Thursday, January 10, 2008

Navajos' tipster: Vanity Fair, the coyote: Sithe Global

P.O. Box 7838
Newcomb, Navajo Nation
(New Mexico) 87455
(505) 947-6159
January 10, 2008

Vanity Fair
350 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
By facsimile transmission only to: (212) 286-4324

Dear Editor:
I am the president of the Dooda (NO) Desert Rock Committee and a resident of the area where Sithe Global Power company proposes to put up a destructive mine-mouth power plant, coal mine and transmission lines. We are a grassroots group of Navajos who live on the land, and of sympathetic supporters who agree that our issues are vital to everyone in the Four Corners area.
An article from your January 2008 issue, A Tale of Two Giulianis by Michael Shnayerson, was brought to my attention, and I was interested in the quotes from the Bracewell & Giuliani lobbyist, Frank Maisano, in response to a Navajo’s complaint that the terms of Sithe Global’s lease with the Navajo Nation had not been disclosed. The article quotes Maisano as saying, “They don’t have to disclose the terms of the lease. This is an agreement between Sithe Global and the Navajo Nation, and the lease is part of an ongoing process.” Maisano also responded to the non-disclosure complaint by saying that there had been more than 400 public meetings on the project over a four-year period of time.
Mr. Maisano’s deceitful response is typical in the debate we’re having—400 meetings on the project are meaningless if the lease terms are not disclosed. We are particularly interested in what the lease says about employing Navajos because our president keeps saying it’s about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
We wonder about that. I think that it’s really about something our Navajo Nation president said to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a September 20, 2007 letter: “Desert Rock will generate approximately one-third of the Navajo Nation’s currently declining annual operating budget for the Navajo Nation.” It’s not about helping the people on the land—it’s about feeding the bureaucracy of the central government. (It’s also about some local issues, including spending the people’s money on Navajo Nation Council delegate travel to Las Vegas on “business” during a popular annual Indian rodeo and buying distinctive rings for the delegates.)
I contacted our lawyer and asked him about non-disclosure of the lease. He said that it is a public document under Navajo Nation law and I should be able to go to the Navajo Nation Council offices and get it. He said that I should ask for a copy, and if I couldn’t get one, he would make a demand for it under the Navajo Nation Privacy Act, our equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act. He said he was puzzled by Maisano’s statements because Maisano is not a lawyer and he certainly isn’t licensed to practice law in the Navajo Nation.
Your article prompted me to drive to Window Rock on January 10th and our lawyer was right! It took a little persuading, but I got a copy of the lease and its attachment. Now we can see what is in it that shouldn’t be, what’s missing, and follow up on suspicions that people made false promises to Navajo voters to get their vote on resolutions in favor of the plant.
Thank you Vanity Fair! And no, this organization will not support Rudy Giulani as President of the United States.
Elouise Brown

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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