Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 2, 2012

Mary Lane to UN Rapporteur: Water and human rights on Navajoland

Mary Lane, Vice-President

Forgotten People

P.O. Box 539

Tonalea (Navajo Nation), AZ  86044

(928) 864-6413

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

Ya’ah’teeh. Honorable Special Rapporteur James Anaya.  Forgotten People (FP) is a Non Governmental Organization incorporated in the Navajo Nation that spans over 2 million acres of remote desert terrain in northeastern Arizona. Most of our members do not speak, read, or write English and live a traditional subsistence lifestyle.

FP wishes to address failures of the United States to remediate conditions in the Hopi Partition Land and the former Bennett Freeze  – given the focus in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on remedies for violations of human rights. Our community’s land and water rights are essential to our physical, cultural and spiritual survival as a distinct people.

In the Hopi Partition Land (HPL), the US government in collusion with the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and Peabody Coal Company sacrificed us and expropriated our cultural and spiritual rights and our lands and water for energy resource exploitation.  We are called trespassers on land we have continuously occupied for more than 10 generations before the Long Walk to Fort Sumner and creation of the Navajo and Hopi tribal governments. 

For over 4 decades we have survived, resisting forced relocation by the US government, federally funded dismantling of all our water sources, federally funded confiscation of our animals, and we are denied the right to build and repair our homes. 

We are forced to live under a foreign Hopi tribal government with no participation, no civil rights, no right to vote, and no representation. By failing to resolve the dispute it helped create, the U.S. government through its Relocation Commission in HPL intends to clear our land for large-scale  mineral and water expropriation while the President Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation refuses to help us and tells us our land is lawless. 

A 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze was lifted by President Obama in 2009 but we cannot find any funding or plan for rehabilitation for infrastructure, housing, water and roads.  Only 3% of the families have electricity.  Over 90% of the homes do not have access to piped water, requiring families to haul their water from other locations. Only 24 % of homes are habitable today.  

The US EPA reports the presence of over 1,300 abandoned uranium mines and mills on the Navajo Nation and says up to 25 % of the unregulated sources in our communities in the western Navajo Nation exceed drinking water standard for kidney toxicants including uranium. An unremediated abandoned upgrader uranium mill on the banks of the Little CO River (quantified as drinking water in the settlement), maxxed out US Environmental protection Agency Superfund Geiger counters at over a million counts a minute. 

In February, 2012, Senators Kyl and McCain introduced Senate Bill 2109 (and House Resolution 4067), knowing of President Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation’s interest in signing a controversial Little CO River Water Rights Settlement without informing the Navajo Nation Council and the people. This legislation has add-ons that directly benefit the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) owners and Peabody Coal Company. The settlement grants a waiver without redress for past, present and future contamination of our water sources.

 In Wupatki National Monument, a lone Navajo holdout was given special dispensation by Congress for lifetime occupancy with no rights for her family members to continue living there and without a right of return of all the families that survived a forced march across the Little CO River where they drank uranium and arsenic contaminated water without being told and now that they know, due to a lack of infrastructure have no other choice.


·         President Obama should sign a binding declaration to show his commitment to indigenous 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.

·         The US government should be held accountable to commitments made internationally including UN General Assembly (GA) Resolutions on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and a commitment by the US EPA at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development to reduce the number of its citizens lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 50% by 2015.

·         Article 31 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should include access to clean and potable water as a fundamental human right.

I pray for your intervention and the application of emergency measures to ensure the protection of our rights under the declaration.

Ahe’hee (Thank you) Respectfully submitted by Mary Lane

Vice-President, Forgotten People, Navajo Nation, AZ

No comments: