SB 2109 is a bill that the senator has presented to Congress back in February in regards to the water rights of the Navajo and Hopi people of Arizona.
I was taken aback by the news and puzzled as to why Sen. Kyl would be presented with such an award, given that since this bill would revoke the claims to water rights of the Navajo and Hopi people and channel this water to the city of Phoenix and Tucson as well as renewing the leasing contracts of entities such as Peabody Coal, and SRP.
In my opinion, this is clearly a manipulation of the Native people and the duties that he was charged with by those Native people that voted and supported him in his previous elections.
My companion and I decided that we should attend this event, and see what really was going on. It took some time to gather the needed information to locate and determine the time that this event was to be taking place.
Due to the lack of information and no media coverage, we began to question if this was an actual occurrence.
We sought out the event, which led us to the Orange Tree Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. As we entered we couldn't help but notice how pleasant and affluent the resort was. Remaining respectful and quiet, we began to explore, my children and I as well as my companion and his children.
We journeyed through the facility, quietly observing the "invited" guests that were attending the event. All seemed to be dressed in elegant business attire and evening wear (as well as being all non-Native American I might add).
Our family stood at the entrance of the ballroom patiently and respectfully and a tall man dressed casual in khaki pants and a black polo shirt was watching us. We turned and approached him and asked in a proper and respectful manner for information on the event that was taking place, "Is this the banquet for Senator Kyl?"
He replied, "Do you have a ticket?"
We informed him that we did not have a ticket and asked if he would kindly direct us to someone who could help us with retrieving one.
He then began to question us then told us to go to the front desk. He made sure that all of us were in front of him as he ushered us to the front desk. I noticed he had a badge on his belt. He was an officer of the Phoenix police department. The officer then got on his radio and asked for backup.
We asked the employee who was behind the front desk our questions and for directions to the event for Sen. Kyl. He responded by saying, "Yes, it is outside around the corner" gesturing towards the ballroom we had just been escorted from by the officer.
Meanwhile three more officers arrived and a member of the resort security who surrounded us. The resort security asked if we had an invitation or if we were guests at the resort. We responded that we did not have an invitation but would appreciate assistance in obtaining an invitation, but that we also were not paying guests.
We continued to say we wished to observe the event's proceedings. The security personnel said since we were neither paying guests nor held an invitation that we would have to leave the property or be declared as trespassing, and we needed to leave immediately.
So there the eight of us stood, stunned, that we, as Native Americans, whom the senator was to be honored for "fighting for our rights," were being escorted by police and security out of the building.
We intended no harm nor posed any disrespect and we were there to listen and observe the event that Sen. Kyl was being honored for that evening.
As we were escorted out of the building, the officers and security followed us all the way to our vehicles, while talking on their radios making sure that other officers were watching us as we left the property.
I found this to be very upsetting and hurt by the way we were treated, my children having experienced this type of discrimination first hand by police officers no doubt.
The senator receiving an "award" based on Native Americans, the very same that were refused attendance to this event. As Native Americans we began to question, does Sen. Kyl really have our people and the issues we face in his best interest? Then why were we forced to leave?
In my experiences and those of other tribes, Sen. Kyl has only hurt the Native people of Arizona and continues to bring deceit and hardship to our people. For him to receive an award for championing such heinous legislation such as SB 2109, causing detriment the Navajo and Hopi people, who value their water resources and hold those waters sacred, I am appalled.
I am dismayed that Sen. Kyl has no regard for Native peoples values, our traditions and our way of life. It would be unimaginable for him to allow anyone to desecrate his religion or beliefs.
Sen. Kyl and Sen. McCain have both done wrongs and misled the Native people of this state in the past, and it looks like this could be yet another example of that pattern of behavior.
So, to conclude the evening's events, as well as declaring my response to the treatment my family and I received earlier, we chose to stand across the street from the resort and practice our First Amendment rights.
We held our signs proudly and alerted those select and invited guests that included representatives of SRP, those elite supporters and three misguided Valley Native Americans, that this family was going to say no to SB 2109 and no to Sen. Kyl.
San Carlos, Ariz.
Support for water settlement
Ya'a'teeh doo ahe'hee shi Ke' adoo shi Dine'e',
Water is sacred. No doubt. So are our people and our future.
On the current issue of S. 2109, I support the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement for a number of reasons.
