MacDonald: If Navajo can build casinos, it can build waterlines – Story by Kathy Helms of the Gallup Independent

MacDonald:                                                                                                                                             If Navajo can build casinos, it can build waterlines

Gallup Independent                                                           June 7, 2012

By Kathy Helms

Diné Bureau

WINDOW ROCK — If the Navajo Nation can borrow $200 million to build casinos, why would it give away the Navajo people’s future for $199 million worth of groundwater projects when it could borrow the money, build the pipelines itself and not have to answer to anybody?

That’s what former Navajo Nation Chairman Peter Mac-Donald wants to know.

“It doesn’t make sense to me at all,” he said. “You don’t have to give anything away that belongs to your people and particularly to the future generation.”

But that is exactly what Navajo will be doing if it agrees to the proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement and the two water projects it offers, he believes.

“It’s really sickening to see senators and representatives exploit the economic misery of the Navajo people, their constituents, by telling lies and saying that because these people are hauling water with a wagon, we’re going to fix it by this Senate Bill 2109. My God, that’s the kind of rhetoric they have been using over the past 100 years to steal all of Native American precious resources,”MacDonald said last week.

“Everybody hauls water in pickup trucks. How can anyone accept that without asking for an apology? It’s fraud.”

He said rather than having a picture of Dr. Adrienne Ruby and her horses and wagon in the background when U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl introduced S.2109, he should have had a big sign stating, “Help us steal more water from the Indians.”

All of these federal “socalled help for the Indians” attempts have resulted in misery and deprivation, MacDonald said, citing the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute as example. “It’s the same kind of tactics that are being used on this settlement. ‘We’re going to fix the Indian problem. They’re not going to have to haul water anymore, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ Well, a hundred years from now, it’s going to be even worse than that. We’re going to be taking our buckets down to Phoenix to get some water,” he said.

No matter what anyone says, Navajo has primary rights to all the water within the four sacred mountains, MacDonald said. “The Winters’ doctrine, and the laws that were put in place by the Supreme Court back in 1908 are still there. The Treaty of 1868 has not been changed either. All of us who are aware of these water rights fights know that over the past 100 years, western states have been trying every way they can to get Native American water rights away from Native Americans, even to the point of stealing it.”

MacDonald has written a list of recommendations on how Navajo should go about quantifying its water — something he says is not found in the settlement. Navajo should throw away the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin Compact — “a method used by the seven states to steal our water” — and pursue litigation against the United States using Winters’ doctrine, which establishes rights prior to Arizona and New Mexico statehoods.

“The lawyers that we have say, ‘Oh, no, Congress says all the water rights litigation has to go through state court.’ That may be what it says, but Winters’ doctrine doesn’t say that. Yes, the states my try to come in and the federal judge may let them come in, but so what. It’s your lawsuit and you are going to assert water rights before the states were drawn.”

Navajo should plan to spend as much as $25 million a year to get the world’s best water rights expert to fight the United States. “For goodness sake, don’t use Window Rock lawyers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Navajo could build two or three water systems similar to Central Arizona Project. “You go get the money just like you got the money for the casino. This is your land. You said you’re sovereign. Use your sovereignty to build the water system for your people, for your nation. You’ don’t need anybody’s approval to build these water lines because you can finance it yourself,” he said.

“All the things that the government is doing here is based on treaty obligation. We don’t have to give up anything for them to build roads, to build hospitals, to build schools for us. Why are we going to give up everything for them to build a water line for us? That’s wrong, wrong, wrong. You don’t have to be a water rights expert to see that that’s wrong,” he said, adding that Navajo Generating Station and Peabody have no place in the water rights question.

Asked whether he supports a referendum on the proposed Little Colorado River settlement, MacDonald said there’s nothing wrong with a referendum, but Navajo also has elected leaders to watch out for the people’s interest. “Why should they be leaders and let the public make a decision unless there’s really two defining issues that are equally one way or the other?

“But this is not that way. This is a case where somebody has stolen 100 head of your sheep and you know where it is and who is herding that sheep with your brand and your earmark on them. The guy is saying, ‘I know this was your sheep, but it’s mine now. If you want something, if you agree not to sue me — any claim you have on these sheep, you’ve got to waive it — in return for you not to bother me, I’m going to give you one old ewe. The other 99 I’m going to keep. Leave me alone.’ That’s the situation. How could you have a referendum on something like that?

