Janice Keaffaber

Big Mountain Woman
mixed media collage
14 x 33 in.

Big Mountain, Arizona, one of the most isolated regions of the United States, is the ancestral home of traditional Navajos who live there in the old ways– no electricity, no plumbing, no telephones, no mail delivery, no running water. Hogans once scattered across the mountain. Now there are only a few.

In 1974, the federal government created the Navajo Relocation Act, a forced migration that moved the people off the reservation and into lives of poverty, discrimination and despair.

Some — mostly women in this matriarchal society– refused to leave the land where their spirits dwell and generations of Navajo bones lie buried. When government fences went up, the women took them down. When their wells were destroyed, they hauled water. When they were arrested and finally released, they went home again.

The women of Big Mountain reveal their own signatures of age: not just the beauty of worn velvet shirts and wrinkled faces but also the courage, dignity and character to find strength in the face of heartbreak.

Senate Bill 1003 will remove these women from their homes and off the land by physical force. It has passed the Senate and is now headed to the House of Representatives. www.blackmesais.org.
Age: 65

© Janice Keaffaber