By Admin on April 2017
PHOENIX-Renowned Big Mountain land defender and political activist, Katherine Smith was honored with a proclamation of Senate Recognition at the Arizona State Senate on Thursday, Apr. 6.
President Russell Begaye attended the reading of the proclamation stating, “As Navajo people, we need to use Katherine Smith as an example to continue to protect our land, water, air and all of our natural resources. These resources belong to the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people.”
Smith passed away on Mar. 29. It was reported that she was 98 years old, yet her family said she was older.
In 1974, Congress passed the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act that redefined the Navajo and Hopi land boundaries and designated over one million acres of mineral-rich land as joint use area. This included the Big Mountain area where Katherine Smith was from.
As Bureau of Indian Affairs crews set out to fence the new boundaries, they came upon Smith’s homestead and were met with a rifle-wielding Smith. She fired a warning shot in defense of her land which dispersed the crews.
In this incident, Smith became an iconic figure of resistance and activism. She would later have her portrait taken holding her rifle and standing before her residence.
Senator for Legislative District 7, Jamescita Peshlakai facilitated the reading of the Senate Proclamation. Peshlakai said Smith’s plight against the U.S. Government exemplified the strength and courage that exists within Navajo women.
“Katherine Smith was so very important,” Peshlakai said. “I hope that someday her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have the strength to follow in her footsteps, possibly as legislators or elected leaders.”
President Begaye said Smith knew the importance of traditional ties to the ancestral land where she was raised and defended her rights to this land until her death.
“Our land speaks to us because it’s a critical part of who we are. Every grain of sand, rock and tree is important to us as Navajo people,” President Begaye said. “It doesn’t matter how many proclamations or Executive Orders are passed, that land will always be Navajo. We will always hold on to our ancestral lands. They belong to us, as Navajo people and as the Navajo Nation.”
President Begaye was joined at the event by State Representatives for District 7, Eric Descheenie and Wenona Benally, Council Delegate Otto Tso and the family of the late Katherine Smith.