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Navajo statements on Navajo water rights giveaway
As a young person who values the land, the culture, and people I come
from, I am concerned about the Navajo people's right to water. I was
taught that water is sacred. I was taught that it should be respected
and used appropriately. I am also Tó'áhaní (Near the Water Clan).
Water and the people's access to it is a human right, and as the
indigenous people of this land we have aboriginal rights to water. Our
ancestors lived on this land, developed a relationship with the land
and understood the importance of land and water. Our ancestors
believed in the land so much that they fought and died for it.
It is because of their efforts and struggles that we the Diné are here
today. Our people need to remember who our ancestors were and
everything they did to get us here. Just like our ancestors, we too
need to fight for our land.
At this time, we especially need to fight for our water. We need to
question. We need to demand that our voices be heard and that our
Navajo government does right by the people and not give away our
On Sept. 29, during special session, the Navajo Nation Council may
give away the Navajo people's water and waive our water rights
forever. The Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement
Agreement includes several measures that will harm our people.
In addition to losing our rights to water, there is language that
allows non-Indian users unlimited amounts of C-aquifer water as well
as "underground flow." Non-Indians do not have to worry about what
impact this will have on Navajo use of the aquifers.
The list continues, including prohibiting more than 10,000 acres of
irrigated agriculture along the Little Colorado River. The water
settlement would limit our people to 31,000 acre-feet annually.
The Navajo people need to be warned about this bargaining of our
future, our livelihoods and sovereignty. I am especially concerned
about this legislation because it will affect those in my generation,
and it will forever affect all those who have yet to follow.
What do the council delegates have to worry about? They are all
middle-aged or past. They will not have to live with the effects of
their decision. Many of them will not even be in office when the new
council is seated next month.
It will be my generation who will be devastated and left with nothing.
Denying us access to the water on our land is to deny the survival of
our people. I find it absolutely disgusting that the Diné are expected
to happily accept a drop of water. If tribes like the Gila River are
able to secure 155,700 acre-feet per year for their 14,000 population,
then why can't we too secure an adequate amount of water for our
Think about it, we have a population of 300,000, but yet we're
settling for a meager 31,000 acre-feet per year? This is far less than
Gila River currently claims. This amount is ridiculously low. There
are estimates that say the Navajo people could be claiming as much as
10 million acre-feet annually.
Why are our Navajo Nation officials not claiming our ancestral waters?
Our treaties as well as two Supreme Court cases recognize our rights
to water (Winters Doctrine of 1908 and Arizona v. California of 1963).
Both Supreme Court cases establish Indian water rights as "prior and
paramount" to all surface and groundwater resources on and near a
So, when folks like Stanley Pollock and the Navajo Water Commission
say that water law is based on "use it or lose it," telling us that
since we haven't used our fair share of water, it isn't ours anymore,
this is absolutely false. The Winters Doctrine of 1908 secures a
tribe's future use of water. The Navajo tribe has senior water rights
that are not being asserted.
Now is the time for the Diné to act. Contact your council delegates
and make sure they are representing your best interests. How can
giving our water away be beneficial to our people?
Proposed Arizona water settlement cheats Diné
I'd like to get this off my thoughts/spirit and it's overdue. I do not
have sympathy for Stanley Pollack, the Navajo Nation's water rights
lawyer, who is believed to be the "indefatigable" person on water
It might be true on many small projects/bank accounts, but not on the
huge Colorado River, the largest bank account for Navajo.
The current proposed 31,000 acre-feet Arizona water settlement is
history repeating itself in terms of past Navajo Generating Station
deals in the upper Colorado River Basin (all on Navajo land) and land
swaps, no renegotiations for a higher royalty rate, contamination of
groundwater through uranium and coal mining, etc.
I compare Stanley Pollack with John Boyden, who worked for the Hopi
people and Peabody Coal at the same time. So we have Pollack working
for the Navajo government and adjacent states and multi-billion dollar
Navajo natural resources generate more than $60 billion and economic
spinoffs off the Navajo Reservation, and in return we are offered
31,000 acre-feet of water and $3.5 million in coal royalty renewal
This is total economic suicide/racism and ethnic cleansing and human
rights violations, which is condemned by U.S. senators when applied in
different countries yet it is applied here to the Navajo people in the
form of the Bennett Freeze, forced relocation, and the unclaimed water
rights to the Colorado River.
This settlement agreement affects/impacts all Navajo citizens with
census numbers because it totally wipes out past accomplishments by
our forefathers who persuaded the U.S. government, after eight
attempts, to come back to Dinéh land in 1849 and 1868 treaties. Our
forefathers did this in unity with one prayer, one song, one spirit
with less than 4,000 people strong yet we are over 300,000 people
using less than 20 percent of our political power on this water rights
... get proactive and voice your concerns for a true honest government
by escorting Stanley Pollack off the Navajo Nation.
...rescind all chapter resolutions supporting the proposed water
rights settlement agreement, and write/call your delegates to oppose
this during any Council special session this fall and spring until all
Navajo citizens are aware of their potential true water rights to the
Do you think you would excuse someone if they took 100 sheep from
Grandma and told you they will only give you back one to 10 sheep?
Well, this is exactly what is happening with this proposed, insane
31,000 acre-feet settlement. You are settling for less than 10 sheep!
Don't get me wrong, there are certain good honest non-Navajo citizens
working for the Navajo people.
