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BIA Withdraws Biological Assessment for
Proposed Desert Rock Power Plant in NM
L.A. Times - 18 DEC 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—The Bureau of Indian
Affairs has withdrawn its biological assessment for a proposed
power plant in northwestern New Mexico, saying it has "significant
concerns" about the impact of mercury and selenium on two
endangered fish species in the San Juan River.
BIA Director Jerry Gidner, in a letter Thursday
to Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin
Tuggle, said the decision will allow more time for coordination
between Tuggle's staff, the BIA and the Environmental Protection
Young Tribal Activists Nix Coal, Embrace Green
New America Media - 18 DEC 2007
Wahleah Johns grew up near the coal mines of the Black Mesa region
of Arizona and experienced first-hand the toll that mining takes
on people, the land and the groundwater. Her community, Forest
Lake, was one of several communities atop Black Mesa, where
Peabody Energy ran the largest strip mining operation in the
country on Indian land until recently.
Today, Johns, 34, co-directs the Black Mesa Water Coalition, a
grassroots organization of Native American and non-Native
activists in Flagstaff, which combines the goals of traditional
environmentalism with the commitment to Native culture and
reverence for the land.
Johns and the Coalition are not unique among American Indians. But
their activism against fossil fuels and polluting power plants and
for sustainable, environmentally friendly growth reveals a
generational schism within the largest Native American tribes that
has profound economic and political implications for the future.
That schism was brought into sharp relief in September when the
Hopi government banned local and national environmental groups,
including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council,
from their lands....
5.13MB; 5:36 min. in length)
Indigenous Groups Demand Recognition of Rights at Climate Talks
fsm.org - 17 DEC 2009
Another voice to emerge this week at the Copenhagen Climate talks,
is that of the world's indigenous communities, who call for a
recognition of indigenous rights as part of the negotiations.
We're joined from Copenhagen by Nikke Alex, a Navajo youth who
works with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, that’s a group based in
Flagstaff Arizona that was founded by Hopi and Navajo youth in
Download Audio File
U.S. Will Settle Indian Lawsuit for $3.4 Billion
New York Times - 09 DEC 2009
WASHINGTON — The federal government announced on Tuesday that it
intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it has
mismanaged the revenue in American Indian trust funds, potentially
ending one of the largest and most complicated class-action
lawsuits ever brought against the United States.
The tentative agreement, reached late Monday, would resolve a
13-year-old lawsuit over hundreds of thousands of land trust
accounts that date to the 19th century. Specialists in federal
tribal law described the lawsuit as one of the most important in
the history of legal disputes involving the government’s treatment
of American Indians.
President Obama hailed the agreement as an “important step towards
a sincere reconciliation” between the federal government and
American Indians, many of whom, he said, considered the protracted
lawsuit a “stain” on the nation.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said, “I pledged my
commitment to resolving this issue, and I am proud that my
administration has taken this step today.”
For the agreement to become final, Congress must enact legislation
and the federal courts must then sign off on it. Administration
officials said they hoped those two steps would be completed in
the next few months.
The dispute arises from a system dating to 1887, when Congress
divided many tribal lands into parcels — most from 40 to 160 acres
— and assigned them to individual Indians while selling off
The Interior Department now manages about 56 million acres of
Indian trust land scattered across the country, with the heaviest
concentration in Western states. The government handles leases on
the land for mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and
drilling for oil and gas. It then distributes the revenue raised
by those leases to the American Indians. In the 2009 fiscal year,
it collected about $298 million for more than 384,000 individual
The lawsuit accuses the federal government of mismanaging that
money. As a result, the value of the trusts has been unclear, and
the Indians contend that they are owed far more than what they
have been paid....
Reached in Cobell v. Salazar
cobellsettlement.com - 09 DEC 2009
A Settlement Agreement has been announced between IIM beneficiaries
and the Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the
Interior-Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of the Treasury in a
long-running class action lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar. The lawsuit
claims that the federal government mismanaged individual Indians'
Study of Desert Rock’s Impact on Endangered Species
New Mexican Independent - 07 DEC
In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rescinded
the air permit it had issued in 2008 for a
coal-fired power plant to be built near Farmington,
saying the decision was made in part because the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department hadn’t yet
completed a study of potential impacts of the
project on endangered species.
study has been underway and will be completed and turned
over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs this month, Wally Murphy, supervisor of the Albuquerque office of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Department, told the Independent in an
interview. Species potentially impacted by the proposed
Desert Rock project—which would be the third coal-fired
power plant located within 16 miles of each other—are the
southwestern willow flycatcher, the Colorado pike minnow,
the razorback sucker, the silvery minnow, the Mancos
milk-vetch and the Mesa Verde cactus.
