Photos and audio by Mano Cockrum, Hopi-Navajo, in Denver:
Navajos and Hopis in solidarity, protest Peabody Coal, outside the Office of Surface Mining in Denver today. Black Mesa Panel Discussion on Sunday, recorded by Mano Cockrum. Listen to audio:
Navajo and Hopi: 'Black Mesa is not for sale'
By Brenda Norrell
DENVER -- Hopis and Navajos spoke out in solidarity to oppose a new life-of-mine permit on Black Mesa for the longstanding genocidal corporation Peabody Coal. Speaking out during a panel on Sunday, and protesting outside the Office of Surface Mining on Monday, Hopi and Navajo said their water is too precious to be used again for water slurry.
Wahleah Johns, Navajo from Forest Lake, Arizona, with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, comes from the area, close to the Peabody Coal operations. Johns said the latest push for Peabody Coal mining is part of the Bush legacy of targeting Indigenous lands with fossil fuel extractions all over the world.
Johns said the proposed life of mine would mean that Peabody can mine as much coal as they can, as long as they like, until all the coal is gone. "It hurts me. I have seen what actual strip mining looks like."
Peabody has been using the pristine aquifer water at the rate of 4,600 acre feet of water each year. "No where else could you find this type of abuse, no where else in the world."
Johns said the Black Mesa Water Coalition organized because of the abuse of sacred water. "Black Mesa is regarded as a female mountain of Black Mesa." She said every effort must be made to stop coal mining on Black Mesa.
During the panel discussion on Sunday, Enei Begaye moderated the discussion on what more coal mining and devastation would mean for the Navajo and Hopi people.
Dale Jackson, Hopi from Third Mesa, said Hopis made a difficult sacred run to Mexico, which required a great deal of sacrifice. He was happy to see the rain when they returned.
"We were happy to see we brought the rain back."
Jackson said the Hopi grandmothers are sad now and do not know what will happen to them. "They are here in spirit listening to us."
Maxine Wadsworth, Hopi, said the people came out of respect to protect the water. "We just had to put our prayers before us, and lay our prayers down to be here today."
She said the Hopi tribal government has provided misinformation about the draft environmental impact statement. She said the Hopi people are not in support of the EIS and have gained the support of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who has asked that the EIS be suspended. She said the Office of Surface Mining is pushing for passage of the EIS.
Wadsworth said Peabody Coal does not have permission to use C-Aquifer water.
"We are here to speak on our own behalf." She said the aquifer provides water for ceremonies at the springs. The springs are drying up.
"When I think about it, I just want to cry. It is that significant to us."
Wadsworth said the US government is failing to protect the religious beliefs of the Hopi people, but yet protect insects and fishes.
Wadsworth listed the federal laws being violated, included the Treaty of Guadalupe and laws created to protect American Indian religious freedoms.
Hopi and Navajo traveled 12 hours to reach Denver, many living in desperate conditions.
They said they came to Denver for their children, their future and the sacred ceremonies. The people are being abused by their own tribal officials and the officials of the Office of Surface Mining.
Navajos from Big Mountain said ceremonial plants are disappearing as the springs dry up.
"They are destroying this beautiful land," said John Benally from Big Mountain. "Because they don't live there, they don't care."
While the healing and ceremonial plants and clays are disappearing, Benally said burning fossil fuels is responsible for global climate change. The sun is now causing people to have blisters. He said Navajos do not want to give their young people contaminated air to breathe and land to live on.
Navajos have to travel long distances to haul water, while Peabody uses the water and tribal officials ignore the grassroots people, especially the elderly.
"We are threatened again with relocation," said Leonard Benally of Big Mountain. "Enough is enough. We need your help."
"Tell the OSM people, 'Black Mesa is not for sale! Go home!'"
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