Imagine the following scenario:

It is Easter, a time for Christian celebration of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Your local church is filled to standing room only with those who have come to celebrate and worship their Savior.

This Easter morning, the ceremony begins with the deacons solemnly carrying a wooden cross, the symbol of Salvation, down the aisle to be placed at the pulpit for all to see.

As the deacons appear with the cross, suddenly the sanctuary doors burst open. A SWAT team of local police rush the deacons and arrest them for participating in the worship service. Other policemen announce that the service can continue but anyone who leaves and tries to re-enter the church will be arrested for trespassing. Some do, and are charged with trespassing and receive a $500 to $1,000 fine for re-entering the sanctuary. Armed police station themselves around the sanctuary.

Determined to worship the Creator despite the police presence, those who remain in the sanctuary pick up the cross and place it at its station, then continue their ceremony.

Meanwhile, outside the place of worship, police are stopping those who are trying to attend the worship service. Some are charged with trespassing, while some are turned away with the explanation that what the worship service is illegal.

The deacons are taken to police headquarters on the pretext of seeing the mayor for a permit to worship. Once out of sight of the other worshipers, the deacons are charged with trespassing and arrested, each receiving a $500 fine and jailed for the night.

A few days after the sacred service, at the break of day, federal, state, and local police, armed with guns and heavy equipment, demolish the same church that was raided. The place of worship is reduced to rubble, with religious items ground into the dirt by police boot heels and heavy equipment.

As the police demolish the church, an incredulous young neighbor boy, a minor, home alone, goes into his house and gets his camera to document on film the police destruction of the Christian holy place. When police see that the boy is photographing their activity, the boy is arrested and taken away.

According to reports and interviews with witnesses, this is exactly what happened at the Camp Anna Mae annual Sundance on Hopi Partitioned Land over the past few weeks. People gathered in a peaceable assembly to worship the Creator in the way that was their custom. The Sundance was their sacred worship ceremony. The Sundance grounds was their sanctuary. The Sundance arbor was the place where the worshipers and performers of the ceremony sat and prayed during the ceremony. The Sundance Tree of Life was their symbol of Salvation. Like the Christian cross, the Tree of Life is a celebration of life, of Creator's blessings, and of hope for the future.

The five women who bore the Tree of Life to its rightful place at the Sundance ground were arrested by Hopi Tribal Council (HTC) police and taken to jail. HTC police were posted, as an intimidation tactic, around the arbor. Other armed police stopped traffic and charged with trespassing those who insisted on worshiping. Doctors, who had come to the Sundance to care for the elderly and to be there for those who might need medical attention, were turned away and not allowed to enter. Water at the nearest water source was turned off, so worshipers could not have water to drink. Some who left to bring water to the ceremony were charged with trespassing, according to reports. Others sneaked in and out of the ceremony to bring food and water to worshipers.

In spite of the desecration of the sacred ceremony by HTC police, the Sundance continued. Determination by worshipers to pay homage to their Creator was stronger than their fear of what the HTC police might do to them. They were within their Constitutional, Civil, human and Creator given rights to peaceably assemble and to worship Creator according to their spiritual beliefs.

The five women arrested obtained pro bono representation from a fellow Dine'h, the preliminary hearing took place, and a trial date was set.

Disruption of the Sundance and the fines and arrests seemed to be the extent of HTC action against the worshipers; but it was only the beginning.

In the early morning hours, on 17 August 2001, when no one expected it, when they thought no one was home and they would go undetected, federal BIA agents, in the company of HTC Rangers and Navajo County Sheriff's Deputies, went to Camp Anna Mae, sacred ground, with heavy equipment and destroyed the grounds, the arbor, and the Sundance Tree.

Louise Benally's son, Arrick, was home alone, when the destruction took place. When he saw what was happening, he got his camera and proceeded to photograph the actions of the law enforcement agents. When the agents saw that Arrick was photographing their activity, Arrick was immediately arrested. No doubt, the film has been destroyed.

