Friday, September 17, 2010

Navajo: Attorneys aid US in stealing Navajo water rights

By Ivan Gamble, Navajo
LeChee Chapter
Photo: Calvin Johnson, Navajo

The water rights settlement being proffered by bureaucrats, certain politicians, and longtime water attorney Stanley Pollack has been recently discussed at chapters of Western Navajo asking for their consent to the agreement.
The settlement, a fraction of the aboriginal claim of the Dine’, has been represented as the “best offer we could get." The question becomes who is it best for?

Once the Dine’ had great leaders like Manuelito and Barboncito, who defined Dine’ bi Keyah by 4 rivers and 4 mountains; these leaders understood negotiations; they had fought off the most powerful empire in history by skillfully playing faction against faction.
These leaders understood they must fight for the protection of the homeland and still leave a great legacy for the coming generations. Skillful leaders afterwards grew the Nation to its’ present size. Almost 100 years later a brave chairman asserted the same claim, calling out the empire for its’ illegal overthrowing of our Nation, and demanded that our compensation equal what is our birthright.
Our population has grown exponentially. That exponential growth continues even today though the numbers vary depending on the source. A conservative estimate of the Dine’ population easily exceeds 300,000 members and probably tens of thousands above that figure.
The data presented by the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission before the western chapters, which was a summary of an enormous document only presented to Council (although copies are easily found among states and utilities with a vested staked in Nation issues and rights), had serious faults.
According to NNWRC presenters only 2,000 acre feet would be available for industrial use. That means no large-scale development of any business capable of meeting employment needs for the Nation.
For the Nation to develop and engage the necessary industry to attain self-sufficiency we must have the resources to create products for internal consumption and export. Self-sufficiency doesn’t entail running to border town Wal-Marts to buy crap with welfare checks but developing jobs that provide salaries to care for families. It means being able to buy cars and clothing with a “Made in the Navajo Nation” logo.
Giving our water resources away to the states and federal government doesn’t begin to address the need for self-sustaining industry and a middle-class.
Not since MacDonald Sr. has a leader kept up with the 3,400 jobs needed on an annual basis for population growth. That means for over 20 years we have lost the best and brightest minds from the Nation, the so-called brain drain, where those with skills seek employment off-Nation.
As a result the population growth numbers presented by NNWRC showed a negative trend extrapolated from federal statistics that haven’t changed since the 1800s. It has been the dream of many federal employees and politicians that the first nations would die off, that our lands would become common property of the empire, that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.
Since the late 1800s, statistics have been presented showing the Dine’ and other peoples are dying out. Now the statistics infer that since the young Dine’ must leave for employment that we are losing our population and thus do not need as much water. That is bullshit! The diaspora the Dine’ have endured is not permanent nor does it mean our people leave with no intention of returning.
Predictive analysis done by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard for Eastern European nations that suffered similar tragedy from the former USSR show that by empowering local communities with strong, responsible governments and fair economic practices the population drain reverses. It does nothing for the Nation’s economic security to give away the resources that are meant to be catalysts for our immediate develop as well as future legacy.
Further study of the agreement, in Section 14, shows that any future pipeline from Lake Powell through Western Navajo will be built to benefit Flagstaff.
The Nation is not permitted to tax, charge right-of-way, and must pre-pay for any water straws from the pipeline. Water supplies for Peabody Coal and SRP’s Navajo Generating Station would be secured as well as use for future slurry lines and cooling use. Our water rights are given secondary consideration to the needs of the entities that provide Phoenix and Tucson their cheap water source.
Learning from the Navajo Nation v. US (II) case, where the Nation learned that the former Secretary of the Interior had colluded with the Peabody lobbyist to screw the first nations in the coal agreement, the current water settlement does not allow for future suits should any factual basis arise to prove that any internal individual working for the Nation is in fact working with the federal government or any other entity.
As one SRP lawyer quipped concerning a certain lawyer working for the Nation, “He’s the best lawyer we got”, a certain amount of distrust is healthy. History has proven the Americans will try to steal as much as they can from us, often with spies and moles working from within. We cannot allow this agreement to steal our water only to provide for the benefit of a few due to malfeasance from within.
The water rights settlement being presented by the NNWRC has not been studied with any economic justification and will not suit any future development of a self-sustaining Navajo economy. The statistics used in the studies were provided by the federal government; in any negotiations you never let your opponent provide your information. The agreement being sold to the Dine’ is only a band-aid for a society where more people haul their water than have pools, it does nothing to quantify our existing water rights or capitalize on our aboriginal title to the mighty rivers that are our birthright.
Many of us dream of a true Navajo Nation, one that is self-sustaining, a nation among nations. Once our ancestors were known as “los dios del mundo”, the “lords of the earth”, once our leaders fought hard and true and did not lay down with the enemy for trinkets. We must lose the weakness of the sha’ mentality, this commodity society pushed by social workers, and remember that our birthright is far greater than the peanuts being offered and accepted by those who should be fighting for our birthright. We cannot let our birthright be sold by those who don’t understand its value.
Water is life, especially in the desert, we cannot allow it to be taken or stolen from us. We need real negotiators, who understand the value of the commodity, understand the needs of our economy, and understand we cannot get screwed again.
I call upon those running for office to stop this giveaway and take a stand! The Dine’ have been without tough leaders for a while, we need strong leaders who will not let our Nation be raped no more.

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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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