August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, March 12, 2010

News From Black Mesa Water Coalition

Greetings to all Black Mesa Water Coalition's family, friends and supporters!

By Nikke A. Alex
As we celebrate the victories from the past years under the direction of Enei Begaye and Wahleah Johns, I am honored to help lead BMWC to its next phase, and I am looking forward to building upon our successes over the past years. As our work makes continual strides, I know our staff, youth, partners, and allies will continue to be a force for change in our communities. I am very grateful for the outstanding contribution Enei and Wahleah have made to BMWC, and I look forward to their guidance as we continue to work for environmental justice and equality.

In 2001, BMWC was founded by young people to address the water usage of Peabody on Black Mesa. Since, BMWC and many others have fought to protect Mother Earth and the overall health of Navajo and Hopi communities. Through the path paved by the young founders of BMWC, I am dedicated to continue working with young Indigenous people throughout the Southwest, and I am very excited to work with an organization that encourages young people to become active participants in their communities.

Through the power of collaboration and in the spirit of resiliency, let us continue working together to protect Mother Earth while building sustainable and healthy communities!
Nikke A. Alex
Executive Director
Photo: 2008 Navajo & Hopi Caravan to Denver to Meet with OSM Officials

Department of Interior Judge Withdraws Peabody's Coal-Mining Permit on Black Mesa

A Department of Interior Administrative Law Judge withdrew Peabody Coal Company's Life of Mine permit for operations on Black Mesa, AZ, handing a major victory to tribal and environmental organizations who appealed the permit decision in January. The permit had been granted on December 22nd 2008 by the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in one of several fossil-fuel friendly 11th hour decisions by the Bush Administration.

Wahleah Johns, Field Director of Black Mesa Water Coalition, one of the petitioners in the appeal, issued the following statement: "As a community member of Black Mesa I am grateful for Judge Holt's decision. For 40 years our sacred homelands and people have borne the brunt of coal mining impacts, from relocation to depletion of our only drinking water source. This ruling is an important step towards restorative justice for Indigenous communities who have suffered at the hands of multinational companies like Peabody Energy. This decision is also precedent-setting for all other communities who struggle with the complexities of NEPA laws and OSM procedures in regards to environmental protection. However, we also cannot ignore that irreversible damage of coal mining industries continues on the land, water, air, people and all living things."

Black Mesa Water Coalition would like to give a special thanks to Brad Bartlett from the Energy Minerals Law Center and Amy Atwood from the Center for Biological Diversity for representing 6 Navajo organizations and 3 national conservation groups. In addition, much appreciation to other motions submitted that led to this successful decision: David L. Abney and Kendall Nutumya, Californians for Renewable Energy, Victor Masayesva, The Forgotten People and the Coal Mine Canyon, Leupp, and Tonalea Chapters of the Navajo Nation.

Photo: 2010 SWILI Participants, BMWC Staff & Elders

BMWC Hosts Very 1st Southwest Indigenous Leadership Institute

The first week of January 2010 marked our first Southwest Indigenous Leadership Institute (SWILI). The Institute was a huge success for us. Eighteen young people between the ages of 17-30 participated in the session. The participant group was very diverse in tribal representation as well as in backgrounds and perspectives, which added to the success of shared learning. In addition to a great participant group, we were also joined by a number of experienced and knowledgeable community leaders and elders from the Laguna/Acoma, Hopi, Navajo, and Tohono O’odham Nations. The Institute content included discussion on identity, redefining leadership, systems of oppression, and community organizing practices and techniques. With these discussions we worked through a process of “decolonization” – analyzing how systems of oppression have resulted in the realities we face today in tribal communities. This involved the critical work of taking ourselves out of the “victim” mentality and understanding our own power to create positive change. We look forward to working this this year's cohort through out the year. For more information about BMWC's youth work and Southwest Indigenous Leadership Institute, contact Chelsea Chee.