Below are the reports from Dine'h who have seen the destruction, from witnesses who were at the Sundance, and an official report by a news writer for an online Indigenous American publication.

It is SENAA International's position that both the disruption and arrests during the Sundance and the destruction of the Sundance Tree and the arbor were violations of the Constitutional, Civil, and human rights of the worshipers. The destruction of the sacred site was a desecration of a holy sanctuary and a crime on the same level as the burning or bombing of any church, temple, or synagogue. Clearly, federal and International laws were violated by the same law enforcement agencies that are sworn to uphold those same laws.

If it had not been witnessed by so many, it would be unbelievable that, in a land where spiritual expression and peaceable assembly of worshipers are rights given by Creator and guaranteed by the federal government, the agencies charged with upholding and defending those rights would be the ones to enforce the denial of those rights.

SENAA International feels that the actions of the HTC and BIA are crimes equal to the war crimes committed by Nazi and other war criminals who were tried for violating the human rights of their victims. The actions of the HTC and BIA are as racist, intolerant, and inexcusable as the church burnings, church bombings, lynching and other demonstrations of bigotry by the Ku Klux Klan. As despicable as the crimes committed by the HTC and BIA is that the BIA is a federal agency, owned and operated by the U.S. government; and anyone who knows the history of the HTC knows that it was not created by, nor does it represent the Hopi people. The HTC was created and continues to be operated by The BIA (is it Bureau of Indian Affairs, or should it be "Beast In Amerikkka").

With such crimes and terrorism being committed by the U.S. government, and the HTC, is anyone safe? When the federal government agencies are not busy violating federal law by terrorizing Indigenous Americans for practicing their sacred ceremonies, what other race or spiritual faith will be the target of their terrorism?

When is the U.S. government going to live up to its claims that it is a nation of, for, and by the people that guarantees religious liberty and equality of all. By equality, does the government mean that we all have an equal opportunity to be terrorized and denied our rights?

Do not let this violation of religious freedom go unanswered. SENAA urges every Indigenous American and every citizen of every spiritual path to hold the BIA and HTC accountable for the violations of Civil, Constitutional, and human rights that they have perpetrated.

Contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Hopi Tribal Council, the Department of Interior, your senators and congressmen, and the President and Vice President of the United States, and voice your condemnation of these crimes against Indigenous Americans. Insist that the situation be corrected, the charges of trespassing and holding spiritual ceremony without a permit be dropped. Insist that the charges be dropped against the boy who was arrested for witnessing the destruction of Camp Anna Mae and that the photographs that he took be returned to him and copies of the photographs used as evidence against ALL agencies involved in the violation of sacred rights.

SENAA International and other supporters will do everything legally within our power to see that those agencies are held accountable for their illegal actions and that compensation is made to those who suffered at their hands.

No government and no agency is qualified or has the right to assume that its power or authority are above the power and authority of Creator. No entity has the right to forbid a group or individual from worshiping Creator according to culture, tradition, and conscience. We cannot afford to yield to such threats, and we cannot afford to allow such violations to happen to others. If we do not stand against such tyranny, any one of us could be the next victim.

Al Swilling, Founder' SENAA International



Testimony of a Sundance Security Guard SENAA Exclusive:

Hopis increased fine from $500 to $1,000 a day if you attend or participate in the Anna Mae Sundance activity.

Two doctors were stopped and turned away. These doctors were to assess medical problems that people in camp were experiencing. Also, they possessed medicine that were to be given to these people. In essence, the Hopi Nation endangered the lives fo these people by not allowing these medically qualified doctors to pass through their checkpoint; with full knowledge of their intention, along with the importance of the medications they were in possession of.

They have also disregarded the spiritual respect for the Sundance Ceremony by covertly placing a lookout on a northwestern hill overlooking the Sundance arbor with intentions of spying.

