Hopis aren't the villains

  Dear HCN,

Hopi Tribal Chairman Ferrell Secakuku announced on April 1 that the Navajo squatters remaining on Hopi land would be given until Feb. 1, 2000, to sign 75-year leases, yet Cate Gilles' article (HCN, 3/31/97) portrays the Hopis as villains in this sad affair. The truth is that the U.S. government created the problem in 1882, and the Navajos have aggravated it by their continuing arrogance and intransigence. In 1868 there were fewer than 300 Navajos living within the so-called Joint Use Area. Contrary to many outrageous statements made by Navajos on Big Mountain, the Navajos have not occupied this area for "thousands of years' but for about 150 years.

Despite repeated episodes of violence by Navajos against Hopis, the Hopis have shown unbelievable patience and compassion to Navajo squatters on Hopi land. It's about time that responsible journals like High Country News reported the facts of this tragic story so readers can know the true history of a problem that has become as intractable as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Steve Blodgett

Butte, Montana