    supported a campaign of fraud and coercion to obtain signatures. People
    were told they would be thrown in jail or evicted in the middle of the
    night if they refused to sign when requested. Signatures were forged.
    Semiofficial thugs empowered by the US government even threatened to
    kill some of the elderly people if they refused to sign. Despite this
    campaign, Rena and many of the families still refused to sign, so the
    BIA has launched a final wave of attacks to exterminate the resisters.
    
     
    How It All Began 
    
    Senator McCain's law was intended to be the final solution to a
    problem that began in 1882 when the US government created a reservation
    centered on the Hopi villages at the southern tip of Black Mesa. The
    land surrounding the Hopi, making up over 85% of the reservation, was
    inhabited by Dineh. In the 1930s, the US government proposed giving
    control over the reservation to a government consisting exclusively of
    Hopi. Recognizing the problem that this presented to the Dineh living
    on the reservation, the BIA proposed in 1943 to partition the
    reservation so as to give the Hopi government control over a small area
    in the middle and to give the Navajo government control over the rest.
    
     These plans were derailed when the nation's largest deposits of
    low-sulfur coal were discovered on the land where the Dineh lived. An
    attorney named John Boyden, who was simultaneously working for the
    Peabody Coal Company, formed a Hopi government under his control in
    1953 and won a settlement in 1963 giving him a 50% interest in the
    Dineh land. In 1974 with the strong support of a consortium of energy
    companies, Boyden persuaded Congress to pass PL 93-531 which divided
    the Dineh land into separate Hopi/Navajo regions and ordered the
    relocation of all Dineh living on the Hopi Partitioned Lands.
    
    "We want everyone to know that the Navajos are not the ones
    taking our land, but the United States. The Hopi and the Navajo made
    peace long ago, and sealed their agreement spiritually with a medicine
    bundle. It is through the puppet governments, the 'Tribal Councils'
    forced upon both nations by the United States, that the illusion of a
    conflict has been created on the basis of the false modern concept of
    land title." [Martin Gashweseoma, Keeper of the Hopi Fire Clan
    Tablets]
    
    Over the next 25 years, more than 12,000 Dineh were forcibly
    relocated in a program described by its former director Leon Berger as
    "a tragedy of genocide and injustice that will be a blot on the
    conscience of this country for many generations." Many were moved to
    the "New Lands," an area near Chambers, AZ, too arid to support their
    livestock and contaminated by the largest spill of radioactive waste in
    US history, which occurred when a containment dam at a uranium mine
    burst upstream on the Rio Puerco, which runs through the land. Others
    were moved into cities for which they lacked survival skills, and where
    they became caught in a circle of homelessness, alcoholism, and
    suicide.
    
    While the 1974 law mandated relocation, it did not authorize the use of
    force to remove those who refused to leave, and approximately 3,000
    Dineh still remain on their land despite all the efforts to evict them.
    In 1996, McCain sponsored a bill which attempted to resolve the
    situation by offering some of the families leases that would allow them
    to remain as tenants on their land without civil rights. The bill
    authorized the forcible relocation after February 1, 2000, of those who
    were ineligible to sign or who refused to sign the leases.
    
    What You Can Do To Help
    
    We urge all Americans to call upon Congress to repeal
    legislation that legalizes ethnic cleansing, that arbitrarily
    confiscates the homes and property of the poorest people in the
    country, and that strips people of their civil rights solely because of
    their ethnic origin. Please contact your representatives and remind
    them that the foundation of all policy toward America's native peoples
    should be respect for their right to remain on their ancestral land, to
    practice their traditional religion, and to enjoy the same protections
    and civil rights offered to all other citizens.
    
    
    Further information on the issue can be obtained from:
    http://www.solcommunications.com
    http://www.theofficenet.com/~redorman/pagea~1.htm
    
    SOVEREIGN DINEH NATION
    P.O.Box 1968 Kaibeto, AZ 86053
     DINETAH29@aol.com
    ___________________________________________________________
    
    What you can do:
    
    Write letters to Sen. McCain and his campaign headquarters. Let
    McCain know that like the 1970s, students and people from all walks of
    life are involved in a movement that will not stop, following him
    during his presidential campaign, until he gives justice to these
    people. Then he can become a hero. 
    
    Tell McCain that he has the power to remedy the injustices done to the
    Dineh and take responsibility for all that has happened. In 1996,
    Congress looked to him, as the senior senator from the home state of
    Arizona, for guidance on this issue. He had the choice then of whether
    to continue the programs of the past or to develop legislation that
    revoked the policies of ethnocide and destruction, and provided humane
    solutions. By choosing to embrace the policies of the past, he
    inherited responsibility for their impact during the last 25 years,
    endorsing a war of attrition against the Dineh (the slow beating down
    of a people). Now he has the choice and the responsibility to undo
    these tragic laws. 
    
    McCain was the sponsor of Senate Bill 1973: Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act
    of 1996, which ultimately became P.L. 104-301. He wrote the
    introduction to the bill, and it was pushed through Congress by him.
    The bill was disguised as a settlement that would prevent relocation,
    so that McCain's introduction to the bill sounds like his only interest
    is in preventing relocation. However, it was clear to everyone at the
    time that the bill would ultimately have the effect of authorizing
    relocation. As a consequence of this bill being passed into law,
    everything that the Dineh said would happen has occurred: 
    
    --the extortion of signatures
    
    --the pending relocation
    
    --the livestock permitting system, leaving families without protection
    for their herds, their sole means of survival
    
    --ratifying a settlement agreement under which the Dineh families who
    signed leases are not allowed to vote or participate in the government
    that controls them--entitled to no civil rights.
    
     We urge people to contact McCain's campaign as concerned citizens and
    ask the following questions:
    
    --Do you believe it is appropriate for Congress to continue policies
    that are based on land title established by a coal company? 
    
    --Are you willing to consider legislation that revises the land title
    to reflect the traditional occupancy and use?
    
    --Most other nations now recognize the rights of indigenous people to
    remain on their traditional land. S 1973, which you sponsored, requires
    the relocation next year of people whose families have occupied this
    land for hundreds of years. Why do you believe that the U.S. should not
    recognize their right to remain on their land?
    
    --Do you believe that the confiscation of their livestock, the sole
    means of survival of elderly people, benefits the U.S. government?
    
    --Would you call for a moratorium on the livestock confiscations? 
    
    --Why do you feel that Native Americans are not entitled to civil
    rights?
    
    --Would you meet with the Dineh grandmothers and let their voices be
    heard for the first time?
    
    --You have the choice now to become a hero in creating a just solution
    or of repeating the continuing pattern of abuse of indigenous people
    into the new millennium. What is your choice?
    
    
    Thank you.
    Carol, Rita & Bill 
    


    For more information on
    John McCain's Trail of Tears 2000
    see this website:
    http://www.theofficenet.com/~redorman/pagea~1.htm


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