Archive for the 'Hopi sovereignty' Category

LCR Water Rights Bill Rejected by Hopi – A Report to Hopi People

A message from Benjamin H. Nuvamsa…                            Sunday June 17, 2012

LCR Water Rights Bill Rejected by Hopi – A Report to Hopi People

Attached is a report to members of the Hopi Tribe and to the Hopi Tribal Council on the council meeting held last Friday, June 15, 2012, regarding our Action Item No. H-065-2012.  Our Action Item is to reject the Little Colorado River Water Rights Agreement, S.2109.  Please pass this information on to other tribal members.  Thanks to everyone, we defeated this dangerous bill introduced by Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain regarding our water rights to the Little Colorado River.

Despite this victory, this matter is not over.  Shingoitewa and Mase are still intent on continuing negotiations on this bill, despite what the action item, and now Resolution, No. H-065-2012, mandates.  In fact, Shingoitewa, Mase and Hopi attorneys are talking to and negotiating with Navajo’s attorneys.  Resolution No. H-065-2012 prohibits Shingoitewa, the Water & Energy Team and the Tribal Council from further negotiations on S.2109.  You should know that George Mase has an Action Item, No. H-053-2012, before the tribal council that “endorses” Senate Bill 2109.  But the council’s vote on June 15, 2012, killed Kyl’s and McCain’s bill and deems George Mase’s action item a moot issue; so it should not be addressed by the tribal council.  We are monitoring this matter and will advise you when the council may act on Mase’s action item so you can attend the council meeting.

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Below is the report that Nuvamsa refers to in his message. You can also download the report as a PDF document by clicking here

June 16, 2012

To: Honorable Members of the Hopi Tribe

Honorable Members of the Hopi Tribal Council

June 15, 2012, was an historic day in the history of our tribe. Hopi village representatives, traditional leaders and tribal members gathered at the Hotevilla Elderly Center and overwhelmingly rejected Senator Jon Kyl’s and Senator John McCain’s Senate Bill 2109, the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012. At the end of the long day, the Hopi Tribal Council voted 11 to 4 to pass Action Item H-065-2012 that was endorsed by three former Hopi tribal chairmen and four former Hopi tribal vice chairmen, and sponsored by Vice Chairman Honanie, to reject Senate Bill 2109.

Our Action Item, No. H-065-2012, does several things: (1) it rejects Senate Bill 2109; (2) it prohibits any further negotiations of Senate Bill 2109 by the tribal chairman, Water & Energy Team and the tribal council; (3) it requires the tribal chairman to report the Hopi Tribal Council’s rejection of Senate Bill 2109 to Senator Jon Kyl, to the Congress, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and to the Department of Interior; (4) it requires that, if another water rights agreement comes before the tribe, that it will only be decided on by members of the Hopi Tribe through a voter referendum (not the tribal council) after a full and open consultation with and through participation of the villages and tribal members. The council vote also effectively killed the Agreement-in-Principle because without Senate Bill 2109, there is no Agreement-in-Principle.

Not one village, not one tribal member, and not one traditional leader supported Senate Bill 2109. Villages and traditional leaders provided written testimonies, in the form of letters, proclamations and resolutions, all opposing the Kyl/McCain bill. But despite the resounding opposition by the Hopi and Tewa people, there were four votes in opposition to Action Item H-065-2012, most notably by all three representatives from Sipaulovi.

The day did not start without controversy. First, tribal chairman Shingoitewa and Sipaulovi representative George Mase tried to surprise those in attendance by bringing George Mase’s Action Item, No. H-053-2012, to the council floor. But thanks to an objection raised by Kykotsmovi Village Representative Nada Talayumptewa and others, the matter was stopped. Action Item H-053-2012 proposes to endorse Senate Bill 2109.

Next, our request to hold the council meeting in larger facilities was not honored by Shingoitewa, but thanks to former vice chairman Qötsaquahu’s persistence, we forced a vote. After a unanimous vote, we moved the meeting to Hotevilla. Once we convened at Hotevilla, there was yet another attempt by Shingoitewa to exclude the news media. The news media was previously excluded by Shingoitewa in the morning session in council chambers. And again, at the insistence of Qötsaquahu, a vote was taken and the majority vote allowed the news media to stay. But Shingoitewa demanded there will be no recording of the proceedings.

At the outset of the meeting, we insisted that Shingoitewa and the council not control our presentations by limiting what we say and by limiting how long we take to make our presentations. But throughout the entire day, Shingoitewa consistently tried to limit and control our presentations. Because of his constant interruptions and time remaining in the day, many people who traveled from far away and took the time to speak, were not able to address the council. For this, I apologize to these people.

