Bitter Water

Bitter Water

Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

eBook - 2011
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Many know that the removal and relocation of Indigenous peoples from traditional lands is a part of the United States’ colonial past, but few know that—in an expansive corner of northeastern Arizona—the saga continues. The 1974 Settlement Act officially divided a reservation established almost a century earlier between the Diné (Navajo) and the Hopi, and legally granted the contested land to the Hopi. To date, the U.S. government has relocated between 12,000 and 14,000 Diné from Hopi Partitioned Lands, and the Diné—both there and elsewhere—continue to live with the legacy of this relocation.

Bitter Water presents the narratives of four Diné women who have resisted removal but who have watched as their communities and lifeways have changed dramatically. The book, based on 25 hours of filmed personal testimony, features the women’s candid discussions of their efforts to carry on a traditional way of life in a contemporary world that includes relocation and partitioned lands; encroaching Western values and culture; and devastating mineral extraction and development in the Black Mesa region of Arizona. Though their accounts are framed by insightful writings by both Benally and Diné historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Benally lets the stories of the four women elders speak for themselves.

Scholars, media, and other outsiders have all told their versions of this story, but this is the first book that centers on the stories of women who have lived it—in their own words in Navajo as well as the English translation. The result is a living history of a contested cultural landscape and the unique worldview of women determined to maintain their traditions and lifeways, which are so intimately connected to the land. This book is more than a collection of stories, poetry, and prose. It is a chronicle of resistance as spoken from the hearts of those who have lived it.

Book News
In a 1,500-square-mile territory in northeastern Arizona, traditional Navajo families who have lived and raised sheep there for generations are now considered by the US government to be trespassing on Hopi land. The relocation law is believed to stem from pressure from the Peabody Western Coal Company, which wants to mine low-sulfur coal from land where these communities are located. This book presents transcripts of interviews with four Diné women elders of the region, based on 25 hours of filmed personal testimony of women at the heart of the movement to resist relocation in the mid 1990s. The women offer their perspectives on social, environmental, and political issues as well as the spiritual beliefs that inform every aspect of their traditional way of life. The transcripts are presented in written Diné and English. The book includes essays by editor Benally and Diné historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale. An epilogue reviews advocacy and legal developments since the mid-1990s, and an appendix reviews the Navajo religion and way of life. The book is illustrated with high-quality b&w photos. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: [s.l.] : University of Arizona Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780816506620
Branch Call Number: E-Book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (120 p.)


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