Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 2, 2012

Hathalie (Medicine Man) Norris Nez to UN Rapporteur: Land, Resources and Forced Relocation

                                                Declaration of Norris Nez

Hathalie (Medicine Man) & Board of Director

Forgotten People

P.O. Box 371

Tuba City (Navajo Nation), AZ  86045

(928) 283-5259

Consultation with The Honorable Mr. James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Tucson, AZ, April 26-27, 2012

Topic: Land and Resources – Forced relocation and US Government & Corporate Collusion

 Dated: April 26, 2012

 I, Norris Nez am informed and in good faith submit the following to The Honorable Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, United Nations Commission on Human Rights. I hereby state the following: I am a Hathalie (Medicine Man).  I have traveled to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, Switzerland and am part of Forgotten People’s April 2007 submission on “Stakeholder’s views for the Study on Human Rights Obligations related to Equitable Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation the Right to Water.”

As a Medicine Man plaintiff giving testimony to protect Dook'o'oosliid (the San Francisco Peaks) from the use of reclaimed sewage for Snowbowl, a ski resort (See Hualapai Tribe v. United States Forest Service, No. 06-15455 (9th Cir., March 12, 2007), I appreciate your January 2011 report on the USA: Situation of the Native Americans in relation to artificial snowmaking from recycled wastewater in the San Francisco Peaks.  I support your call for existing government programs and policies to consult with indigenous peoples and take into account their religious traditions in government decision-making with respect to sacred sites.

In Big Mountain, Black Mesa, on Hopi Partition Land (HPL) there were many sacred sites where offerings were given.  The Holy People, the Star People recognize us by these sites that are sacred where we Diné, five fingered humans give offerings. They acknowledge that we are doing our duty to give our offerings to the Holy People.  These places are for the wellness of the people, not only the Diné.  Our prayers are said for all mankind. 

Relocation by the US government and Peabody Coal Company destroyed the things that brought stability to the people in a spiritual sense, a connection to the Holy People and our faith in our spirituality that had a solid foundation.  The Four sacred mountains is not a physical boundary.  It is the land where people lived and where prayers and ceremonies were carried out and offerings given that was vibrant in the region the people were forced from.  In a spiritual sense that is what created that connection and stability.

People were forced to go in different directions and their ties to the land were cut.  This is how we lost that stability and foundation that was meant for us by the Holy People for us to live by.  It is what we lost in an intangible spiritual sense what was lost and that loss contributed to the confusion and alienation, transported into suffering, despair and hopeless. 

Relocation translated into all these negative things.  The people that relocated lost their understanding of who they were once that spiritual aspect was lost.  Then we lost ourselves and started wandering not knowing who we are and it spiraled out of control and we lost our youth who should be our warriors who should be leading the fight for our people. We lost that important vital energy that should have been harnessed and kept for the peoples benefit.

Many of the people, elderly, traditional people and their extended families did not have a chance opposing a US government relocation program. Experts warned and people suffered from the start even thinking about relocation.  Many people that relocated to the New Lands are no longer with us. When I go to the New Lands, it is abandoned, like a ghost town.  The community is disintegrating.  It is fading into the environment.  There is no hope in that place.  Even with the young people, my son, many wandered and got sidetracked into border towns where they became alcoholics.

In Black Mesa area there were many key sites where offerings were given and Peabody has destroyed these sites. When the land where we prayed and strived to give our offerings and ask for forgiveness and work diligently to have association with Holy People is disturbed and destroyed you find yourself wandering and that connection has been cut.  We become lost and drift. That takes over our place on this earth.  That connection has been severed and we feel disconnected.  That is a feeling people have experienced. That is why the prayers or ceremonies that were conducted are lost.  It is because the land is destroyed.

Corporate and government collusion by Peabody Coal Company and the US government to take our mineral and water resources. They used relocation as a wedge to carry out a manufactured land dispute and used the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe as pawns to pit two tribes against each other so Peabody could gain access to our lands and water. Corporate mis-use of water is responsible for global warming, changing weather patterns and drought. It affects our cornfield so corn will not grow. It affects animals, birds that fly, insects, everything that lives on this earth.

Currently, we are demonstrating to stop President Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation from signing a water rights settlement of the Little Colorado River that gives our water to Peabody Coal Company and Navajo Generating Station and forever waives injury to our water, past, present and future when we do not have a drop of water to drink and many of my people are drinking contaminated water. Contamination is everywhere, in the water and on the land, with plans for more power plants and contaminated run-off into our rivers. 

Desecration of the land has devastated our ability to heal through ceremony and relocation has denied us new generations of Medicine Men that would have continued to practice traditional ways, and give us a way to share our knowledge with younger people so we can carry on the traditional Diné ways.  This knowledge and continuation has been severely impacted. We have lost those healers and we have lost our solid foundation with the Holy People.

From the whole experience of relocation, came uncertainty like people blowing into the wind and drifting in whatever direction they find themselves drifting.  I think about it.  As a Medicine Man and traditional healer, I think about what ways we can redirect this path of destruction.  I think about this often. I constantly ponder on that and see it deteriorating in front of me.  I see all the detriment and I feel helpless to know what course of action can reverse that.

If more mining takes place, more people will be forced to relocate and that same process will repeat itself just like what happened before and how we lost the young people.  It is right in front of us. How can we ignore that it will repeat itself?  Relocation is death to our people and our future. I pray for your intervention so our people and future generations can live in peace and security on our ancestral lands.

 There are prayers and songs that would help but not many people’s prayers go beyond the clouds into the universe. I have these prayers. It is my recommendation I be given an opportunity to say these prayers in an upcoming forum on water.


Norris Nez, Hathalie (Medicine Man) and Board of Director

Forgotten People, Navajo Nation

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