Return to Roberta Index


United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and protection of Minorities

Working Group on Indigenous populations

july/august 1990

Thank you Madame Chairman

My name is Roberta Blackgoat. I am a traditional Dineh from Big Mountain, Arizona, in the United States.

I am unable to read my own statement, due to recent eye surgery, and have aked Grace Smith to read it for me. I want to express my deep appreciation to the sub-commission and to the members of the working group for this opportunity.

Madame Chairman, I come here because my people are suffering the pain and hardship of a violation of our most basic Human Rights. I am talking about the forced relocation of Navajo and Hopi people that was bought about by Public Law 93-531, which passed in 1974.

Our place of worship is called a Hogan, and each family has its own in which to offer prayers. We pray to keep the family together, and for the well-being of all things in nature. We were placed by the Creator on Mother Earth, in the middle of four sacred mountains. In this area between the Sacred Mountains, we have many sacred shrines where we go to offer special prayers and to gather special plants for our survival and medicine. The water and rivers are key elements in our religion, because they give life to all mankind and all living beings.

Our livestock also play an important role in religious ceremonies, as well as being our means of survival. Today, because of the forced relocation program, our livestock are being impounded, The US Government, The Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Navajo and Hopi Tribal Councils, are working to force us off our lands. This is causing terrible suffering, and the destruction of our way of life and culture. I was arrested in February 1989 for protesting the destruction of a sacred site. They won't dismiss the charge and I could go to jail for 6 months to a year. What will happen then to my sheep and my house? Some governement people said they wished I would die and not fight the government anymore. My neighbour, Pauline Whitesinger, has eleven calves slaughtered last November, and another one of my neighbors, Dorothy Deal, had her sheep taken away. The Government is fenciing up the land so it's hard to get our livestock to water any more. Because there's a law against fixing up any of our buildings, Alfred McCabes ceremonial hogan was torn down and Lee Willy, a Medicine Man was evicted from his land. There' no room for the young people and they have no choice but to move away from their parents and grandparents.

This relocation is a nightmare for us. I have come to ask for your help. Please urge the United States to suspend forced relocation, and ask the Secretary -general to provide us with assistance in resolving this situation. We need a stronger resolution from the sub-commisiion than last year. And we want the United Nations to help mediate this dispute before there is nothing left for us. We want to participate in the negotiations and iplementation of any settlement.

The Navajo tribal Government does not speak for us as traditional elders. This is what we are asking.

Thank you Madame Chairman.


Return to Roberta Index