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by Roberta, 1985
'ROBERTA BLACKGOAT YINISHYE. I am Bitter Water, T'odich'iinii, and born for Salt clan, Ashiihi. I am from Big Mountain.
Look at what your are doing to our children. People used to live as one in holiness within these Four Sacred Mountains and the place where the two rivers join. All of the land within the Four Sacred Mountains is our altar. The traditional way is the hogan. And our sheep. Our little ones learn to herd sheep and take care of the horses and the cornfield. We shear the sheep in the springtime and then save some wool to do the weaving, carding and spinning. We educate our kids to weave and herd sheep and ride horses. This is their education. They are given their ceremonial names and are taght to say prayers. They learn to carry on for generations, in the Holy Way.
They learn that the land is holding us and the people and Land belong together. The Land feeds us and takes care of us. But when they go to the Whiteman's school they learn to go for money. Then they start working someplace else. That is what I call slaving our kids. It's like drafting our kids into the cities and making them slaves.
After 1974 we received warning letters saying "No improvements," and "Stock reduction." In our hearts we really feel the pain because we knew they would make our children move away from us, we sho still live in our traditional way. In 1974, I started traveling around back and forth between the Relocation Commission and the JUA Joint Use Area Office. They give me rough action and rough talk. Mainly they say, "If you remain on the land you will go to jail." Lynn Montgomery said that. We are fighting too against their fencing. The fencing hurts our Mother Earth. It's like pushing pins in her. Like a split that gets into your finger, the fencing too hurts our Mother Earth.
In the Navajo Way, we have no boundaries. The land between the Four Sacred Mountains is a hogan - and all traditional people may live here together - in the hogan. They want us to move so they can get the coal that we call the liver of our Mother Earth. I warned the Relocation Commission that Peabody Coal will make a big crack, cracking the Earth and someday it will crack under their office.
I am independent, I still use cornmeal, mutton and I am not used to cakes, donuts and fried eggs and bacon. I am not used to those foods. I am a traditional one. I have an alter out at Big Mountain and that is where I belong. We still want to live out here, herding sheep. "Don't bother us. I am independent," I said to the Relocation Commision. We are all independent at Big Mountain. Declaration of Independence is what we have been calling ourselves at Big Mountain. We declared independence in 1979. In 1974, I had 289 or 288 sheep and when the reduction started some of my children took our sheep to the auction. When I found out that I had less than seventy sheep I stepped on my brake and declared my own independence, I just humg onto my sheep.
We got letters from the Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation Commission saying, "Don't patch up your hogan or your corral" or "You must tear that hogan down." According to our traditional way we move our hogans when we want to have a new home. We have a winter camp and a summer camp that we move to at planting time. If we want to build a new hogan we make a Hogan Song and we conduct our ceremonies in there. Then we start using that hogan
We have a Song called Hogan Song. It has been sung in our hogan and it is holy. Our hogan is holy and if it has to be moved we build a new one with prayers and song. The Relocation is putting chains around the hogans and tearing them down - or burning them - even though there might be something in there, some property or spirit. The Creator told us what kind of homes to have and when and how we must leave them. Tearing them down goes against our natural laws.
The Song starts from the east and then goes to south and goes to west and to north and back to east. And this mountain from the east we sing to remember is Mountain Blanca, Sis Naajini. On the south side is Mountain Taylor, Tsoodzil, and on the west side is San Francisco Peaks, Dook'o'oosliid, and on the north side is Mountain Hesperus, Dibe Nitsaa.
The Song goes from the foot to the head of the mountains. Big Mountain is part of that Navajo world we sing about. In offering a Prayer we take turquoise, abalone, jet and white shells. This is what we offer in the Dine Way on top of the Big Mountain. Big Mountain is connected to the high points: Mountain Blanca and Mountain Taylor and San Francisco Peaks and Mountain Hesperus. We still pray to these Four Sacred Mountains. According to the Song these mountains form the posts to the hogan and if we are moved out of this natural hogan it goes against our Song. The Song does not allow us to build a hogan outside of the Four Sacred Mountains.
According to the Songs, we must hold on to our hogan and hold it as long as we use our own tongue. If we lose our tongue and speak English, we have no hope. Our hogan is the altar. The hogan and the language go together.
The old people keep on talking about sheep, sheep, sheep. The think way back when they were young and how they used to live. How they had been taught.
It is really hard to go on and tell the whole story. One old man said that he did not have any land to live on and use. So he said he has no use to live and he said, "All I can do is this." And he pointed his gun to his forehead and shot himself.
Another Elder said the same thing. Maybe he was drunk or something like that. But he said, "No use living through this hardship. I would just rather die." So he walked out and went to another hogan that belonged to him and he hung himself. He put a post across the beams and he hung himself in the hogan.
I guess they are going to come around in tractors to shovel us out and dump us somewhere. I don't know, maybe down the canyon into the wash. No matter if I am weak or sick and they still want me to move, I will resist.'
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