Diné Elders, Medicine People at odds with Navajo Nation

Diné Elders and Medicine People Unanimously Pass Joint Resolution in Opposition to the 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act

Horses to be slaughtered
Horses to be slaughtered

Diné (Diné means “the People”) Hataalii Association and Nohooka’ Diné, traditional cultural leaders, passed a joint resolution on June 14, 2014, advising the Navajo Nation to adhere to Dine’ spiritual traditions and culture to insure the humane treatment of horses and complete halt to NN horse round-up. Dr. Anthony Lee, President of DHA, spoke of the fire that is out of control on the Chuska Mountain Range, “this (fire) can be attributed, in part, to the horses that already have been slaughtered with no amends made to the Holy People.”

The resolution also expresses opposition to the 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act because the Navajo Nation has not properly consulted or informed the Diné people about the Act’s purpose, intent, impacts and/or consequences. The resolution states, “The 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act defines horses as “livestock” or an “animal unit” without regard for the sacred place that horses have in our healing ceremonies, prayers and way of life. This attempt to diminish or prohibit our spiritual way of life and understandings is a direct violation of the Navajo Nation’s bill of rights under freedom of religion.”

The two traditional groups also asked the Navajo Nation to conduct a formal and thorough investigation into alleged horse theft by those the Nation employed during the round-up, charging that some of the horses taken during the roundups were professionally trained with brands and grazing permits. Mr. Leland Grass of Nohooka Diné said, “Horse theft and cruelty is a serious crime, it victimizes both the people whose horses were taken and it victimizes the horses. As traditional people we see every horse as sacred and when we treat them inhumanely we violate our own sacredness as human beings”.

The resolution also expresses concerns with a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bill Richardson, Robert Redford and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly regarding horse slaughter and the round-ups. The resolution states, the MOU “does not acknowledge our sacred way of life and custom of Diné People” and “without the direct involvement and full participation of the Diné People, Elders, and Medicine People this MOU…will not have attained the free, prior and informed consent of the Diné Peoples as is required by law”. Dr. Lee states “In the long run, we, as medicine people, are advocating and protecting the sacred medicine bundles, passed down to us by our forebears and ancestry. They ensure the future survival of our children and grandchildren.”

The resolution further states, “It is unacceptable to violate or challenge our Creator’s immutable Laws and the way of life that was provided to us, as Diné, to maintain balance and harmony with All Creation”. “We strongly urge the Navajo Nation to create and uphold man-made laws that do not oppose, challenge or go against our sacred Diné way of life”. “As earth surface people, we do not have the power nor the authority to change, alter, or supersede the natural and fundamental laws established by the Holy People”, adds Dr. Lee. The resolution affirms that horses are sacred and created with the universe and ends by insisting “that all horses be treated humanely and that we maintain a healthy relationship with (the horse).”

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