As a member of the nation, a former elected official representing the nation in the Arizona legislature, and an attorney working with natural resources, I have seen throughout our nation a severe need for water infrastructure. The settlement agreement offers our nation an opportunity to build and secure water rights for our current needs and our future growth.
While the Navajo Nation is currently considering whether to approve a settlement of the Navajo Nation's water rights claims in the Little Colorado River adjudication, I urge our people to look at the issue from all sides.
To date opposing letters to the editor, I believe, have misrepresented the terms of the settlement and done a great disservice to those who seek to understand the legal basis of the settlement. I would encourage us all to thoroughly review this settlement and understand the terms before letting others decide for us. Based on my review of the issue, I support the LCR Settlement for the following reasons:
- First, the LCR settlement does not waive main stem Colorado River water rights. Once the nation secures water rights in the LCR settlement agreement to meet its current and future needs, the nation must waive any additional claims to water it might have in the LCR adjudication. The waivers of claims in the LCR settlement agreement address only the nation's LCR claims - Navajo Nation claims to the main stem of the Colorado River in both the Upper and Lower Basin are preserved for another day. This is by far the greatest protection I want for our nation.
- Second, as the Water Rights Commission has explained at chapter meetings, public forums, and in the press, the Navajo Nation faces a decision The nation can continue with litigation in state court where the outcome is likely decades away and the result uncertain, or the nation can settle its claims now, protect its water rights from being taken and developed by outsiders, and start putting water to use with water delivery projects guaranteed in the settlement. The basic question here is: Does the nation trust the state courts? If not, then why litigate?
- Third, the settlement agreement recognizes the unlimited right of the Navajo Nation to use the Coconino Aquifer - a huge groundwater supply that underlies the entire Navajo Reservation. The settlement agreement recognizes the sovereign rights of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to manage and use the Navajo Aquifer - a smaller, but significant water supply shared by the two tribes. Navajo municipal and domestic uses are unlimited. The limits on industrial uses of both tribes within the confined portion of the Navajo Aquifer and additional provisions to protect springs were negotiated directly with the Hopi Tribe.
- Fourth, the settlement agreement recognizes the right of the Navajo Nation to use all the unappropriated flows of the Little Colorado River that reach the reservation boundary near Leupp. These flows are estimated to average more than 160,000 acre-feet per year and make up almost two-thirds of the estimated natural flow of the river.
The settlement agreement also limits the future rights of upstream non-Navajo landowners to ensure that the Navajo Nation can make use of these flows.
In closing, LCR water has run past our southern borders for decades. As a nation, we are growing and we need water.
Years of litigation brought us little while our communities are drying up. We can argue about legal theories, including Winters Doctrine (federal reserved rights), aboriginal rights, and historic uses. But, I suspect and predict that in the effort to quantify our water rights in state courts we will lose more rights than we can secure under an agreement.
The settlement agreement maximizes the nation's water rights. I support the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights settlement, and I urge you do the same.
At minimum, I urge you to take a hard look at the details and work to understand its terms. I believe you will find favorable terms that will help our nation grow. Ahe'hee.
Window Rock, Ariz.
(Hometown: LeChee, Ariz.)
Past leaders were dignified
Our great leaders of the past were not highly literate in English but they were dignified. They carried themselves with honor, humility, and wisdom.
Of recent past, there has been a change, a change almost juvenile in nature - brash, abrasive, impulsive, shortsighted.
Leadership today continues to be abysmally characterized by foreign education convincingly lacking in character, honesty, ethics, integrity, and industriousness.
The proposed Little Colorado River Settlement Act, an omnibus all-inclusive bill, is not intended to help us. Public hearings and comments are unequivocally against the proposed settlement save for isolated elected officials favoring the proposed legislation.
What does it take to see that legislation and linear simulated computer economic modeling are never Native American-friendly, they never are nor are they intended to improve the life conditions of Native peoples. If indeed they were, we would not be living in Third World conditions today.
What is clearly evident with this proposed settlement is the historic pattern of Native exploitation: wealth versus poverty meticulously crafted as to who gets what; who gets the millions versus who gets the pennies; winner vs. loser where winner takes all; wealthy becoming wealthier, the poor becoming poorer; the rising tide lifting 1 percent of the boats while 99 percent are sinking.
This bill feeds into why and how global corporate profits remain at an all-time high while local jobs disappear. Public scrutiny should not forget the corporate boardrooms where trinkets vs. vast land grab bills are carefully crafted to corner Native nations' vast resources for the wealthy, all of which is very fitting with the original American inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness," which was originally worded "life, liberty, and pursuit of property."
