Jeffrey St. Clair: Killing Navajo activist Leroy Jackson
"The Navajo environmentalist Leroy Jackson had been missing for eight days when an anonymous tip led New Mexico state police to a white van, its windows concealed by towels and blankets, parked at a rest stop atop the Brazos Cliffs south of Chama, New Mexico. The doors were locked; a putrid odor emanated from inside.
Patrolman Ted Ulibari broke the driver’s door window and looked inside. In the back seat, under a thick wool blanket, he found the sprawled body of Leroy Jackson. He had been dead for days.
Jackson was the charismatic leader of Dine CARE
, an environmental group of traditionalists on the big Navajo reservation. He was also my friend. Jackson was on his way from Taos to Washington, DC, where he planned to confront the Clinton administration over logging in the old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the Chuska Mountains, a mysterious and beautiful blue range that rises out of the high desert in northern Arizona and New Mexico. The Chuskas are a sacred place for the Navajo and Hopi, an earthly anchor of their complex cosmology.
Only days before Jackson disappeared, he had spoken out against the logging plans at a public hearing in Window Rock, Arizona. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) had just requested an exemption from the Endangered Species Act, which would allow the Navajo Forest Products Industries to clearcut the old-growth forest habitat of the Mexican spotted owl, a threatened species, in the Chuska Mountains near Jackson’s home.
In the exemption request to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the BIA had arrogantly claimed that because owls are “symbols of death” to some Navajo, the extirpation of the bird from reservation lands could be legally justified on religious and cultural grounds. During the hearing, Jackson eviscerated the Bureau for promoting a racist ruse to sanction the destruction of sacred forestlands."
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Jeffrey St. Clair: Killing Leroy Jackson