While the data isn’t publicly available yet, Murphy said there are
serious problems posed by high levels of mercury and
selenium both in the air and in the San Juan River. Both
elements are naturally occurring, but in large
concentrations pose a significant health hazard to humans
and the environment. According to the New Mexico Environment
Department, coal-fired power plants account for more than 50
percent of the mercury found in New Mexico; they are also a
significant source of selenium....
Pollution Permit for Peabody's Black Mesa Coal Mine Withdrawn by
Following Appeal by Tribal and Conservation Groups
Center for Biological Diversity - 03 DEC 2009
BLACK MESA, Ariz.— In response to an appeal brought by a diverse
coalition of tribal and environmental groups, this week the
Environmental Protection Agency withdrew a controversial water
permit for the massive Black Mesa Coal Complex, a coal-mine
complex located on Navajo Nation and Hopi lands in northeastern
Arizona. EPA’s permit withdrawal means that discharges of heavy
metal and pollutants—including selenium, nitrates, and other
heavy metals and toxic pollutants from coal-mining operations at
the Black Mesa Complex—are threatening washes, tributaries,
groundwater, and the drinking water for local communities, but are
not being regulated.
“EPA is to be commended for doing the right thing in this instance
and withdrawing the inadequate water permit for Black Mesa,” said
Wahleah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “Our community
was shut out of the permitting process and our requests for public
hearings on the permit denied. If a new permit is issued, the
agency must ensure that impacted communities are meaningfully
involved in environmental decision-making.”...
EPA Withdraws Discharge Permit for Arizona Mine
Durango Herald - 04 DEC 2009
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has withdrawn a water discharge permit for a
controversial coal-mining operation in northern Arizona pending
The EPA's decision about the permit for Peabody
Energy's Black Mesa mine complex comes after an appeal by
environmentalists who contend the discharge of heavy metal and
pollutants threatens water sources that nearby Navajo and Hopi
communities depend on for drinking, farming and ranching.
Dave Smith, water permits manager in the EPA's
San Francisco office, said Thursday the agency believes the permit
is solid but wanted to provide an opportunity for additional
Climate Change, Drought
Transforming Navajos' Dunescape to a Dust Bowl
Indian Country Today - 01 DEC 2009
Ariz.—Instead of spending his time in ceremony one warm night
last July, Navajo rancher Robert Diller spent it in his tractor,
digging other attendees and their cars out of the sand. He lost
count after 10.
The travelers were
heading to the ceremonial grounds at Navajo medicine man
Ross Nez’s ranch for three
days of traditional ceremony to heal their lands
of what the Navajo call Sei Nahogishii,
“the tumbling sands.” These menacing clouds of
sand or dust carried by strong winds often appear as solid walls
moving across the land.
It looked like dust was raining from the
clouds—it looked like rain, but it was dust,” said the medicine
man’s son, Virgil Nez. “The sand was just grabbing their
vehicles.” A bad storm often reduces visibility to nil, and after
it passes drivers can find their car partially buried, or sunken....
Veterans Urged to Volunteer
Military.com - 23 NOV 2009
First Lady Michelle Obama recently urged all Americans, including
military veterans, to put their skills to use in volunteer service
to assist U.S. communities and citizens in need....
Executive Order to Hire Vets
Military.com - 23 NOV 2009
President Barack Obama recently signed an executive
order aimed at hiring more veterans to work in the federal government. A
government wide Council on Veterans' Employment will be created....
Takeover 'Changed the Whole Course of History'
20 NOV 2009
San Francisco, California (CNN)—Alcatraz Island was a
chilly, unwelcoming place once reserved for infamous
criminals. Not even the federal government appeared to want
it after the penitentiary closed in the 1960s.
Adam Fortunate Eagle remembers "The Rock"
a little more warmly: a place where fellow Native Americans
took a stand that may have helped end the U.S. policy of
Tribe Elects New Chairman, Vice Chairman
Navajo-Hopi Observer - 19 NOV 2009
Shingoitewa elected to Hopi Chairman post,
Honanie elected as Vice Chairman
KYKOTSMOVI, AZ—The Hopi Tribe has a new
chairman and vice chairman with the elections of Leroy Ned
Shingoitewa (chairman) and Herman Honanie (vice chairman) on
The two faced off against their opponents from
the primary election, which was held Nov. 4.
Shingoitewa garnered 1,084 votes to win the
chairmanship, besting challenger Clark Tenakhongva who tallied 560
votes, according to official returns released by the Hopi
elections office. In all, 1,636 votes were cast.
For the vice chairman's position, Honanie
received 1,010 votes compared with his opponent, Leroy Sumatzkuku,
who got 634 votes, the elections office said. Sumatzkuku, a
current member of the Hopi Tribal Council, will retain his council
Climatologists Baffled by
Global Warming Time-Out
Spiegel Online - 19 NOV 2009
Global warming appears to have stalled.
Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures
have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the
trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean
At least the weather in Copenhagen is likely to
be cooperating. The Danish Meteorological Institute predicts that
temperatures in December, when the city will host the United
Nations Climate Change Conference, will be one degree above the
'One Mind, One Heart, One Prayer'
connect with supporters at 20th annual rug show
by Cindy Yurth,
Navajo Times - 19 NOV 2009
Park City, Utah—Katie Furcap usually walks with a cane. On
Saturday, Nov. 7, she forgot it.
"I'm so happy, I didn't remember I need a gish," the
76-year-old from Big Mountain, Ariz., quipped in
The miraculous occasion was the 20th Annual Adopt-a-Native-Elder
Rug Show, in which Furcap has been participating since
before it was even an official event.
wasn't the only one smiling at the packed Snow Park Lodge,
where customers perused crafts and rugs and Diné elders,
with a child or grandchild translating, explained the
symbolism in their designs (including a new symbolic color:
pink for breast cancer awareness)....Alternate
Opens to Great Fanfare
Indian Country Today - 17 NOV 2009
WASHINGTON – The week of the White House Tribal Nations
Conference was one of many high notes, including strong
promises from the president and his administration,
unprecedented representation from tribal leadership, and the
festive opening of an international Embassy of Tribal
The Nov. 3 kickoff of the tribal embassy, located at 1514 P
St., N.W. in the heart of the nation’s capital, embodied the
climax of years of planning by the National Congress of
American Indians to enhance the presence of tribal sovereign
The address of the large grey building is in
the Dupont Circle area near Embassy Row, where many foreign
embassies and diplomatic facilities have their homes....
Promises New Federal Recognition Regulations
Indian Country Today - 16 NOV 2009
WASHINGTON—A top BIA official has promised to
reform the federal recognition process.
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Indian Affairs George Skibine told the Senate Committee on Indian
Affairs it would take about two years to review existing
regulations and develop new ones in consultation with tribal
It was déjà vu all over again at SCIA’s hearing
on fixing the federal acknowledgment process November 4.
“The very title implies that the process is
broken, so our title says this is about fixing it,” SCIA Chairman
Senator Byron Dorgan, D-ND, said....
‘Commander-in-Chief’ for Focusing on Indians
Indian Country Today - 14 NOV 2009
WASHINGTON—In the waning minutes of the
day-long White House Tribal Nations Conference, held Nov. 5,
President Barack Obama performed two duties: He said goodbye to
the hundreds of leaders of sovereign Indian nations whom he
invited to Washington, and addressed the horrific shootings at
Fort Hood. In doing so, he created a controversy that has
perplexed some in Indian country.
Some observers who tuned in to see the
president’s remarks late in the afternoon expected him to talk
only about the tragedy.
Thus, many mainstream viewers saw Obama
addressing tribal leaders like Joe Medicine Crow, a citizen of the
Crow Nation, whom he had awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
earlier this year, and then making strong remarks and condolences
regarding the Fort Hood situation.
At the tribal nation event, a somber mood
overtook many of the conference attendees after Obama’s remarks,
with many expressing sadness about the devastating shootings at
Fort Hood. Some said the president did a good job at balancing
both his obligation to sovereign tribal leaders, as well as
addressing a national tragedy.
But opinions outside the walls of the
conference were not so clear cut....
Pelosi Shares Meeting
with Tribal Leaders
Health commitments made
Indian Country Today
- 13 NOV 2009
WASHINGTON—On the eve of a historic
tribal conference with President Barack Obama, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took time to meet with
visiting Indian leaders as well.
The meeting was held at the Capitol building Nov. 4 and included a photo opportunity on the
speaker’s balcony; it lasted about an hour, according to
those in attendance.
The main topic of conversation was
“We come together at a time when we are on the verge of passing
historic health care reform legislation, and our members
enthusiastic about a provision in the legislation
that includes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act,”
'Language Was My Weapon'
Navajo Code Talker recalls training for World War II
Durango Herald - 15 NOV 2009
extended family of more than 150 members said happy
birthday—ba hoozho bi'dizchi-neeji' 'aneilkaah—here Wednesday to 87-year-old David Patterson, one of
the few remaining Navajo Code Talkers whose encrypted
messages befuddled eavesdropping Japanese as U.S.
Marines recaptured Pacific islands in World War II....
Two Vie to Lead Arizona Tribe in Political Turmoil
Associated Press - 13 NOV 2009
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Two men vying to become the next
chairman on the Hopi reservation say untangling the political mess
that has characterized tribal government for years is their top
The legitimacy of the Tribal Council without an elected chairman or
vice chairman has been thrown into question since the former
leaders resigned last December in an attempt to restore peace to
the Hopi people.