R.R. (name withheld by SENAA for security reasons)


Traditional Dance Further Frays Relationship Between Navajos, Hopis

Associated Press, July 13, 2001

A traditional Navajo Sundance taking place on the Hopi Reservation is the latest controversy in an ongoing dispute between Navajo and Hopi tribe members.

About 100 Navajos and their supporters have gathered at the Big Mountain community, a tiny enclave of Navajos living on the Hopi Reservation, to participate in the weeklong religious ceremony. The Hopis' reservation is surrounded by the much larger Navajo Reservation.

Hopi officials say that because there's no permit for the dance, Navajos entering the area are trespassing. Some Navajo community leaders maintain the ceremony is being performed on their own land and should not require a permit.

"As native peoples, we feel that we don't need permits to hold our religious ceremonies," said Big Mountain resident Marie Gladue, a Navajo tribe member. "We have become trespassers here, on our own land. You have people that feel they have a civil right, according to the United States' laws, to do this ceremony."

Hopi police set up roadblocks and handed out fliers listing trespassing fines to deter Navajos from traveling to the area. They arrested five people for trespassing on Wednesday and issued one citation Friday.

The Navajos "didn't bother getting permission from the Hopis for this dance and we want them to leave," said Hopi spokeswoman Claire Heywood. "The Hopi tribe is doing everything they can to avoid conflict. The best way to describe our position would be wait and see."

Heywood said some Navajos have threatened violence if police try to stop the Sundance.

"It's not worth the potential loss of life to have our people go in there and risk a riot," she said.

The two tribes' land dispute stems from a 1934 executive order that put aside land on the Hopi reservation to be shared by both tribes.

After a 1979 judicial decree partitioned disputed land between the two tribes, more than 10,000 Navajos agreed to leave Hopi land.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a 13-year-old lawsuit that used religious grounds to challenge the pending relocation of the remaining Navajos living on the Hopi Reservation.

Meanwhile, an agreement was reached allowing some Navajo families to sign 75-year leases with the Hopis and remain on the land in exchange for a federal payment to the Hopis of $50 million.

Some Navajo families in the area, however, refused to sign the lease, maintaining that the land was theirs to begin with.

"Some of these families are resisters," said Hopi spokeswoman Heywood. "Basically, they've chosen not to sign a lease with the Hopi people to live on the land. The other choice would be to leave voluntarily ... They're on the land illegally."

Dwayne O'Daniel, a Navajo whose family has lived in the Big Mountain community for five generations, says the Sundance will continue until Sunday.

"This is not an act of war," said O'Daniel. "We just feel that we need some spiritual uplifting against their oppression."


From: Carina Gustafsson [
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2001 4:04 AM 
To:;; Matt Davisson Subject: VB: [NativeNews] Letter to the Editor: from one of the grandmothers arrested by the Hopi Tribe

-----Ursprungligt meddelande----- Från: Senior Staff  Till:  Datum: den 18 juli 2001 18:04 Ämne: [NativeNews] Letter to the Editor: from one of the grandmothers arrested by the Hopi Tribe

From: "ya-ZZZZ" ..thanks! This was forwarded to me. I don't care who you favor in this situation. There is no reason for elders to be treated in this manner by anyone. This is the "benefits" of the White Man's education! Of the Mormons kidnapping Indian babies. There is also word from Mr. McCaleb that the FBI WERE at Big Mountain. Do the Hopi honestly believe all this is for their benefit? History does not show that the US government ever gave a rat's ass about Indians of any "tribe." With the BILLIONS of dollars under the ground I hardly think large corporations (such as Peabody - yes they are still involved). The involvement of Government Agencies tells me that the >taxpayer's dollars are being used to protect somebody. I bet it's not the >Hopi Tribe. This is a whole lot better for the government that an internal >conflict. I believe the "Peacekeepers" (probably all trained at the School of the Americas or whatever it is called now) are waiting.

hago'onee ya-ZZZZ


This Letter to the Editor is from me, one of the grandmothers arrested by the Hopi Tribe, charged with trespassing and holding a ceremony without a permit.

