Faith in a martyr helps the cause

  • Adella Begaye

    Paul Natonabah

Note: this article is a sidebar to the news article After a heavy harvest and a death, Navajo forestry realigns with culture

"Leroy Jackson died because he tried to protect the land," says Diné CARE president Earl Tulley. "If he didn't stand up against logging, he'd still be alive."

Jackson, a Diné CARE co-founder, was found dead in his van near Chama, N.M., last October (HCN, 11/1/93). Despite suspicious circumstances, investigators ruled it an accidental methadone overdose. Friends and family say he never used drugs.

"I was with him for 20 years," says Jackson's widow Adella Begaye, "and I know he didn't die accidentally by his own hand, I know that in my heart."

His death brought Diné CARE more visibility, but also revealed how dangerous this fight had become, says Begaye.

A lot of money and resources are at stake in the Chuskas, she says, adding that the next battle will probably be over major oil reserves. Begaye believes that her husband had simply become too successful at foiling big-money interests.

Friends and co-workers have vowed to continue Jackson's work. "If you believe in something, it's going to cost," Tulley says with conviction. "So we are staying the course in the midst of sorrow and disbelief. We want to fulfill Leroy's wishes to make people accountable for the raping of the forests."

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