Below are a few short participant reflections on the June 2013 “Decolonizing the Mind/Mine” gathering on Black Mesa. BMIS would like to express our immense gratitude to the community and those who attended the gathering for bringing about such powerful cross- movement dialogue. Community member Marie Gladue’s facilitation, using the four directions traditional planning process, led to rare connections made between spiritual practice and resistance, and created possibilities for joint struggle among frontline resistance communities as well as several organizations operating in solidarity.
From the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:
“This June, IJAN U.S. organizers attended a gathering held at Big Mountain/Black Mesa that focused on decolonization. Big Mountain/Black Mesa is a portion of the ancestral homeland of the Diné (Navajo) people who since the 1970′s have been resisting relocation by Peabody Coal and the U.S. Government over coal extraction. The gathering, organized by Black Mesa Indigenous Support in collaboration with the community of resisters on Black Mesa (the Diné organizers involved in the resistance struggle), sought to lay groundwork for joint struggle by bringing together organizations working on the front lines of anti-colonial struggles, as well as allied organizations.
The week included a powerful lineup of workshops on the struggle on Black Mesa and the history of the Diné people; the Hawaiian sovereignty movement; the Palestinian Struggle against settler colonialism and Zionism; hip hop as a culture of resistance; the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border; and resistance to mountaintop removal, a form of coal extraction in the Appalachian region of the U.S. IJAN was asked to facilitate a discussion about the frameworks of solidarity and joint struggle.
The gathering was attended by Black Mesa community members, Diné youth, and representatives from the Palestinian Youth Movement, Forgotten Peoples, Ka Lei Maile Ali’i Hawaiian Civic Club, Idle No More Central Oklahoma, Great Plains Tars Sands Resistance, Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival (RAMPS), the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, No More Deaths, the Just Seeds Artists Cooperative, Shining Soul (an O’odham and Chicano hip hop duo) and IJAN.”
From Nick Mullins:
“My family and I recently had the honor of joining these elders thanks to the efforts of groups like Black Mesa Indigenous Support and their affiliations with Appalachian groups such as the RAMPS Campaign. High on Black Mesa we joined dozens of other people to camp out on a Navajo homestead for a week, working to help the elders and to share stories of struggle from other places.
It was a different life, rising with the sun, herding sheep through desert landscapes where the kids often met with the needle of a prickly pear, found their socks covered in Russian thistle, and fought off the constant biting of desert fleas. We sheared sheep the old fashioned way using sheep shearing scissors, we cooked for the elders, and my children even shoveled sheep manure out of a corral. We only spent hours doing what people are accustomed to doing all of their lives and we learned a great deal of respect in doing so.
Back at camp we heard stories from Palestine and Hawaii, from the Lakota of Oklahoma, and more about the struggles on Black Mesa. In many cases it was the same story, people who only wished to live by the old ways of caring for the land, not asking for much in return, and yet finding themselves fighting each day, hoping that the spoiled reckless greed of our civilization will not continue destroying the lands and culture they have clung to for thousands of years…Standing on a hill above the homestead I watched the massive booms of drag lines swinging back and forth on the horizon and the plumes of dust rising from blasts. I knew the the mine was ever approaching and feelings of deep sorrow mixed with feelings of tremendous respect for the people living here. Thousands of miles away from my Appalachian home in a foreign environment, I began to feel even more strongly the connections: the power of all life, the struggles we all face, and the need to protect our children’s future. If only people could understand as the native elders do—that the land, the water, and the air are more important than any man made economy ever could be.”
From Rebel Diaz:
“The Din’eh people are waging a courageous struggle against years of genocide and land theft from the US government and the Peabody Coal Company. We were honored to spend a week in Black Mesa with the brave Din’eh grandmothers who have refused to leave their ancestral lands. We helped plow the land, herd sheep, build an outhouse and finished the week with a performance under the bright stars of the Arizona desert.”