If You Could Write A Letter To The CEO Of A Horrible Company, What Would You Say? Here's One Take.

In high school, we learned about the forceful relocation of Native Americans in U.S. history. But that's all in the past, right? Unfortunately not. In the 1970s, Peabody Energy played a hand in the relocation of hundreds of families, and they're trying to do it again. Below, a young man reads a letter he wrote to the CEO of that company.

The video starts off slow with a clip of a speech from a resident of the area in question, but it picks up around 0:30 — so stick around at least till then!

Looking for a bit more context? Here's some (it's fact-checked!):

  • In 1974, the U.S. government partitioned Hopi and Navajo reservation lands. Private mining companies, including Peabody Energy, were granted access to resources on or near those lands. Hundreds of families were forcefully relocated.
  • The area was mined for coal throughout subsequent decades, resulting in extreme environmental devastation.
  • Peabody Energy is currently looking to expand its mining practices, which would result in further relocations.
Transcript:
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Fern Benally: And our elders from the Big Mountain area have sent a message. They say carry this message to St. Louis from the former joint use area now known as the Hopi petition land, there are resistors and they live there among the Hopis. They have asked Peabody today to stop mining on Black Mesa.

Sam Lai: Dear Mr. Boyce, I've been thinking a lot about genocide, about my American inheritance, about haunted ground, fleeing homes, and the creation of ghosts, about the lessons of American history. Mr. Boyce, I haven't heard the phrase forceful relocation of Native Americans sine high school history class. I didn't think I would have to. I haven't thought about what it's like to breathe coal dust in a long time either, to open your window and feel a sting in your eyes, to sneeze and watch the tissue turn black, to develop asthma at the age of 22 because you play soccer in your backyard. I know, it isn't easy to make energy and to make profit without destroying the environment or exploiting workers, but it's not our job to come up with solutions, it's yours.

You get paid a lot to come up with solutions. Dear Mr. Boyce, the solution is not to give the people you are exploiting gifts of condolence. Please don't tell me about the great things that your company has given the Navajo in Black Mesa, how you're providing jobs that pay well, that you are sending Native American children to colleges, that you are bringing the 21st century to a land of sheep herders. Dear Mr. Boyce, Andrew Jackson thought he was civilizing the Cherokees, that it was time for them to move into a new age. By civilizing, he meant eradicating. By goodwill, he meant self-interest. Please do not pretend that your mission is to be the father of the Indians. Never forget that the white men gave gifts to the Indians that he, in his graciousness, gave the Cherokees a faraway land when he took from them their homes, a gift with barbed edges. Dear Mr. Boyce, you cannot give someone a gift to justify their destruction. You cannot take credit for giving gifts that you stole from them in the first place. Your wealth is the result of 400 years of exploitation. Their poverty is the result of 400 years of oppression.

When we ask you why you are destroying their land and forcibly removing them, do not respond with: we are giving them jobs. This is not a zero sum game. I have never asked you to choose between lung cancer and sending your children to college. Please do not ask them to make the same decision. Dear Mr. Boyce, I hope you've been thinking a lot about genocide because you've seemed to have forgotten what the American inheritance is: its haunted ground, fleeing homes, and the creation of ghosts. You, sir, have taken all the wrong lessons from American history. Has anyone told you lately how much you look like your fathers? How well you kill Indians this time, slowly, with coal dust? They would be proud how faithfully you've continued the American family business. No, you're not important enough to be evil. You're no mastermind. You're just finishing the shit the conquistadors started. You're just cleaning out what generals Jackson and Custard couldn't finish in their lifetimes. This is not a genocide. This is a mop up.

Dear Mr. Boyce, Greg, someone tells me you are a nice guy and I believe that. I believe that you are just one person, that you don't represent all the gross injustices of American institutions. I don't believe you're evil. I believe you're a coward. How easy it must be for you to forget the past, to ignore the present, to shut out the world you are making and let it burn.

Fern Benally: I want our children to come home and that they would actually feel that sovereignty in their heart, that they're a native people that survive the struggles against Peabody and that, you know, they continue to live and cherish that land again and what the Navajos would call walking in beauty. I want to see that for them again.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This video features an amazing poem by Sam Lai entitled "Dear Mr. Boyce," uploaded by Students Against Peabody (they're also on Facebook).

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Published:
May 23, 2014

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