Our Sun dance ceremony is not only Lakota ceremony, Norris Nez, a traditional Dine' Medicine Man put up ceremony first, in the morning, praying for all 4 directions then the ceremony started and Joe Chasinghorse, the Lakota Sun dance leader continued the ceremony. This is our own traditional way. We have a right to have a ceremony in any way we choose to. We can pray to the earth, the water, the trees, everything. What I am telling you is true, yes, we absolutely true, we as grandmothers were pushed around by Hopi police man, not Hopi Rangers. Pauline Whitesinger and my mom, Ruth Benally and me, we were really hurt because we were pushed around by Hopi police. We have a right to have Freedom. We don't want to be pushed around by police man or anybody.

We are not trespassers, we live here in Big Mountain, we were born here, and our ancestors were here long ago. We have a right to walk on our land. This is our traditional grandmothers and grandfathers land before us. Their burial places are here, we know where they are, back thousands of years we know our grandmothers and grandfathers names. We never heard of a Hopi that lived here back then. The Hopi Tribe just wants the coal and the money that are in the resources in the ground. This is what is destroying our land. We just go by our prayers and traditional ways. We don't understand digging coal. The coal is our mother earth's liver.

Around Big Mountain the Hopi Tribe says we are trespassing, but our hogan is sitting right there. They told us we are trespassing, this is where we live, this is where our home is. When the Hopi say we are trespassing, this is not true.

On July 1, we prayed early in the morning, my mom, Ruth Benally offered her corn pollen to the trees. She made a ceremony, then we left to go to Kayenta to get the Sun dance tree from here. When we were by where John Benally lives in Big Mountain and we tried to bring the tree into the ceremonial ground we saw a lot of police road blocks and they stopped us. They told us not to go in there. We stood there and we asked them why they are doing this, we told them we have a right to have a ceremony. We told them we are having this ceremony because our people are suffering, have headaches and are sick. We told them this is why we need support from all natives and non-natives that come to support and pray for us, for our land, water, for the air, for our health and our animals. This is what we live on.

This is why we decided to put up the Sun dance tree and have another ceremony and because we have the right to have ceremony. This was around 8 PM in the evening. There were police parked right there. My mom and I stood in front of the tree. There was a white bronco right by where we stood. A man, not dressed in police uniform who had no hair and was dressed in gray with a book in his hand came up to us. He said we have no right to do this, he said this is not your land, you are trespassing. He spoke in a harsh voice to us. Then he opened the door of his vehicle and grabbed my mom to push her in the front seat of the vehicle, he grabbed her by her belly and pushed her in the vehicle and slammed the door. I was standing by my mom and then he pushed me in the vehicle and on the other side I saw Pauline Whitesinger was already in the vehicle. After that he went inside and drove off with us right away. We looked back and saw they put Louise Benally and Joella Ashike were in the panel. They rushed us to towards Rocky Ridge.

This is not graded road, there are a lot of ditches, the road is rough. I understand the mileage, we were going over 75 mph on the dirt roads and we are afraid. The police man was using his brake and we were going too fast. My mom told him can't you slow down. He did not listen, my mom spoke only in Dine'. My mom almost bumped into the front dashboard since she was given no seat belt. He did 90 mph when we reached the paved road all the way to the Hopi Chairman, Wayne Taylor's office. He put us in a little room and he said you ladies go in there, they dragged in Louise and we followed her in there. We sat there and he told us, you ladies are arrested and handcuffed us. He changed drivers but they did not say anything to us, he just pushed us into the vehicle and took us on to Keams Canyon. We never saw the Hopi Chairman. And the police man drove really fast and parked in front of the Hopi jail in Keams Canyon. He opened the door and said you ladies get out and pushed us in ! a room. A police lady came in and threw some prison clothes at us. Then Louise and Joella were sent into another room to put their jail pants on. I followed my mom and Pauline into the room they put us. My mom said no, leave me alone, just give me a top, I cannot wear pants. She told them, I wear a dress, there is no problem, but she spoke only in Dine' and they could not understand her.

