Appalled at comparison to the Long Walk

June 14, 2012

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I was appalled, saddened and upset that the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission would stoop so low as to compare their water settlement to the events of the Long Walk and treaty signing.

First of all, we are not being held against our will in a concentration/prison camp (maybe we are by the current administration and the commission).

Secondly, Manuelito had to do what needed to be done after years of pain, suffering and death for our people being imprisoned as enemies of the U.S. government (the same government that is not allowing us to make our own deals and agreements with outside companies operating on Dine Bikeyah, e.g. NGS and Peabody and the same government our administration is ready to jump in bed with and support their bill).

We, at the present time, are not enemies of the state nor our we held against our will in a concentration camp/prison (again, maybe we are by our current administration and the commission).

To use the treaty signing and the occurrences of Hweeld is immoral and unethical, downright sacrilege.

Where's the respect, the K'e? Many of our people suffered and died during those dark times. As a descendent of Hweeldi I will not allow that to be done without talking for those who suffered more than we will ever imagine.

If you want to get your message across, educate the people correctly and show us our options. If it takes more time than the next session in D.C., so be it, but let's hammer out a deal that suffices us as a nation, our sovereign status as the largest tribe in the U.S. and our rights to the to'.

After all, you all had over 20 years working on this project, if I'm not mistaken. You all should have been informing the people all along rather than attending your lavish meetings in far away places and keeping us in the dark.

And now you want us to agree to your water agreement and a bill satisfies the two biggest corporations that discriminates against the Diné at the request of two sitting U.S. senators who would love to exterminate our rights all together and profit more off of it.

I just hope you all come to your senses and use better judgment before you use another historic/horrific moment in our people's history to catapult your agenda.

I believe it's called comparing oranges and apples, just because they're both of the fruit family doesn't mean they're the same. That's all I have to say about that.

Randall Benally
Rio Rancho, N.M.
(Hometown: Hogback, N.M.)

Only one side of water deal presented

Every election year a draft proposed law or laws for county or state is published and forwarded to voters to read to understand what the proposed law is all about. This publication is available to voters while in advance of the general election in November.

S. 2109 (Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement Agreement) today is only being presented as a one-sided verbal presentation. We are all being denied due process.

My question is, why is the S. 2109 proposed draft document not published and made readily available to the Navajo people? They want to know and understand what the document is all about, by not only reading it in English but they also want it explained to them in the traditional Navajo language.

With a thorough education of this document they would become more familiar with what is being proposed for our water rights, what will it be used for and who will benefit.

Back in January 2010, the Navajo Nation government started with a new president, new vice president, and a new 24-member Navajo Nation Council. Some delegates were new but all had vowed and taken a sacred oath of office by raising their right hand.

Each individual elected tribal official repeated the same oath stating that they would listen to their Navajo people, to protect them, to protect their rights and interests, to safeguard their land including surface and sub-surface resources, and to honor the treaties of 1849 and 1868 made between Navajo people and the U.S. government.

If our elected leaders approve S. 2109 they will violate the oath and give away our human rights and our water rights.

The Winters Rights document of 1908, the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Native Indigenous people, and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Standards document are kept isolated from our Navajo people by our own tribal government.

This is a complete failure by our tribal leaders to inform Diné constituents of the "free, prior and implied consent" standard that obviously relates to understanding the true contents of S. 2109.

An adequate amount of time should have been given educating our Navajo people in the Navajo language.

Please stop waiving our claims and rights to our lands, territories and natural resources with water as the most basic necessity for survival without our input, approval, and consent. This is not right.

We pray daily to our Holy People for giving us this land within the four sacred mountains. This is where the water is coming from and this water is ours to use and to protect for all future generations of Navajos to come. Now S. 2109 wants to own and take away our four sacred mountains.

This S. 2109 is just another nasty trick being presented upon our Diné people by the outside world. But remember that n the first seven chapter hearings on our water rights, a majority of Navajo people were quite vocal and opposed S. 2109.

In addition many letters and documents strongly opposing S. 2109 were published in local, regional, and national news media.

The Navajo Nation president's office and the self-appointed water rights commission agreed with the S. 2109 sponsors that this bill is a complex matter. Sure, we elder grassroots Diné understand that the word complex means S. 2109 is full of lies, cheats, and deception.

We know from facts that the past 149 years the U.S. government has failed to live up to their promises as trustee and now our own tribal leaders are doing the same thing with our votes.

Right now our Navajo Nation Council delegates are being pushed up against the wall, with forced pressure coming from Navajo president's office, speaker's office, Navajo DOJ with help from the federal DOJ, and S. 2109 sponsors Kyl and McCain.

Our council delegates are human beings and they expect the same or better treatment as other Navajo Nation border town officials, county officials, state officials, federal officials and congressional people receive.

Therefore we Diné grassroots citizens are asking our Navajo Nation Council delegates to vote no to S. 2109 since they represent our opposing voices. Now why would our respective Council delegates vote against us?

Among the New Mexico Navajo chapter communities there are no water rights forums or education taking place. Since community members have no knowledge of what S. 2109 is why would their Council delegate even be allowed to vote on it? I thought they represented their constituents and not themselves.

Even some delegates today from New Mexico chapters admit they got a bad deal from the San Juan River water settlement agreement and to this day they regret it.

We sure would like to know why our Navajo water commission won't let us see the Utah Navajo water rights settlement agreement document. Why is it being kept secret and hidden from the Navajo people, especially the Utah Navajos? Some water rights experts tell us it is probably worse than S. 2109.

We will hold our elected leaders accountable should they waiver our claims to water and give away our water rights for free.

Finally we ask our Navajo Nation Council delegates to search for all previous and past studies and recommendations made upon our natural resources such as community water development projects from 30 years ago. These should have been in S.2109.

Focus on power plants that are polluting our Mother Earth and also using an awful amount of water just making steam to drive the electric power generators. There are solar and wind power available that could be implemented to generate electrical power.

With support from EPA and Navajo EPA our air quality standard and quality of human life could be improved by moving away from coal and to preserve what's left of our precious water resources. S.2109 is not the answer.

We can do better.

Juanito Becenti
St. Michaels, Ariz.

Water settlement would provide much-needed water

In my community many families still haul water by truck. People who can just turn on a faucet that produces water have no idea what it is like to think every day about where your water comes from and when it will dry up.

And my community is not unusual. There are hundreds of homes without water here in the southwest Navajo Nation and other parts of our nation.

I ask you this: Is there anything more important for future generations - our children, grandchildren and their grandchildren - than clean, reliable drinking water? The answer: Absolutely not.

I believe the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement will provide the much-needed water for the future generations.

From where I stand, an "aboriginal right" to water means nothing to me if there is no water that reaches my home.

The proposed congressional agreement would not only secure long-term rights for dependable sources of water, it would bring the infrastructure to bring that precious water to hundreds of Navajo families who have had to survive generations without it.

I also reject concerns I have heard that dealing with the courts is preferable as opposed to dealing with Congress. Neither option is great, but it has to be one or the other.

We've been fighting in court for more than 30 years with no resolution. And litigation is a gamble we could lose, even though we are in the right.

This settlement was negotiated by Navajos and Hopis, not just senators Kyl and McCain. We are not waiving our water rights, we are securing our rights to the Little Colorado River water in a permanent way. This is a better deal than we can obtain through the courts.

It also means hundreds of millions of dollars to build wells and pipelines so that people like me and my relatives can stay on the land we have cared for and grazed for generations. This adds up to more job opportunities.

Those who say that Congress will never provide the money to build the pipelines have not read the settlement agreement. If Congress does not appropriate the money, the Navajo Nation will not execute waivers and there is no settlement.

It means our communities can have better schools for our children, better health care with an array of new facilities. The children and elders in my community deserve the best health care if they are ill. This agreement will allow us to build the clinics and health centers we need.

With litigation, we will receive the same amount of nothing we have gotten for 33 years. Even if that doubles, it's still nothing.

The Leupp-Dilkon Groundwater Project will bring much needed water to my community, District 7 chapters, schools and businesses. Currently, our water supply system is very poor and unreliable. With this project, my community will receive high quality, reliable groundwater that can support future serious land-use planning.

Water is life, and we need it now. This water settlement ensures Navajo people will have a lifeline that is rightfully ours.

Elmer Clark
Vice President
Teesto Chapter
Teesto, Ariz.

Speaker's act comparable to high treason

On Saturday, June 9, Council Speaker Johnny Naize introduced Legislation 0230-12, which will allow the water rights of the Navajo people to be "forever" given away to outside corporate interests and governmental entities, an act that is comparable to high treason against the Navajo people.

President Ben Shelly has been the lead advocate for this outright theft of our water rights, leading the nation to the bankruptcy of our nation's economic potential with our water and natural resources although we still have a chance to kill this "termination legislation" proposed by the U.S. Congress that is detrimental to our future and well-being as Diné people.

