October 2, 2009
To Arizona Republic
From: Vernon Masayesva
The Hopi Tribal Council action to ban environmentalists on allegations that they are engaged in shutting down Peabody mining operations on Black Mesa is a manufactured lie. (“Hopi say Conservationists unwelcome on tribal land,” Arizona Republic, September 29, 2009)
To be a Hopi is to be a conservationist, a caretaker and a steward of planet earth. So, by implication, the Council has banned all Hopi people from their land.
Grand Canyon Trust is the only organization coming to Hopi, not to advocate for the shutdown of Peabody, but to install photovoltaic panels on homes that have no electricity. It is likely the project will now be suspended, thanks to our Hopi Tribal Council.
The real story on Hopiland, that is yet to be revealed, is the take-over of the government by pro-Peabody legislators with the support of their legal counsel, Scott Canty, and the ensuing corruption and abuse of power by an illegally constituted Council.
Forty individual Hopis have filed a challenge to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s decision to issue a Life-of-Mine permit to Peabody so they can continue the destructive surface mining for an additional 15 years after 2011. They, the Hopi petitioners, are represented by a private lawyer working pro-bono, and not by any of the organizations banned by the Hopi Council.
Of special concern to the Hopi is the continuing drawdown of N-aquifer groundwater and the accidental and deliberate destruction of archaeological sites, burial sites, petroglyphs and other cultural resources.
The Black Mesa area is considered to be archaeologically “site rich." Over 2,500 sites within the 67,000-acre Peabody leasehold have been catalogued by an archaeological field school.’
The Hopi people have no record of how many sites and burial grounds have been deliberately destroyed since the mining started in 1970. This is a tragedy that no media has yet covered.
This is why the vast majority of Hopi people are supporting the petitioners' request that the entire Black Mesa project EIS be redone, this time in full compliance with NEPA and a Presidential Order requiring full citizen participation. Neither OSM nor the Hopi Water and Energy Team have come to villages to explain the mine plan or OSM’s analysis of the impacts of the mine plan since the EIS process started in 1985, contrary to allegations by Scott Canty, General Counsel to the Hopi Council.
The Hopi people are not out to “stop the mining.” This false allegation has been used time and time again to discredit Black Mesa Trust, which has since 1998 been at the forefront of a battle to end the Peabody coal slurry operation, with the support of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
Black Mesa Trust is supporting the Hopi petitioners. The opposition includes the Hopi Tribal Council, Peabody, OSM, Salt River Project and the Navajo Nation--all with deep pockets and access to dozens of lawyers.
I hope you will give representatives of Hopi petitioners the opportunity to sit down with you and explain what is really happening concerning the mining and the pro-Peabody Council role in supporting OSM, an agency that is captured by Peabody, and owners of Navajo Generation Station. There are always two sides to a story and so far no one has tried to hear the other side.
Arizona Republic has been carrying news releases by Tina May, public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council. She is reporting only one side of the story. We understand she is a former employee of the Arizona Republic.
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