Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Klee Benally: Democracy unwelcome on Navajo and Hopi Nations?

Grandmother Roberta Blackgoat said, “As long as I live, I’m not going to sign" and continued to demand "(Peabody) stop destroying the Mother Earth's liver and blood; the coal and the water." Until her passing she resisted relocation, still abandoned by the Navajo Nation government, 'unwelcome' by the Hopi Tribal government, and as a testimony to the injustices of US law.

Democracy Unwelcome on Navajo and Hopi Nations?
By Klee Benally, Navajo
Censored News

(Friday, October 2nd, 2009) Window Rock, AZ -- In a recent proclamation the President of the Navajo Nation, Joe Shirley Jr., sided with the Hopi Tribal Council in an attack on democratic rights of the Dine' people to protect their environment and health of their communities.

Shirley stated that "Local and national environmental groups [are] unwelcome" on reservation lands.

I would expect this type of declaration from totalitarian government dictators, not those who are democratically elected leaders of Tribal Nations. Considering the history of colonization and BIA established puppet governments on Native American lands, Shirley's statement is not surprising.

Joe Shirley proclaimed, “Unlike ever before, environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and our quest for independence.” He barely falls short of using the word "terrorists".

Dissenters, critics, and issue oriented advocates should be a welcome and integral part of an informed and functioning democratic society. Indeed, both Hopi and Dine communities are made up of many Native American environmentalists. Shirley would have us believe that anyone who stands in the way of his office's interests would be an opponent of his own concept of tribal sovereignty.

Attempting to silence the voice and limit the rights of Dine' people to protect their life, land and liberty is not sovereignty, its in the direction of totalitarianism.

Why haven't we heard such fierce and direct statements from these government leaders about the threat that drug dealers and domestic and sexual violence perpetrators pose or the overcrowded jails on the Rez which continually push violent criminals back out into the community?

Joe Shirley is stating that only certain types of environmental advocacy are welcome. Are those just types that he agrees with? What standard will be applied to know what groups and what actions are welcome?

When any population does not agree with the actions of their governments, those citizens have the right to protest. The civil rights struggles against the U.S. government are testimony to this.

Does sovereignty really mean being dependent on non-renewable energy that destroys Mother Earth, pollutes drinking water and air and compromises our holy covenant with nature? Does it mean being dependent on casinos and outside corporate interests?

Why not quantify other threats to sovereignty? Are gaming compacts also concessions of sovereignty? Or is the double standard acceptable as long as the money is green? Would increased advocacy against gaming and gambling addictions be the next "threat to sovereignty"?

Joe Shirley defines sovereignty as "economic independence" that is solved with projects like Desert Rock but his example of leadership is to bully those who don't agree with his energy politics.

It is no surprise that Joe Shirley defends coal mining and turns his cheek to the suffering of tens of thousands of Dine' families who have been severely impacted by forced relocation and Peabody Energy's mining activities.

How is what Peabody has done to our environment and communities in and around Black Mesa defensible against the "threat" of outside environmentalists? Relocation, water table depletion, contamination of livestock water sources, and much more?

In fact, many of our people have lived and continue to live in economic poverty before and during Peabody Coal's contribution to the "independence" of our Nation. Right now on Black Mesa, many of my relatives still live with no running water or electricity, where is Joe Shirley's sovereignty for them?

Would Joe Shirley and the HTC rather have Snowbowl, Desert Rock, Peabody, Monsanto, and other corporations or private businesses act with absolutely no mechanisms for community accountability as well?

Snowbowl and the City of Flagstaff say that wastewater snowmaking on the holy San Francisco Peaks is necessary for their economy and jobs. Are they then justified in their actions?

The direct relationship between people and their environment is a cultural value. When you break down that relationship you break down the culture and the traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. Will our cultural sovereignty be compromised for the benefit of outside corporations? Is the Navajo Nation's relationship to outside corporations more of a defining factor of sovereignty than environment, culture and traditions?

It must be understood that if not for environmental advocacy groups and concerned citizens, that more of the Navajo Nation's water ways would be contaminated with uranium, more sacred places would be destroyed, more of our people would be forced from their homelands.

It would be absurd to think that Mr. Shirley and the HTC are acting on the will of the people or in the best interest of those who must have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, unpolluted land to plant seeds, and holy places that are not desecrated.

If it were not for environmentalists, corporations would have ravaged our lands and people for their own benefit long ago. What better way to promote safeguards which uphold traditional values that guide us as stewards of our Mother Earth than to promote the democratic participation of the people who work to advocate on behalf of a healthy environment? Joe Shirley & the HTC have sent a message that only certain types of democracy are allowed within reservation boundaries. This action emboldens those who seek to destroy our Mother Earth for their own profit and pleases those who prefer totalitarianism.

Regardless of which organizations are being targeted and attacked, the message that Shirley and the HTC are sending are one that should be alarming to anyone who cares about their basic rights. What happens when we don't agree with their decisions or policies? Do we end up on a list of those "unwelcome" as well?

My grandmother Roberta Blackgoat once said, “I know each tree, each plant that grows right there. And they know me. The children, grandchildren, great grandchildren need to be right there. We need them to get back to the land and live on our ancestors’ land.” She said that the “relocatees” die of “worriness,” "missing their traditional food and not knowing where to go to pray". Blackgoat said, “As long as I live, I’m not going to sign" and continued to demand "(Peabody) stop destroying the Mother Earth's liver and blood; the coal and the water".

Until her passing she resisted relocation, still abandoned by the Navajo Nation government, "unwelcome" by the Hopi Tribal government, and as a testimony to the injustices of US law.

Would she still be unwelcome in her homeland Mr. Shirley---as an environmentalist, that is a woman who loved her Earth?

Klee Benally - Independent Indigenous Media - Indigenous Youth Empowerment! - Protect Sacred Places - Flagstaff Infoshop
Skype: indigenousaction



chris said...

Good I am glad that you have written this!!

NaBahe SheepDog Keediniihii: said...

"Democratic Right?" I think you make reference to that colonial creation of 'rights' for greed, occupation, and control of Turtle Island. Please, do not relate that colonial "rights" to Big Mtn. or Roberta's resistance. Big Mtn. declared Independence in 1979 to uphold the real ancient democracy based on the Dineh's Sacred Mountain Soil Bundle. That ancient form of human democracy is to be rejected according to all tribal codes and constitutions, and which were written by white government agents. Clarify your words or don't reject Big Mtn's sovereign status by not acknowledging the histories of Big Mtn. -Kat of Big Mtn.

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