Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 26, 2015

US Theft of Navajo Water Rights and the Prosecution of Peter MacDonald

Peter MacDonald in the 1980s
The Rest of the Story: Water rights and the United States prosecution of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald

By Brenda Norrell
copyright Brenda Norrell

After years of covering the tribal and federal trials of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald as a news reporter for AP and other news organizations, I realized in 1990 that something was very wrong.
It became clear that MacDonald never received millions from the flip sale of the Big Boquillas Ranch. It was a hoax. It was clear that the US wanted to silence MacDonald for another reason.
It was in Prescott, Arizona, federal court, when a Navajo businessman told me, "It is about the water."
At that time, few people were talking about Navajo water rights. 
Soon after, during federal court in Phoenix, real estate broker Byron "Bud" Brown admitted that he never gave Peter MacDonald the $4 million for the flip sale of the Big Boquillas Ranch, for which MacDonald was charged. 
A federal prosecutor told me, privately in federal court, that Brown could not be prosecuted for lying under oath, because the federal government had given Brown immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. Brown received immunity in exchange for sending Peter MacDonald to prison. 
The prosecutor said Brown put those millions in Brown's foreign island account. 
Brown did pause on leaving federal court one day, and said to me, "I want to tell you the truth." 
However, I never heard from Brown again.
Peter MacDonald spent ten years in jail and prison, shackled during a heart attack. There were very few news organizations that published the rest of the story.
After his release, MacDonald wrote about the Winter's Doctrine and how it guaranteed the Navajo Nation, and other Indian Nations, the water for their future needs.
Currently, Indian Nations across the west are being pressured to sign the so-called water rights settlements. Those settlements waive Indian water rights under the Winter's Doctrine. Most often the Indian Nations rely on their hired non-Indian water rights attorneys, who are intent on giving Indian water rights to cities, states and the US government.
The Navajo businessman who tipped me off 25 years ago in Prescott federal court was right.
A pattern emerged. 
The non-Indian attorneys employed by the Navajo Nation in the 1980s, and responsible for removing Peter MacDonald from office, left the Navajo Nation and went to work for other Arizona Indian Nations. There, those attorneys worked on the so-called "water rights settlements." One of the attorneys who had worked for the Navajo Nation and helped remove MacDonald went to work in Washington DC for the US Interior's department of water rights. 
As a news reporter, I often crossed their paths.
The Navajo Nation has employed the same non-Indian water rights attorney since the 1980s.
Through the years, more truth was revealed about the depletion of aquifer water on Black Mesa for use by Peabody Coal, and the coal-fired power plant Navajo Generating Station, one of the dirtiest coal fired power plants in the world.
Peabody Coal's seizure of Black Mesa for coal was the real reason for the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute. The media spin and corruption resulted in the relocation of more than 14,000 Navajos. The electricity produced by the twin monsters of Peabody Coal and Navajo Generating Station now lights up Phoenix and Tucson, while many Navajos continue to haul their water and live without electricity.
Peabody Coal's attorney and Arizona Congressman orchestrated this siege of terror.
Navajos resisting relocation at Big Mountain have survived for 40 years.
Today, it is about water rights and the future of the Navajo Nation.
Censored News shares with you today the details of the ongoing attempts to give away, and steal, Navajo water rights, written by Dr. Jack Utter.

Dr. Jack Utter: 'Navajo Water Rights Give Away: The Road to Termination."

Peter MacDonald responds, letter to Censored News: Loss of Winter's Doctrine water rights


Unknown said...

Hey! I am a student at Hillcrest high school, and for my (th grade research project i am doing reaserch on the Navajo Code Talkers, i wanted to know how you contacted Sir Peter MacDonald, if you could eamail me or just let me know that would be fantastic!
My email is

Censored News, publisher Brenda Norrell said...

Thanks Destiny. I forwarded your email to Mr. MacDonald.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much that helps a lot!!!

HzsKfl said...

In the 70's I read a report from a conservative think tank that regarded the push to take Native natural resources and foretold of the water wars. Your reporting bears witness. Thank you for your truthful and persistent reporting.

Unknown said...

Good person shared some sweats with him other natives from all over good times behind the fence with Len Foster,came and shared prayers with all of us mad some good talks

Unknown said...

I have always admired Mr. Peter MacDonald. He is a true warrior. I read his book 5-6 years ago and I remember growing up my parents were always at his rallies. I use to watch him from a distance. I long to shake his hand. God Bless Mr. MacDonald.

NemesisTyrannus said...

Great dragon leader MacDonald, man on the land ,annointed in Truth stands over all things Federal, . Peace being the way beyond .

Anonymous said...

The Navajo's biggest mistake was hiring a BAR Association Attorney to represent them in a federal court. Federal courts are ILLEGAL.

WaterIsLife81 said...

Across the nation and into Canada tribes are being forced at gunpoint by the federal government to accept their pipeline deals they make.
We have Treaty Rights that have never been honored. I ask each of you to learn about the Treaty making era, those promises were and still are legal binding documents. Encourage our youth to seek higher education and become experts in tribal law. We have the legalities to win cases, just lacking true and honest tribal representation. We it, just not where our tribes need it.
We fight this together as brothers and sisters, as seeds of our ancestors who died fighting to ensure we lived on. To those who were forced to accept these gosforsaken treaties. In the end, all the government wants is the land! 367 Treaties in this country. 571 federally recognized tribes yet we are last for any kind of justice and we are shot or prisoned qhen qe do seek our justice.
All im saying is if you care about the water, the very essential lifegiver we all need, if you care about the environment that we are leaving behind for future generations then you must do everything in your power to speak against the current presidential administration, they must be stopped now or future generations of humanity will suffer greatly. No water means no life. So Yes, Water is Life! Truly. We must get out of our comfortzones and fight this crooked system of theives.

Unknown said...

Totally agree with your wise words, waterislife81...