At stake is the loss of our aboriginal and federal reserved water rights because under S.B. 2109 the Navajo and Hopi tribes must waive their aboriginal and federal reserved water rights, hold all other 33 parties to the "settlement" harmless for all damages to water rights and quality and they cannot ever pursue additional water rights.

Both tribes will forever lose federal "trust protection" and be subject to laws of the states and their respective counties.

It is my hope that our tribal government leaders will wake up to the proposed outright theft of our water rights, and that they too will unite in an official capacity and reject the dubious "settlement" and stand with the grassroots opposition in defense of our future and tribal sovereignty.

The protection of the C and N aquifers are priority. Navajo Generating Station, Peabody Western Coal Company, Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project and the 31 other non-Native parties to the proceedings can take a back seat. It is our water and our rights that we should seek to protect and develop towards the economic prosperity and growth of our nations.

U.S. Republican Senator Jon Kyl's report to Congress is severely flawed simply because there were no Navajos that were at the negotiation table to protect Navajo Nation water rights and interests and because it contains blackmail language that will:

1. Force Navajo and Hopi to forever relinquish our water rights to the Little Colorado River in exchange for unfounded promises (from Congress) for the western pipeline only after NGS and Peabody leases are signed.

2. S. 2109 forces both tribes to grant right of way conditions for NGS power line leases or lose funding for all future water projects.

3. Both tribes will have access to Central Arizona Project water allocation only after the agreement is finalized and the NGS is approved.

4. Only after 34,100 acre-feet per year of Colorado River water by Salt River Project use for NGS is renewed and extended.

5. Peabody is locked in as the sole company on the Kayenta Mine and the "life-of-mine" coal contract is renewed before water project funding is released.

In the end, U.S. senators Jon Kyl and John McCain are proven enemies of the Navajo and Hopi people with the forced "agreement" but, then again, they gave both tribes Public Law 93-531 (the Navajo-Hopi Relocation At of 1974) and Public Law 104-301 (the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996), which were nothing more than an illegal and immoral land grab for the purposes of allowing Peabody Western Coal Company to enlarge its operations and extend its lease and reaping billions more for pennies on the Navajo dollar.

Shelly and Naize must end their advocacy of S.B. 2109 and H.R. 4607 and protect our nation's water rights and not give them away to corporate interests and outside entities who do not care if we, as a the people, live or die.

It is time for them and the Navajo water commission to defend our future and Diné way of life - no more lies!

It just takes a minute to call, email, or visit them to tell them and the U.S. Congress that you oppose the passage of S.B. 2109 and H.R. 4607 Navajo water settlement.

This is a turning point in our history as Diné people because in the terms of science, if both legislative bills are passed we will enter another genocidal process known as an "extinction level event." This "termination" legislation must be stopped!

Mervyn Tilden
Gallup, N.M.
(Hometown: Church Rock, N.M.)

Lawyer is king of our destiny

Navajos need to know who is most powerful in our lives as tribal members. He controls our leaders and future existence as a nation, our economic potential, and how much - actually, how little - political power we have.

He also betrays us to states, corporations, and outside politicians, without real challenge from our leaders. They let him do it.

It's Stan Pollack. He's an Anglo water rights lawyer and "city boy" from Michigan who came out to Navajo maybe 27 years ago. "Anglo water rights lawyer" describes the water rights interests he's most loyal to.

At a meeting I went to in Phoenix some time back, two Salt River Project and Peabody managers were there. One said to the other, "That Pollack is the best lawyer we ever had" because he makes it easy for them to control us.

The power gained from cheating us has made Pollack king of our destiny. Our leaders have let his power grow to where he's dictator of our future.

This happened to Hopi from the 50s to 80s with lawyer John Boyden. They know what it's like to be tricked by a lawyer who takes over your people, your nation, and your future.

Pollack did it by 1) controlling the minds and votes of our leaders; 2) limiting leaders' judgment to what he decides; 3) reducing and minimizing our rights (like the S. 2109 Little Colorado River, LCR, water settlement does); 4) getting the Council and leaders like President Shelly and Attorney General Tsosie to do what he wants; 5) getting them to foolishly say "Kyl is our champion"; 6) lying about what he's doing while conspiring with outsiders like Senator Kyl, NGS, Peabody, Salt River Project, Central Arizona Project, and surrounding states, to extort our approvals and commit frauds and misrepresentations, as stated in many letters and articles in the Times and other media; and 7) excluding the people from meaningful involvement in our water rights future, which is our future.

Last Saturday, in a sneak attack for Pollack, Council Speaker Johnny Naize introduced Pollack's S. 2109 legislation to the Council. Naize dumped a 399-page legislative package on us.

