August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Serious Risk: Navajo Nation Water Rights

Article and photo by Calvin Johnson, Navajo, Leupp, Arizona

For the past few years, The Navajo Nation Government has been working on the Arizona Water Settlement for the Little Colorado River and the Lower Basin of the main stem Colorado River .

Recently, Council Delegates and local leaders have been pushing for voters to approve resolutions in support of this settlement.

On September 17, 2010 Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan announced a Special Session, set for September 29, 2010 at the Navajo Nation Council Chambers. The session is to start at 10 a.m. (DST) with water rights settlement as an action item listed under new business. The agenda lists Council Delegate George Arthur (T'iistoh Bikaad/San Juan/Nenanezad), the current chairman of the Resources Committee, as the sponsor of Legislation No. 0422-10 “Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement legislation” and per Office of the Speaker press release states the settlement “would settle the Navajo Nation’s and Hopi Tribe’s water rights claims in the lower basin of the Colorado River and Little Colorado River system.”

Preliminarily and from a grassroots point of view, the supposed Arizona water settlement is a huge scam and we as indigenous people who have been here for many generations will be losing our basic water rights for the sake of money, power and control.

Recently at Tolani Lake Chapter meeting, Delegate Leonard Chee stated to the public that it was “the fault of the people that the Navajo Nation will be only receiving 45,000 acre-feet/year total from the C-aquifer”. It was “they who were saying NO to water." Well, with all due respect if Mr. Chee took the time to read all the agreements/settlement and spoke to activist who understand water rights, he would have read that Navajo water is NOT FOR ALL THE NAVAJO PEOPLE.

Back in 2007, I wrote a statement about the infamous Mohave Generating Station negotiation agreement titled “Mohave Mediation Memorandum of Recommended Non-Economic Terms." In that agreement, the $600 million dollar lawsuit brought against the Federal Government would have been dismissed in exchange for giving away C-Aquifer water to the “Blackmesa Project." In the same agreement, we as a Nation would have waived and released any and all Claims against APS, Southern California Edison, Salt River Project, Nevada Power, Tucson Electric Power and LADWP, waived of certain natural resources damages claims, waived sovereign immunity. With the Arizona water settlement, we will have the same terms because the Treaties of 1849, 1868 and the Winters Doctrine (Winters v. United States, 1908) guarantees the Navajo People water rights to the Little Colorado River and the Lower Basin of the main stem Colorado River.

In order for Navajo Nation to approve the Arizona Water Settlement for the Little Colorado River and the Lower Basin of the main stem Colorado River, the Navajo Nation must waive our rights to water such as the Winters Doctrine. I want to emphasis again, that the Treaties of 1849, 1868, and the Winters Doctrine entitles all the Navajo People as a nation water rights whether it’s brown, clear or underground.

Additional serious and grave concerns regarding the Little Colorado River and the Lower Basin of the main stem Colorado River Settlement are the lucrative terms such as:

• Allowing of non-Indian users to pump unlimited amounts of C-aquifer water from wells beyond 18 miles south of the Navajo Nation boundary;

• Allowing of non-Indian users unlimited amounts of C-aquifer water 18 miles south of the Navajo Nation boundary –even though excessive pumping will reduce flows in the River and may bring more salty water to Navajo wells .

• Allowing of non-Indian water users to pump as much “underground flow” as they want without regard for impact on Navajo use of same aquifers.

• Waiving all Navajo priority and reserved water rights to the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers for other uses forever .

To all farmers, ranchers, sheep herders, elders, youth, the great people of the Navajo Nation please call the speaker’s office at (928) 871-7160 or the Navajo Nation Council’s Office at (928) 871-6380 and urge your local leaders, delegates to VOTE NO on the Arizona Water Settlement for the Little Colorado River and the Lower Basin of the main stem Colorado River.

The Navajo Nation leaders should be fighting and defending the Treaties of 1849, 1868 and the Winters Doctrine. Every drop of what belongs to Navajo is will deserved, not by giving it away to greedy corporations or entities who in return do not help our nation. Also, a clarification of Mr. Chee’s accusation of the residents of Canyon Diablo who were saying no water for Peabody was due to the fact that impacted residents were not to receive a single drop of water even if the pipeline was directly in front of their homes. Same goes for the Dilkon Water Project: Water will be piped to Dilkon but impacted residents living in front or directly of the line will NOT receive any water. Would you say yes to such a project if you were not to get water for 15 years down the road?

Calvin Johnson
Leupp, AZ

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions officially of my employer or the Leupp Schools Inc., its employees, staff and/or its board.
Calvin Johnson
PO Box 5527
Leupp, AZ 86035

Also see: Secret negotiations exposed on Navajo water rights
Navajos urge Navajo Nation Council to vote 'No' on Sept. 29 to this settlement of Navajo water rights, a giveaway of Navajo water rights
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