After the presentations, Vice Chairman Honanie made the motion, seconded by Rebecca Masayesva, to approve Action Item H-065-2012. It passed by a vote of 11 to 4. But after the meeting, Hopi chairman Shingoitewa was quoted as saying to the news media, “The tribe will continue water settlement talks with the Navajo Nation, and other industrial users including Peabody Coal and the Navajo Generating Station.” But passage of Action Item H-065-2012 is very specific in prohibiting Shingoitewa, the Water & Energy Team, and the Hopi Tribal Council from any further negotiations of Senate Bill 2109. This statement by Shingoitewa demonstrates his deliberate intention to disregard the voice of the people and would violate the new tribal law passed this day by the Hopi Tribal Council. If he does not abide by the mandate of the villages, traditional leaders and tribal members, and the tribal council, then it would constitute a direct violation of the tribal constitution.

Passage of our action item would now deem George Mase’s Action Item, H-053-2012, a moot issue. But Shingoitewa and Mase are intent on bringing this action item before the tribal council later this month. We encourage you to impose on your council representatives to require George Mase to withdraw his action item. We also encourage everyone to show up at the council chambers when this action item will be discussed and object to the council to act on this action item. Remember this right belongs to the villages, not the tribal council.

In closing, I want to express my deepest, heartfelt appreciation to everyone who participated in this very important issue. This includes all village governments and village leaders who took a stand by issuing proclamations, resolutions, letters; all traditional leaders who issued proclamations, the veterans, allottees, tribal members, and many more. In particular, I want to thank former tribal chairmen and vice chairmen who took personal responsibility to sign the action item and made very compelling arguments to the tribal council. We appreciate the Village of Hotevilla for offering their facility for the meeting. And finally, special appreciation goes to members of the tribal council who voted to support our action item. Your participation and stance against the dangerous Kyl/McCain bill will go down in the annals of our history.

Kwak’wha; Pai’lolmani, 

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Shungopavi Village, Bear Clan 

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman 

“We have to do something to stop this train…”: Benjamin H. Nuvamsa on SB 2109

Please distribute this video widely…

S.B 2109 and Potential Implications for Hopi

Please see below Benjamin H. Nuvamsa’s very informative PowerPoint presentation on the potential (negative) implications of S.B. 2109 for Hopi. Nuvamsa gave this presentation on March 12, 2012, out at First Mesa. Earlier today, two readers of my blog asked what they could do to help with Hopi attempts to prevent the passage of S.B. 2109. HELP SPREAD THE WORD. Let people know what’s going on. Also, many thanks to those readers who have already circulated my posts on S.B. 2109 via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Every bit helps.

Click to download PDF (45 pages)

“This bill is not good for Hopi”: Benjamin Nuvamsa on “S.2109 – Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012″

February 20, 2012

To the Hopi Tribal Council

To the Hopi and Tewa Senom

On the 100th birthday of the State of Arizona, February 14, 2012, Senator Jon Kyl (R), former Salt River Project attorney, introduced Senate Bill 2109, the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”, which would approve the settlement of water rights claims of the Hopi Tribe (and Navajo Nation) and allottees of both tribes. The bill would “resolve litigation against the United States concerning Colorado River operations affecting the States of California, Arizona, and Nevada and for other purposes”. This bill is not good for Hopi.

Senator Kyl, in introducing his bill, said: “Legally, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe may assert claims to larger quantities of water, but, as seen here, they do not have the means to make use of those water supplies in a safe and productive manner. Among water-law practitioners, the tribes may be said to have „paper water, as opposed to „wet water. Those claims are far reaching, extending beyond the mesas and plateaus of northern Arizona calling into question water uses in California and Nevada”. He continued: “In exchange for legal waivers, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe will receive critical water infrastructure”. This means the tribes will be required to waive their aboriginal water rights, or Winters Rights, (and rights of individual allottees) in order to receive groundwater delivery projects. But funding for these projects is not guaranteed. In fact, the bill relieves the federal government from funding the operation and maintenance of the projects.

Senator Kyl would not have introduced this bill without first obtaining concurrence of the Hopi Chairman and the Hopi Water and Energy Team. In fact, Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa is quoted in recent news articles as saying “Were very happy that weve gotten to this point where we are able to get things done, and the benefit is for our people”. I disagree with Shingoitewa. This bill is a death sentence because it would forever waive and extinguish the Hopi Tribe’s aboriginal rights, Winters Rights, including the rights of allottees, in exchange for a promise for groundwater projects without guaranteed federal funding. The bill does not acknowledge Hopi’s rights under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago.

