To Eugene Kaye, spokesperson for the Hopi Tribe I would like to say that I do not believe you know your own history. I say, 'You were probably not breast fed or you would know your history.'
I am 78 years old, I am Din? and I live in Big Mountain. When my daughter, Elvira was 5 she herded sheep with my great-great-grandfather, The Twin's Father. I knew him for many years, he lived with us in Big Mountain.
The Twin's Father told me he was 5 when he went to Fort Sumner in 1868. He survived the Long Walk and came home to grow old. Born in 1863, he died when he was more than 100. He taught me this history of Navajo occupancy of the region before any Hopi lived out here. I believe this why there are no remains of Hopi on the land we live on.
He told me when he was young, he didn't notice any Hopi living on the land. He did notice the Spanish people that were here, traveling the land and they had stores.
My husband Joe Benally was friends with some of these people. There was a place called 'Above Spring' near Polacca where all the Navajo would herd their sheep to wash them. At that time I noticed some Navajos actually living there, the Red Bottom People Clan.
I noticed it because my father was Red Bottom People. I observed then there were five old stone houses on top of Polacca mesa. At Polacca I noticed four old stone houses built, so I knew the Hopi were there. At Polacca Tewa I noticed a few more houses and these were the Hopis. I noticed some Hopi men ? one called He Talks Much and another was Talks Too Much's brother and another was called Crow's Son, and other men like Miho, Sheepskin and Ghost Boy who was the star gazer of the Hopi Medicine Men. I used to go to him.
For generations we lived with the Hopis near each other. At that time, when we had our sheep dip there. I used to meet the Hopi there. These were the great Hopi Medicine Men.
Miho, a Hopi man, said District 6 was Hopi land. We used to talk to each other. My father used to talk Navajo, Hopi, Spanish and some English. His name was Levi Robinson. They had to be together to learn the language.
We knew the Navajo that lived there, the Red Bottom People, then later some of my father's clan moved to the Polacca and considered themselves Hopi, but they were Navajo. This is the way we made more Hopis. Jack was an albino Hopi man, was the head snake dancer. He said they were all Zunis and went to live in Hotevilla.
When I was 6, I saw my first vehicle. It had wheels and I was afraid of it, though I rarely saw a vehicle after that since we all mostly used horses. It was around this time I saw my first airplane. We thought it was a big monster eagle that would pick up people. We used to hide from it.
When I was 10, I witnessed a great livestock reduction. It was done by two white men named Eyeglass Man and a Stew Mixer. A lot of our livestock were taken. They only allowed us six sheep; some families were only allowed two. These people took almost all our animals and left a few painted ones for us to keep. This was the beginning of branding.
When I started having kids, I suffered from a second livestock reduction. That time my husband had livestock and half his livestock were taken away. We had a family, we did not have a job and depended upon livestock. Now, with Hopi seeking enforcement of jurisdiction over grazing, the next big livestock reduction is threatened. I have been told to have two sheep.
If this is all I am allowed, I recently ate one and gave one to a Medicine Man for ceremony. Is this all we are allowed? This is our good food that we depend upon. What are we going to eat again? There is no food.
When I was 13, I saw a male Din? hogan in Oraibi built by a Spanish man that had a trading post there. His name was Round Spanish. The hogan is one (where) many Navajos, including me and my family spent the night there when we traveled there by foot and by horse.
I also saw those stone houses on Oraibi, where the hogan was. These were the first buildings, now there is a larger community there. But I can still identify the old structures to this day.
After that Spanish man died his brother came, Hard of Hearing Spanish man (otherwise known as Hubbel). Then he went to Ganado where he had Hubbel's Trading Post. He is buried on top of the hill now called the Hubbel Trading Post.
The Mexicans, Spanish people made the census number for us at that time. I was given a round silver coin with my census number on and it was the first time I had a number in a coin. I still have it. Our census did not come first by the United States or the Navajo Nation. Later on, our Social Security came, just recently from Window Rock of the Navajo Nation.
When I was 51 when P.L. 93-531, the Relocation law, was passed, I was never informed about it before it was passed. I oppose relocation.
Big Mountain is a sacred place. We make offerings there. It has a sacred name. It is our grandma mountain and we talk to them and pray to them.
When I was 58, Peabody Coal mine came in after large amounts of coal were discovered. This was a money maker so the Hopi tribal government wanted part of it ... that is why they want us to be out of the land. The Hopi claim they are the Anasazi but they are not. Anasazi is a Navajo word that means our ancient ancestors.
Why are the Hopi claiming so much land when they are not big in number and we contributed to their population?
To the Hopi tribal government, I wish to say I will never move out, even if (they) try to mine where I live, I will stay.
Editor's note: Ruth Benally is a Din? elder who lives at Big Mountain near Kykotsmovi, Ariz. Her letter was translated by Irene Benally.