Archive for August, 2012

Upcoming talk at the Louis Tewanima Footrace Pre-Race Dinner

On Sunday September 2, the Louis Tewanima Footrace Committee will host the annual Footrace at the village of Shungopavi on Second Mesa. This year is a particularly special one as the Committee is organizing the event to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Louis Tewanima’s silver medal performance in the 10,000 meter Olympic race in Stockholm, Sweden.

In addition to running in the 10K, I have been asked by race officials to speak on Tewanima at the pre-race dinner the night before on September 1. I am scheduled to speak at 7:00PM (MST) at the Shungopavi Community Center. The pre-race dinner is free and open to the public. For more information on the Footrace, and to obtain registration materials, please visit the following website: http://tewanimafootrace.org/

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THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “Hopi Tribe unfairly blamed in water-settlement collapse” by LeRoy N. Shingoitewa

The following letter is an opinion piece that Hopi Tribe Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa published in The Arizona Republic on August 27, 2012. http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/20120823hopi-tribe-water-settlement-collapse.html

Hopi Tribe unfairly blamed in water-settlement collapse

by LeRoy N. Shingoitewa

I was disappointed to see the Hopi Tribe’s position on the Little Colorado River water settlement so badly mischaracterized in a Viewpoints column written by U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain (“An endless water fight,” Aug. 12).

The settlement would resolve the rights of many parties to water in the Little Colorado’s basin and was reached after 13 years of negotiations between the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and numerous federal and state parties.

I am acutely aware of the need for water for our people. More than 40 percent of the homes on the Hopi Reservation have no running water or indoor plumbing. Many Hopi villages receive water with more than four times the allowable levels of arsenic. Water for another village is threatened by uranium pollution. We participated in the settlement negotiations to resolve these problems. There are no Hopi Tribal Council representatives who prefer litigation over settlement.

Despite our support for the settlement, the Hopi Tribal Council also voted to oppose certain provisions in Kyl’s implementing legislation that are extraneous to the water-rights settlement. Specifically, the Council objected to provisions requiring the Navajo Nation to provide water for the Navajo Generating Station or to renew coal-mining leases. Hopi negotiators did not participate in “crafting” these sections.

While these issues are very important, they are not related to ensuring an adequate, sustainable supply of water for our people. Combining these two issues was both unwise and unnecessary.

We informed Kyl of our objections when he joined these two issues. We also communicated the reasons for our position on the proposed legislation. Prior to his column, we submitted suggestions to make the legislation consistent with the settlement agreement. We asked him to remove provisions from the legislation that have nothing to do with the water settlement and to clarify ambiguities in the legislation to comport with assurances we received during the negotiating process. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a response.

Kyl and McCain unfairly blame the tribes for rejecting the settlement, even though on July 5 the Hopi Tribal Council voted to approve the settlement. All the parties to the settlement negotiations are responsible for the outcome, not just the Hopi Tribe. The state and private parties, who spent millions of dollars on legal fees for the negotiations, will have to answer to their ratepayers and customers for what is now a failed settlement.

Unfortunately, it appears Kyl and McCain have given up hope of enacting legislation to implement the settlement. We are disappointed.

I suspect many of the private parties in northeastern Arizona — who negotiated long and hard for the certainty they desire — are equally disappointed that their interests were overwhelmed by the generating station. After all, none of the power produced by the generating station is consumed in our region. It all subsidizes the pumping of Central Arizona Project water to Phoenix and Tucson.

With all due respect to Kyl, if he had not insisted on including the generating-station issue, the water settlement would be final and on its way to enactment.

I thank Arizona’s senators for their efforts to promote the settlement. In recognition of his impending retirement, I’d also like to thank Kyl for his service to the people of Arizona and wish him well in future endeavors.

The Hopi Tribe stands ready to work with his successor and Arizona’s congressional delegation to solve our water concerns, as well as those of our neighbors. The generating station should be dealt with separately, however, in recognition of the fact that it is a separate issue.

LeRoy N. Shingoitewa is chairman of the Hopi Tribe.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “An endless tribal water fight” by Jon Kyl and John McCain

The following editorial by Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain appeared in The Arizona Republic on August 13, 2012. The article provides a brief history of Southwest Indian water rights. It also explains their reasons why the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe rejected the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act, and expresses hope that the “Indian parties” will one day agree to a resolution that will provide the people with “wet” water instead of “paper” water.