LeRoy Shingoitewa and Clark Tenakhongva said the current Tribal
Council, over which the chairman presides, has failed to uphold
the tribe's constitution and acted against the wishes of
constituents, further throwing the government into disarray....
Native American Student Documentary
Selected for Two High-profile Screenings
UA News - 13 NOV 2009
A unique community perspective put to film by a University of
Arizona Native American student is the selection for two
unique showings this year.
"The Chiefs' Prophecy" by student filmmaker Leo Killsback is a 2009
Official Selection for the 34th Annual American Indian Film
Festival in San Francisco, Calif. The festival encourages
Native and non-Native filmmakers to bring Native voices,
viewpoints and stories to the popular medium....
Shareholder Begins Dismantling Plant
Kingman Daily Miner - 11 NOV 2009
KINGMAN - It's the end of an era for Mohave Generating Station in
Laughlin. Southern California Edison, one of four shareholders,
started to dismantle the old coal-fired power plant in October.
The process is supposed to take about two years and cost about $30
The generating equipment will be removed and the permits to run the
plant will be terminated in 2010.
The plant's transmission switchyard and some related facilities
will remain in place....
Danny Blackgoat to Speak in Santa Cruz and SF
Indybay.org - 11 NOV 2009
Danny Blackgoat, a longtime Dine' (Navajo) resister of forced
relocation, will be traveling from his home at Big Mountain
(AZ) this weekend to speak in Santa Cruz on Friday,
Nov. 13th and San Francisco on Saturday,
Nov. 14th. He will be screening a new 24 minute film
featuring Pauline Whitesinger, and giving an hour long
presentation about relocation, coal mining, and recent
happenings at Black Mesa....
‘Enough Is Enough’
Indian Country Today - 10 NOV 2009
As the Hopi Tribe moves toward its 2009 general
election, there are many issues the Hopi and Tewa voters need to
learn about and consider before casting their votes.
We have the worst tribal political corruption
in Indian country, numerous civil rights violations and gross
misuse of tribal funds under the current leadership that must be
addressed and investigated. But I believe the most important and
immediate issue facing the Hopi Tribe now is the decision by the
Office of Surface Mining to issue a Life of Mine Permit to the
Peabody Coal Company. The permit will have devastating long-term
impacts on the Hopi Tribe so the new tribal administration must
learn more about it and take a positive stand on behalf of the
Hopi and Tewa people....
Larry Mitchell: Change Comes Slow to Navajo
ChicoER.com - 08 NOV 2009
They arrive each morning, press releases by the armload—or by the
screenload, to be more accurate.
That's what today's reporters face. Our e-mail inboxes fill up
almost faster than we can clean them out.
Most releases merit only a brief glance, if that; but now and then
one appears that's of real interest, like the release that
arrived recently from the Black Mesa Water Coalition....
Hopi Council Protecting Its Tribe
Arizona Republic - 07 NOV 2009
KYKOTSMOVI—The Hopi Tribe is struggling to
protect its homeland and sovereignty against attacks by local and
national environmental groups seeking to force their political
agendas on the tribe. In opposing these groups' efforts to
undermine the Hopi government, the tribe is protecting not just
its sovereignty and economy; it is in a fight for the very
survival of Hopi culture and religion....
BACK TO TOP
Amazon Indians Die in ‘Swine Flu Epidemic’
Survival International - 04 NOV 2009
Seven Yanomami Indians in Venezuela
have died from an outbreak of suspected swine flu in
the last two weeks. Another 1,000 Yanomami are
reported to have caught the virulent strain of flu.
The Venezuelan government has
sealed off the area, and sent in medical teams to
treat the Yanomami. The regional office of the World
Health Organization has confirmed the presence of
There are fears that the epidemic could sweep through the
Yanomami territory and kill many more Indians....
U.S. EPA Takes Enforcement Action Against the Wilbur-Ellis Company
for 21 Violations of Federal Pesticide Law
National pesticide distributor and applicator fined nearly $100,000
following pesticide violations
EPA - 04 NOV 2009
FRANCISCO—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined a
California-based national distributor of agricultural products,
the Wilbur-Ellis Company, $99,600 for 21 alleged violations of
federal pesticide law.
The case was the result of investigations conducted by regulators in Arizona, Idaho,
Navajo Nation, Ft. Mojave Indian Tribe, and EPA’s Pacific Southwest and Pacific
Northwest Regional Offices....
EPA Awards $200,000 to the Cherokee
Dallas, Texas–03 November
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $200,000 to the Cherokee
Nation of Oklahoma. The Tribe will
use the funds to continue implementing a Lead-Based Paint Program authorized by
EPA - 04 NOV 2009
* * NEWS BRIEF
* * *
Navajo Nation Hold Second Summit
to Address Uranium Contamination
on the Navajo Nation
GALLUP—Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with four
other federal agencies, the Navajo Nation, congressional staff,
academia, state, tribal and local government representatives,
community members and nongovernment organizations are meeting to
discuss the progress of the five-year plan to address uranium
contamination on the Navajo Nation....