The Police woman said, no, take off you dress right now. She said this in English, then she pulled my mom's skirt down and put the pants on her. My mom is shy and was scared and shaking and she couldn't walk. She was just standing there. Then she did the same thing to Pauline. The lady then said go out that door and stand right there. We were pushed into to room and they threw us a big mattress, over 80 pounds for my mom, Pauline and Louise, Joella and I to share. The mattress was really old and smelled. We had to drag it into the room. The room was small and only had 4 beds. There were 6 women already in there. Then she locked the door. This is all we had. After that, about 10 minutes later, she checked on us and said put your mattress down and lay down and go to sleep. We were all supposed to sleep on one mattress, my mom and Pauline won't go to sleep, they just sat there, their heads against the wall and my mom said that around her waist it hurt her, where the policeman grabbed her.

The next morning they told us to eat in a room nearby, they give us a tray with a little bit of food. There was a table in that room but we were forced to go back to our mattress in the little room. Pauline and Ruth could not even eat their food since they have no teeth and take a while to eat. We sat and ate there, while we were still eating and they took our trays back before we were finished eating. Then around 8:00 AM we had to go to Court. They handcuffed us again in a line, Louise first, then Joella, Pauline, my mom, then me. This is how they took us to the Court room. In the court room they lined us up in front of the judge. They asked Louise to translate for us. Louise said no way, you arrested me, why should I help you, you can talk to them yourself. They didn't know what to do since they did not have a translator. Then they motioned for us to go out, so we followed them and they took us back into the little room. Just Louise and Joella had court. We waited. Later,! in the room we were kept in they told us, we would have Court on the 30th. After awhile they gave us a paper, this is what it said. They were not going to release us unless we paid them a $500.00 bond each. But after our attorney called, they said you are free to go. They threw us our clothes in plastic bags and we got dressed. When we left the j ail there were a whole bunch of people waiting there for us, and all my daughters Me and my mom drove off together with my daughters and Pauline and Joella and Louise went with another supporter. Finally when we went back to where the ceremony was being held we were happy to see that it was still going on. And my mom and Pauline and I went in to the Sun dance tree and prayed for our healing and we prayed for the people, land, air, trees, then the ceremony continued. We were happy to be home.

During the Sun dance the police made a roadblock to turn the people back and give them tickets. If the people went in they got a ticket. I think about the police gave out about 400-500 tickets for $500.00 per day trespassing charge to the Dine' people and to our supporters. Even my daughter who wanted to get us water since we only had empty barrels, we had no water but she was told she would be fined if she left. They said we could not get water. Leonard Benally tried to get water but he was told if he tried he would go to jail. The police said they shut off the water well for the whole time of the Sun dance. It was not until Sunday afternoon that they turned the water back on. This is a water source used by hundreds of people. It is not even on HPL, it is on NPL. How could they do this to us?

The Hopi police treated us really bad. We think we should have freedom, we are grandmothers. We like to help and pray. We don't want to be pushed around. We still are human beings with five fingers. We always go by our traditional ways, we pray and we want to walk in Beauty Way. This is our traditional way, we wear traditional clothes for the women, this is how we were born in the earth, we were all born in Big Mountain, under the tree, on the ground. And when we were born our late grandma picked us up from the earth and cleaned us up. She laughed and we were wrapped in mohair sheepskin. We will not forget our traditional ways, walking, having our children grow up among Big Mountain.

The newspaper has a bunch of lies saying that John Benally was going to shoot around to people that interfered with the ceremony. John didn't talk that way to anyone, he only told the police, don't push the grandmothers around. We got freedom. This is what he said. There were about 50 witnesses that heard what was really said. The police that took us to Hopi jail kidnapped us by force from where we stood by the Sun dance tree, near our own homes and hogans. This is the truth. When my mind comes back to thinking about the police man speeding down the dirt roads, I remember it was rough and scary. The Hopi police and the Hopi Tribe just lie when they told us they were just taking us to meet with the Hopi Chairman to see about a permit for the ceremony. And when we got to Hopi, they told us, you women are arrested. They talked to us just like we were little girls. This is what I know. This is the truth. We want our freedom so we can pray and not be called trespassers on our own land. We just want to be free.

