|Navajo child protests at Salt River Project in Tempe, Ariz.|
Navajo Vigilant Ones
A Navajo People’s Public Interest Organization
We need a Peaceful People’s Revolution against the internal enemies
NGS: It’s All About Water (Today’s ‘Blue Gold’) and Disloyal Insiders
Navajo Generating Station (NGS) is not Navajo, but uses our coal, water, land, and
nearly 400 miles of rights-of-way (basically free for 40 years) to make its owners gross annual
revenues of roughly $1.5 billion. The two biggest owners are the U.S. Interior Department
(our supposed trustee) and Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP).
by providing us ‘chickenfeed’ most of that time, e.g., about $600,000 annually, for use of our
land, water, and rights of way―with Navajo taxes waived until very recently. Taxes will be
waived again. The rights of way alone are worth about $50 million. The owners got roughly
$2 billion in value from us since 1970, while we received about 1% of that in return. Our
lawyers in the 1960s and ‘70s helped in the swindle too, by treating us as a people ‘less than’
others, and not deserving of the same rights and revenues as non-Indians.
NGS exists because of water―the Lake Powell Colorado River water used to run the
power plant, and the 1.5 million acre feet of Colorado River water NGS power annually
pumps to the Phoenix and Tucson areas through the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal.
Arizona’s wealth and growth rest on the deeply depressed economic back of the Navajo
People. Our unemployment rate is around 50%.
Why would SRP, its partners, and supporters (including a few Navajo Nation lawyers)
be in such a rush to have the new NGS lease approved? It all boils down to water, for SRP
and other outside interests. We have said before; our full water rights would be worth more
than the Navajo Nation’s coal, oil, and gas royalties and the fledgling gaming revenues
combined. The outsiders know this, and our current lawyers do, but our leaders don’t fully
realize it. The same ploys are being used on them and us today as 40-50 years ago.
There are two major problems for the Navajo Nation concerning what’s happening
with extending the NGS lease now, and how it’s happening. The first problem is that the
rule of law relevant to Navajo energy-related negotiations has been tossed out the window
by President Shelly, Council Speaker Naize and a few delegates, and our predictable
Department of Justice (DOJ). They even admit it, but say “It’s OK.” It’s not. It’s illegal!
The Nation’s negotiating team for NGS, chosen by an inept President and a verifiably
disloyal DOJ, was appointed illegally and is invalid. Chapter 2 of Title 18 of the Navajo
Nation Code, captioned “Navajo Negotiating Team,” was not followed. Cronies, yes-men,
and giveaway artists were chosen, the same as with DOJ’s Water Rights Commission.
The law says the President appoints a team of 10 with approval by the Navajo
Council’s Government Services Committee (now the Nabik’iyati’ Committee).
No Committee approval ever happened. Five members are to be informed citizens—one each
from the five ‘agencies’ the Nation is divided into. This never happened. Two more are to
be from the Resources and Development Committee. This did not happen, either. Three
were to be from among Nation employees experienced in natural resources, economics, or
law. This occurred, but without Committee approval, and the appointees do what the
disloyal lawyers tell them to. The President, the Speaker, DOJ, and supporters are acting as
outlaws and violating the Navajo Nation Code to sell us out. Loyal Council members must
go to court and file a writ of mandamus, demanding compliance with the People’s law.
The second problem relates to the tremendous water rights negotiating leverage we
lose by approving the NGS lease now. There is plenty of time. U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and
disloyal Nation lawyers Pollack and Hoover knew the leverage issues when, over a year ago,
they secretly developed U.S. legislation for the Little Colorado River (LCR) water rights
settlement. It would have waived our possible claims to $3.5 billion worth of water, and
automatically approved the NGS lease. The legislation went to Congress with no input from
the Council or People. The Navajo Human Rights Commission passed a resolution
declaring these actions by Kyl and the lawyers violations of the People’s human rights of
free, prior, and informed consent. The legislation failed; the lawyers unbelievably remain.
SRP is currently renewing its 1969 agreement with the Interior Department (again,
‘our trustee’) to pump up to 34,100 acre-feet per year from Lake Powell to run NGS. Those
negotiations are kept from the public. Our dishonest DOJ attorneys continue secret
negotiations on the LCR, the Colorado River in AZ, and our water rights in Utah. These are
the worst individuals and circumstances for our water rights. We have no doubt the DOJ
lawyers are advising the NGS and Utah parties on how best to get what they want from us.
