Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 18, 2018

Mojave Steve Lopez: Ward Valley Direct Action Halted Nuclear Genocide, Poisoning of Colorado River

Fort Mojave tribal member Steve Lopez (seated) leads the sunrise ceremony with Spirit Runners to Ward Valley. | Photo: Greenaction.

Faced with nuclear genocide, the poisoning of the Colorado River, and the destruction of the homeland of the remaining Desert Tortoises, Native Nations stood in Ceremony on the frontline to halt forced removal from Ward Valley.

Article by Brenda Norrell
Transcript from Trespassing
Courtesy Director Carlos DeMenezes
Censored News

The Occupation of Ward Valley halted a nuclear waste dump on sacred land, home to the Desert Tortoise. This week, we celebrate the 20-Year Anniversary of the Occupation.
The widely-censored film Trespassing will be shown during the commemoration.
The strong words of Steve Lopez, Mojave and coordinator of the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance, describe the Occupation as a foundation for all Indian Nations to carry out direct action, in prayer and unity.
Faced with the nuclear genocide of the poisoning of the Colorado River, and the destruction of the homeland of the remaining Desert Tortoises, Five Native Nations -- Mojave, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Quechan and Colorado River Indian Tribes -- stood in Ceremony, with the Birdsongs, on the frontline to halt forced removal from Ward Valley.
"Our people care about our children, and that's why we're here. Our forethought is to look seven generations ahead, to the unborn," Lopez said.
Steve Lopez' words in Trespassing:
"We have a tie spiritually, culturally, and traditionally in the fact that our songs from the time that we were put here, even before any man was here, that our Creator put us here from the center of existence of Avi Kwa Me. You may know it as Newberry Mountain. And, you know, just for your, educational purposes, we did not migrate over the Bering Strait. Our people came from right there.
And we, and we were sent out from that point. So that disputes that claim anyway. But, my point being here is that we've been here forever, since day one, since time immemorial. And, the Desert Torres, at one time, was a Mojave also. Now that may be hard for you to understand, but even in the fact that you do not believe this, it still doesn't mean that doesn't exist, with significant value to us.
A Foundation for all Indian Tribes
The things that we did out in Ward Valley, have laid down a foundation for all the other Indian tribes across the country to look at this and, and learn from. We used some mechanisms that were never used before such as the abominable justice. We stood strong, under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

Birdsingers, One of our Biggest Weapons

And what you see today of these Birdsingers, this was one of our biggest weapons. The Bureau Of Land Management were going to come in and remove us, remove our elders. You see some of the girls out here dancing. And, the children. These young, these young children, and along with Amy and her group, the ones that we dedicated this performance to, they stood out there in front.
The thing that we really wanted to stress was that it was a direct action that we needed to get the attention of the White House. And, we did. We didn't break any laws. As a matter of fact, we used the very laws that they gave us, and we told them that if you guys cross us then, then you're not any better than you were when you were breaking the treaties.
And these things carried on as, as Wally was there, we had many other seniors there, standing with us. We had 75, 80-year-old ladies there with us. Our elders they were all there, standing around the secret staffs and the fire. And they stood strong. And all through that time, the weather was pressing us, but we stayed strong and, with the support of all these other people.
Efforts included attempts to reach President Clinton and Congressmen
Yet because of that non-commitment, uh, from the financial standpoint, it's very difficult for them to respond on our behalf. I believe that one thing that we are doing there is we are making these people accountable and responsible that they do have the trust responsibility. They do have a fiduciary responsibility that obligates them to protect us, to provide us with those things that will prevent projects such as nuclear waste to have all this negative impact on us.
By our health and the environment. And protect us as a historical natural resource of the United States government. One thing that we did learn is that a consistently made effort on behalf of these political people to find loopholes. To get us so frustrated that we wanna throw our hands up and just like they say, give up the fight. But also, we've learned that we've got to deal with these people with the understanding that our concerns have to be pushed right in their face.