EPA - 04 NOV 2009
Tribe's Environmental Fight
Coal mines and
power plant give Navajos income, controversy
Arizona Republic - 02 NOV 2009
WINDOW ROCK - A green controversy fueled by coal-fired power plants
is raging on America's largest Indian reservation.
On one side is Joe Shirley Jr., president of the Navajo Nation, who
rejects the notion of climate change even though he recently won
an international award for environmentalism. On the other are
environmentalists opposed to power plants in Indian Country and to
the coal mines that provide their fuel. Caught in the middle are
tribal members concerned with economic survival and the protection
of sacred lands.
The dispute centers on fundamental questions of religion and
heritage, as well as tribal finances....
Air Risks Costlier Arizona Water
Arizona Republic - 01 NOV 2009
The Navajo Generating Station, the huge
coal-fired power plant outside Page, supplies a fraction of
Arizona's electricity demand, but its role in moving water
to the state's largest cities has thrust it into a growing
battle over the cost of cleaning up air pollution.
In the two months since the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules that would
require costly new air-scrubbing equipment at the plant, the
debate has escalated into a war of increasingly dire
predictions: Tribal economies could collapse. The plant
itself could close. The price of water sold to Phoenix and
Tucson could quadruple....
EPA Air Rules Could Impact AZ Water Rates
The Sacramento Bee - 01 NOV 2009
PHOENIX -- The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station supplies a
fraction of Arizona's electricity demands, but it plays a critical
role in moving water to the state's largest cities.
Federal regulators have proposed rules that would require the plant
to install expensive new emissions equipment, and the plant's
owners say the cost could push power rates out of reach for users,
including the Central Arizona Project Canal.
The plant supplies electricity cheaply enough for CAP to pump water
to Phoenix and Tucson.
CAP officials say there's little question the new regulations
proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would result
in higher prices for water users....
Macalester Student Wins Mario Savio Young Activist Award
Press Release - 28 OCT 2009
St. Paul, Minn.—Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, a 22-year-old senior at
Macalester College, has been awarded the Mario Savio Young
Activist Award for his work in tackling the problems of climate
change and environmental justice. As part of the award,
DenHerder-Thomas received $6,000, half for his project and half to
use as he wishes. The award ceremony took place on Tuesday,
October 27, in California.
“I am honored to receive this important award,” said
DenHerder-Thomas. “I plan to use the funds for a Summer of
Solutions national leadership gathering and related program
development efforts to continue engaging young people in
environmental stewardship and sustainable community
DenHerder-Thomas was one of only two young leaders nationally to
win this annual award. The second recipient was Chelsea Chee, a
25-year old Navajo woman and youth organizer for the Black Mesa
Water Coalition in Arizona. Chee has been...
Navajo Lawmakers Place Tribal President on Leave
Arizona Central - 26 OCT 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Navajo lawmakers voted Monday to place the
tribe's president on administrative leave, pending an
investigation into allegations of ethical, civil or criminal
involvement with two companies that had been operating on the
The Tribal Council voted 48-22 in favor of the measure during a
special session in Window Rock, Ariz.
The vote to place Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. on leave comes a
week after council members discussed investigations and alleged
legal violations arising from tribal contracts with Utah-based
OnSat Network Communications Inc. and Shiprock, N.M.-based
Biochemical Decontamination Systems. Shirley's spokesman says the
council has yet to specify what the accusations again Shirley
A New Demand for Uranium Power Brings Concerns for Navajo Groups
Mining planned at
a mountain considered sacred
Washington Post - 25 OCT 2009
ACOMA, N.M.-- Uranium from the Grants Mineral Belt running under
rugged peaks and Indian pueblos of New Mexico was a source of
electric power and military might in decades past, providing fuel
for reactors and atomic bombs.
Now, interest in carbon-free nuclear power is fueling a potential
resurgence of uranium mining. But Indian people gathered in Acoma,
N.M., for the Indigenous Uranium Forum over the weekend decried
future uranium extraction, especially from nearby Mount Taylor,
considered sacred by many tribes. Native people from Alaska,
Canada, the Western United States and South America discussed the
severe health problems uranium mining has caused their
communities, including high rates of cancer and kidney disease....
Special Report: Desert Rock Debate Continues
Farmington Daily Times - 25 OCT 2009
NENAHNEZAD — Navajo Nation leaders are increasingly looking to the
proposed Desert Rock power plant to surge the tribal economy as
new environmental rules threaten operations at existing coal-fired
plants, potentially costing hundreds of jobs and millions in
The Desert Rock Energy Project sets itself apart from other
generating facilities on the Navajo Nation because the tribe
intends to invest more than $350 million into it, earning a 25
percent share in the $4 billion power plant’s revenues that would
provide millions in additional tribal income, said Doug MacCourt,
representing the Diné Power Authority.
