Shelly receives cool reception at Ganado

By Candace Begody
Navajo Times

GANADO, Ariz., April 26, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Diedra Peaches speaks at the water forum in Ganado on April 19.

BOTTOM: A citizen speaks April 19 at the water forum in Ganado Chapter House.

Former Navajo Nation president Milton Bluehouse put it very simple.

"I disapprove. Let me put it like that, very simply," Bluehouse said firmly of his stance on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement. "This is too quick and my position on this is that I want you guys to table this for about two years and let's bring it back and we'll tell you what we want by then."


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Bluehouse was one of several to speak on April 17 at Ganado Chapter House during the Q-and-A segment of Shelly's town hall, which was preceded by a 44-slide PowerPoint presentation. This was the third meeting of seven total.

After the presentation, Shelly stood before the audience and said that nowhere on the settlement will one find his signature.

"I did not sign anything, you won't find my name on there anywhere agreeing to it," he said. "That is for the people to decide."

Though citizens were given a three-minute time limit to voice their concerns, Bluehouse told the crowd he was going to take his time and spoke for nearly 10 minutes.

Citing the angry protestors on April 5 in Tuba City when Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim met with U.S. senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, both republicans, Ganado Chapter officials asked that the nearly 100 people in attendance act in a "good manner."

Aside from one person who yelled that Navajo Nation officials weren't listening or taking notes during the Q-and-A session, the audience was well behaved.

Violet Tsosie, of Sunrise Springs, Ariz., near Greasewood, asked a question almost everyone in the room wanted an answer to as many shook their heads in agreement.

"I had no idea about this whole water rights settlement," she said. "You might have to reiterate what you have already expressed and talked about. But a question I have is why weren't we involved from the beginning?"
Copies of the slides for the PowerPoint were handed out as people entered the chapter house. One of the slides emphasized that the Navajo people have only two options: either to approve the settlement, which states how much water the Navajo people are entitled to, or let the state courts determine how much water the Navajo Nation should get.

On the topic of allowing the state courts to decide, Calvert Curley, of Coolfield, Ariz., said, "Ashii akoo. Let it go to court. I'm sure there is already precedent and there are already case laws against it."

Curley cited the 1908 Winters Doctrine, which was also in the presentation and allows tribes perpetual use of the water on the reservations and states that those rights could not be lost through nonuse.

Interpreting the doctrine, Curley said, "Already it was set, basically saying Navajo people have rights to the water they are on and they will use however much they want. No one will bother it. It's already set."

According to the doctrine, though it protects water rights for Native Americans, it is still vulnerable to changes depending on the political climate.

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