This week’s Sprouts remembers the life of Leonard Benally, Dine or Navajo elder from Big Mountain, Arizona. Leonard Benally lived and died on his aboriginal home land near Black Mesa on Big Mountain, Arizona. He lived his life in resistance to the governments repeated attempts to displace him and his people from Big Mountain-a coal rich region, highly desired by mining interests like Peabody Coal. In the 1970′s 20,000 Dine people were displaced from the area in response to what some called a land dispute between the hopi and navajo people. Several thousand remained refusing to leave their land. A few hundred remain to this day and Leonard Benally was one of them until he passed on in 2013.
Leonard devoted his life to speaking out against the human rights violations of his people-he travelled the world, speaking to the United Nations and to the media about the Bureau of India Affairs and even the elected tribal governments attempts to take away his home and harass those refusing to leave their land. Leonard’s life was also a testament to the peace between the Navajo and Hopi people. On occasion Hopi friends would visit him as their ancestors did with his before them and before them to share songs and food. In 2012 Leonard Benally spoke with radio producer, Christina Aanestad, about his life. He began by describing his expereinces in the boarding schools he was forced to live in, as a child.
Leonard Benally & Christina Aanestad