With the proposed settlement, at best we see firsthand how exploitation of Native peoples and their resources continues into the current century and often aided by our very own elected officials.
Isn't it time to replace the arrogant, brash and impulsive Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission, the attorney, and the Eurocentric schooled Native leadership with little or no connection to our traditions?
In our traditions, there is a purpose for all that is evil. Evil will always be there so that we cannot take the good life for granted. Acts of evil are wake-up calls.
The self-delegated powers of the provincial wealthy to impose their will, their growing luxury, their intellectual vice and tyranny, with that euphoric blurred vision of grandeur and omnipotence imposed on the Native peoples that began in the 1600s is still with us today.
It is our hope that our current leadership takes some lessons from our traditions about traditional leadership.
Tuba City, Ariz.
Settlement should be trashed
On April 6, I stated to the Water Commission, DOJ, the Human Rights Commission and a number of grassroots water rights advocacy groups that I believe there are violations of the human rights of the people in regard to the proposed water rights settlement, that it should be trashed and that we should start all over, if need be.
The people should have been invited to the table all along in the development of the settlement agreement. The people were denied the opportunity to understand and to have ownership of the so-called agreement.
It does not reflect the true regard we have for water as indigenous peoples. To ask the people to consider and approve it at this point, after it is already in Congress with a signed agreement, is an injustice.
On May 21, the Navajo Human Rights Commission approved a resolution that, 1) determined that there have been violations of the human rights of the people, 2) recommended that the Navajo Nation Council vehemently reject the proposed water settlement agreement and 3) recommended that the principles of the United Nations established standard of "free, prior and informed consent" be used when any issues pertaining to the disposition of the resources of the Diné people is to be considered.
Diné people own the natural resources including water, not the government.
Duane "Chili" Yazzie
Freedom being taken away
I'm commander of the Fort Defiance Agency Veterans' Organization, and I'm concerned the freedom and life we fought for are being taken away here at home.
Like most of us, I grew up carrying water long distances for home use. Later, I went to engineering school at UNM. From 1991 to 1995, I served President Peterson Zah as executive director of the Division of Natural Resources.
Under Zah, water was our No. 1 priority. We had no hesitation about the need to perfect the nation's water rights - in the Little Colorado, San Juan and Colorado basins - using litigation and negotiation to ensure water for all agricultural and other purposes now and into the distant future.
At that time, lawyer Stanley Pollack took his direction from Peterson Zah. We worked together to strengthen Navajo water rights claims. We used the "practicably irrigable lands" measure handed down by the "Winters" and "Arizona v California" court decisions.
Today, Pollack and Kyl are fooling us - we knew very well in 1995 how to "capture and use" those precious waters flowing by on all sides. Since the 1970s, the technical studies proving feasibility had been piling up at our Water Resources Department, BIA, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Williams Brothers, Morrison-Maierle, and Bureau of Reclamation.
They included watershed development analyses, irrigation system inventories, safety of dams plans, etc. We had a huge amount of information. It's now hidden and ignored.
At the University of New Mexico in the late 1970s, I conducted an award-winning study detailing use of Lake Powell waters to irrigate excellent soils near Kaibeto, to create jobs and income for our youth and communities.
We have classic watershed restoration studies showing how we can put hundreds of people to work in every chapter to build check-dams, control soil erosion, keep thousands of acre-feet of sediment out of downstream reservoirs, retain thousands of acre-feet of runoff waters on the land to restore our rangelands, and irrigate good soils in every valley.
We knew how to do it in 1995 and we know how to do it today. Our major challengers are still: how to raise enough money, how to train enough Navajo engineers and agronomists to turn those studies into water projects for homes and chapters and hospitals, for irrigated orchards and pastures and croplands that would help increase Navajo Nation self-reliance and prosperity.
In 1995, Peterson Zah lost the election to Albert Hale. Then something happened to the nation's strategies for water rights and watershed rehabilitation. Somehow, by 2000, the technical studies were buried and the experts in the Water Resources and Agriculture Departments stopped working the way they had (did someone tell them to change?).
Also by 2000, Pollack deceived the Navajo Council into claiming far less water rights than we should have, and they have followed him blindly.
Albert Hale supported minimal water rights then, and he still does. He's pushing the current "settlement agreement" and the Kyl-McCain "bill" (S. 2109).
