SHIPROCK — Vandals spray painted “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” across the facilities of the sacred Yei’ Bi’ Chei grounds in Shiprock on Sunday.
Also written in orange and black spray paint were the words, “Any Question Come to the Trailer,” with an arrow pointing north, and “Stay Away.”
The graffiti was on several of the vending booths, and the hogan, where a nine-day healing ceremony will take place starting this Friday. The ceremony will coincide with the Northern Navajo Nation Fair, which begins Oct. 4.
The fair board has not reported the incident to the police, interim Northern Navajo Nation Fair Director Harry Descheene said Tuesday, and it cannot confirm the identity of the vandals.
Several fair workers, however, said they saw people from a family that lives on-site spraying the buildings, fair board President Russell Begaye said.
The people who live on the site are members of the King family, which claims to have both grazing and land use permits for the space.
The Navajo Department of Justice in recent weeks has tried to force the family to leave the grounds, which the fair board says the family no longer has rights to.
The family lives on the grounds in a single-wide mobile home, and also has a trailer in the same location. They have several dogs, as well as several horses, which are penned up in a makeshift corral that includes one of the vending booths on the grounds.
Annie King, who has publicly represented her family in recent weeks, said she had nothing to do with the graffiti, though she supposed her family members might have been involved.
“I’m glad somebody wrote those things,” said King, who lives on the grounds with a dozen other family members. She agrees too with the message of the graffiti, and believes that people are trespassing.
King guessed that, aside from family members, local supporters might be responsible for the graffiti since the family’s dispute has become public.
The medicine man, who is conducting the ceremony Friday, said he likely could go on with the ceremony, despite the family’s presence on the grounds.
The ceremony is expected to heal Guy Lee, whose family said he has a bad case of laryngitis and has lost his voice in the past week.
Marlene Lee said she is not concerned about her husband going through the ceremony, though she does not appreciate the desecration of the grounds.
“That’s our church,” Lee said of the hogan covered with “No Trespassing” signs. “Who would want to do that to our church?”