Critics of the development, however, claim the alleged economic
gains will not trump the health and environmental costs to be paid
by the Navajo and other residents of the Four Corners over the
lifespan of a third coal-fired power plant within a single 30-mile
radius if all three exist....
Native American Uranium Miners Still Suffer, As Industry Eyes
In These Times - 24 OCT 2009
ACOMA, NEW MEXICO—On the Navajo Nation, almost everyone you talk to
either worked in uranium mines themselves or had fathers or
husbands who did. Almost everyone also has multiple stories of
loved ones dying young from cancer, kidney disease and other
ailments attributed to uranium poisoning.
The effects aren’t limited to uranium miners and millers; whole
families are usually affected as women washed their husbands’
contaminated clothes, kids played amidst mine waste and families
even built homes out of radioactive uranium tailings.
For years the government has had a program to compensate uranium
workers (and “down-winders” affected by nuclear weapon testing);
and the federal government is slowly cleaning up contaminated
land; but as evidenced at the Indigenous Uranium Forum here this
weekend, the uranium industry that flourished in this region from
the 1940s through 1980s continues to take a heavy toll on workers
and their descendants. (An investigative piece in the LA Times
shed light on the situation.)...
Navajo: A Family’s Pain
Pavement Pieces - 16 OCT 2009
BLUE GAP, Ariz.—As a young husband and father, Leonard Nez was proud
to work in a uranium mine near his home in Blue Gap,
Ariz. For the two years he worked in the mine, he made
a good living for his family and was able to buy food
and goods from the local trader. Because he lived so
close, he even allowed the mining company to store
their tools in his family’s shed. Oftentimes, he would
come home with rocks so his children would see what
kind of work he was doing, but Leonard had no way of
knowing that these rocks would poison his family.
“I never knew the risk I put myself
in by working for the
uranium,” he said in his native Navajo language, as
translated by his daughter Seraphina. “I know I returned
home to my family contaminated with the uranium dust. I know
I brought it home to my children. There were times I brought
home rocks that were uranium, and I would put it on my
windowsill for my kids to see the work I was doing. But I
was unaware of the risk.“
Since then, Leonard and his wife Helen have lost seven
of their 11 children—all before they reached the age
Six died from Navajo Neuropathy, a
rare disease caused by exposure to radiation that
primarily affects Navajo children. The disease attacks
the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms include the
shriveling of hands and feet, muscular weakness,
stunted growth, infection and corneal ulcers. Forty
percent of children affected die before they reach
their 20s. The seventh child died from a miscarriage....
Navajo Lawmakers Hold off on Arizona Ski Resort Vote
AP - 23 OCT 2009
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP)—Navajo lawmakers held
off Thursday on a vote to secure an appraisal for a ski resort on
a northern Arizona mountain the tribe considers sacred.
Tribal Council Delegate Raymond Maxx introduced the bill with the
intent of stopping a plan to use reclaimed water to make snow on
the San Francisco Peaks. But he said wording in the bill to
purchase the Arizona Snowbowl outside Flagstaff drew concern from
The Tribal Council voted 41-27 to refer the legislation to the
Resources Committee for further review. Maxx said he and other
co-sponsors plan to rework the measure and bring it before the
council again as soon as Monday....
Commercialization of Sweat-lodge Ceremony Appalls Native Americans
Arizona Republic - 22 OCT 2009
The deaths of three people after a sweat-lodge ceremony near Sedona
are bringing new attention to complaints that sacred Native
American ceremonies are being commercialized and demeaned by the
As details emerge of what happened in the sweat lodge, Native
Americans are criticizing everything from the number of people who
were in the tent-like structure to the fact that people paid to be
"If you ask just about any Native American out there, they will be
appalled by this," said Freddie Johnson, language and culture
specialist at the Phoenix Indian Center. "It's disturbing to hear
that there were three deaths from this so-called sweat lodge."
About 60 people were crowded into a makeshift sweat lodge in the
incident earlier this month, authorities said, as part of a
spiritual retreat led by self-improvement guru James Arthur Ray.
Participants paid $9,000 or more for the series of exercises and
Survivor's Story Offers Look Inside Sweat Lodge
First a 36-hour
fast, then pressure in stifling heat
Arizona Republic - 21 OCT 2009
The leader of a Sedona-area sweat-lodge ceremony that left three
people dead had encouraged participants to fight through the pain
brought on by the extreme heat in order to achieve a higher level
of consciousness, said an attorney for a southern Arizona woman
who survived the ordeal.
