Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 21, 2011

VIDEO: Navajo President at UN: Protection of San Francisco Peaks

UDATE: Navajo President fails the earth and betrays the people

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- Navajo President Ben Shelly line item vetoed funding for the Navajo Green Economy Office on Thursday, after demanding protection for the earth at the United Nations this week.
Navajos say they have been betrayed by the Navajo president and called his presence at the United Nations Human Rights Council grandstanding for political gain.
President Shelly, after urging protection and respect for the earth and Navajo people at the United Nations in Geneva, signed into law the Navajo budget, which included a line item veto of all funding for the Navajo Green Economy Office.
Anna Rondon, Navajo, said, "It is a sad day for Navajo communities, youth and elders. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly line item vetoed Navajo Green Economy Office. Though I respect his opinion as President, this act is keeping the coal-based industries in control of our collective future.
"It is time to begin balancing our development with earth friendly technologies. It needs true Navajo leadership to be bold; just as how the 21st and 22nd Navajo Nation Council does have that vision for equitable and fair development at all levels.
"Mr. Shelly has shut the doors on the viable and real greens jobs that can be created. If his division directors had the creative capacity to help our people, we would be a better place. Onward, it is part of the process and we shall continue to work for our people and I look forward to working with the Speaker's Office and allied council delegates on the projects we do have in place," said Rondon, added that it was her individul comment, and not that of her fellow Green Economy commissioners.
Calvin Johnson, Navajo, said Shelly had already missed an opportunity to protect sacred San Francisco Peaks, which was among the issues Shelly advocated for at the United Nations.
Johnson said, "This is a response to a video of Navajo President Ben Shelly at the United Nations making a plea for Protection of San Francisco Peaks. Nation President Ben Shelly, as a leader of Navajo Nation, had a prime opportunity in February of 2011 to negotiate usage of reclaimed water of San Francisco Peaks."
"At the time, the City of Flagstaff wanted to drill six new wells utilizing the C-Aquifer on Red Gap Ranch, which is city-owned land near Winslow. Then, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly threatened to file a suit against the City of Flagstaff. But then, in May of 2011, the Navajo Nation and City of Flagstaff agreed to a deal regarding C-Aquifer water usage of up to 2.6 trillion gallons a year.

"Why would the Navajo Nation agree to such a deal when the City of Flagstaff is selling reclaimed water for skiing? The Navajo Nation President missed the prime opportunity to negotiate the taking of the reclaimed water usage off the table. This is so (bleeped) up!" Johnson said in a written response.

"The City of Flagstaff wants to use clean Navajo water underlying the Navajo Nation but the Nation buckles down to City of Flagstaff (non-natives including corporations). I wish our Navajo Nation leaders would take a stand and defend human rights and protect sacred sites, period.

"Now I am watching the video of Ben Shelly pleading for help, it is sickening -- am sorry this is not defending human rights and protecting sacred sites. Maybe this will be a lesson learned from our leaders. But kudos for finally speaking up."

In contrast to his words to the UN Human Rights Council, President Shelly has been pushing for another coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation.
"The Navajo Nation already has two coal-fired power plants in the Farmington, N.M., area and another in Page, Ariz. Along with the environmental and health damages to the people from those coal-fired power plants and coal mines, the so-called Navajo-Hopi land dispute was orchestrated by Peabody Coal in order to expand coal mining on Black Mesa. More than 14,000 Navajos were relocated.
The pollution from Navajoland coal-fired power plants is a major cause of haze and respiratory illness in the region of the Grand Canyon and Four Corners. Meanwhile, many Navajos remain without electricity beneath transmission lines, as the energy from those power plants is delivered to non-Indians in distant cities.
Coal mines, power plants and oil and gas drilling, continue to desecrate saced lands on the Navajo Nation.
Coal-fired power plants in the United States are a primary cause of the melting of the Arctic, where Native villages are collapsing into the sea and polar bears and other wildlife are dying because of the lack of habitat.

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Navajo President Ben Shelly spoke today, Sept. 21, in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, urging a halt to the use of wastewater on sacred San Francisco Peaks by the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona.
President Shelly said the Navajo Nation had forwarded its opposition to Special Rapporteur James Anaya who provided a detailed written report to UN Human Rights Council on the assaults on San Francisco Peaks. These assaults included the permit for the use of wastewater to produce artificial snow for recreation.
"San Francisco Peaks are sacred to the Navajo people, our culture, our religion and histories are rooted in the sacred Peaks" Shelly said at the official interactive dialogue in Geneva.
"The American legal system has failed the Navajo Nation and our attempt to preserve the Peaks," Shelly said.
The Navajo Nation opposes the contamination of soil and vegetation which will interfere with ceremonies and prayer. This contamination will prevent traditional medicine men and women from effectively treating patients, he said.
Shelly said Navajo spiritual leaders urged a halt to this injustice and violation of human rights. As a result, Anaya found the US failed to comply with international law.
Shelly urged the US to engage in a comprehensive review to ensure the United States and Arizona Snowbowl are in compliance with law.
Further, Shelly urged that the permit to the Forest Service by the US be suspended or revoked until an agreement can be achieved between the US and Navajo Nation.
Shelly said Navajo people live in harmony with the earth and all living creatures and the First Peoples of the land must be respected.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission issued this statement:
September 21, 2011
U.N. Official and Navajo Nation President address
Navajo Human Rights at U.N. Human Rights Council

 ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission’s and Diné Hataalii’s request to a U.N. official was finally addressed and heard on the floor at the United Nations in Geneva today. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly sent a resounding message to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The U.N. Human Rights Council was established in March 2006 within the United Nations system, where 47 member-states are responsible for “strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights” around the world, according the U.N. Human Rights Council web site, and “The main purpose of the U.N. Human Rights Council is to address situations of human rights violations and make recommendations.”

