Background: Peabody Coal Company’s Conflict of Interest
at Black Mesa

After the passage of the relocation law in 1974, it was proven by private research and investigation that the coal company’s law office was instrumental in lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass this (inhumane) Act.

Public Law 93-531 was signed by President Ford in December 1974 while on a Christmas ski vacation in Colorado. Peabody and its subsidiary, Utah International, had urged Congress to rush this legislation as their lobbyist and certain Congressional delegates fabricated that the Navajo and Hopis were having a “bloody range war.”

This relocation law was known as the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act, and its main purpose was to force the US government-designed, tribal council system to establish Indian Land Claims and so that, Peabody can “legally” hold a lease to mine coal. The Navajo nation’s tribal council was established already back in the 1920s when Standard Oil of California needed oil leases.

This type of “foreign” resource development was a violation of treaty rights for the Dineh (Navajos). The Hopi nation never had a treaty with the U.S., and Utah International’s legal maneuver of 1962 was also a violation of Hopi sovereignty and International Human Rights. 

1.8 million acres of land were in question and this area was juxtaposed with the Black Mesa coal fields. The Land Settlement Act partitioned the land and approximately 20,000 Dineh (Navajo) lost all rights to their ancestral lands. Nearly 500 Hopis also were caught on the wrong side of this partitioned boundary.

The implementation and recent amendments of this Executive Order are so complex and furthermore, it is also important to know about the history of U.S. government and Dineh-Hopi relationships. The history of these relationships and policies go as far back as 1882 with the 1.8 million acre Executive Order Reservation and the USGS discovery of large deposits of coal in 1906.

Dineh resistance to Peabody occupation began in the late 1960s but most were bought out by their Navajo tribal council. The resistance to the relocation policies began at Big Mountain which is a region that surrounds significant summits that hold sacred shrines of the Dineh and their healer-chanters. The Big Mountain resistance of 1977 gained solidarity with traditional Hopis that still claimed their sovereignty, and together they claimed that the so-called “Navajo Hopi Land Dispute” was a means of divide and conquer tactic by the federal government and its energy policy.   

Today, elder leaders of the original resistance state that, "We are resisting relocation and the coal mining not only for ourselves but for the whole world. Black Mesa must not be desecrated because of its sacredness --it provides life to all living things including all the human races." Thereby, the Big Mountain resistance should be included in the efforts to halt dependency on fossil fuel and global warming. The resistance to relocation policies by the Dineh and with support from a few traditional Hopi should also be seen as a key factor in completely stopping coal extraction and coal-fired power plants.

-Kat (Haastiin Maas'ii)