April 22, 1999
The Honorable Janet Reno
The following information was provided by Bill Sebastian 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. 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.
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.
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
United States Senator
cc: Christopher Bavasi, Executive Director, Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation
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:
With respect to his support by the Navajo Nation government:
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.
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
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
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:
SOVEREIGN DINEH NATION
P.O.Box 1968 Kaibeto, AZ 86053
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
--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?
Carol, Rita & Bill
John McCain's Trail of Tears 2000
see this website:
The Honorable Janet Reno
The following information was provided by Bill Sebastian
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.
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.
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