Before the ceremony, the leader, personal-development guru James
Arthur Ray, had sent participants on a 36-hour outdoor fast in
which they were denied food and water, the attorney said Tuesday.
Sidney Spencer passed out in the two-hour sweat-lodge ceremony that
Ray ran at the culmination of the "Spiritual Warrior" retreat,
said her attorney, Ted Schmidt. She spent four days in a Flagstaff
hospital with multiple organ failure, he said.
Schmidt gave The Arizona Republic Spencer's account of the ceremony
at the Angel Valley Retreat Center, the first description from a
person who was inside the sweat lodge that day....
Snowmaking, Navajos Look to Buy Ski Resort
Arizona Central - 21 OCT 2009
FLAGSTAFF—The Navajo Nation wants to buy the
Arizona Snowbowl ski resort to stop snowmaking on one of the
tribe's most sacred mountains.
The Navajo Nation Council voted on Wednesday to
consider legislation that would allow the tribe to negotiate with
the partners who own the resort outside Flagstaff, Arizona....
Another Survivor of Sweat Lodge Retreat Speaks
Arizona Central - 21 OCT 2009
FLAGSTAFF—More than 50 followers of spiritual
guru James Arthur Ray had just endured five strenuous days of
fasting, sleep-deprivation and mind-altering breathing exercises
when he led them into a sweat lodge ceremony.
It was supposed to be a religious awakening,
the culmination of a $9,000-plus-a-person retreat outside Sedona,
Ariz., aimed at helping people find a new vision for life. But it
wasn't long before the ceremony turned into a terrifying
People were vomiting in the stifling heat,
gasping for air, and laying lifeless on the sand and gravel floor
beneath them, according to participant Beverley Bunn. One man was
burned when he crawled into the rocks, seemingly unaware of what
he was doing, she said.
When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged
them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she
said. "I can't get her to move. I can't get her to wake up," Bunn
recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge.
Ray's response: "Leave her alone, she'll be dealt with in the next
Opponent Says Hopi Tribal Council May Have a Hidden Agenda
Indian Country Today - 19 OCT 2009
environmentalists of having an anti-Hopi agenda is a
divisive “manufactured lie” by a pro-Peabody Western Coal
Company tribal council, said a longstanding advocate for
tribal control of Black Mesa, the site of massive strip
In fact, the Hopi Tribal Council itself
may have a hidden agenda to convert two power plants – one
operating, and one currently closed – under clean-coal
technology, using an expanded coal mining permit to attract
investors, he said.
Vernon Masayesva, 70, a former Hopi
tribal chairman, said the present tribal council’s action
banning environmental groups from tribal lands is based on a
lie that the groups are trying to shut down coal mining
operations on the mesa in northern Arizona, noting, “We have
never said that.”...
Tribes Should Look Beyond Coal Energy
Arizona Republic - Opinion - 17 OCT 2009
We agree with Hopi and Navajo concerns over economic development
and job creation and their right to speak out. We also stand
united in encouraging tribal leaders to embrace prosperity and
health in the 21st century with clean, renewable energy.
Considering that our fossil-fuel-based economy will eventually
disappear, we believe it is time to look ahead.
For too many years, Southwestern tribes have borne the loss of
groundwater and the health impacts and destruction of our
homelands from coal, while outside interests profited greatly. At
the invitation of tribal communities, conservation groups have
joined to help create a better path....
Navajo, Hopi Leaders Accuse Environmental Groups
Of Hindering Economic Development
Arizona Journal - 14 OCT 2009
More controversy broke
out last week over coal mining and development of the Desert Rock
Energy Project on the Navajo Nation as President Joe Shirley Jr.
criticized environmental groups, and the Black Mesa Water
Coalition responded to his remarks.
“I stand with the Hopi Nation. Unlike ever before, environmental
activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to
tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination and our quest for
independence,” Shirley said on Sept. 30. “By their actions,
environmentalists would have tribes remain dependent on the
federal government, and that is not our choice. I want the leaders
of all Native American nations to know this is our position, and I
would ask for their support of solidarity with the Hopi Nation in
the protection of their sovereignty and self-determination, as
well as ours.”
According to Shirley, the Hopi Tribal Council recently approved a
resolution that stated “environmentalists have worked to deprive
the tribe of markets for its coal resources and the revenue it
brings to sustain governmental services, provide jobs for Hopis
and secure the survival of Hopi culture and tradition.”...
Hopi Tribe Bans
Environmental Groups—Stirs Debate in Native Media
New America Media - 13 OCT 2009
PHOENIX, Ariz.—One week after the Hopi
Tribal Council officially banned the Sierra Club and other
environmental groups from their land, Native American journalists
held a candid discussion about the controversy and how media could
better cover environmental issues in their communities.