Hale repeats Pollack's deceptions that promise a little bit of drinking water for a few chapters; that let our Little Colorado River surface waters mostly stay upstream; that then lets the water that "reaches us" (and the 160,000 acre-feet per year of Blue Springs water) mostly be used by Arizona, Nevada, and California...forever.
What happened? Who told Pollack to abandon those studies, to hide them from the Council and people for 15 years? Did Albert Hale agree with (or direct) that reversal of policy? How did the shift from Zah's leadership to the Pollack-Hale abandonment of water rights occur between 1995 and 2000? In what meetings? With who?
The waters of the Little Colorado River (including the Blue Springs waters) are ours. The current "settlement agreement" and the Kyl-McCain "bill" are written for the Navajo Generating Station and Salt River Project and Phoenix - not for the Navajo people.
S. 2109's legally tying Central Arizona Project water to Window Rock pipeline water and then requiring we approve Peabody interests and NGS leases before we get groundwater projects that are already trust responsibilities of the IHS, is extortion.
Therefore, Pollack, his Navajo supporters, Kyl, and McCain are committing a kind of thievery against the Navajos through S. 2109.
- Remove lawyer Pollack from the nation "forever";
- Reject the Kyl-McCain "Bill";
- Get a normal continuance for the LCR litigation and re-open the Little Colorado negotiations that Pollack hoped he had finished in secret;
- Hire "independent and loyal counsel" - not lawyers like Pollack who are committed to minimizing Navajo water;
- Build a new settlement agreement, while learning how much water every chapter will need for all purposes (we have the studies);
- Assert our rights to lease unused or surplus Little Colorado surface waters, and other surface waters, to help finance our needed water and watershed rehabilitation systems.
NAPI is just over half-built after 50 years of promises. What would the Leupp-Dilkon pipeline look like if it is half-built 50 years from now?
Politicians need to hear from ranchers
The Navajo Nation governing parties need to educate themselves more on how cattle producers can be more successful at managing their business.
Before creating new policies they need to look at the ranching business nationwide. They need to see and hear what ranchers are experiencing. This doesn't stop here. It was discussed that the same situation is being experienced in Washington, D.C., as well. Politicians are making decisions without thinking of how it will impact cattle producers.
Natural Resources Conservation Services has been monitoring the farm and ranching industry. Their findings state that farms and ranches are not being carried on by young people.
Thus NRCS is providing $106.6 million in federal programs to assist farmers and ranchers just to survive. They are extending loans or grants to New Mexico farmers, ranchers and young people to continue this way of life for the next generation.
Whereas, the Navajo Nation is implementing a bid system for 10-year leases. Ten-year leases, when the rest of the nation is figuring their offspring's will carry on the work their parents have prepared for them. Ranching and farming is not something that one can plan on doing for only 10 years. Who in their right mind would invest time and money in buying expensive equipment and work hard at caring for their investment to give away to someone else in 10 years?
Which brings us to the next topic of discussion that is: Culture and tradition of farming and ranching needs to be carried on to our children. We need to involve and encourage our children to farm and grow our own food, and to raise cattle.
This should be a reminder to all that it is hard work to be a farmer or rancher. Children raised in this environment will grow knowing what to expect. Right now, the agriculture industry is smaller, because the volume is getting smaller. Drought conditions have reduced cattle herds throughout the nation and it is at a record low since 1952.
The cattle market and retail prices are at the highest point in history. But, even with the high prices ranches get, we have to be reminded that to produce and feed the cattle, the prices have also doubled.
To stay in the business, we need incentives and motivation from our government to continue our job of providing agricultural products.
In another one of the workshops we were informed that there are programs to help keep us farming and ranching. NRCS said they will be willing to work with you to develop a conservation plan for your operation.
If one applies for a grant through NRCS and qualifies for the maximum amount of $300,000 they could divide half of the amount for their farm and their ranch to be used within five years.
If one is granted a 10-year lease, why would anyone want to pay $150,000 (10 percent of the loan or grant) for someone else to benefit from your improvements and then move out five years later because your lease ended?
In 2010, a NRCS representative was with the evaluation team when my reapplication was evaluated. He presented me with an application from cross fencing my ranch and other long-term investments. We planned and estimated the costs and he continued calling to see if my ranch application was approved. He was sure our grant would be approved. Two NRCS deadlines had passed and Navajo Nation Sims Lease Ranch lost out on a $19,000 improvement.