The SWILI participants were:
•Talia Boyd, 28, Navajo, resides in Albuquerque, NM
•Allison Waukau, 30, Navajo & Menominee, resides in Albuquerque, NM
•Autumn Chacon, 22, Navajo, resides in Albuquerque, NM
•Shonri Begay, 22, Navajo & Tohono O'odham, resides in Topeka, WA
•Hertha Woody, 30, Navajo, resides in Flagstaff, AZ
•Deon Ben, 26, Navajo, resides in Flagstaff, AZ
•Walee Crittenden, 20, Navajo & Cherokee, resides in Flagstaff, AZ
•Urvin Yazzie, 22, Navajo, resides in Whipporwill, AZ
•Brad Wero, 17, Southern Paiute, resides in Fredonia, UT
•Cooper Curley, 18, Navajo, resides in Gallup, NM
•Krystal Curley, 20, Navajo, resides in Las Crusas, NM
•Starlene Tsinniginnie, 20, Navajo, resides in Sanders, AZ
•Alvin Chee, 21, Navajo, resides in Colorado Springs, CO
•Harmony Rosas, 19, Santa Clara Pueblo, resides in Long Beach, CA
•Teresa Martinez, 19, Navajo & Hope, resides in Long Beach, CA
•Julius Badoni, 25, Navajo, Resides in Mesa, AZ
•Amy Juan, 23, Tohono O’odham Nation, resides in the village of Comobabi
•William "Keeya" Bighorse, 23, Navajo & Cayuga, resides in Los Angeles, CA

Photo: July 2009 Navajo Nation Council Chambers

BMWC's Wahleah Johns Confirmed as a Navajo Green Economy Commissioner

The Navajo Nation Council became the first American Indian tribe to pass legislation supporting green jobs on tribal lands: Legislation No. 0179-09, enacting the Navajo Nation Green Economy Commission (NGEC) Act of 2009, and Legislation No. 0180-09, enacting the Navajo Green Economy Fund Act of 2009. Both were passed during the summer session of 2009. The five commissioners who have been selected and confirmed by the Intergovernmental Relations Committee include Samuel Woods, Keith Betsuie, Anna Rondon, and LeVon Thomas, and Black Mesa Water Coalition's very own Wahleah Johns.

The five Commissioners are tasked with seeking appropriate federal, state, and other funding for the Navajo Nation Green Economy Fund, and networking with local, state, national and international groups to advocate and build Navajo Nation green economy strategies. They will also be working with Navajo Nation divisions and entities to coordinate these efforts and help bring green funding to the programs. The Commission will focus will be on small-scale, community development projects for economic development to empower local communities.

The passage of the Navajo Green Economy Commission and the Navajo Green Economy Fund started with a shared vision. Partnerships with various non-governmental organizations were instrumental in moving the vision of a green economy forward. The Navajo Green Economy Coalition, which consists of various non-profit organization representatives, garnered 23 Navajo Nation chapter resolutions and two agency resolutions in support of the Navajo Green Economy Legislation and Navajo Green Economy Fund, ultimately helping to turn ideas into legislative action at the Navajo Nation Council level.

Photo: Chelsea Chee -- BMWC Youth Organizer

BMWC's Chelsea Chee is the Recipient of the 2009 Mario Savio Young Activist Award

We are very pleased to announced that our very own Chelsea Chee is the recipient of the 2009 Mario Savio Young Activist Award. The Young Activist Award is awarded to a young person (or persons) with a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action. Chelsea has been working to engage Indigenous youth of the Southwest in implementing climate change solutions. Through Chelsea’s leadership young Indigenous peoples are actively reorienting their tribal governments, schools, and communities towards a "greener" future. This means opposing fossil fuel extraction, encouraging sustainable living, and promoting a green job opportunities. Her efforts have resulted in the creation of numerous Indigenous youth groups throughout the rural Southwest and the passage of the Navajo Nation Green Economy legislation.

Give to BMWC!

We hope you are as inspired and hyped up as much as we are about all the awesome work being done to build a better world, and we ask you to help us keep this work going by giving. As a non-profit organization we rely on the generous financial support of foundations and individuals. Please, help us maintain this important work for our future by giving whatever amount you feel inspired to contribute. You can make a tax-deductible secure online donation through our website or you can write a check to our fiscal sponsor Native Movement and write "BMWC" in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to us at P.O. Box 613 Flagstaff, AZ 86002. Thank you!

Black Mesa Water Coalition is dedicated to protecting Mother Earth & the integrity of Indigenous Peoples' cultures with the vision of building sustainable & healthy communities.

P.O. Box 613 Flagstaff, AZ 86002 US