“Navajo people are a part of the world community and the world community has set standards for a good reason,” said Leonard Gorman for the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission in a previous press release and continued, “The United States must be responsible and abide by international standards that protect the human rights of Navajos.”

The Navajo Nation’s request initiated about 15 months ago when the Navajo Nation’s legislative entity to protect Navajo human rights, NNHRC, together with the Diné Hataałii Association, the Diné Medicine Man Association, and the Azee’ Bee Nahagha of Diné Nation communicated with S. James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, regarding the desecration of the San Francisco Peaks [Dook’o’osliid], and the violation of Navajo human rights. The request followed the Navajo Nation’s formal protocols and on May 17, 2010, the 21st Navajo Nation Council authorized the formal communiqué to Anaya.

On December 2, 2008, the first NNHRC public hearing, Lloyd Thompson of the Diné Hataalii Association testified to NNHRC Commissioners and said in Navajo [transcribed to English], “we are involved in the discussions opposing the use of waste water of produce snow for skiing on the sacred mountain [Dook’o’osliid], according to the NNHRC 2008 – 2009 Assessing Race Relations Between Navajos and Non-Navajos: Testimonies from Navajo Citizens.

Thompson continued and said,

“The federal government has now opposed our human rights and its trust responsibilities; while they had stated to help us, they are working against us instead. This is the present state of our efforts.

I wonder what your thoughts are as the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission regarding this issue. …

I wonder if the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission can assist our organization with a position statement which can be delivered to the federal government. …

            We have been advocating for this issue since 1977-78.”

After Thompson completed his testimonial, NNHRC Chairperson thanked him and said, “Your statements are appropriate and in line.” 

Today, Anaya shared his report with the U.N. Human Rights Council and recommended that the U.S. President suspend the permit authorizing the use of reclaimed water on Dook’o’osliid [San Francisco Peaks], the sacred mountain to the west marking the traditional boundary of the Navajo people—the Diné. 

Anaya’s report (A/HRC/18/35/Add.1) to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland was released to the public on August 22, 2011. To download it, visit the NNHRC web site at or “Google” the reference number, A/HRC/18/35/Add.1.

To view a recorded web cast of Anaya and Navajo Nation President Shelly at the 18th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, go to

Leonard Gorman for NNHRC said, “Anaya’s report supports the need to not only elevate the fundamental religious rights into the international arena but importantly the necessity to ensure that United States carries out its commitments to human rights based on binding international treaties. This is a comprehensive approach to protect Dook’o’osliid.”

“Networking at the international level to advocate for recognition of Navajo human rights” is one of the purposes of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, according to the NNHRC Plan of Operation approved by Navajo Nation Council resolution CJN-15-08.

Working with the United Nations is not unprecedented for the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation also supported and had an active role in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, prior to President Obama’s support of the Declaration in 2010.

Further, Navajo Nation President Shelly defended Navajo human rights when he was the Vice-President of the Navajo Nation about a 10-day beating spree against Navajo street inebriates in Grants, New Mexico. Then, the alleged perpetrators singled out Native Americans because of a recent filing for a traditional cultural property license for Mt. Taylor—Tsoodzil, the sacred mountain to the south marking the traditional boundary of the Diné. The TCP status would have disallowed uranium mining and prevented jobs in the mining industry.

To view the Navajo Nation President Shelly’s statement, go to Navajo Nation Washington Office web site at:

U.N. Human Rights Council report and upcoming NNHRC public hearings

To further support Anaya’s report and recommendation, NNHRC urges Navajo and non-Navajo citizens to testify at a public hearing at City Hall in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Friday, September 21, 2011 at 5 p.m., about on the ground efforts in recent events in Flagstaff, the mountain community at the base of San Francisco Peaks. The events may range from media portrayal of events or lack thereof, police use of force, to what the sacred site means to individuals. Testimonials will provide up-to-date information for a report to the United States.

The purpose of the hearing is to give Navajo and non-Navajo citizens and other indigenous peoples’ an opportunity to give oral testimony, written testimony to Commissioner for NNHRC about San Francisco Peaks as they relate to use, need for preservation, protection and other issues. It is open to the public.

If a willing participant cannot make the hearing, NNHRC will accept a written testimony by mail. Be sure to include your full name, date, and chronological history of events pertaining to your concern about sacred sites, also, state the problem, and state the solution you want if you have one to recommend. Send your testimony to: Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, P.O. Box 1689, Window Rock, Navajo Nation, (AZ) 86515.

For more information, call NNHRC at (928) 871-7436 or visit the NNHRC website

On September 2, 2011, NNHRC passed a resolution, “Acknowledging the Report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, S. James Anaya, and Recommending that the Navajo Nation Council to Formally Request the President of the United States of America to Direct the U.S. Forest Service to Suspend the Permit authorizing the use of Reclaimed Waste Water to make Artificial Snow and follow the Recommendations of the Special Rapporteur; and other recommendations” and indicates the timeline between the NNHRC and Anaya formal correspondences. The 22nd Navajo Nation Council Delegate Jonathan Nez (Shonto/Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Tsah Bii Kin) will sponsor the legislation on behalf of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, date to be determined. To view the legislation (0387-11), The public comment period for the 22nd Navajo Nation Council legislation 0387-11 will end on September 20, 2011.
 Rachelle Todea,Public Information Officer
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 1689
Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ)  86515
Phone: (928) 871-7436
Fax: (928) 871-7437

"Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development," according to the Article 3 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc A/RES/295 (Sept. 13, 2007), 46 I.L.M 1013 (2007).

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