Honoring 40 Years of Resistance on Big Mountain
The 40 year-long struggle to break the grip of Peabody Coal on the Diné residents of Black Mesa was honored this May at the Big Mountain Spring Healing Camp. The camp was held on Black Mesa, on the Navajo Reservation in so-called Arizona and brought together local resistors, community members, activists and trainers from around the region and country. Over the course of the camp participants attended workshops, exchanged stories, learned about the Diné way of life, went out on work crews and built connections across boundaries.
In solidarity with the continued resistance, Seeds of Peace made the journey to Black Mesa to provide food and logistical support for the camp. As always it was a humbling and inspirational experience. Unlike past caravans and camps we had a fairly slim crew, which made the work a bit more demanding. Not to mention four days of sustained 30 mph winds – it took a substantial amount of patience and work to make sure everyone was fed.
Fortunately there were a few very dedicated Diné grandmothers that took the time to help us out. At times we overlooked the most important part of the meal, the fry bread, which the grandmothers effortlessly prepared in time for the meal. In addition to being a huge help in the kitchen, they provided a salient example of how not to be stressed out trying to feed all the supporters and elders. More importantly, we gained invaluable knowledge about Diné food and life by watching the repetitive motion of forming fry breads, and listening to stories of their resistance. Even though few of us were able to attend the workshops or trainings, it felt like we learned just as much, or even more, working with the grandmothers.
For some of us in SOP it was our third or fourth time returning to the land. Certainly, we were aware that SOP had been supporting the resistance for many years. That history didn’t seem to sink in until morning circle one day when one of the elders talked about how SOP had been supporting Big Mountain resistors for 26 years – which for some reason gave it more relevance and power. Throughout the week we heard stories about gatherings from years past when it was much more difficult for resistors and supporters. In that context it made our participation feel sustained and part of a very real, and storied, resistance.
While the original intent of this camp had an action component, we learned on the first day that, for a variety of reasons (most notably concerns over potential repercussions to Big Mountain residents) post-camp actions were off the table for the time being. Organizers instead focused on healing – through ceremony, work, discussions and food. For us it was an honor to continue supporting the struggle for indigenous sovereignty on Black Mesa and we hope to return soon.