The Hopis have a point

  Dear HCN,

After 10 years of monitoring the Diné-Hopi land dispute (HCN, 3/31/97), I've never really faulted the Diné (Navajo) for their tactics, since I would probably do the same things if I were faced with losing my home (though I cringe at the rhetorical excess: Buying someone a $70,000 home in Flagstaff is not "genocide').

But there's something I'm missing here. How exactly did the "Save the Whales, Save the Rain Forest, Etc." propaganda machine get its guns turned on the Hopis, who happen to be a truly endangered species?

The bottom line is this: The Hopis are compelled to take a hard line against Diné encroachment to ensure their survival as an independent people. Your own writer concedes as much, citing the figure of 10,000 Diné living on the Hopi side of the fence, in what was supposed to be a "joint-use" area.

This has been extremely difficult for the Hopis, because their culture places a premium on accommodation and avoidance of conflict. But they refuse to play the victim and parade their old people in public to appeal for pity, therefore they lose the public relations battle to the superior marketing tactics of the opposition. The history is that every inch of Hopi accommodation has been met with a mile of Diné usurpation.

Though I'm often dismayed at Diné intransigence, I do understand it. What I am completely burned out on is their well-meaning but ignorant and insensitive supporters and their relentless Hopi-bashing. In my many conversations with "Big Mountain" Anglos I have found universal ignorance about Hopi affairs and a "don't bother me with the facts, I know the truth" attitude. They've made things a lot more painful and expensive than they needed to be.

The Diné's problem is not the Hopis but the reality of a rural culture with a sheep-based economy and a high birthrate in a land that receives six inches of rain a year. However, they are an extremely adaptable and resourceful people, and I think their long-term success is assured. It's time to get off the Hopis' back and give them their space.

Reed Schrichte

Erie, Colorado

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