It is no surprise that S.B. 2109 favors non-Indian water users such as the Arizona Public Service, Central Arizona Project, Navajo Generating Station (NGS), and Peabody Western Coal Company. In his presentation, Kyl said: “Importantly…(the bill) provides immeasurable benefits to non-Indian communities throughout Arizona, California, and Nevada”. Kyl, former attorney for the Salt River Project, will retire soon from the Senate and the negotiating teams are in a hurry to complete these agreements before he retires. The non-Indian water users need his continued support.

The bill ensures continued operation of NGS and Peabody Coal Company. It would give NGS about 34,000 acre feet per year of federal water rights that it currently does not own. The existing coal leases, brokered by the late John Boyden, already give Peabody exclusive subsurface rights to our water (Navajo Aquifer), coal and other and minerals. If this bill becomes law, NGS and Peabody would now have federal water rights to continue pumping water from the precious N-aquifer. And, Hopi and Navajo could lose all sovereign rights and authority over the coal leases and NGS operations.

Peabody and NGS damaged our environment, the N-aquifer, and our natural resources through almost 50 years of coal mining on our lands. Peabody pumped over 3.3 million gallons of pristine N-aquifer water each day to slurry coal to the Mohave Generating Station (MGS) until it was stopped by the tribes and MGS shut its doors in 2005. There is evidence now that the N-aquifer has, in fact, been damaged. The study by Dr. Daniel Higgins provides empirical evidence of water level decline at Kayenta and spring discharge decline at Moenkopi from excessive pumping. Our sacred springs are drying up and our drinking water supply is contaminated. But S.B. 2109 requires the tribes to agree to a “waiver and release of claims for water rights, injury to water rights, and injury to water quality from time immemorial and thereafter, forever…”

Our ancestors, Hisat Senom, occupied the Colorado Plateau and the Little Colorado River basin since time immemorial. When the federal government established the Hopi Indian Reservation, it set aside sufficient quantities of water to sustain our people. So, by the 1908 federal court decision in Winters v. United States, we have aboriginal and superior water rights over other water users. Yes, we need critical water delivery infrastructure. Yes, we need to quantify our Winters Rights. But these are aboriginal rights that we must not waive and give up. Water is sacred. It is central to our traditional ceremonies and our way of life. We have a sacred covenant to protect our resources and our Hopi way of life. Our forefathers and elders fought very hard to protect and preserve our sovereign rights. They fought hard to preserve everything that is Hopi. We cannot be forced to violate our moral conscience and abandon our religious rights guaranteed us by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Hopi and Tewa People have not been consulted, nor have they been informed of the terms and conditions of S.B. 2109 by Shingoitewa and the Hopi Water & Energy Team, yet these officials apparently expressed agreement with the proposed bill to allow Senator Kyl to introduce this bill. We also do not believe the entire Hopi Tribal Council was consulted. And while many question the legal composition of the Hopi Tribal Council, Hopi and Tewa People must mandate the tribal council to immediately reject this disastrous bill. Finally, any agreement to settle Hopi’s water rights must be done only through the vote of the People. Hopi and Tewa People have already demonstrated their disagreement with this Administration’s legislative agenda when they defeated, by a referendum vote, the proposed revision to the tribal constitution.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman

A Hopi discussion on coal mining, water rights, and the environment

[The following letter was written by former Hopi Tribe chairman Benjamin H. Nuvamsa from Shungopavi.  He presented the letter to the Hopi Tribal Council on Friday January 13, 2012]

January 13, 2012
Hopi Tribal Council
Hopi – Tewa Senom

It is time we have a serious discussion about coal mining on our reservation, our water rights and our environment.  For far too long, we have pushed these issues aside, not willing to talk about how these issues impact our lives.  We must talk about how the Peabody Western Coal Company and Navajo Generating Station are affecting our lives.  Since the mid 1960’s, Peabody Coal has been mining our coal, pumping our precious Navajo Aquifer water and paying us pennies on the dollar in return.  Navajo Generating Station is emitting dangerous and harmful particulates into the air we breathe.  Our coal resources are being depleted.  Our Navajo Aquifer has been damaged and is decreasing.  Our drinking water supply is contaminated; and our sacred springs are drying up.  And, our people are suffering health problems from the mining activity and production of electricity.  But who is really benefiting from this mining?