“Or to make it even worse, they want to cut the tail off one sheep and they want to give you that tail back for you to shut up forever, and they want to keep the rest of the sheep. You want a referendum on something like that?”

Kathy Helms of Gallup Independent on forum to address Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues

This just in from the Gallup Independent

Forum to focus on Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues

By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK – The people of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are at a crossroads, according to former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa. The dilemma hinges on whether to continue accepting pennies on the dollar for their resources from outside entities, or take the bull by the horns and create “economic sovereignty” for themselves.

A public forum sponsored by the Inter-Tribal COALition to address tribal water, coal, environmental, cultural and economic issues affecting the tribes will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 on the sixth floor of the Native American Community Building, 4520 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Presenters include Daniel Higgins, Ph.D., Sean Gnant of the Brewer Law Firm, Milton Bluehouse Sr., and Nuvamsa. Navajo Nation Council delegates, Hopi Tribal Council members, and interested members of both tribes are asked to attend the forum to learn more about their common issues.

“We believe that we are at the crossroads. Many of these entities are after our water and our coal. We kind of stand, so to speak, at the headwaters of all these resources,” Nuvamsa said.

Coal from the tribes is used to generate electricity so the people in southern Arizona, southern California and Nevada will have electricity in their homes. The massive Central Arizona Project depends on power from Navajo Generating Station so the federal government can deliver surface water to tribes and municipalities in southern Arizona, he said.

“The sad part is that these entities that are using these resources to provide these services to the people and generate profits are not paying us at the fair market value for our water and our coal,” while the tribal councils are prematurely agreeing to settlements without properly informing their people, he said.

“For example, the lease reopener that’s before the Hopi Council – there ought to be increased royalties. Instead of one-time bonuses, there ought to be annual bonuses. There ought to be higher scholarships – $85,000 (for Hopi) is nothing.”

In addition, provisions in the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement could hold Peabody Energy and others harmless for all past, present and future damages to the water quality. “I think these are the kinds of things that people need to know, that our tribal councils are agreeing to these things,” he said, adding that the companies should be held accountable for damages and the federal government should be held accountable for not enforcing the rules.

“Both nations ought to be able to say, ‘OK, we have this precious resource, we’re going to take all bidders,’ and be able to go out and compete for higher prices, not have it handed to Peabody Coal. We ought to be able to make those decisions ourselves. I call that economic sovereignty,” Nuvamsa said.

During last week’s meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes on the proposed water rights settlement – which many have linked to the future survival of NGS and the Central Arizona Project – Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said a change of policy may be in order in terms of the use of Navajo resources by outside entities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles.

Begaye said Navajo historically has focused on “outsourcing” its minerals and water resources rather than looking inward to see how they can be used to benefit the Navajo people. He proposed that Navajo look at developing local community-based generating plants which produce up to 10 megawatts of electricity.

“The town of Shiprock where I’m the delegate – about 18,000 folks – we can probably use 2 to 3 megawatts to run the whole community, and the rest we could outsource and sell to outside entities or other communities on our land, using a combination of coal, wind and solar.”

Rather than building mega-plants to power up electricity in other places, if a company said, “’We want to come alongside you and develop those resources to light up your communities on the reservation, to give water to homes on your land, and be able to do it in such a way that these communities can start selling these sources to outside entities,’ then we’re really talking about a trust responsibility that builds the Nation first,” Begaye said.

“I think the focus needs to turn from Phoenix to the Navajo Nation, from Los Angeles to the Navajo Nation. That policy change, if it takes place, will resolve a lot of our issues. We are sitting on gold mines, but those gold mines are being used by outside entities.”

Navajos travel to major cities across the West and “dream about the days when we may have those stores and those manufacturing plants,” Begaye said, all the while knowing it is Navajo resources which made those developments possible. “Why not let’s turn that inward? Let’s change the policy of outsourcing, to using those resources to build a nation.” He asked Interior to help Navajo in that endeavor.

After Interior officials left, the work session turned from water to NGS and despite efforts by Duane Tsinigine and Nelson Begaye to keep the session open to the public, Nabiki’yati’ Committee voted to go into executive session.

