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
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
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
- http://www.blackmesais.org/ -
Native American Rights Fund
Free Indian News
American Indian Cultural Support
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