Water proposal is a huge scam
For the past few years, the Navajo Nation government has been working
on the Arizona water settlement for the Little Colorado River and the
lower basin of the main stem Colorado River.
Recently, council delegates and local leaders have been pushing for
voters to approve resolutions in support of this settlement.
From a grassroots point of view, the supposed Arizona water settlement
is a huge scam and we, as indigenous people who have been here for
many generations, will be losing our basic water rights for the sake
of money, power and control.
Back in 2007, I wrote a statement about the infamous Mohave Generating
Station negotiation agreement titled "Mohave Mediation Memorandum of
Recommended Non-Economic Terms." In that agreement, the $600 million
lawsuit brought against the federal government would have been
dismissed in exchange for giving away C-Aquifer water to the "Black
Mesa Project." In the same agreement, we, as a nation, would have
waived and released any and all claims against APS.
With the Arizona water settlement, we will have the same terms...In
order for Navajo Nation to approve (it), the Navajo Nation must waive
rights to water such as the Winter's Doctrine. I want to emphasize
that the treaties of 1849, 1868, and the Winter's Doctrine entitle the
Navajo people water rights.
To all farmers, ranchers, sheepherders, Navajo Times readers, the
great people of the Navajo Nation, please urge and demand your leaders
not to approve the Arizona water settlement.
Navajo Nation leaders should be fighting for and defending the
treaties of 1849, 1868 and the Winter's Doctrine.
Thank you for your time and as always be safe out there and keep
reading the Navajo Times.
We will lose what we have left forever
At the Western Agency Council meeting in Tuba City on Sept. 18, a
resolution was presented requesting to the Resource Committee to
renegotiate the lease reopener with Peabody Coal Company by upgrading
the lease to a rate beyond the 12.5 percent including other associated
offer by Peabody.
Although the resolution passed, two delegates - Jack Colorado of
Cameron Chapter and Kee Yazzie Mann of Kaibeto Chapter - objected and
actually attempted to prevent the resolution approval and tried to
convince the WAC that the presenters were lying.
Delegate Harriett Becenti of Rock Springs Chapter also opposes the
idea, likewise with George Arthur, the Resources Committee chairman.
What is going on here? There's a real problem with these individuals'
negative attitude on the matter. There's something fishy about their
You would think these so-called leaders understood our people are
suffering the lack of tribal funding that is required for all their
dire needs of water, electricity, good roads, etc., and while all the
far away cities are enjoying the benefits from our resources, our
so-called leaders are again looking to continue selling our
high-quality coal dirt cheap.
Two coal leases on Black Mesa, Kayenta, and Black Mesa Mines, were
agreed on in 1964 and 1966, respectively, where the Navajo Nation and
the Hopi Tribe were literally cheated out of their high-quality coal
at dirt-cheap prices. The leases were amended in 1987 where 12.5
percent royalty was imposed and to date remains the same in spite of
the rising cost of living, not to mention the coal prices on the open
market has increased since 1987.
My goodness, that's nearly 15 years ago and prices of everything we
purchase today has about tripled and here we are with some ignorant
leaders going along with the notion that everything is static and are
ready to agree with another of the same.
We lost Mohave Generating Station in 2005; P&M mine just shut down in
December 2009; the Four Corners Power Plant is threatened to be shut
down by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And with the council's careless spending, the Navajo Nation is in the
red by $24 million. For crying out loud, how do we get these leaders
to come to their senses?
Presently there is another proposal coming before the Navajo Nation
Council at the Sept. 29 special session. This proposal is again
another shaft by the government and corporations: a 31,000-acre-feet
of water is offered to the Navajo Nation with another catch.
This one is if the council approves the offer it will be an agreement
to never sue the corporations, energy companies, and government ever
again. Simply meaning we won't be able to force better deals for our
resources, including our land, water, and whatever other precious
minerals that may be within our land.
Then what happens to the upcoming generations of our children, their
children and so forth?
If the council agrees to this new proposal of the 31,000 acre-feet
water settlement we will lose the rest of what we have left, forever.
For the sake of our present needs and our future generations the
council better vote this down.
Rock Springs, N.M.
Comment from Censored News
An eye on those non-Indian attorneys
By Brenda Norrell
Today, Navajos march and rally at the Navajo Nation Council to defend their right to water.
Earlier, my Facebook access was frozen when I posted a comment about Navajo water rights and non-Indian attorneys working for Arizona Indian Nations.
The attorneys who worked for the Navajo Nation, and were involved with the removal of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald in 1989, went to work for southern Arizona Indian Nations after his removal. Those attorneys were involved with water rights settlements for southern Arizona Indian Nations. That is all but one. She transferred to Washington D.C., where she worked on water rights. I ran into them through the years as a news reporter.
During the federal trial of Peter MacDonald in the early 1990s, when he was sentenced to federal prison on other matters, a Navajo businessmen said to me, "You know what this is really about: Water rights."
Few reporters followed the truth about the accusations about Peter MacDonald. Most failed to report that real estate broker Byron Bud Brown never gave MacDonald the millions as Brown claimed for the flip sale of the Big Boquillas Ranch. MacDonald served a decade in jail and federal prison, and underwent heart surgery in prison.
Brown admitted later in a federal court hearing in Phoenix that he never gave MacDonald the money.
Brown, it turns out, stashed those millions in his island bank account. Federal prosecutors could not prosecute Brown for lying under oath because he had earlier been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
Also see: Kit Carson Returns: Navajo Water Settlement by Bill Edwards, Navajo Family Farms, Leupp: