PRESS RELEASE – Former Hopi Leaders Want Disclosure

PRESS RELEASE

Former leaders of the Hopi Tribe Object to Senator Jon Kyl’s Bill and Introduce Tribal Legislation to Reject Senate Bill 2109, the “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”.

Contact: Benjamin Nuvamsa, (928) 380-6677

Vernon Masayesva, (928) 255-2356

Ivan Sidney, (928) 205-5504

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Vernon Masayesva, Ivan Sidney and Benjamin Nuvamsa, former Hopi tribal chairmen; and Clifford Qötsaquahu, and Caleb Johnson, former Hopi vice chairmen, have endorsed a Hopi Tribal Council Action Item that would require Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa to call a Special Tribal Council Meeting to listen to the testimony of the Hopi and Tewa People on the federal legislation introduced by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl (R) concerning tribal water rights. The former tribal elected leaders are echoing the concerns of tribal members over the provisions of the water settlement bill introduced by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl.

On February 14, 2012, Senator Jon Kyl (R), introduced Senate Bill, 2109, the “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Rights Settlement Act of 2012”, that contains several dangerous provisions for the Hopi Tribe and which requires a permanent waiver of the Hopi Tribe’s rights to the Little Colorado River and possibly the Lower Colorado River, in exchange for municipal groundwater delivery projects for the Hopi villages.

Former Chairman Nuvamsa said: “We are in the fight of our life. Our tribal government is in the process of negotiating away what remains of our sovereignty, our precious water rights. The Hopi Tribal Council does not have the legal authority to permanently waive and extinguish our aboriginal and ancestral rights to our water. Those rights belong to our traditional villages. The aboriginal rights and powers of our traditional villages have never been, nor will they ever be delegated to the Hopi Tribal Council.”

Former Chairman Masayesva said “Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa and the Water & Energy Team are in the process of permanently waiving our traditional water rights without first consulting with, and gaining approval of our traditional villages and the Hopi – Tewa people.”

Former Chairman Sidney said “Arizona Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain are pressuring our tribal government to permanently sign away our water rights, in exchange for giving outside corporations and interests, exclusive life-of-mine leases to our remaining coal fields and all the free water they need to process the coal to make electricity and ensure the Central Arizona Project canal continues to provide water to non-Indian lands.”

Senate Bill 2109, when it becomes federal law, may permanently waive and extinguish Hopi’s rights to the waters in the Little Colorado River system and possibly the Lower Colorado River system; and will prevent Hopi from filing future claims for damages to water quality and quantity.

This means Hopi cannot file claims for damages to the Navajo Aquifer, for contamination of domestic water supplies, and for the drying of sacred Hopi springs.

“The bill contains empty promises for funding of groundwater delivery projects but exempts the federal government from liability if Congress does not provide funding for the projects. It heavily favors non-Indian interests and will give federal water rights to the Navajo Generating Station. It will ensure that Peabody Western Coal Company continue mining coal and pumping the Navajo Aquifer. If this bill becomes federal law, Hopi may permanently lose all sovereign rights or authority over its coal leases”, said former Vice Chairman Qötsaquahu.

The former Hopi tribal elected leaders said, “Water is sacred and is central to our Hopi and Tewa Way of Life; and we have a sacred covenant to protect our traditions, our ceremonies and our resources. Our ancestors occupied the Colorado Plateau, the Colorado River, and Little Colorado River basins since time immemorial so we have superior aboriginal, ancestral, federal reserved rights to the surface and subsurface waters in the river systems. We have aboriginal water rights under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Kyl bill could extinguish these rights. Water rights belong to our traditional villages. These rights have never been delegated to the Hopi Tribal Council so neither Chairman Shingoitewa, the Water & Energy Team, nor the Hopi Tribal Council have the legal authority to waive these rights.”

“We want Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa to honor this request and hold a Special Hopi Tribal Council meeting immediately so that our members can have a say in this important matter. If he does not honor this request, then he will be in direct violation of the Hopi Tribe’s constitution; and we will have no option but to pursue our remedies through our courts.

