Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights December 2019

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights December 2019

Friday, November 12, 2010

Navajos: The Troubling Water Settlement: Blue Gold

Forgotten People
P.O. Box 1661, Tuba City (Navajo Nation), AZ 86045
(928) 401-1777 http://www.forgottennavajopeople.org/
info@forgottennavajopeople.org

Letter to the Editor, The Troubling AZ Water Settlement & “Blue Gold” 
Photo 1: Contaminated drinking water sign at Black Falls, across wash from uranium mill Photo 2: Unremediated abandoned uranium mill with processed uranium on Navajo Nation/Photos by Forgotten People

Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today, as our Blue Gold, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace. While here on the Navajo Nation the most precious of all resources, our water rights, are being waived and minimized, endangering the survival of our citizens and future generations as a separate indigenous People.

Forgotten People, Forgotten People allottees, and numerous other grassroots groups, continue to be troubled by the obvious deceptions, falsehoods, misrepresentations and intimidations that underlie the development and passage of the Northern AZ Indian Water Rights Settlement by the Navajo Nation Council. We believe that the People are not just getting deceptive information, but are getting no information on the true monetary value of our water.
Consider that other tribes are using some of their surplus water for capital development, e.g., the Gila River Indian Community recently leased some of their water for $70,000,000 to off-reservation users in order to do capital development on the Reservation. They received a lease value of $1,743 per acre foot per year. The ownership value (not the lease value) for our Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP) water was appraised by the BIA and internationally renowned farm appraising corporation at $15,000 per acre foot (or $ 4.2 billion dollars worth) in 2002.
The lease value of the more than 100,000 acre feet of NIIP water that went unused last year could be comparable to the Gila River Tribe. But, Attorney Stanley Pollack waived our rights in the San Juan Settlement to lease water downstream. With no knowledge of true water values being allowed by Pollack and his supporters, and relying on deceptive information, the Settlement debate is very far from being complete.
The Navajo Nation must give up its ‘Winter’s Doctrine’ rights, the highest reserved water rights. In 1997, Stanley Pollack told a public meeting in Santa Fe, documented by the University of Arizona, that Navajo is entitled to a claim "of not less than 5,000,000 (five million) acre-feet" of Colorado River basin water per year as a starting point for our water rights negotiations. He now discounts and ignores his previous statement. Several years later, Pollack was advised by national Indian law experts to assert Navajo rights by filing an immediate claim on the Colorado River for 10,000,000 (10 million) acre feet. He delayed another decade and still did not file for our larger rights.

Now the public is being duped into believing half the Navajo Nation can survive on 31,000 acre-feet of the Lower Colorado River water. That is less than 1% of what Mr. Pollack stated Navajo were entitled to at least claim in 1997, and less water than the 34,000 acre-feet the Navajo Generating Station uses each year.

The number of times the word "waiver" (including waive) appears in the collective settlement documents is 358. The word "forever" appears no less than 78 times in the settlement documents we have seen. It will certainly appear at least a few more times in the Congressional legislation and any other thus-far withheld or missing documents.

The court decree uses the term "finality." The U.S. Supreme Court (in Arizona vs. California, 1983, responding to the tribes request for a modification) has made it plain that settlements, once agreed to, are intended as final. Any recent suggestion that things can be changed after the settlement is approved by the parties and the court (or that Navajo might be able to bring it back) is a ploy to gain approval of a deceptive process and agreement and move it away from Navajo to the other parties and the end of the process.

We believe the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing of Navajo rights but the waiver of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived and a waiver for injury to water as we have seen in the Black Falls region where sources are still contaminated with arsenic and uranium, and where a US EPA Superfund contractor found, on November 9, 2010, that an unremediated abandoned mill located yards away from a Wetland by the Little Col. River, in a flood zone, maxed out his Geiger counter at over 1 million counts a minute. This mill is in close proximity to an un-remediated abandoned uranium pit with high walls and tailings piles.

Forgotten People appreciates the recent Resolution of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission NNHRCOCT-8-10 and their thoughtful perception regarding the human rights nature of Navajo water rights and the People’s right to free, prior and informed consent. It is we, the Navajo people, and our property that are ultimately protected by the Treaties, and we are among the persons who have sustained and continue to sustain outrages against us and injuries to our property rights, and in particular our water rights, our economic rights, and our rights to just compensation for waived and/or lost rights, and our futures at the hands of Mr. Pollack.

Forgotten People believes the President should VETO the Settlement Agreement and if the Navajo Nation Council holds a special session and decides to override the VETO then the President must, in the best interest of all the Navajo People, refuse to sign the agreement.

Respectfully, Don Yellowman, President, Forgotten People

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