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Alternative Culture Articles

December 2, 2001

Native Rights Under Attack
By Royce Carlson

As a child growing up in Southern California in the early 60’s, I learned about Indians (I call them Indians because that was what they were called then) from school, television and movies.

I also learned that the U.S. government would sometimes make treaties with Indian tribes and then break them, that many tribes were slaughtered to the last man, and that many surviving tribes were evicted from their ancestral lands and put on reservations which often consisted of the most worthless land available. If there was anything of value found on these reservations later the native people were evicted again so the resources could be exploited. When I reached adulthood, I thought that, surely, this was ancient history and that now things were different. I thought that in today’s modern, civil rights-oriented nation, that kind of reprehensible behavior was far in our past.

When I moved to Northern Arizona (the home of the Navajo reservation – the largest reservation in the country) just ten years ago, I was surprised to discover that what I thought was ancient history was still going on. The U.S. government is still trying to take things away from native populations. They are still breaking agreements, and they are still relocating native peoples in order to exploit natural resources.

Rather than continue with an overview of the many current atrocities against Native Americans, I want to present one specific issue: The battle between Peabody Coal and the Navajo people over a piece of land on the Navajo reservation called Black Mesa. This is not history. This is now! Just three months ago a sacred ceremonial site was destroyed and right now tribal elders are being harassed. Please read this article by Judith Nies on the history of Black Mesa.

The Black Mesa Syndrome: Indian Lands, Black Gold

Know that this particular issue is typical of hundreds of battles between Native Americans and the U.S. government , state governments, local governments and corporations who want their land. These issues do not find their way into mainstream media. The general public is generally unaware that such human rights abuses continue right here in America. It is ironic that the U.S. spends millions to try to stop ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe, for example, while continuing ethnic and racial abuses right here at home.

Here are some links to more information about what’s going on and about what you can do to help.

Black Mesa Indigenous Support - -

SENAA International -

Native American Rights Fund -

Free Indian News -

American Indian Cultural Support -


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Royce Carlson