“We believe it should be our traditional villages and our people, the rightful owners of water rights, who should decide on this matter and not the Hopi Chairman, the Water and Energy Team, and Hopi Tribal Council.”

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Click here for the official press release.

Hopi and Tewa Villages Own Winters Rights

[The following letter was written by Benjamin H. Nuvamsa (Shungopavi), former Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, and Gary LaRance (Upper Moenkopi), former Chief Judge of the Hopi Tribal Court ]

                                                                                   February 24, 2012

Hopi and Tewa Villages Own Winters Rights

Our ancestors, the Hisat Senom, occupied the Colorado Plateau long before the coming of any other ethnic group. Anthropologists referred to us as the Anasazi, Moqui and Sinaqua. Occupation of our ancestral lands is evidenced by our ancient ruins and through documented research by anthropologists. These sites are proof of that our clans historically occupied this region before the settlement of any other people. We, Hopi Senom, practiced our traditional forms of government, ceremonies, and land and water use practices that sustained us back then and still sustain us today.

In the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, entered into between the United States and Mexico, indigenous people were recognized as having sovereign rights, including water rights. This included the Pueblos of what is now the State of New Mexico and the Hopi (Moqui). The indigenous people were deemed to be citizens of Mexico; and the United States committed, under Title VIII of the Treaty, to honor and protect the property rights of those citizens that chose to remain in the ceded territories. Some of the Pueblos of New Mexico, after proving their Mexican land grants, were successful in claiming their Guadalupe Hidalgo rights in their water rights settlements. Hopi villages also have a legitimate argument to claim their water rights under the Treaty.

Our villages existed long before the federal government established our homelands in 1882, as a federal Indian reservation, and certainly long before the formation of our modern day central tribal government. In fact, when Oliver LaFarge was sent to our reservation in 1935 by the federal government to craft a new tribal constitution, he consulted with our village Kikmom’nqwit (traditional village chiefs) on how the new tribal constitution should be developed. Our Kikmom’ngwit gave specific instructions to LaFarge to protect the sovereign powers of the villages, and only to provide limited powers to the central tribal government.

Today, our tribal constitution, adopted in 1936, recognizes the inherent, self-governing powers of our traditional villages. It outlines certain limited authorities granted to the new central tribal government by our villages. Other powers not delegated to the central government are inherent to, and remain as reserved powers of the villages. The reserved village rights include aboriginal, ancestral water rights. Recently, the Hopi Appellate Court issued its Final Answer to Bacavi Village’s Certified Question, and said that our villages always had powers called “inherent aboriginal sovereignty”.

But Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa tried to change our village traditional and inherent powers when he and his attorney, Robert Lyttle, introduced Draft 24A as a revision to our tribal constitution. Draft 24A would have diminished, and perhaps destroyed the traditional powers of our villages by making the villages a fourth branch of the central tribal government. Some of us saw the dangers of Draft 24A and quickly went to the villages to educate tribal members of these dangers. Shingoitewa’s crazy idea was soundly defeated by tribal members in a referendum vote. Now, we find we must fight again to protect our sacred village water rights that Shingoitewa and the Water and Energy Team may have given away in the pending water rights negotiations.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in the 1908 Winters v. United States case, that when the federal government establishes an Indian reservation, it reserves sufficient quantities of water to sustain the reservation. When this case was decided, there was no central Hopi tribal government. Only the traditional villages existed, as was the case when the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. Sothere is sufficient legal argument that our traditional villages own the Winters Rights and Guadalupe Hidalgo rights, not the central Hopi tribal government.

We recently learned that Shingoitewa and the Water & Energy Team agreed to allow Arizona Senator Jon Kyl to introduce Senate Bill 2109, which, if it becomes federal law, would permanently waive our water rights to the Little Colorado River. This Shingoitewa did without first consulting with the villages and the Hopi and Tewa people, much less with the Hopi Tribal Council. More importantly, he did so without having the proper legal authority and without the approval of the villages. Our tribal constitution prevents the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of tribal lands, or other tribal property. A water right is treated as a right to property. This means Shingoitewa and the Water & Energy Team violated our tribal constitution and violated the property (water) rights of our villages.

This action by Shingoitewa and the Water and Energy Team may also be an unconstitutional and wrongful taking of property without just compensation under federal and Hopi tribal law. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibits any Indian tribe from taking private property for a public use without just compensation. This means the villages would arguably have a legitimate claim for compensation against the Hopi central government and Shingoitewa for the unlawful taking of their water rights (property) if the Hopi Tribe proceeds with the water rights settlement agreement and waives the aboriginal water rights of the villages.

Our villages may assert their water rights under the following legal theories: (1) “aboriginal, ancestral” water rights derived from time immemorial when our ancestors occupied the Colorado Plateau and settled in the villages; (2) water rights granted the villages from the Spain and Mexico when these countries governed the southwest as documented in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and (3) water rights established under federal law, specifically the “Winters Doctrine”.

Our constitution also mandates the tribal council to protect our traditions and ceremonies. Water is sacred and is central to our Hopi way of life. As Hopi Senom, we have a sacred covenant to protect our traditions, our ceremonies and our natural resources. Important matters such as land and water are properly addressed by our traditional leaders. Just as he and his attorney did with the proposed constitution, Draft 24A, Shingoitewa continues to ignore and show his disrespect for the traditional powers of our villages and traditional leaders. He fails to recognize and understand why our ceremonies are crucial to the preservation of our culture. Neither Shingoitewa, the Hopi Water & Energy Team, nor the Hopi Tribal Council have the legal right and authority to waive our village aboriginal and Winters Rights. This is why we must stop Shingoitewa and the Water & Energy Team from further damaging and waiving the villages’ federal reserved and aboriginal water rights.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa                               Gary LaRance
Former Hopi Tribal Chairman                    Former Chief Judge, Hopi Tribal Court
Shungopavi Village, Bear Clan                  Upper Moenkopi Village, Sun Clan

Nuvamsa letter to Hopi Tribal Council and PowerPoint to “Water is Life” forum

Peabody Coal Leases PowerPoint / Nov 12, 2011 / Click to download (24 pages)

                                                                                               November 14, 2011

Honorable Hopi Tribal Council Members:

Enclosed is a copy of a presentation on Peabody Coal Leases that was presented at our recent “Water is Life” forum on November 12, 2011, held at the Hopi Veterans’ Memorial Center.

As you may know, the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation entered into three separate leases with Sentry Royalty Company (predecessor to Peabody Western Coal) beginning in the mid-1960’s. The Navajo Nation has a “Navajo Exclusive” lease (No. 8580) and shares another lease with the Hopi Tribe (No. 9910). Peabody pays 12.5% of monthly gross realization (royalty) on Lease 8580 to Navajo; and pays 6.25% monthly gross realization to both Hopi and Navajo under Lease 9910. The leases now provide for renegotiation every ten years, referred to as “Lease Reopener”. Lease 9910 has not been formally approved by Hopi although it was due for renewal in 2007. Navajo approved its portions in April 2011.

Coal from the Black Mesa Mine was dedicated to the Mohave Generating Station (MGS), but MGS shut its operations in 2005. Today, very little if any mining is occurring in the Black Mesa Mine area. Coal mined on the Kayenta Mine area is delivered to NGS and royalties are shared by the two tribes under Lease 9910 Lease; and Navajo receives all royalties under is lease, No. 8580.

Since the inception of the leases, Peabody Coal has not paid Hopi and Navajo at current fair market prices for the coal it mined and the water it pumped for mining operations. During its heyday, Peabody pumped over 3.3 million gallons each day from our precious Navajo Aquifer to slurry coal, over 275 miles from Black Mesa to MGS in Laughlin, Nevada. Since it began mining, Peabody mined over 400 million tons of coal from the Black Mesa and Kayenta mines.

