Received in email from Glenn Welker on 03/08/2003
United Nations rep, Indigenous gather to protect the sacred
By Brenda Norrell
PHOENIX: While Yellowstone's buffalo were being slaughtered and
President George Bush craved war, Indigenous from the Americas gathered
for the resurrection of their spiritual destinies to protect the earth
and all that is sacred.
With equal intensity to the destruction in the world, Indians from the
Arctic came defending the caribou homeland, Navajos from Big Mountain,
Ariz., called for protection of Black Mesa and Lakota from Pine Ridge,
S.D., urged solidarity in rekindling the spiritual fortunes of mankind.
United Nations Representative Wilton Littlechild, Cree, joined the
circle of many nations on top of South Mountain, a mountain sacred to
the Salt River and Gila River O'otham, as Lakota and others made prayer
offerings at sunset on Friday, March 7, beginning a three-day conference
Littlechild, representative of the United Nations Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues, said that for the first time, spiritual priorities
are emerging from the United Nations as a result of input from
Speaking during a noon press conference, Zuni Pueblo Councilman Dan
Simplicio said a proposed coal mine of the Salt River Project has
already resulted in the removal of nine of his people from their graves.
"Those are our ancestors that were never intended to be disturbed,"
The proposed Fence Lake Project is in the vicinity of the Zuni's sacred
salt mines in New Mexico. Simplicio said salt has properties that
sustain life, while coal mining robs the earth of life.
"A basic ingredient that gives us life is salt," he said. "Mining takes
Sarah James of the Gwich'in Steering Committee in the Arctic spoke of
the need to protect the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the sacred place
known as "Where Life Begins," from proposed oil drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge-Coastal Plain.
"We are fighting in a good way without compromise with the direction of
our elders," James said, adding that all sacred sites are connected as
all life is connected.
"We have that pride we need to unite with one voice without compromise."
The noon press conference at a downtown Phoenix hotel was attended by
only one Arizona media outlet, a Spanish language newspaper.
During the conference, Kee Watchman, Navajo resisting relocation in
Arizona, said Navajos have lived on their ancestral homelands at Cactus
Valley and Big Mountain for 1,000 years.
Although some of the elders passed to the spirit world in recent years,
Watchman said Navajo and Hopi living traditional lives continue to
teach the young ones and make their prayers in reverence for the sacred
plants and animals in their trust.
Robert Nutlouis, Navajo youth from Pinon, Ariz., said the coal slurry of
Peabody Coal is robbing the people of Black Mesa of their only source of
water, the aquifer. Nutlouis pointed out that the Navajo Nation Council
was originally established for the purpose of signing energy leases and
today the council continues to sell the resources and ignore the
suffering of the Dineh.
Ernest Modesto spoke of efforts to protect the Baboquivari Mountains,
the home of the Tohono O'odham's sacred being Itoi, from tribal
development near the Arizona and Mexico border.
Tonyo Gonnella Frichner shared the spiritual legacies of the Six Nations
Iroquois. Lakotas Leonard Little Finger, Richard Broken Nose, Joann Tall
and Rosalie Little Thunder offered prayers and spoke of the need for a
spiritual unity to restore mankind.
The Chiapas womens theater, FOMMA, performed with four Mayan women
playing multiple roles of men and women in a script they wrote revealing
the struggles of Indigenous women. The lively, masked Tecuany
traditional dancers of Guerrera, Mex., followed.
The Tlahokan Atzlan gathering, March 7 thru 9, 2003, is being held at the
Nahuacalli Center, 802 N. 7th St. in Phoenix. Tonatierra and the Seventh
Generation Fund are co-sponsors of the conference. The telephone is