Following are some excerpts from my meeting with Pauline Whitesinger Thursday, November 26, 1998 at her home in Wide Ruin/Sweet Water Canyon area. As the American world was feasting for their so called, "Thanksgiving", she was out and about in the nearby woods looking for firewood so that a couple of supporters can chop. When she returned back her little cinderblock house that sits next to her traditional hogan, "he seemed not to be her very cheerful self, but she greeted me with a quiet and gentle hand shake.
I mentioned what each of us have heard concerning the, Eviction Notice she immediately invited me inside her little house. Her one room house seemed to hold everything she owned, as well as, everything that has been important to her in her life. The Navajo Nation's only AM radio station was blurring on top of a high stack of cases next to a weaving stand that she is nearly finished with. I squeezed myself into a worn-out chair at table which was taking up what little space it had.
NOTE: This conversation with Pauline Whitesinger was all conducted in Dineh language, and I have translated this dialogue to the very best as to fit into how the language is spoken. Much of the English I used does not adequately interpret certain phases she said in Dineh. However, intent of her statement is well projected in this article.
She brought out her stitched up nap-sack and unrolled a bundle of papers and started putting out what each sheet pertained to.
"This is what I received (Eviction Notice), and I immediately seek someone to do a response, but I ended up going to Betty Tso. She typed this up form, and Sarah Begay's son read all these for me, and he told me that the written response did not sound like what I wanted to say to the Relocation Commission (NHIRC) and the Navajo Nation (NN).
BK: I read it, again and told her that it states, "I (Pauline) was informed by the NHIRC to consider Benefits to Relocate within 30 days, and this was presented to me without the presence of my attorney. I would like to request an immediate consultation from an appropriate attorney who can represent my concerns relating to the said notice.
Pauline: "To hell with such words! I have never requested an attorney. What is wrong with those people out there? I requested that the NHIRC personally meet with myself and other non-signers, here, at my residence. I wanted Chris Bavasi (Director of NHIRC and Mayor of Flagstaff) and Joseph Shelton (Dineh informant to the NHIRC) to also personally come here and justify to me why I should accept relocation. I never wanted that attorney from Flagstaff (Lee B. Phillips) or any other attorneys. No lawyer will adequately represent my concerns.
How would they represent the ancient conditioning that my great grandmothers set forth for me and us on these lands? Is a lawyer able to interpret the Supreme Chants that my father, a medicineman, provided to the sacred shrines throughout this land? I'm not interested in allowing them (lawyers) to attempt this again. When those lawyers from Flagstaff used to come out here they use to say, ‘Yes, we will take your religious concerns before the highest American courts,’ but instead they begin to work with Window Rock (NN capitol) and the BIA Hopi Tribe. What have they accomplished? The only accomplishment was that many of our community members have signed the Lease Agreement, and now, we are more divided."
Pauline: "It has been horrible, grandson, I am like a chicken who has been attacked continuously, and I feel like the feathers on my back are all nearly plucked out. I sit here in my house alone and never before have I been afraid of the darkness and being by myself. I'm afraid sometimes thinking that they will eventually show up to harass me or to take me away."
"But you know, the world out there thrives and is completely numb to the harshness of the injustice that makes up our environment out here. I just know that there is a higher power like, the Great Wind Spirits, known to be most powerful, will return in due time to cleanse the earth. I've heard about the prophecies from my dad and grandmothers. Such an event will be very likely if we the Deneh choose to be guided by the choices of ‘relocation’. That radio station talks of progress, modernization, care for the elders, have peace, eat lots of turkeys, and worst of all, it kept stating that we (Dineh) have no use for Sovereignty. They state, ‘lets erase the sacred Rainbow that embraces our nation.’"
"Myself, Sarah Begay and her elder mother, Irene Yazzie have discussed and agreed that our only choice in any recourse is to maintain a position of Sovereignty. We talked of the earlier days of the resistance when our communities were strong and the youth helped us confront the many aspects of the BIA intrusions. We realized our people will laugh at us and say we are so old -'how can you manage such Sovereignty?’
We just say, that's just an example of the people's lost of pride, and thereby, they rather accept the leisure of having warm shelters, electricity plugged into those shelters and let the television accompany them. We might be old, but our vows and obligations of the sacred ways is to protect the placements of the offerings, the ancient chants and sacrifices at all the sacred shrines which surrounds Great (Big) Mountain. The modern belief might suggest a evaluation upon elders, but we are the non-signers to the AA because, we have to sustain the rules of the Sacred Rainbow that Encircles Us.
[In the origin stories of the Dineh, Great Spirit specified the areas of the land base or aboriginal homelands. These were outlined by four sacred mountains to the four cardinal points and by four sacred rivers each having a gender. The outer perimeter was a rainbow , and Creator placed this for the purpose of Sovereignty. In Dineh, the term 'land' is only translated as: Area beneath the Soles of Thy Feet Feet, so they say, Ke’ya . Today, some traditions would normally refer to Sovereignty as The Rainbow that Encircles Us. This can be noticed, also in the sacred Sand Paintings and often appears in other religious illustrations.]
"December 8th meeting which I requested to be held at my residence should be an important aspect of the resistance for the final stages of the relocation process. I hope this should be finally a new start for meetings of resistance discussion especially for those who never signed the Lease Agreement. The participation of those who've signed will have to be limited because of the backing that the NHIRC or the NN might aspect from these signers.
"It is difficult to suggest this to the people, but it must be understood what the interests of 'Window Rock' is, a we have seen with ill-consultation that has came about from Roman Bitsui. He is a part of the leadership of the NN besides being from this area, and he has participated the undermining of our resistance. He has been out here only to visit those who have signed the AA and continuously consulting, and don’t know what he discusses with them. I had just a suspicion when I heard one signer say that the non-signers are interfering with the Lease Agreement processes. This person who signed stated that the BIA is dealing with non-signers first instead of than getting the approval for building their new house.
"My feelings at this point is tremendously great with anxiety. If the day comes when they drag me from this beloved Keva I will not allow myself be placed among those relatives who have relocated. That will make me feel as a conquered being and to be completely subjected to the Laws of the District of Columbia. I say, NO! If I am to be confined let me be detained within the facilities of the BIA jails. Perhaps there, I will feel there as a purpose for my detention, and it is because I or we have fought hard to up hold the Supreme Laws of the Creator. I might just be happy there also, if this BIA-U.S. government jail shares their land title with me. So, I can walk around inside with the title stuffed between my sash belt. These are my current thoughts as I still remain, here.
Before I left Pauline, my grandmother (great aunt), to tend to other chores back at my parents I paused with her outside the little house. I watched her as she looked out into her ancestors' beloved Ke’ya. My thoughts led me back to the earlier days of the Big Mountain Movement when her physical composer stood out more than any aspects of herself. The times when she’d hike over the Big Mountain ridge and come to the meetings. She was a strong individual. Some would just fear her because of her instincts or her straight forwardness. Now, I see this little and a much older grandmother standing her in this part of the world so that, every life on earth can heal and continue in peace.
Thank you to all for your unyielding support to save Black Mesa/Big Mountain from the destructive hands of the energy corps. and Peabody Coal Company. Lastly, I apologize for not being able to keep up with bringing forth updates from the land, and I apologize for lack of personnel to assist me in my efforts on behalf of the resistors.
Until we speak, again.
In the Spirit of Chief Barboncito,
Pauline Whitesinger and Taina