“As a young person, I understand that we’re in
this position of basically being economically dependent on our own
cultural destruction,” said Jihan Gearon, an organizer with the
Indigenous Environmental Network in Flagstaff, Ariz. “At the same
time, I’m very upset that our tribal governments are still stuck
in this position of thinking that’s the only thing that we could
The Hopi Tribal Council passed a unanimous
resolution on Sept. 28, arguing that environmental groups were
depriving the tribe of coal revenues it needs to secure the
survival of the Hopi culture. They declared that the Sierra Club
and several other groups were no longer welcome on Hopi land.
Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., announced that he stood
with the Hopi Nation, and called environmental activists “among
the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty.”...
Environmental Groups Respond Sharply to Their Ouster
Indian Country Today - 11 October 2009
Ariz.—The battle waged against a major coal company by Hopi and
Navajo activists and against large environmental groups by tribal
officials has, at least temporarily, intensified the conflict
playing out in northern Arizona over the control, preservation and
use of cultural and natural resources.
“I never thought I
would see the day when being ‘Hopi’ meant being anti-environment,
pro-big corporate energy, and actually promoting pollution and
global warming in favor of ‘the almighty dollar,’” Alph Secakuku
Hopi People Are Environmentalists
by Bonnie Talakte, Hopi - The Arizona Republic
- 10 OCT 2009
It is important that the readers of The Republic not assume
[that] the Hopi Tribe, as a whole, supports the recent resolution
by the Tribal Council declaring environmental groups unwelcome on
the Hopi Reservation.
The decision to prohibit environmental groups has devastated many
Hopi tribal members....
Indian Country Today - 09 OCT 2009
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the latest, unfortunate
and embarrassing action of the “illegal council” of the Hopi
Tribe. I say the “illegal council” because that is exactly what
this group is. The Hopi Tribe’s Constitution clearly requires that
the “tribal council shall consist of the Tribal Chairman and Vice
Since Jan. 1, there has been no tribal chairman and no tribal vice
chairman – so no tribal council. Simple as that! So the resolution
this illegal group passed is not worth the paper it’s written on.
And for that matter, all resolutions passed since Jan. 1 by this
group have no force and effect....
Navajo Girl Shares Family's Dramatic Heritage
Prescott Daily Courier - 03 OCT 2009
In 1864, a young Navajo woman living in Black Mesa, Ariz., fought
to protect her family from the efforts of the U.S. Army and scout
Kit Carson to remove them from their land and send them to Ft.
One hundred and forty-five years later, another young Navajo woman
walked in the footsteps of Yellow Woman, her
Camille Manybeads Tso is a 14-year-old freshman at the Flagstaff
Arts and Leadership Academy. Home-schooled until she enrolled in
FALA, Camille used the skills she learned from an Outta Your
Backpack Media Native American youth workshop to make a 27-minute
docudrama, "In the Footsteps of Yellow Woman."...
Environmental Groups, SW
Tribes Stand Together
to Promote Clean, Renewable Energy
Sierra Club, Tribal Partnerships Program - 02
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – As Hopi and Navajo leaders
in the American Southwest evaluate their energy policies, the
Sierra Club and other environmental groups remain committed to
working with their tribal partners to find clean energy solutions
that work for everyone.
"We are proud of our longstanding partnerships
with tribal leaders in the Southwest, and we are committed to
supporting efforts to transition from dirty coal to clean energy
solutions," said Sierra Club President Allison Chin. "Together, we
can rekindle our economy, reduce greenhouse gases and support
people who have been left in the dust by a dangerous and dirty,
Navajo Leader Seeks Grant for Power Plant
Santa Fe New Mexican - 01 OCT 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. is
seeking a federal grant to help pay for equipment designed to
capture carbon emissions from a proposed coal-fired power plant on
Environmentalists, the state of New Mexico and some Navajos have
voiced concerns about the $3 billion Desert Rock Energy Project,
saying a third coal-fired plant in the Four Corners region would
compromise air quality, human health and the environment....
Hopis Say Conservationists Unwelcome on Tribal Land
The Arizona Republic - 29 SEP 2009
The Hopi Nation's Tribal Council sent a message Monday to the
Sierra Club and a handful of other environmental groups: Stay off
Tina May, a council spokeswoman, said council members meeting in
Kykotsmovi unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that the
conservation groups are unwelcome on Hopi lands because they have
damaged the tribe's economy by pushing for closure of a coal-fired
power plant near Page.
The resolution says environmentalists have "spread misinformation"
about Hopi water and energy resources, attempting to
"instill unfounded fears into the hearts and minds of Hopi
and Human Rights Questions Permanent Forum on Indigenous
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indigenous issues requested by Economic and Social Council,
Report of the Secretary-General, UN Office of High Commissioner
on Human Rights.
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
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