Sheep Dog Nation Rocks
Published with permissionNavajo Big Mountain matriarch Pauline Whitesinger stands next to her earth lodge that began collapsing in late 2007. Photo copyright Bahe Katenay.
BIG MOUNTAIN, Black Mesa (Arizona), November 18, 2008 – A nice peaceful morning in the Dineh resistance stronghold known as Sweet Water was again disrupted by a uniformed officer from the Office of Hopi Lands. This officer who had a badge that indicated he was with the Hopi tribal police claimed he was not serving a “noticed” on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, nor the U.S. government. The small 82 year old matriarch, Pauline Whitesinger, was trying to speak in the Dineh language to the thick and tall Indian officer that cannot understand Dineh and who was ‘assigned’ to meet with (grandma) Pauline about her “unauthorized” reconstruction of a traditional earth lodge.
He had photo-copies of Pauline’s earth lodge with some additional documents that he referred to as ‘complaints’ from a recent officer that discovered this construction in May 2008. As another Dineh gentleman showed up at the scene, the officer immediately walked over to seek a translator –something he should have seek within his own law enforcement department. The officer only wanted two questions answered:
‘Why is she building this hogan without Permission?’
‘What is she going to do with this hogan or why does she need it?’
The Dineh gentleman attempted to clarify the issues by asking if the tribal police agency keep a record of conversations made with Grandma Whitesinger or other documents related to her position about residential rights that she has been denied. The officer had no knowledge about recent records or about the history of this resister’s position toward the relocation and the land-partitioning policies throughout the 30 plus years, or throughout all the years that equaled this young officer’s age.
“Why she does this without permission is because she does not recognized the authority of the U.S. government or (your) alien and foreign authority,” the Dineh man clarifies.
“Grandma, here, still recognizes the supreme authorities of the local deities and she also honors her ancestors’ legacies. She truly and deeply believes that is where she receives the ‘official’ authorization to rebuild this traditional lodge.”
The translator adds, “The hogan is part of her ancient culture and it is necessary to her being. Not only is it for ceremonial purposes but it is her home where she will be warmer in the winter as opposed to that cinderblock and un-insulated house. There, you have heard the same repeated answers to your same concerns!”
The officer who seemed to be wasting his time by bringing up the same concerns and question asked as he tried to keep his authoritarian composure, “What do you mean ‘alien’?!” The translator’s reply again is rhetorical, “Well, since you are not here on behalf the feds or the BIA, are you here on behalf of the traditional Hopis?”
As if he had to answer that question, the officer explained, “The traditional Hopis are all gone!”
The translator reassures, “Your official duty today is alien because of that, because you represent something alien and a traditional Hopi would not tell us that we, Dineh, exist without permission…”
“No, (we) are a ‘new’ generation,” states the young but determined and armed officer.
Still at ease, the translator wishes no further dialogue concludes, “Yeah, a ‘new’ generation with alien-forms of idea and perceptions…”
Grandma Pauline who hates these sorts of police visits tells the translator, “I like to hear a summary of what you two have said to each other, but I also want to say this to him. Since May of this year your fellow officers and perhaps, you yourself as well would drive by slowly or sometime they would stop along that road, there. Then, very recently when I asked some helpers to begin working on the roof of the lodge, a ranger truck parked on that road and they seemed to be looking through binoculars. After all the prowling around and all this time, you finally come to me asking two questions.
“Leave the lodge alone! Let me dwell here freely! My only intention is to exist here as my forefathers have and I don’t intend to bother you.”
A Commentary with Recommendation:
After the lost deputy left, Grandma Pauline made further comments about the state of society, Chief Loner wonders also: “Where is that activism? Especially, indigenous activisms like AIM or other urban Indian bands of activist? Is activism only a fashion or an expression trend?”
This grandmother matriarch has stood her ground out in the remote country of Big Mountain for over thirty years. Now, it really seems that society sees her the same way the oppressors does, “those lawless Navajos.” Members of society who expressed humanitarian thought through Gandhi or MLK, or those who recently ‘voted’ to put colour in the White (marble) City of the district of Columbus do not seem to care about spirituality and ancient culture.
Does (it) only come down to fulfillment? Like, “I have voted and I won so, my efforts were fulfilled.”
There is evidence that the traditional Hopi resisters to modernization have questioned the state of society and perhaps, they felt that society has no time for ancient cultural and spiritual ways. So, as long as one, individual traditional life knows they have fulfilled their spiritual obligation and if the rest of the community chose to adapt to the “new generation,” an individual traditional life will conclude it has fulfilled his or hers.
Society and non-Indian activism are more into an eco-management mentality by addressing institutional-designed environmental policies and questions. The old Indian traditions of land base society are now obsolete. Pauline Whitesinger in her remote corner of the universe somehow and always know about the state of the world politics without going on the internet or reading bibles on how to be an activist and to have ‘love.’
Grandmother Pauline who is still strong said something that was quite shocking, “I don’t care anymore. I will build that lodge and (they) can come out with their heavy machine and level the hogan! I don’t care anymore because I’m old and cannot maintain my herd of sheep and goats, and (they) can haul all them away, too. At least, I may have fewer worries and just sit in this little house everyday and look out onto the empty lands.”
Grandma’s final comment about that morning’s disruption was that the ranger-police was actually not wasting his time:
“He is the initial point of a plan. What will follow after today’s visit might become a stupid move for them. All these years the United States has been trying to make the so-called, ‘Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute’ happen…”
© Sheep Dog Nation Rocks 2008
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducated the person who learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours!”
--Cesar Chavez, (activist & educator)