Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 2, 2012

Leonard Benally to UN Rapporteur: Corporate crimes on Black Mesa, Navajoland

Leonard Benally, Member

Forgotten People

P.O. Box 41

Kykotsmovi, AZ   86039

Phone: (928) 797-9468

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

 Topic: Self-government

 Thank you allowing me the opportunity to present on Self-Government. I would like to address failures of the US government to resolve problems for Navajo people living in Hopi Partition Land (HPL) on the Navajo Nation.  Our history presents a tangled web of corporate and governmental collusion to relocate traditional Navajo people from our ancestral land so Peabody Coal Company could mine coal and water so far-away cities could prosper. 

John Boyden served as attorney for Peabody Coal Company and the Hopi Tribe at the same time and committed Fraud on the Court by not telling the courts about 2 lawsuits litigated at the same time to sell the land including the acreage of HPL and the value of the coal beneath the ground as a taking by the US government before the Indian Claims Commission and getting half the land back in the former Joint Use Area in Healing v. Jones.    

John Boyden negotiated contracts to provide energy and water for southwestern cities: Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  Boyden’s conflict of interest is documented by Charles Wilkinson in ‘Conquest and Endurance in the American Southwest,’ by Indian Law Resource Center in ‘Docket 196,’ and by John Dougherty in ‘Dark Days on Black Mesa.’   

Forced relocation by the US government is too high a price to pay to steal our lands so far-away cities can prosper. Even though we have the right to vote as citizens, a 1974 U.S. Appeals Court ruling (Healing v. Jones) said we only have rights through our tribes and not as individuals.  Instead of being able to own property, the Navajo and Hopi tribal councils have the authority to lease lands on behalf of their tribal members.  Both tribes estimate $10 billion in coal deposits beneath our land.  Water used to support mining operations is depleting and degrading pristine ice age water from our sole source aquifer.

Leon Berger who resigned from the U.S. Office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation U.S. Office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR), an executive commission that reports directly to the President said, “Some 15,000 Navajos have been forcibly relocated at a cost of 2.5 billion taxpayer dollars. He said, “Peabody Coal is now in a beautiful position because the government is relocating people, and it is much easier to mine land where there are no people.”

According to Thayer Scudder, a CalTech professor and world’s leading relocation expert, “This is the largest forced relocation in the U.S. A tangled web of laws lets the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs impound Navajo sheep and arrest us for simply repairing our homes and bulldoze repaired homes.” 

Ever since the mine started we have been living without electricity and running water.  Water sources have been capped off, surface and groundwater supplies depleted, washes contaminated from arsenic and other heavy metals.  The humans and the animals in Big Mountain and Black Mesa do not have any safe drinking water and we are forced to travel long distances or drink water we suspect is contaminated.   Too many of our people have died without a health assessment done of respiratory problems, black lung, silicosis, cancer, kidney failure, despair and suicide in the name and pursuit of coal and high royalties.

The U.S. Department of Energy calls our lands a “National Sacrifice Area” and is at the heart of the global warming issue. Our communities are a microcosm of the global problem. The energy is produced on our lands using our resources, yet we receive no benefits from this activity. We suffer the local costs of this production, such as environmental damage to our land, degradation and diminution of our water resources and interference with sovereignty.  We find that our traditional lifestyle hangs at the edge of survival in an arid climate, and scientists predict that global warming will cause a permanent drought and dust bowl in the American Southwest, making our way of life impossible.

Peabody coal is burned at the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and is used to provide electricity and water to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Most of the energy generated is used to pump Central Arizona Project (CAP) water for a heavily subsidized water project that is used on heavily subsidized crops to its end west of Tucson where millions of gallons of CO River water pumped across 300 miles of desert, propelled by power generated by Peabody coal is dumped on a dry lake bed. 

Peabody and NGS are using our water while we do not have a drop of water to drink. The US Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs capped off all the water wells in our region allegedly to protect public health because of uranium and arsenic contamination but we suspect without access to the data is because of harassment.  The springs we used to rely on ran dry due to Peabody’s pumping our sole source aquifer to slurry coal. 

Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today, as water, our Blue Gold, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace.  Currently, President

 Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation is working with Senator Kyl and McCain to pass legislation for the Little CO River Water Rights Settlement that gives away our water rights to Peabody Coal Company and NGS. We believe the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing Navajo rights but is waiving hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived.

Our liberty is being sacrificed for an economic bonanza based on fraud and corruption.  Our justice has been prostituted by hand outs, hopelessness, and conformity elevated to the status of the National Security doctrines.  We are the historical lot of the dispossessed. Democracy has been whitewashed with imported detergent that allows reclaimed sewer water to get dumped on our Sacred San Francisco Peaks.

Peabody's collusion with the US government has resulted in a dark infamy of genocide and crimes against my people and the environment - relocation, the Bennett Freeze, uranium mining, all in the pursuit of energy resource development fueled by corporate and governmental greed and collusion.  

I offer my heartfelt support for democracy and freedom for all indigenous people in struggle.  I believe, if the voices of all the dispossessed come together as one voice, nothing would be left standing of the gigantic lies. Misery is the historical lot of the dispossessed. I want freedom and justice for my people and our right to self-government and indigenous autonomy like our ancestors.


·         Indigenous people should use the Declaration in support of concrete aims like self-governance, self-rule and control over property rights, land and resources.

·         Indigenous people should use the right to free, prior and informed consent, as stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our Treaties instead of continuing to sustain injuries to our property rights, water rights, economic rights, and our rights to just compensation for waived and/or lost rights.

·         The Navajo Nation should adopt the declaration as their standard for addressing water rights issues such as the proposed Little Colorado River settlement introduced as Senate Bill 2109 and House Resolution 4067.

·         Peabody Coal Company should be held accountable for trademarks left behind, a legacy of corporate crimes against the indigenous people of Black Mesa. Respectfully,

Leonard Benally

Big Mountain Resister and Member, Forgotten People

Big Mountain, Black Mesa, Navajo Nation, AZ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this thorough evaluation of the water theft, and land theft. I do not live in the southwest but I do not believe we should be dishonoring treaties and imposing mining and fracking on anyone.
This careful reporting gives me the opportunity to have the correct information in order to push back and stand up for mother earth and the people.