They’ve done it before. The Navajo Water Rights Commission may participate, but they are
just trained DOJ puppets. Informed Navajos know DOJ is destroying us.
On December 11, 1968, the Navajo Council passed a resolution (written mostly by
Interior and SRP) saying the “…Secretary of the Interior [will] take all necessary steps … to
affirm the right of the Navajo Tribe to 50,000 acre-feet of water allocated to [AZ] under the
Upper … Basin Compact.” The resolution also states “… the Navajo Tribe … agrees that
they will not make demands upon the 50,000 acre-feet of water per year….” Very
significantly, the resolution declares “If, for any reason, this resolution is terminated or
expires…, the Secretary … shall take the necessary action to have the 34,100 acre-feet of
water per year, … returned to the Navajo Tribe for their exclusive use and benefit.”
Return means ‘to pass back to the original owner/possessor.’ It’s our water! But DOJ, as
expected, publicly declared it isn’t. Any sane client would fire and disbar them.
History shows the 1968 resolution was obtained through misrepresentation,
deception, collusion, and worse. The Nation could, therefore, declare void or voidable the
Council’s agreement to stand down on the 50,000 acre feet per year, and proceed to make
demands on that amount, and more. The reason the Nation can claim the 50,000 acre-feet
of water, and more, is that that water is allocated to the part of AZ in the Upper Basin.
This includes only Navajo land. Also, Navajo was not a party to the Compact setting the AZ
limit at 50,000 acre feet, and is therefore not limited to claiming only that amount.
If the Nation approves the current NGS lease etc., as DOJ wants, SRP, Jon Kyl, CAP,
and AZ will have what they want. We will lose our best water rights negotiating leverage for
the LCR, the lower Col. River, and the upper Col. River in AZ, and probably some good
leverage for the Utah negotiations. Proper delay of approval is essential to our survival.
SRP began as an agricultural improvement district under the laws of AZ, and has had
nearly exclusive use of Upper Basin water in AZ for almost 50 years. Why would they give
up wonderful control over free water without a fight? Instead of being up front about it,
they are using limited numbers of jobs and modest benefits to Navajo as a smokescreen to
protect AZ’s/SRP’s claim to 50,000 acre-feet of our water. It’s an alibi for water theft.
If, for example, the 50,000 acre feet was leased to Las Vegas at that city’s current
willingness to pay per acre foot of water rights ($42,000), it would be worth $2.1 billion now,
for a 99 year lease. No wonder SRP is offering the Nation about $40 million annually,
starting in six years, for future benefits they got for near nothing for 40 years. ( We need full
compensation for the past swindle and the future benefits NGS gets from an extended lease
etc.) NGS will received over a $billion worth of water for free from ‘69 thru 2019. If the
NGS lease etc. are approved as written, NGS will get another $billion plus worth for free. It
seems that over the last 50 years all the outside interests have learned the huge economic
value of water and how to get it, while the Navajo Nation still has not. Those outside
interests, and their lawyer friends at DOJ, want to keep it that way.
The only way to save our economic future and survive as a Native Nation is to rid
ourselves of the Navajo Nation lawyers and leaders who dare continue to treat us as an
undeserving people who are ‘less than’ others. On a scale of 1-10, our water rights
negotiating power is at a 1. If we fire the disloyal lawyers and properly delay an NGS
approval, it can quickly rise to a 10. With honest lawyers, truth in government, an informed
and involved electorate, an informed Council, and a capable chief executive we can gain the
agricultural and other water rights due us, get full compensation for rights given up, and pull
the Navajo Nation into a brighter economic, social, and political future. There is great talent
among the grassroots organizations who can help make this happen, if the talented and
caring among the Council (held back by the lawyers) will only ask and help facilitate it.
Ultimately, we need a Peaceful People’s Revolution against the internal enemies
revealed above, or the Navajo Nation is doomed to economic and political termination.
Contact: Milton Bluehouse, Sr., P.O. Box 629, Ganado, Navajo Nation (AZ) 86505