Elvira Horseherder P.O. Box 537 Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039

"Beauty surrounds us. Let there be beauty everyday in our life." --Jay Begaye

This Letter To the Editor was reprinted from: Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit) Native News Online a Service of Barefoot Connection



From: Michael Gerell <> To: FW to: Carina Gustafsson, SENAA Sweden Subject: Urgent! BIA is tearing down Anna Mae Sundance arbor Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 11:42:36 -0700

Big Mountain Supporters: It is with great sadness and not a little anger that i must pass on to you information i received in two urgent phone calls this morning. The Corporate Hopi Rangers along with units from the BIA police and the Navajo County Sheriffs (60 cops by one estimate) have seen fit to take it upon themselves to begin tearing down the Sacred Sundance Tree and the surrounding arbor at the Sundance grounds at Anna Mae Camp on Big Mountain. This is an egregious and stunning escalation of the continuing harassment and religious rights violations that took place this July when these same law enforcement agencies attempted to keep the sacred ceremony from happening at all. Louise Benally's eldest son Eric was at the homestead when the troops arrived and was arrested while attempting to document the disrespectful and violent destruction. His uncle John may have also been arrested, but this has yet to be confirmed.

This heinous crime against the Peoples rights to religion and land is akin to the destruction of any church, synagogue, or temple. We call on all people of faith to stand up in support of these traditional Dineh People. Please call Gail Norton at the dept of the Interior, the head of the regional BIA and the Hopi Tribal Council and tell them that what they are doing is a crime according to international law and also according to the Native American Religious Rights act.

The People are calling for any and all supporters who can get themselves out to the Altar to come there to witness and hopefully stop the destruction of this sacred structure which carries the prayers of all who participated in the Sundance there for the last 18 years.

Please feel free to contact me for any further updates on this situation I have been told that the next target may be the burial site of the late elder who passed away just before the Sundance in July. And forced evictions may not be too far behind in the plans of these misguided agents of the corporate giants that direct and pay for the destruction on the Altar and elsewhere on Mother Earth.

Walk in Beauty



-----Original Message----- From: Brenda Norrell [] Sent: Friday, August 17, 2001 3:08 PM To: Subject: RE: THANK YOU

Today (8-17-01) at approximately 5 a.m., the Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Range Management, Resource Enforcement Services, Hopi Tribal Police, Navajo County Sheriff, and BIA impoundment trailers entered Camp Ana Mae, a sacred religious area located in Big Mountain, AZ. Awakened by sounds of machinery, several witnesses observed the desecration of the sacred Sundance ground. Land management employees were observed cutting down arbor logs and the Sundance tree with chain-saws. A front-end loader destroyed sweat lodges, fire pits, sweat rocks, alters, and the Sundance arbor. Religious paraphernalia, which included tobacco ties, flesh offerings, and eagle feathers were seized or left behind and trampled by machinery. Eric Crittendon, a resident of Camp Anna Mae, was arrested while trying to photograph the destruction. Eric, who is a minor, was home alone at the time of the incident. Local residents arrived at Camp Ana Mae around 8 a.m. to take part in a weekly prayer and sweat ceremony. To their shock and disbelief, residents were blocked by local, state, and federal law enforcement. Officers stated that all trespassers would be arrested. Residents counted fifteen vehicles leaving the area, and included several trailers piled with confiscated arbor logs and the Sundance Tree. This is the official press release of the residents of Big Mountain, AZ who observed the destruction the the Sundance ground.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NOTE: Portions of the above reports were Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.



Navajo Nation Press Release Regarding Destruction of Camp Anna Mae
Navajo resisters, Hopi officials to file more court motions