We met with Louise Benally who I first encountered in the award winning documentary film Broken Rainbow. Our time was very brief. We met outside the office building of the Black Mesa Water Coalition and the Indigenous Environmental Network with great plans for the day, although our first obstacle was a three hour drive out to Black Mesa and the Big Mountain community.
Louise quickly explained her story in the parking lot; in 1974 a congressional act called public law 93531 (or the "Bennet Freeze") passed, which called for the removal of over 10,000 Navajo's (Diné) from their land. The US congress decided that the land belonged to the Hopi, although the Navajo and Hopi had been living there in peace for centuries and manufactured a disagreement between the tribes to better sell the idea, which was in essence plotted to free up 62,000 acres for expanded mining operations.
Those who did not want to move were faced with starvation as the following the Bennet Freeze, a federal court ordered an "85 to 90 percent reduction in their livestock herds, and banned new construction or even repairs to existing structures."
Our plan for the day was to go out and meet with a Dineh elder still protesting the move and to view the mining site, but a flash flood stopped us short and then time ran out.
As we drove to our next destination we listened to the first presidential debate through a crackling radio with shifting reception as the sun disappeared in the sky. It felt like the world was shifting from all that I had learned.
I strongly encourage you to watch the academy award winning
Broken Rainbow or "Vanishing Prayer", pasted below to learn more about this topic.