And I believe that by making allies with these people, they address our positions and our issues with a little bit more concern. And we have to get all the support of their contemporaries and their colleagues. And that's the way that we gotta get this done.
In the face of forced eviction, Ceremony
They're actually going to try to close us down now at 12:01 tonight. Um, we collectively made a determination by the tribal leadership, and the elders over there, that they, they have agreed are going to start a ceremony that's going to, that, that, again, is going to require now your backing because the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) are going to try to come in.
Alright, I'll explain now, again, what kind of situation we're, we're in. Where, like, this closure notice, or, or this camp right here, ground zero. Tonight at eleven-thirty we're going to begin a ceremony that is, under what we believe is our right, we're under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Now, this, in itself is going to, is going to actually blockade the road coming in, to access to come and get here with, with our people there.
With the coalition members, I'm asking you to do this now if it's agreeable, to put a buffer zone around our people during the ceremony. That way, for those who want to, want to exercise their right for civil disobedience, with whatever kind of toys they got, you know, you guys want to be arrested? Now's your time.
They don't want confrontation, it's not a good media thing.
Waiting out the threats of removal
Yeah, the easier way is, to just let you stay here and ignore you until your food and water supplies run out. They exercise the close-down, which means nobody comes in, they just don't remove you. You know, so the question is, this could go on for two, three, four weeks.
Nuclear Genocide
Steve Lopez speaking. Ward Valley Press Conference. Washington, D.C. No press showed up.
And I believe firmly that, that the United States has not fulfilled its obligation of trust, and they are putting us in a position where it's time immemorial, which means the tribes that have lived on the Colorado River forever, are really impacted and they are threatened for their lives and existence. And this in, in some senses may be a form of genocide, a nuclear genocide.
Because of the fact that the Indian tribes on the Colorado River could be directly affected if contamination from here gets into the Colorado River. We'll be directly affected in that way. We've asked that this Five River Alliance be one cooperative agency which will allow us now to not only have the traditional and heritage part and the cultural part of the four Mojaves and all the other tribes, to be able to have this input which makes a greater statement about our cultural relationship to this land out here.
United, We Stood
These are the things that unite us together, that, under one cause, we gained strength. And this strength carried us through. This gave us the stamina to stop all these people from coming in and continuing to do what they've been doing to all of us. Desecrating our lands, polluting us, and destroying our traditions.
You know, our people are being damaged. It's tough sometimes for all of us because we get, we get frustrated. But this is what we call life. We meet the challenge, and every day is a challenge, a new challenge. And when we think that we can't carry on no more, it's like Wally said, you have to go to somebody else and, and, and have, have them help you.
They will pick you up. They may not even know why you're there. But it takes all of us, again, together. 'Cause, no one person can do all this. Believe me, I know. I've been a one-man army for five years. And we never gave up. And we never gave up hope. Think about these songs here, think about what Wally was telling about, how they continue on and on.
Because they have been with us from time immemorial, everything that you know, and your tradition and your language and whatever. You remember that and, and realize how important it is, and never let it die
Understand this position. You don't have to have science to know that. Our people care about our children, and that's why we're here. Our forethought is to look seven generations ahead, to the unborn. Cause the things we do today will affect, affect that later down the road.

The series at Censored News

The Rhythmic Journey Home: Birdsingers ensured victory at Ward Valley
Mojave Steve Lopez: Ward Valley halted Nuclear Genocide, Poisoning of Colorado River
The Desert Tortoise on Sacred Land, Celebrating the 20-Year Victory at Ward Valley
Celebrating Victory at Ward Valley: Corbin Harney 'Sing to the Water'
Laguna Pueblo Dorothy Purley Exposed Nuclear Holocaust on Native Lands. Featured in widely-censored Trespassing film to be shown at Ward Valley Celebration, Feb. 23-24, 2018.

Copyright Steve Lopez
Transcript copyright Carlos DeMenezes, Trespassing
Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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