Posted by on Jun 15, 2012 in Press Release

Navajo Grassroots Overwhelmingly Oppose Water Settlement

By  :  Jihan Gearon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Council will soon make a decision on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River
Water Rights Settlement Agreement

Contact:
Ron Milford, Dine Water Rights Committee (928) 401-8707
Marshall Johnson, To Nizhoni Ani (928) 675-1852
Window Rock, AZ – Since the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act and Agreement were first proposed in February, opponents and proponents of the settlement have been engaged in a David and Goliath-like battle over the waters of the Navajo Nation. Opponents of the bill include a movement of various grassroots Navajo organizations and individuals, collectively
calling themselves the Dine Water Rights Committee. Proponents of the bill include Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, and the Navajo Nation tribal government’s Executive and Judicial branches led by President Ben Shelly and Attorney General Harrison Tsosie. The final decision lies with the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch’s 24 Tribal Council Delegates who will be voting within the next week and potentially as early as this Friday.

“It’s obvious that the grassroots people of the Navajo Nation reject the settlement agreement,” states Jihan Gearon, Executive Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “We have collected hundreds of petition signatures from concerned citizens opposed to the settlement as well as hundreds of letters against the settlement. Furthermore, there was overwhelming opposition at each of the eight
educational forums organized by the grassroots organizations, not to mention the overwhelming opposition voiced against the settlement at each of the seven town hall meetings sponsored by the President’s office under direction from the council.”

Opposition is further evidenced by the growing number of chapter resolutions that have been passed opposing the settlement. Both the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and the Dine Water Rights Committee have been consistently invited to educate and debate during various chapter meetings. So far the following Navajo Nation Chapters: Copper Mine, Coalmine, Fort Defiance, Sawmill, Red Lake, Crystal, Gap-Bodaway, Leupp, Dilkon, Rock Springs, Manuelito, Red Rock, Lupton, and Indian Wells as well as the Chinle Agency Council have all voted against the settlement agreement. And the number is growing.

Other opponents of the bill include the Dilkon Veterans Group, the Farm Board, the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, and former Navajo Nation Presidents Peter McDonald, Milton Bluehouse, and Leonard Haskie. In a united front to oppose this injustice, former Hopi Chairmen and Hopi grassroots organizations have also aligned with the Dine Water Rights Committee to oppose the
settlement. Youth too, have decisively weighed in on the issue. “Half of the Navajo Nation are between the ages of 18 and 24 which means that the central government needs to listen to the youth”, states Sarana Riggs of Next IndigenousGeneration. “Our vision for the future includes a just transition away from the coal-based economy, a diverse and sustainable economy based on traditional values, and true self sufficiency for the Navajo Nation. We will sign these things away if we agree to the settlement.”

“We are for a settlement agreement that honors our historical roots that predate American laws and allow for true input from the Navajo people”, affirms Marshall Johnson, Lead Organizer with To Nizhoni Ani. “This settlement is being fast tracked to satisfy Kyl and McCains’ efforts to continue the legacy of free and cheap electricity and water delivery to central and southern Arizona. It’s not  about providing much needed services to the Navajo people as they claim. This should really be called the ‘Keep Navajo Generating Station Open Settlement Agreement’.”

The Navajo Nation Council itself has questioned the settlement since Kyl first announced it in February. “We understand that the Council is under a lot of pressure from DC to sign this agreement and we are very proud of them for not being bullied into it”, says Don Yellowman, President of the Forgotten People Corporation. “But I think that if the Council votes in favor of the settlement, they would be going against their own people. And I don’t think that would be something the people would soon forget.”

The Dine Water Rights Committee includes Forgotten People Corporation, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Hada’asidi, Next Indigenous Generation, Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto, and many Navajo individuals.

For more information, please visit: http://www.facebook.com/waterrights.