Now Naize and Pollack have dumped on us like Kyl and Pollack did in February's U.S. Senate introduction of S. 2109.

We're given five days to make comments before the Naize-Pollack legislation goes to committee. We're told to assist family, friends, elders, and youth in making comments.

Crazy! The package doesn't even download from Naize's email announcement. I had to get a family college student help to find it elsewhere on the Internet. Looks like there's over 200 new pages, and many blanks. Information is still hidden or hard for people to understand.

Also, the Navajo Nation Water Commission spent $50,000 on newspaper ads for Pollack, but not a penny on printing copies, for the people, of either S. 2109 or the Naize-Pollack legislation.

This is like a communist country run by an alien dictator.

How can we "help family" understand the new legislation? Most have no knowledge of this mess except maybe silly statements from fork-tongued water commissioners presenting in one of Shelly's hostile police-state forums or a mostly false newspaper ad.

Again, all this smells just like Pollack, no matter if Naize is saying "no single individual will make this decision for the people."

There's a second water settlement, maybe 95 percent done, Pollack has kept secret from us. Somebody got wind of it and couldn't get a copy from Window Rock. So she emailed the Utah Division of Water Rights for a copy.

I quote the reply from Utah's assistant director. It shows again who is king of us: "Water right negotiations between Utah and Navajo Nation have occurred under an umbrella of confidentiality. Although Utah is not concerned about disclosure of the proposed agreement we defer to the Navajo Nation as to how they choose to educate and provide information intended for its members. I prefer you contact Stanley Pollack."

Instead of the Naize-Pollack legislation being rushed through Council, legislation to fire and disbar Pollack should be rushed through.

Pollack, Tsosie, and the commission are lying when they say we can't re-start LCR negotiations if we disapprove S. 2109. For us to do it right, Pollack and his pals have to go.

Ron Milford of Fort Defiance has often said, "If Pollack gets S. 2109 approved by Council, it will put one of the last few nails in our political and economic coffin."

Pollack and his friends must be removed and replaced for our survival's sake.

James Henderson Jr.
Window Rock, Ariz.

Government of the people in danger

In light of Mr. Anderson Morgan's revealing letter last week of politics at work and the giving away of our water rights and the inquiries that people have made to me (Letters: "Freedom being taken away," May 31, 2012), one thing came to light as I was pondering the politics of the past, especially the turmoil of 1989.

The Navajo code was initially a temporary mandate until a new set of laws governing our people was to be written. All these years, nothing was ever done to bring out government to accountability.

When the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ruled in favor of Haa'da sidi in regards to the Navajo Government Development Commission existing and being funded it was a great victory for the Navajo people.

Today, the hopes of a government being created by the people for the people is greatly in danger. Due to the fact that the executive director, namely Caleb Roanhorse, has a shady past and a member of the staff, namely Victoria Lee, policy analyst, has been in federal prison for embezzlement with another tribal health care organization (Rosebud Sioux Tribe).

This greatly concerns me (documents are attached and the information is publicly accessible online). Are we seeing that this will be a government by the crooks and created for the crooks in how to defraud and embezzle our tribal treasury?

I believe that the commissioners need to do what is right and rid themselves of this infection and have people with integrity and accountability in these important positions.

As it stands right now, there has been nothing done by this commission and I do realize they have a large budget and will have nothing really to show for, unless they go on a giant spending spree.

Where are the people's hearings and input to create our own government?

People have to realize too that Roanhorse, the executive director, is the father of the president's chief of staff, Sherrick Roanhorse. We may also have a conflict of interest with the president's legal counsel, Heather Clah, being made an appointee for the commission's executive branch representative who may be advocating for chief of staff's father to remain as the executive director.

In conclusion, I do not want to see a repeat of the turmoil of 1989. The reason why I say this is because I was there, almost every day. I saw families divided on different sides.

We need to have initiatives or referendums in regards to the water settlements so that this can be a true standing of the people. The commission and Office of Navajo Government Development needs to get their act together and hire well-qualified staff.

The people's hopes and frustration with the current three-branched government lies in the hands of crooks.

We need a new government with real checks and balances and a government ran by honest, hard-working and accountable leaders, who will make good, righteous decisions for our people, such as our water rights.

Alfred Bennett
Shiprock, N.M.

Looking for Lee

I am looking for Daniel Lee, a Marine Corp brother and friend.

Lee was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., from 1974 to 1977. He was a mechanic for Headquarters Company, 1st Marine, 1st Marine Division (Camp Horno).

My e-mail address is

Louis A. Rodriguez
Plainview, Texas

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