August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Navajo Grassroots Overwhelmingly Oppose Water Settlement

Navajo Grassroots Overwhelmingly Oppose Water Settlement
Council will soon make a decision on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement

Photo Paper Rocket Productions
By Ron Milford, Dine Water Rights Committee
Marshall Johnson, To Nizhoni Ani
Posted at Censored News

June 13, 2012

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Since the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act and Agreement were first proposed in February, opponents and proponents of the settlement have been engaged in a David and Goliath-like battle over the waters of the Navajo Nation. Opponents of the bill include a movement of various grassroots Navajo organizations and individuals, collectively calling themselves the Dine Water Rights Committee. Proponents of the bill include Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, and the Navajo Nation tribal government’s Executive and Judicial branches led by President Ben Shelly and Attorney General Harrison Tsosie. The final decision lies with the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch's 24 Tribal Council Delegates who will be voting within the next week and potentially as early as this Friday.

“It’s obvious that the grassroots people of the Navajo Nation reject the settlement agreement,” states Jihan Gearon, Executive Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “We have collected hundreds of petition signatures from concerned citizens opposed to the settlement as well as hundreds of letters against the settlement. Furthermore, there wasoverwhelming opposition at each of the eight educational forums organized by the grassroots organizations, not to mention the overwhelming opposition voiced against the settlement at each of the seven town hall meetings sponsored by the President’s office under direction from the council.”

Opposition is further evidenced by the growing number of chapter resolutions that have been passed opposing the settlement. Both the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and the Dine Water Rights Committee have beenconsistently invited to educate and debate during various chapter meetings. So far the following Navajo Nation Chapters: Copper Mine, Coalmine, Fort Defiance,Sawmill, Red Lake, Crystal, Gap-Bodaway, Leupp, Dilkon, Rock Springs, Manuelito,Red Rock, Lupton, and Indian Wells as well as the Chinle Agency Council have all voted against the settlement agreement. And the number is growing.

Other opponents of the bill include the DilkonVeterans Group, the Farm Board, the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, and formerNavajo Nation Presidents Peter McDonald, Milton Bluehouse, and Leonard Haskie. Ina united front to oppose this injustice, former Hopi Chairmen and Hopi grassroots organizations have also aligned with the Dine Water Rights Committee to oppose the settlement. Youth too, have decisively weighed in on the issue. “Half of the Navajo Nation are between the ages of 18 and 24 which means that thecentral government needs to listen to the youth”, states Sarana Riggs of Next Indigenous Generation. “Our vision for the future includes a just transition away from the coal-based economy, a diverse and sustainable economy based on traditional values, and true self sufficiency for the Navajo Nation. We will sign these things away if we agree to the settlement.”

"We are for a settlement agreement that honors our historical roots that predate American laws and allow for true input from the Navajo people”, affirms Marshall Johnson, Lead Organizer with To Nizhoni Ani. “This settlement is being fast tracked to satisfy Kyl and McCains’ efforts to continue the legacy of free and cheap electricity and water delivery to central and southern Arizona. It’s not about providing much needed services to the Navajo people as they claim. This should really be called the ‘Keep Navajo Generating Station Open Settlement Agreement.'"

The Navajo Nation Council itself has questioned the settlement since Kyl first announced it in February. “We understand that theCouncil is under a lot of pressure from DC to sign this agreement and we are very proud of them for not being bullied into it," says Don Yellowman, President of the Forgotten People Corporation. “But I think that if the Council votes in favor of the settlement, they would be going against their own people. And I don’t think that would be something the people would soon forget.”

The Dine Water Rights Committee includes Forgotten People Corporation, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Hada'asidi, Next Indigenous Generation, Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto, and many Navajo individuals. For more information, please visit:

Online version available at:

Anna Rondon: Betrayal by Navajo President: Water Rights Giveaway

Navajo Anna Rondon
Anna Rondon
Betrayal: Water rights giveaway is for coal-fired power plant and non-Navajos

Letter to the Editor
By Anna Rondon, Navajo
Censored News

I am writing to express my view on why the Navajo Nation is entertaining this detrimental legislation. WE the people know that the main thrust of the Lower Colorado River Bill is to accommodate Navajo Generating Station and the communities outside of Navajo boundaries.

Some members of the Navajo Nation Council and President Shelly have betrayed our rights and are seriously putting our collective future at extreme risk of our very survival!

Now is the time for Navajo communities to displace destructive fossil fuel development with new economic opportunities around renewable energy and energy efficiency. By creating renewable energy projects at the community level, sovereignty is strengthened, and communities produce and use clean energy that is aligned with traditional beliefs and values.

I also serve on the Navajo Nation Green Economy Commission. I question why our leaders cater to the very federal government that has time and time again under-funded us, to design internal fighting among ourselves.  Ours leaders turn the other way when real Dine' ideas lead the way for a healthier and sustainable economy. But, our leaders are selling us out. I cannot believe the Navajo Nation is setting precedence that is not only unruly for us as a People, but for our other tribal nations that will also feel the negative impacts of this legislation.

Our people are suffering from high rates of cancer, breathing problems and birth defects. OUR water is nothing to play with and our leaders are  giving up our life blood. Treaty violations in our leaders face and they bend over for outside interest.

WE do not need another 1989 Navajo Civil War! Listen to the People!

VOTE NO on SB 2109! 

