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?”