Most people know about how Attorney John Boyden, with the help of the Interior Department, managed to negotiate coal leases designed to benefit the coal mining industry and the utility companies.  They literally stole our coal and water right from under us; and we allowed it to happen.  We were sold a bill of goods by Boyden.  Sadly, we are still allowing this to continue as evidenced by the latest Hopi tribal council’s action to approve the Peabody Lease Reopener.

Our elected leaders are being told by Peabody Coal, Office of Surface Mining, and by the Salt River Project (and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station) that if they did not approve the lease reopeners, that our tribal economy would suffer.  I do not believe this story.  It was the Federal government, in the first place, that determined what our economy would be; who would mine our coal and use our water; and literally what price we would be paid.  The Federal government created a monopoly for Peabody Coal.  Although it is our water and our coal, we were not allowed to make these decisions.  We could not exercise our inherent sovereign right to determine our own economic future.  Those decisions were taken away from us when the Federal government pushed the coal leases with Sentry Royalty (Peabody’s predecessor).  We did not have control over our resources and our economy.  We still don’t.  The Federal government designed these leases so that we would become dependent on coal royalties.

So what happens with the money we get from Peabody Coal?  We get a mere $11.0 to $13.0 million each year from Peabody Coal in the form of coal royalties and some bonuses.  This money is put into an investment account at the Department of Interior’s Office of Trust Funds Management in Albuquerque, but most of it is given to the Hopi Water and Energy Team for their travel and other expenses.  Most of this money is used by attorneys and other specialists to produce biased reports that our resources are safe and have not been damaged.  Hopi and Tewa Senom have no say in how this money is used.  Very little, if any of this money is used to create jobs and help villages.

So, as owners of the resources, we have to ask hard questions, such as:  Do we really need coal mining on our reservation?  Is it worth the loss of our resources? Is it worth damaging our resources and environment?  Is it worth the health and welfare of our people?  Again, we must ask:  Who is really benefiting from coal mining on our reservation?  Peabody Coal is a global company.  The ten-year coal leases give Peabody Coal full subsurface rights to our coal, water and other minerals (except oil and gas).  The leases give Peabody Coal full rights to the millions/billions of tons of our coal for which they do not pay us anything until they mine the coal.  Because of how the leases are structured, we cannot market our coal to other companies to get better prices and have a say on how our coal is mined.

Peabody Coal reported that in October 2011, its net income rose to $274.1 million, or a rise of 22.3% from last year.  Its revenues rose 9.2% to $2.04 billion from last year.  The Navajo Generating Station buys the coal from Peabody Coal to produce electricity.  The power plant is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (24.3%) Salt River Project (21.7%), Los Angeles Water & Power (21.2%), Arizona Public Service (14.0%), Nevada Power (11.3%), and Tucson Gas & Electric (7.5%).  Salt River Project recently reported a profit of over 26.0% in 2011.  Peabody Coal, in its 2005 report, said it paid the State of Arizona about $67.5 million during the period 1986 to 2004; and paid the Navajo Nation over $82.9 million in various forms of taxes during the same period.  Hopi did not and does not receive any tax revenues because of a reported covenant to not tax Peabody.  So, who is benefiting from coal mining?

So what should do?  Should we continue coal mining, or should we enter into alternative forms of energy production, or should we just stop coal mining?  In any event, we must exercise our sovereign right to decide for ourselves, and decide our own economic future; and no longer allow the Federal government, owners of the Navajo Generating Station, and Peabody Coal to dictate our economy to us.

The Hopi Tribe (and the Navajo Nation) holds the key to the economy of the entire Southwest.  It is our coal and water that makes it possible for Arizona, southern Nevada and southern California to have electric power.  And, while others profit handsomely from our diminishing resources, our tribal socioeconomic conditions remain dismal.  We get no direct benefit from coal mining revenues, we have limited or no jobs, our homes are in disrepair; and many of us do not have electricity and running water in our homes.  After almost 50 years, we have nothing to show how coal mining on our reservation has improved our lives.

Our economic future starts with a serious round of discussions; adoption of sound energy and water policies; and renegotiating the Peabody Coal leases to demand higher prices and accountably for the damage they have done to our resources.  It also starts with the tribe imposing taxes on Peabody Coal.  It starts with requiring the Navajo Generating Station to comply with strict Federal emissions control regulations.  And, it starts with holding our trustee, the Federal government, to carry out its trust obligations to us.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa
Former Hopi Tribal Chairman


Copyright Notice

© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an associate professor of American Indian Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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