Anna Marie Rondon
POB 5058
Gallup NM 87305

Religious Freedom on Trial: Klee Benally Sacred Mountain Defense

Outside court as Klee Benally on trial/Indigenous Action Media

Religious Freedom and Expression on Trial in Klee Benally Sacred Mountain Defense Case
No Verdict After 3 Hour Trial

French translation:
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
By M. Begay, Contributor,

Indigenous Action Media
Posted at Censored News
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Klee Benally, Dine' (Navajo), was on trial today for a prayerful action taken in August, 2011 to protect the Holy San Francisco Peaks from desecration due to ski area expansion. During the 3 hour hearing, the state prosecutor presented witnesses from the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Snowbowl & Coconino County Sheriff's department who testified that Mr. Benally was "trespassing" and had committed "disorderly conduct" on the Holy Mountain.
In the packed courtroom, testimony and questions centered around whether or not the area where Snowbowl's desecration of the Holy Peaks was clearly marked with "no trespassing signs" and whether or not Klee was "disorderly" in his actions.
"Religious freedom and the right to express opposition to desecration of the Holy San Francisco Peaks is what was on trial today." stated Klee, "The struggle to protect Dooko'osliid (San Francisco Peaks) continues, we must defend our ways of life and the natural law. As long as our hearts beat with an understanding that our actions are for future generations and cultural survival, then this struggle is not over."
Hunger strikers for the Peaks
Dozens of concerned community members walked to Flagstaff "Justice" Courthouse from City Hall where two community members initiated a hunger strike for the Peaks one week ago. The hunger strikers, Joseph Sanders & Jessica Beasley, have vowed not to eat until three requests are met, "The cancellation of the wastewater contract with Snowbowl, Snowbowl’s removal of the pipeline and remediation of areas damaged by their expansion," and "The creation of an agreement with the city of Flagstaff that there will be no further destruction of the San Francisco Peaks by Arizona Snowbowl, or any others."
On August 13, 2011, after a Snowbowl excavator operator repeatedly disrupted a weekly prayer gathering, Klee chained himself to an excavator that was used for tearing into the earth six feet deep for pipeline trench intended for transporting 180 million gallons of contaminated wastewater for snowmaking on the Holy Peaks. The prayerful action lasted approximately 2 hours, when law enforcement agents offered Klee an option of being cited and released or going to jail. After consulting with Louise Benally, who was part of the prayer gathering, Klee agreed that his point was made and would release himself.
Matt Brown, of Brown & Little, P.L.C., who represented Klee during trial, argued that the area was not clearly marked as being "closed" and that the action was peaceful and respectfully conducted. Additionally, Mr. Brown argued that the prayerful action was an expression of constitutionally held rights.
Forest Service "law enforcement" agent Mark Camisa testified that he had been surveilling the prayer gathering for 30 minutes from a hidden area in the woods.
Due to time constraints Judge Howard Grodman did not make a ruling on the case but stated that he would either issue a written verdict on the charges or announce his decision in court on June 28, 2012.
Rudy Preston & local author Mary Sojourner were also arrested for standing in defense of the Sacred Mountain on August 13, 2011.
Mary expressed in a previous statement, “I took action not just for the Mountain, but for my friend, Klee Benally, who I saw chained to a monstrous extractor, the pipeline trenching machine that had been ripping into the mountain and the peaceful morning air as thirty of us prayed for the Mountain; and so that older women and men would see that one doesn’t have to be young to stand up for a place and community that you love.”
Mary accepted an offer of community service instead of going to trial. Rudy, who represented himself at his own 6 hour trial, was found guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct charges resulting from actions on August 8 and 13, 2011.
Rudy was sentenced to 12 months unsupervised probation and 20 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay $62.63 in "restitution" to Snowbowl for his actions.
"My eyes will never again close to this injustice. And my body will not perpetuate it." expressed Rudy in a previous statement, "…we all love the mountain and you don’t need to wait for a ‘known organizer’ to tell you what to do next.”
Since June 16th, 2011, nearly 30 people have been arrested during protests or other actions addressing Snowbowl desecration and eco-cide on the Holy Peaks. Most have taken deals offered by state prosecutors which have resulted primarily in community service, with about 8 cases still pending.
"How can I be “trespassing” on this site that is so sacred to me? This is my church. It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain…" said Klee in a previous statement, "Their actions are far beyond 'disorderly'.”
In August 2011, The Havasupai Tribe, Klee Benally, and the International Indian Treaty Council, filed an Urgent Action / Early Warning Complaint with the United Nations (UN) CERD Committee, on the desecration of the Sacred San Francisco Peaks. The complaint addressed Arizona Snowbowl’s clear-cutting of 74 acres of rare alpine forest and the laying of 14.8 miles of a waste water pipeline in furtherance of a US Forest Service and City of Flagstaff supported project to spray artificial snow made of wastewater effluent on the Holy San Francisco Peaks.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, known internationally as the CERD Committee is charged with monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
“The Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff, & the courts have proven that they do not understand or respect our spiritual ceremonies and practices and our spiritual relationship to the Earth,” said Klee, “We have no guaranteed protection for our religious freedom as Indigenous Peoples in the United States.”


Background story:
Photo credits:
Peaks Hunger Strikers.jpg - Klee Benally
Klee Benally Court.jpg - PDB
Drum Chained jpg - Ethan Sing

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