Posts Tagged 'S.2109'

Hopi and Navajo leaders respond to Senator Kyl’s editorial

To the editor:                                                                     April 5, 2012

We take this opportunity to respond to Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s April 4, 2012, letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun concerning Senate Bill 2109, the “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”, wherein he suggests that those who oppose this settlement are providing false information and leveling untrue attacks against the settlement.

The fact of the matter is that S.2109 is not an Indian water rights settlement act. It does nothing to quantify the water rights of the Navajo and Hopi tribal nations to the Little Colorado River and is in direct contravention of the Winters Doctrine. Rather, it is a backhanded approach to providing federal benefits and protections to entities that exploited the natural resources of our tribes for their own economic gain. It ensures that non-Indian corporate interests continue mining our coal and pumping our Navajo Aquifer to produce cheap electricity and deliver wet water to benefit southern Arizona, southern California and southern Nevada, under the guise of an Indian water rights settlement.

It requires the tribes to give Peabody Western Coal Company (Peabody) and the Salt River Project (SRP) and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of tribal water annually, without compensation. In other words, it gives NGS, a corporate entity, a federal water right. It also requires the tribes to extend the Peabody and NGS leases to 2044 without regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to our health, water supplies, water quality and damage to our precious Navajo Aquifer, as a necessary pre-condition to receiving minimal domestic water pipelines.

S.2109 requires the tribes to waive all protections against injury to water quality “from time immemorial and thereafter, forever”. It also requires the tribes to permanently waive all water rights to the Little Colorado River “from time immemorial and, thereafter, forever that are based on aboriginal occupancy of land by the (tribes) and Members of the (tribes) or their predecessors”. The settlement Senator Kyl is pushing is not “consistent with previous water settlements in New Mexico, Montana and Arizona”, as he claims.

We do agree that “it is time to set the record straight”. S.2109 is not a water rights settlement act. It is a license to continue the exploitation of our precious natural resources while threatening our tribal sovereignty. S.2109 is very dangerous for the Navajo and Hopi tribal nations and is not acceptable to members of our respective tribes.

Water is life. Water is sacred; it is central to our way of life, to our ceremonies and traditions. We must protect and preserve it for our future generations.

With all due respect,

Vernon Masayesva, Former Chairman – Hopi Tribe
Ivan Sidney, Former Chairman – Hopi Tribe
Benjamin Nuvamsa, Former Chairman – Hopi Tribe
Milton Bluehouse, Former President – Navajo Nation

Tewa Village “Save Our Water Rights” Forum – Saturday April 7, 2012

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

“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

Ivan Sidney voices concern over “S.2109 – Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”

IVAN L. SIDNEY
P.O. BOX 174
KYKOTSMOVI, ARIZONA 86039

February 15, 2012

Hopi Tribal Council
P.O. Box 123
Kykotsmovi, Arizona 86039

Dear Honorable Hopi Tribal Council Representatives:

I have to date, for several years, elected to refrain from writing to the Tribal Council for my own reasons and mostly to avoid political retaliations for voicing my opinions. I have read many documents of these retaliatory happenings and chose to continue my livelihood only to reflect on favorable memories of my many years of dedicated services to the Hopi People. I still believe and support the purpose of our Hopi Constitution and By-Laws as was understood by our Past Leaders and Traditional Village Governments. At the foremost was the support for our constitution due to its mandate that our tribal government’s authority is the Hopi People.

Also, included was the provision to mandate our Tribal Council Representatives to fairly and impartially represent the people. It further required the Tribal Council Representatives to inform the people of all matters before the Tribal Council. Today, I was informed of a bill introduced in the Congress of the United States to settle the long time Little Colorado River Adjudication. This is a very complicated case that for years have been primarily written to satisfy ranchers, municipalities, energy companies, industry, etc. What is offered to the Hopi and Navajo Tribes appears promising to resolve our need for future water but remain without adequate and guaranteed funding.

I read your resolution to approve the extension of your Legal Counsel’s contract based on this pending case. Some of us expected reports to the villages to informed the Hopi People of the status and details of the case. During the Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute, Chairman Abbott Sekaquaptewa and I were mandated by the Tribal Council to report to all the villages on a monthly basis. Today, reporting by the Elected Officials to the villages today is virtually non-existence. In my opinion, it does not excuse the Tribal Council Representatives’ from reporting on these important and complex cases.

I read the 157 pages of the bill only to have more questions and concerned for the immediate so-called resolution to our water rights. The introduction of the bill by Senator Kyle includes the statement, “Legally, the Navajo Nation and 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 practitioners, the tribes’ may be said to have “paper” water, as opposed to “wet” water. Those claims are far reaching, extending beyond the mesa and plateaus of northern Arizona calling question water uses in California and Nevada”. What is meant by these statements and what is the understanding and position of the Hopi Tribe. What is of great concern is terminating forever, our aboriginal rights and title to our water on passage of this bill.

I write this letter to strongly and respectfully urge the Tribal Council to immediately schedule meetings in the villages to personally explain this bill. I would consider your understandings, explanations and recommendations as a Hopi member versus an Attorney who is supposedly only providing his opinion. I also recommend that you seriously consider a referendum to place this matter to the vote of the Hopi People. This would place the outcome of the vote in the hands of the people including its possible future ramifications. The outcome of the vote will be the will of the people and no longer will the blamed be solely on the Tribal Council. I trust that the Tribal Council remains the representation of the people and in that representation, you would seriously consider the contents of my letter. Some of us are members of villages that are not represented on the Tribal Council and must rely on your sworn duty to include reports to our villages. I will be available to answer any questions at anytime. I remain….

Sincerely,

Ivan L. Sidney Sr.
Former Chairman

Chairman Vernon Masayesva
Chairman Benjamin Nuvamsa
Chairman Wayne Taylor
Hopi Village Leaderships

————————————

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduces the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act,” February 14, 2012

“S.2109 – Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Rights Settlement Act of 2012”

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Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Hopi) is Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.

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