Adella Begaye of Wheatfields, a member of Dine Care, said, “This is very sad because there is no accountability, there is no transparency. All these decisions are made without our consent, without our concern. We have been concerned about the water settlement because 36,000 acre feet is not enough for our Nation, and they are now even trying to settle for $400 million – which is nothing.”

She said it was wrong for Navajo and Interior officials to try to push through the settlement by saying there is just a small window of opportunity because Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., will retire next year and chances for a settlement after that are not likely. “Kyl is for Phoenix to get all the water they can. They’re not for the Navajo Nation.”

Tsinigine left the meeting when it went to executive session. “It’s only fair that all delegates are here to hear these issues, and some of these issues, in general, should be made public. In LeChee, Coppermine and Kaibeto, the majority of the men and women work at Navajo Generating Station and they want to be updated and make sure that the people hear what is at the negotiating table,” he said afterward.

“We’re leaving 75 percent of the Council out of it,” because they were given abrupt notice of the meeting and many had prior commitments, he said. “That’s not fair.”

Marshall Johnson of To Nizhoni Ani, or Beautiful Water Speaks, said the Interior’s visit to discuss their water rights was “like you see on television – a drive-by” that took in the president’s office, Legislative and the Hopi Tribe, but the people, “the original stakeholders,” were left out.

The state of Arizona is the beneficiary of any proposed settlement, he said. During a May hearing in Washington, Shelly and Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa stressed the importance of NGS to the tribes. Johnson, who testified along with Black Mesa Trust Director Vernon Masayesva, opposed extending the lease.

“We told Central Arizona Project it’s about time they get self-sufficient. We’ve been feeding them. They have a $3.5 billion operation in industrial agriculture. We made it available for them. Navajo resources made it possible to push water 3,000 feet elevation uphill. They plant three times a year,” he said. “We have no net benefit from this operation.”

Information: 30-2011/

Websites relating to Hopi Tribe Constitution Draft 24A

****LAST UPDATED JANUARY 28, 2011 *****


Proposed Hopi Constitution (Hopi We the People)

Inform Hopi website (Silent Majority)

Comparison between Old and “New” (Proposed) Hopi Constitution (Beyond the Mesas)

Hopi Secretarial Election voter list posted (Louella Nahsonhoya, Navajo-Hopi Observer)


Hopi voters reject proposed Hopi constitution amendment (Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopis rejected proposed changes to tribal constitution (Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press/Arizona Central)

Hopi Election Process Challenged (Carol Berry, Indian Country Today)

Hopis split over new constitution (Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press/Arizona Daily Sun)

Hopis to vote on revising tribal constitution (KSWT 13 News)

Three lawsuits filed against Draft 24A (Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Tribal Constitution Election drawing near (Tyler Tawahongva, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Constitution Draft 24A raises community questions (Rosanda Seutopka Thayer, Navajo Hopi-Observer)

Hopi Secretarial Election set for Jan. 27, 2011 (Louella Nahsonhoya, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi constitution draft proposal alarms Hopi political factions (Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Constitutional issues in flux (Carol Berry, Indian Country Today)

Silent Majority shares concerns about Draft 24A (Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Chairman’s Proposal Removes Religious Protections in Hopi Constitution (Brenda Norrell, Censored News)

Hopi At Crossroads of Their Traditional Way of Life (Kathy Helms, Gallup Independent, reprinted in Native Unity Digest)


A step in the right direction (Howard Dennis, Jr., Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Vote no on draft 24A (Monica J. Kahe, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

We have the opportunity to make changes (Elgean Joshevama, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Attend forums to cast an educated vote Jan. 27 (Larry Hamana, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Registered voters encouraged to vote on Draft 24A (Vernon Masayesva, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopis have a great opportunity to help their tribe (Anthony Honanie, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Constitution Draft 24A should pass (Doris Sekayumptewa, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Constitution Draft 24A will not succeed (Caleb Johnson, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Chairman has support from Navajo tribal member (Tacheeni Scott, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Hopi Chairman’s response to Nov. 24 Guest Viewpoint (LeRoy N. Shingoitewa, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Exercise your right to vote on Hopi Constitution Draft 24A (Benjamin H. Nuvamsa, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Power grab by Hopi Tribal Council (Ronald Wadsworth, Navajo-Hopi Observer)

Letters from