Nihígaal bee Iiná :: Journey for Existence

Broken Boxes will be honored to share interviews and information regarding the purpose, experience and people of Nihígaal bee Iiná, The Journey for Existence. 

"As young people, we realize that we can’t continue on like this. We need clean air, water, and a viable lifeway for our people. In facing this crisis of our future, the idea of walking to raise awareness was born."

Current Journey:

YOUNG DINÉ INSPIRE HOPE WITH 350-MILE WALK

At dawn the morning of March 21, 2015 from Prewitt, NM, a group of Diné people and their supporters embark on a 350-mile journey on foot as an act of cultural revitalization. The walk is the second of four that will occur this year. The first leg concluded in late February after the young activists walked 225 miles from Dził Naa'oodiłíí (Huerfano Mountain) to Tsoodził (Mount Taylor). The movement, entitled Nihigaal Bee Iina (Our Journey for Existence), will begin near Tsoodził (Mt. Taylor) and end at Dook’o’osliid (San Francsico Peaks) and will last about a month and a half.

The walk is occurring at this place and time for several reasons. First, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Hwééldi, a period of time when 9,000 Diné people were incarcerated for four years at a concentration camp at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The walk is an honoring and a celebration of the resilience of Diné ancestors and a prayer that Diné people can have that same resilience today in the face of a very difficult colonial legacy.

The walk is also meant to further expose the disproportionate amount of resource extraction and contamination suffered by Diné people for the benefit of others, which not only contributes to local and global environmental problems but also runs contrary to traditional Diné values of protecting Nihima Nahadzáán (Mother Earth). Walkers believe that the burden placed on Diné people through oil, gas and coal extraction should be exposed and challenged as a form of environmental injustice as water contamination, increased violence and safety hazards to young women due to massive imports of oil boom workers affect Diné people on a daily basis.

The walk begins at the chapter house in Prewitt, New Mexico where the proposed Piñon Pipeline would end after transporting oil extracted from the Navajo Nation's Eastern Agency. Prewitt is also where uranium was first discovered in Diné Bikeyah (Navajo Homeland). Roughly half of the uranium used to build the infamous atomic bombs, which destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, was mined from this area. Walkers mourn and challenge the exploitation of sacred places for nuclear-based energy and weaponry.

Walkers will travel along segments of the Transwestern Pipeline, which spans from St. Michaels, AZ to Luepp, NM, as well as Church Rock, New Mexico, where, in 1979, the greatest nuclear disaster in American history occurred. At that time, roughly 90 million gallons of radioactive waste washed down the Rio Puerco throughout many Diné communities. Walkers hope that by praying and walking in these affected areas they can help heal, inspire and unite the land and people.

Amidst the heaviness of these many issues, walkers also want to bring joy and laughter to each of the communities they visit through music, art and poetry. Walkers believe that one of the most important things at this time is to gathering Diné people together. Through this unification walkers believe Diné people can confront and overcome these many challenges and co-create healthy communities based on the principles of k'é (kinship, interdependence) and hozhó (inner/outer harmony, inter-beauty).

The tentative starting points for the first week of the walk are as follows and are subject to change: 3/21 Prewitt Chapter House, 3/22 Smith Lake Chapter House, 3/23 Crownpoint Chapter House, 3/25 Mariano Lake Chapter House, 3/26 Pinedale Chapter House, 3/27 Church Rock Chapter House, 3/28 Gallup, NM.

All respectful peoples are invited to join the walk and can call 949-536-0988 for specific information.

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For more information please contact Nihigaal Bee Iina Organizers by email at nihigaalbeeiina@gmail.com or by phone at 949-536-0988


Photo Caption: Walkers begin their journey this morning amidst the áha (mist) [photo credit: Lily Trienens]

Photo Caption: Walkers begin their journey this morning amidst the áha (mist) [photo credit: Lily Trienens]

"We have been blessed by the holy mist (áha) this Spring morning as we greeted the dawn with white corn. We have embarked on the 350 miles from Tsoodził to Dook'o'osłid today. We met at sunrise at the Baca/Prewitt chapter house. This is the location where the proposed 130 mile Pinon Pipeline will end. If this pipeline is approved it will increase the fracking of sacred lands 5 to 10 times the current operation.

The area we will be walking through is where uranium was discovered in 1939 and subsequently placed Diné people at the forefront of the nuclear energy chain. Half of the uranium used in the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was mined from our beloved Tsoodził. To this day there are hundreds of abandoned uranium mines and thousands of radioactive tailings that have yet to be cleaned up. Another threat to Tsoodził is the Roca Honda uranium mine which will use as much water as the entire city of Santa Fe, NM every single day!!

If we value our language and culture there is absolutely no room for this type of 'economic development' on our land. Doodá means no. Let us pray for the healing of our land. 
Łeetsoh, Łeejin, Ák'ą́ Łizhin Doodá!"-Nihígaal bee Iiná


From the first Journey: “The Navajo Nation sits on one of the richest energy corridors in the United States, and for close to a century, we have been on the frontline on resource colonization to provide cheap energy and water to the cities in the Southwest. Since the 1920’s, our land and people have been sacrificed for energy extraction for oil, gas, uranium, and coal, which is poisoning our land, water, air, and people. Despite being at the forefront of energy extraction, our people do not see its benefits; approximately 1/4 of our people today live without electricity and running water on the Navajo Nation, while our economy functions at an unemployment rate of about 60%, and our young people are leaving due to lack of opportunity. Now our people and land are facing the onset fracking and a proposed pipeline, which will transport crude oil through 130 miles in Dinetah in the name of “economic development”.

As young people, we realize that we can’t continue on like this. We need clean air, water, and a viable lifeway for our people. In facing this crisis of our future, the idea of walking to raise awareness was born.

We are walking to honor the legacy of our ancestors during Hwééldi, who, a 150 years ago, were forced to walk hundreds of miles in the winter during away from our homelands in the winter to be imprisoned for four years in the name of American colonization. During this time of great suffering, our ancestors thought of our homeland, mountains, and prayed that future generations would carry on our way of life. It is in their memory and out of this profound love for the land that we are walking. It is time to heal from the legacy and trauma of colonization that we having been living under for too long.

It is our intention to walk throughout the Navajo Nation to document both the beauty of land and people and how this is being desecrated by resource extraction. We will do this through a social media campaign and a documentary films. Along our route, we will visit communities to listen to the issues our people are facing and share information about the state of water, air, land, and health, as our communities often have very little access to media or information about these issues. Our hope is that we can help to inspire our people to become engage in the care our land, air, and water, and culture so that we will have a future as Diné.

On January 6, 2015, we will start from the fireplace and doorway of Diné Bikéyah, at Dził Nahodiłii and Ch’ool’i’i, the emergence place of our people, which is threatened by fracking. There are over 400 proposed drill sites and within the past couple months over 100 have been started in the region. From there we will walk to communities through the Eastern Agency, and then to Tsodzil which also threaten by uranium mining. In the seasons to come, we will extend our walk to the other mountains and regions of Diné Bikéyah. To Doo’o’k’osliid in the Spring, the Dine Ntsaa in the Summer, and in the fall we will go all the way to Sisnajini.

We are calling out to our people in K’é. We need your support, guidance, and prayers. To our young people, we are calling on you to come home and stand up for our land and way of life.

NihíDiné’e, if we don’t do this, no one else will. It’s is up to us. T’áá Hwó’ Ají T’éego!”