In the Morris case the Navajo Nation District Court ruled for the Morris' due to lack of documentation. If the Navajo Nation Supreme Court is to use the agriculture industry guidelines this will again be in the Morris' favor.
NNDA has indicated "We are a sovereign nation." With the Navajo Nation receiving 70 percent funding from the federal government we are entitled to a proper hearing as taxpayers. Even a criminal is given an opportunity to have a hearing if they are in prison and are caught committing an illegal act (on camera). They still have an opportunity to plead their case, then a judge determines the outcome.
So referring back to the Taylor Grazing Act, we should have been allowed a hearing before being removed from our ranches.
So in summary, we need to balance the business portion of farming and ranching, and we need to protect and learn to utilize our natural resources so they will not be depleted.
We need to carry in this "family tradition" because it is estimated that by 2050 there will not be enough farms and ranches to feed nine million people. Education does not end with a diploma you have to enhance your learning every day.
Justin D. Yazzie Jr.
Special Education, Senior Citizen proms stand out
Yesterday (May 25) the 2011-12 school year ended at St. Michael Indian School. Another year seemed to race by.
As an English teacher at the high school, I often have the privilege of working with students on essays for scholarships, summer programs, and college applications. Invariably two events appear in these essays about experiences students enjoy the most. The two are the Special Education Prom and the Senior Citizens Prom. What do these events have in common? A few important features.
Each year the St. Michael Association for Special Education hosts its annual prom. The Fort Defiance Chapter House is transformed into a glittering ballroom. Students join with others (it feels like a thousand people, though it's probably closer to two hundred) on a packed dance floor to let go and rock n' roll.
From toddlers to elders, in gowns and tuxes, swaying, singing, laughing, leaping, twirling, in someone's arms or in wheelchairs, all become a part of joyous humanity, one with the music. For me at least, there is no better feeling.
A few weeks later, at the Little Sisters of the Poor Villa Guadalupe in Gallup, these same students once again dress in formal attire, this time to escort elders to a dinner/dance in another magically altered ballroom.
Attentive teenagers serve their "dates" a sumptuous meal before escorting each to the dance floor. Whether line dancing or encircling a wheelchair to sway with the melody, 17-year-olds and 80-year-olds bridge the experience gap and become family.
It is not hard to understand why St. Michael students list these two events as their favorites. Love pretty clearly trumps all.
St. Michaels, Ariz.
Appreciate service offered to Diné customers
I was disturbed after reading the firing of Ms. Juanita Blake by Dustin Sonn of O'Reilly Auto Parts in Page ("Diné worker fired for speaking Navajo," May 10, 2012). The O'Reilly Corporation should appreciate the skills of their employees that offer good service to their Navajo customers.
Is Mr. Sonn a fair manager for the corporation? It seems like it is his way or the highway or maybe he just does not like certain Navajos around him. How long has this been going on and does he treat other Navajo employees the same way?
The Navajo people of the community should consider boycotting this store by taking their business to other establishments that appreciate the Native business. Because of the Navajo people, Mr. Sonn, you have a job.
This is where the Navajo Tribe needs to wake up and start encouraging our Native people to operate their own businesses with the support of the Navajo Tribe. That way our people do not have to put up with this kind of discrimination. Instead our leaders are spending the tribal funds on unnecessary things and trips.
For your information, Mr. Sonn, I am a Navajo with a census number.
Important words at graduation time
For the past few years, San Juan County Partnership has distributed flyers at San Juan County high schools' graduations. This year, the Shiprock Victim Impact Panel helped with the distribution.
The flyers provide information to adults about the effects alcohol has on the development of the brain, especially in the adolescent and teen years. The flyers also remind adults that it is against the law, a 4th degree felony, to provide alcohol to minors.
The message is important at graduation time, when graduates, their families and friends celebrate this significant event, sometimes with parties where alcohol flows freely.
We don't know how many youth and families have been influenced by our message, hopefully many. What we do know is that we lost one San Juan County graduate this year, two days after her graduation. How tragic for her, her family, friends and community.
San Juan County Partnership and our community partners will continue in our efforts to impress upon our communities the dangers and consequences of underage drinking.
We ask the community, parents and youth alike, to make good decisions that will keep our graduates and all of our youth safe.
San Juan County Partnership
Shiprock Victim Impact Panel