The great leaders fail to get the followers to follow. Lame duck President Bush and the great bluster-queen McCain both failed to get the common sense American to vote for the bail-out of Paulson’s friends.
This proves that all politics is local, and that a “tribe” cannot always be counted on to follow the wisdom of the elders. The story of the Republicans’ refusal to follow the venial lead of its self-proclaimed leaders is well-known and will be debated long in the future.
But another story with the same themes and motives is burrowing away in the background. This story involves mining, McCain, and another failure of a tribe to coalesce around a unified position.
I have read as much as I can find on the web, and still it is not clear what the truth is, so forgive me if the following story is incoherent and/or wrong. I am sure you and others can delve to the truth.
Seems that Peabody Coal needed to move some Dineh (Navajo) people who inconveniently lived where the coal was found. There was much dissent ion in the tribe as some agreed to relocate for recompensation. Others resisted and fought the elders all the way through the courts. Some died en route. In 1966 Congress passed a law that basically stripped the Navajo of the coal-bearing land. But the tribal fights continued.
Enter McCain. One site describes his role thus:
Senator McCain, as author and as chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, created the final agreement and amended 1974 Act as captained through the Senate in 1996. Senator McCain proposed a land partitioning scheme which led to the construction of a fence along the Dineh Range blocking their ability to field range their cattle, eventually leading to seizure of their cattle for bridging the fence, and capping of their wells, which water was then sequestered for use by Peabody Western Group.
This sounds technical and I am sure it was. And brutal local politics too I am sure.
At this point it is hard to know whom to believe. Some posit that McCain is the evil figure in the woes suffered by the locals. Certainly he sponsored the legislation and certainly the mining company benefited. One site says this:
Senator McCain was able to get large bands of the Dineh-Navajo relocated off their lands, so that Peabody Western could mine the coal under their farms at nominal expense. Common Cause has suggested McCain was indirectly compensated by cash contributions to his Federal Election Fund during three Presidential runs, and through family business with Las Vegas Casinos who benefited from the coal driven power he supplied.
It gets even more distressing when you read that McCain was still trying in 2005 to clear things up—but then this is maybe just a measure of how long he will take over Iraq and the Wall Street meltdown:
Navajo and Hopi families residing on Big Mountain and the surrounding area of the Black Mesa in northern Arizona may be forced to relocate as a new senate bill, S1003 “The Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act Amendments of 2005,” goes before Congress. If passed, the bill will permanently displace the Navajo and Hopi, and, according to a press release by the Black Mesa Indigenous Support organization, “relieve the federal government of any further responsibility for the relocated people.” Sponsored by Senator John McCain, S1003 was initiated at nearly the same time as Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, expressed an interest in the Navajo land. Peabody Coal plans to expand its strip mining into this area, where billions of tons of low-sulfur coal are located.”
There are many sites that write about this story. One that is a little clearer and less emotional than the others is BrownPride. The political aspersions abound. Dislike of McCain is evident. The intra- and inter tribal in-fighting is clear.
The only lesson I can draw from this story is that a tribe divided is readily exploited by others. You could argue that McCain is a genius at exploitation for his benefit. He has not yet, in my opinion, however demonstrated an ability to exploit others for the benefit of the people, his constituents, his neighbors, or the nation. But he sure will be good for mining companies seeking to mine on lands owned by indigenous peoples, particularly if they cannot agree with one another.
As a coda, I bring to your attention the site Dalia’s Small Home for a comment on how the affected Navajo, Hopi, and Lakota warned Lehman Brothers of the potentially dire consequences of investing in Peabody Coal. It is fascinating.