Protest Exposes Desecration of Burial Sites on Black Mesa

Editor October 31, 2013 0

Indigenous Action Media | www.indigenousaction.org

Protesters address Peabody & NGS desecration of burial sites on Black Mesa

Protesters address Peabody & NGS desecration of burial sites on Black Mesa

On Wednesday, October 30th concerned Diné (Navajos) and other indigenous rights supporters held a protest in Flagstaff, AZ  to expose Peabody’s deliberate process of confiscating Indigenous History.

The first Cultural Review meeting for the Kayenta Mine Navajo Generating Station Permit was scheduled at the Museum of Northern Arizona on October 30, 2013 by the Arizona Bureau of Reclamation. This is the first of a series of meetings scheduled to develop the critical structure for regulation and implementation of the protection of sacred sites in the mining and expansion areas leased by Peabody Energy.

Hopi & Diné grassroots from Black Mesa share concerns regarding Peabody expansion and NGS operations

Hopi & Diné grassroots from Black Mesa share concerns regarding Peabody expansion and NGS operations

Bureau of Reclamation representatives answer questions

Bureau of Reclamation representatives answer questions

Peabody representatives listen to grassroots concerns

Peabody representatives listen to grassroots concerns

Grassroots voices were initially excluded until an email announcement was sent from the Museum of Northern Arizona (not by Bureau of Reclamation) at 5pm the evening before the meeting. Residents from Black Mesa & other concerned community members voiced concerns about the process and threats of further desecration of burial & sacred sites by Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine expansion.

Bahe’ speaking about attempt of Peabody Coal and the Bureau of Reclamation to have a secret meeting:

Norman Benally speaking:

“With more community interest & support, Peabody can be stopped from desecrating more of the endless network of ancient dwelling sites. The less involvement by communities the more Peabody and their archaeologist (Black Mesa Archeology Project) will steal & profit, because cultural and human rights of the antiquities aren’t being enforced.” states Bahe’ a Black Mesa resident and organizer of the protest. “Remaining intact sites & other withheld properties, all total in the thousands, are being downsized into Lots. —Resources sold at basement values & price fixing scams while bragging about this mining operation as some great blessing to the Tribal economies.”

The protest is intended to highlight the absence and removal of any public process attached to the regulatory and legal protection of intact and removed ancient sites that are being found curated in collections.

Millions of Indigenous remains, artifacts, and sacred objects have been desecrated by Peabody Energy’s coal mining at Black Mesa, Arizona. All these are being withheld in vaults at closely associated universities. Peabody’s recent expansion plan threatens to further desecrate hundreds more ancient sites.

Black Mesa Ancestral Remains Stored in Cardboard Boxes at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Photo by Peabody Energy.

Black Mesa Ancestral Remains Stored in Cardboard Boxes at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Photo by Peabody Energy.

Concern has been growing due to recent revelations that Peabody Energy withheld and restricted documentation and research that pointed to the relocation of millions of Indigenous remains, artifacts, and sacred objects called the “Black Mesa Archeology Project” (BMAP).

More than one million remains and items of cultural significance are currently being held in cardboard boxes at universities.

“BMAP’s transfer was initiated before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was created and when many of today’s tribal leaders were children.” according to Brian Dunfee of Peabody Energy. It wasn’t until after the permit was issued that confirmation of the “collection” was formally announced at the true locations and facilities.

NAGPRA was established in 1990 and requires, “federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American “cultural items” to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

To date, there has not been an inventory conducted of the BMAP “artifacts” that complies with current laws regarding protection of Indian “artifacts.”

BMAP includes 1.3 million “artifacts” currently held at two American universities.

According to Jon Czaplicki, an Archaeologist with the Bureau of Reclamation the Cultural Review and Update Meeting CRUM extends its range from December 22, 2019 only and does not address the excavations and disruption of intact sites by Peabody in prior years. No one seems to answer where these artifacts and funerary properties would be held after that time, and if they would be separated from their sister and brother collections or the intact sites endangered in the Kayenta Mine lease with Navajo Generating Station.

Participants of the rally are also calling for leadership, solidarity and participation led by Traditional Indigenous Peoples to discuss the impact that the exclusions by Peabody Energy has on true restoration and repatriation.

**Videos and photos taken by Klee Benally of Indigenous Action Media in Flagstaff