———–

An endless tribal water fight

Navajos, Hopis opted to let a long-sought settlement slip away

by Jon Kyl and John McCain

“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting.”
That aphorism, long popular among Western water folks, was the prevailing sentiment in the Southwest for the past century. From the riverbank to Congress to the courts, water users fought for water rights.
But victories were not always satisfying. The best one could hope for was a paper decree quantifying water rights. Especially for Indian tribes, what they really needed was not “paper” water but actual “wet” water.
As a result, parties began to negotiate settlements that not only resolved water claims but also included congressionally authorized funding for Indian water projects, upheld federal trust responsibilities and created certainty for non-Indian communities. Even when all the parties are working together, actually achieving a water settlement — particularly coming up with the funding — is usually very hard to do. We saw that recently with the failure of the settlement that included the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.

We’ve been asked to provide some history, briefly describe the settlement provisions, and discuss the prospect of a congressional resolution to the decades-long dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court laid the foundation for Indian water-rights claims in 1908, when it ruled that the United States reserved water for Indian reservations. The nature and extent of those water rights, however, remained unclear. Decades of litigation ensued, with tribes, the federal government, states and numerous other claimants fighting it out at the state courthouse. In Arizona, for example, Indian and non-Indian water users have spent more than 30 years trying to resolve claims to the Gila and Little Colorado rivers — expending millions of dollars in the process. Ongoing litigation has also stifled economic growth and development for communities throughout Arizona.
In recent years, those claimants have found a better way to resolve their competing claims. The negotiated water-settlement framework allows the parties to avoid the high costs and uncertainty associated with protracted litigation, while enabling them to define the extent of their water rights and, with legislation, secure funding to put that water to productive use.
Moreover, settlement affords parties the opportunity to proactively address complex and interrelated water issues in a mutually beneficial manner. They can tailor solutions to their specific circumstances by, for example, developing plans to prevent aquifer depletions or to protect sacred springs (two concerns of the Navajos and Hopis). This is why more than two dozen tribes have opted to settle their claims rather than cede that determination to state courts.
The most recent example of such a settlement involves the White Mountain Apache Tribe, which worked with stakeholders to craft an agreement that will provide its Fort Apache Reservation with a reservoir and drinking-water infrastructure while enabling non-Indian parties to better plan for their water future without the high cost of continued litigation against the tribe. The legislation implementing that settlement was enacted into law in 2010.
Likewise, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe opted to negotiate with the federal government, Arizona and numerous state parties to resolve their water claims. The initial effort centered on both the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River. While we all would have preferred a settlement for both rivers, the Colorado portion ultimately proved too costly in this fiscal climate, so the settlement focused on the Little Colorado only.
The parties’ representatives negotiated both a settlement agreement and legislation that would have recognized and satisfied the tribes’ claims to the Little Colorado River, placed limits on non-Indian water uses, reserved 27,089 acre-feet of water for a future Colorado River settlement and provided more than $350million in funding for three drinking-water projects to serve the Navajo and Hopi people.
Unfortunately, both tribes voted not to proceed with the legislation. There seemed to be three reasons. First, some objected to the fact that we introduced the legislation before formal approval by the parties — but that is standard practice and was agreed to by the parties’ representatives. The object was to protect our place in the legislative queue pending formal approval of the agreement by each party. Given the limited time available this year to request hearings and move the bill, we believed this was prudent, and we assured the parties that formal approval by all parties — including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe — had to occur before we would move forward in Congress.
A second concern centered on the inclusion of a provision involving Navajo Generating Station in order to provide the Navajo Nation the option of securing Central Arizona Project water for the significant population in and around Window Rock. Without that option, the additional water would not be available until the Navajo Nation resolved its claim to the Colorado River. We believed it was important to find a way to get water to Window Rock, and after a lot of work, the parties, including Navajo and Hopi representatives, crafted that provision. But their tribal councils identified it as one of the reasons they opposed the settlement legislation.
Finally, it appears that some believed the tribes would be better off litigating their claims in state court, notwithstanding the financial drain of protracted litigation and the fact that litigation produces no funding for projects to put the water to use.
While we respect the Navajo and Hopi councils’ decisions, we regret that they have closed the already narrow window of opportunity to pass legislation this year. With tight fiscal constraints in Washington, we see little prospect for settling their claims with supporting legislation in the foreseeable future. We will, of course, continue to work with all the parties. We particularly hope the Indian parties choose to pursue a resolution that will allow them to achieve not just water rights on paper, but to actually secure “wet” water for their people.
Jon Kyl and John McCain represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.

Hopi Tumalhoymuy Tutuveniam – August 2012

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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2017. 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 in the Department of History and a Dean's Fellow and Conrad Humanities Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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