If you review the leases, you will find the leases provided only for leasing of surface acres. No consideration was made on the value of the massive coal and water deposits that were the subject of the leases. No appraisals or valuation of the coal and water deposits were made to determine the fair market value of these resources. As a result, the tribes lost millions, if not billions, of revenues since the inception of the leases. Yet, by virtue of the leases, Peabody obtained exclusive subsurface rights to our vast deposits of coal and water without paying a dime for them. We (the tribes and the federal government) allowed Peabody to build a considerable company portfolio at our expense. This coal and water became an asset to Peabody that it would leverage for other business ventures. Tribal coal and water were “locked in” for the duration of the leases and tribes could not re-negotiate the terms of the leases, or could they leverage the resources. The leases effectively kept the tribes from diversifying their respective economies because the tribes lost control over the resources.

In a typical business scenario, a company would buy raw materials that it would use in manufacturing its products. Not so under the Peabody coal leases. The tribes received no upfront payments for the coal and water Peabody secured under the leases. Instead, tribes are compensated minimally (12.5% and 6.25% gross monthly realization) when Peabody sells the coal to NGS. Incidentally, the royalty rates were the subject of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) which is a matter for later discussion.

Peabody and owners of NGS receive considerable benefits from the production and sale of electricity using our coal and water. Yet the tribes do not participate in the sharing of profits. See the Value Chain chart in the presentation. The chart depicts that owners of NGS (Arizona Public Service, Tucson Gas & Electric, Bureau of Reclamation, Salt River Project, Los Angeles Water & Power, and Nevada Power) are also “customers” of NGS.

Concerning tax revenues, while the Navajo Nation and the State of Arizona receive some tax revenues, the Hopi Tribe receives no tax revenues because it does not impose taxes on Peabody because of a reported covenant to not tax Peabody. In its 2005 report, Peabody reported that the Navajo Nation received over $82.9 million in various forms of taxes during the period 1986 to 2004, while the State of Arizona received over $67.5 million during the same period.

Payments made by Peabody are not commensurate with the profits they earn from our resources. Hopi only receives about $11.0 million to $13.0 million in royalties and other benefits each year from Peabody, very little, if any, of which goes to our people. But Peabody reported that its revenues rose 21% to a record $2.0 billion; and its operating profits rose 41% to $458 million for the Quarter ending June 2011. Peabody’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer alone received a salary of $11.9 million in 2009; and its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer earned $4.1 million. And the Salt River Project recently reported a profit of over 26% in 2011.

After almost 50 years of mining, we have nothing to show how the mining of our coal and the pumping of our precious Navajo Aquifer has benefited us. Simply look around. We have dilapidated infrastructure, dismal housing conditions, limited water supply, contaminated drinking water, limited scholarships, limited or no jobs, etc. Our socioeconomic conditions remain dismal while Peabody, NGS and their holding companies make significant profits from our resources. It is time to make a change in the structure of the coal leases so that our tribe, our villages, and our people can all benefit from sale of our resources:

  • Demand upfront payments for coal and water that will be the subject of the leases on an annual basis at fair market prices.
  • Increase the monthly royalties to reflect current fair market rates (instead of a minimum 12.5% and 6.25%).
  • Demand that Peabody complies with the leases and find alternative sources of water, other than using the Navajo Aquifer; and reclaim and repair the area including damages to the aquifers.
  • Limit the leases to coal and water, and exclude other “kindred” products.
  • Enact a tax ordinance and begin imposing possessory interest taxes, business activity taxes, sales taxes, fuel excise taxes, severance taxes, etc. on Peabody.
  • Hold Peabody accountable for damage done to our resources, including damages to our archaeological resources.
  • If Peabody refuses to amend its lease and agree to these conditions, seek competition to find a more responsible and accountable lessee.
  • Develop alternative uses of our resources and transition to use of alternative energy.
  • And impose on the Secretary of Interior Salazar to declare that Material Damage has occurred on Black Mesa and the Navajo Aquifer. There is clear evidence of damages done to our resources.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Shungopavi Village

Former Hopi Chairman