Posts Tagged 'SB 2109'

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.

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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.

“Navajo Truth – STOP SB 2109” A group worth following on Facebook

This morning I want to direct your attention to a Facebook group called “Navajo Truth – STOP SB 2109.” It’s a group that I regularly follow (even though I’m not officially on FB) to get updated information on the proposed legislation. If you have a minute, head over to their page and join the conversation. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in this topic. Here’s  the description about the group from their page: “Working to ensure accountability and transparency for the Navajo Nation. Calling our people and friends to ACTION.”

Senator Kyl and staff deceive public

The following letter was written by Dr. Adrienne Ruby, a veterinarian who has worked on the Navajo and Hopi reservations since 1991. In her letter she argues that Senator Kyl and his staff deceived the public and misrepresented the Navajo people with the water hauling photograph that they used to introduce SB 2109 before Congress. Although Kathy Helms wrote a story about this issue in the Gallup Independent on May 22, 2012, Ruby’s recent letter provides additional context to the photograph and demonstrates yet one more level of deception surrounding this legislation.

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To the honorable members of Congress and other interested parties:

I have watched the video of Senator Kyl presenting Senate Bill 2109 to Congress February 15 of this year.  In this video there is a large picture mounted on an easel behind the senator. The picture shows a horse team hitched to a wagon filled with water barrels at a hand pump well.  This picture sets the tone to his speech and reinforces his words, “Legally the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribes may assert to larger qualities of water but as you can see here they don’t have the means to make use of the supply in a safe and productive manner.”

The picture could be out of a history book but it isn’t. It was taken in September 2011 at the Seba Dalkai hand pump well.  It was probably the first time in 50 years that a horse drawn wagon had pulled up to that pump to fill up with water. What an opportune moment for the Senator’s staff to drive by!

The picture is not what it seems, it looks like a Navajo family filling water barrels for home use – it is a picture that brings images of an impoverished and backwards culture. In fact, the wagon and team were owned by me – a white woman. I have lived and worked on the Navajo and Hopi reservations since 1991 providing veterinary services. The wagon is recreational. In the picture I am accompanied by two Navajo friends – both are well educated and politically aware. We are on our way from my home near Seba Dalkai to Birdsprings where we are to meet up with the Ranch Ride (a revival trail ride) and continue on to the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks. We are filling the water barrels for our team.

We visited with the Senator’s staff at the water well and had a great time joking around and taking pictures. It’s not so funny now. We were used badly, the picture is a lie. The staff was aware that the wagon was recreational yet used this picture in a very different context.

The message is not only inaccurate but is degrading as well. I want to set the record straight, this is not how Navajo people live today.

Dr. Adrienne Ruby

“A GOLD MINE ON THE COLORADO PLATEAU” by Larry Hamana

The following letter by Larry Hamana of Upper Moencopi is one of the most well-articulated and convincing commentaries that I’ve read on Hopi water rights and SB 2109. His comment in the Preface is especially powerful:

S.2109 can be categorized as a form of genocide:  a conspiracy by outside interests and our present political leaders threatening the Hopi people’s aboriginal existence on and around the Colorado Plateau, as protected by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and the unconscionable and devious taking of our water, as protected by the 1908 Winters Doctrine.

We Hopis will hopefully have an opportunity to vote on whether to accept or reject SB 2109. If given the chance I will vote to reject it. Once we give up our water rights, we will never get them back. Our indigenous rights (rights to water, land, ceremonies, self-government, etc.) form the pillars of our tribal sovereignty and self-determination. No amount of money- no deal by the U.S. Government – should ever convince us to abandon our rights as Hopi people.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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COMMENTARY

Larry Hamana, Hopi Tribal Member

(May 11, 2012)

‘A GOLD MINE ON THE COLORADO PLATEAU’

Preface

As present Hopi and Navajo political leaders and their respective Water & Energy Team, Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and water attorneys continue to “pad and massage the pockets” of non-Hopi/-Navajo interest groups and boosting the “political egos” of AZ senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, co-sponsors of S.2109 – Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Settlement Act of 2012 – the grassroots Hopi and Dine’ people are now commanding “authentic transparency and accountability” of their leaders.

This outcry has gained momentum, been elevated and echoed throughout Hopi and Navajo country in recent weeks, gaining national and international attention in vehemently opposing S.2109.

In the meantime, Kyl’s and McCain’s version (S.2109) has advanced and been referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the House of Representative’s companion version (H.B. 4067) to the Subcommittee on Water & Power of the House Natural Resources Committee for review and action.

This proves Kyl and McCain are out to mercilessly ramrod their proposed bill while jeopardizing both tribes’ sovereignty and continued theft of their “superior” rights to water in the Little Colorado River and Lower Colorado River Basin systems while advocating for water rights of non-tribal interests in AZ, CA and NV.

Kyl and McCain are systemically working toward this end knowing they are circumventing established federal protocol for introducing proposed legislation to Congress, and against their own (Republican) Party’s ban on “earmarks”.

This upheaval is threatening the Hopi and Dine’ peoples’ livelihoods today and into the future and is tantamount to the U.S. government’s historical covert attempts to annihilate the Hopi people by providing our elders and ancestors with smallpox-infested blankets under the guise it was doing them a favor – to protect them from severe winter conditions.

As a result, hundreds of Hopis perished throughout the Hopi villages.  One example lies at the bottom of the Village of Old Oraibi on the northeast side of the mesa where a spot is evident to this day.

This spot below the mesa signifies where surviving villagers disposed of their loved ones’ bodies that passed from the dreaded disease, just to safeguard the remaining village population.

I can’t fathom the shock, sorrow and feeling of helplessness and imbalance that came with this experience.

S.2109 can be categorized as a form of genocide:  a conspiracy by outside interests and our present political leaders threatening the Hopi people’s aboriginal existence on and around the Colorado Plateau, as protected by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and the unconscionable and devious taking of our water, as protected by the 1908 Winters Doctrine.

Brief Historical Perspective

A brief history lesson, through research, reveals that in 1863, the “Arizona Territory” was born.  Already, there were two basic overarching goals to be accomplished in order for the territory to achieve statehood and be admitted into the Union:  1) to “Americanize the territory”, and 2) finding ways “to secure water and electricity for its use”.

In 1900, when AZ was still awaiting statehood, Phoenix already had a population of 5,500, growing in leaps in bounds.

Finally, on February 14, 1912 (Valentine’s Day), the AZ territory obtained statehood facing a population boom of 12,000 residing in Phoenix, within only a 12-year time span.

And, Phoenix and the State of AZ had their sights on conquering and remaking the Colorado Plateau and desert to meet their future water and electrical needs.

During the post World War II era, Phoenix’ population had increased to 250,000; then to 3 million by mid-century.

Today, based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data (two year’s shy of a century), the metropolis of Phoenix now boasts a 6.4 million population.

So, since 1863, every farmer, freighter, broker, railroad agent, merchant, and others were posturing to control AZ’s untamed rivers; and representatives in branches of local, county, state and federal governments wanted to see that all rivers were regulated.

At one point, AZ legislators, regulators and industry – public and private alike – also entertained the idea of importing water for especially AZ’s urban industrialized centers (Phoenix and Tucson) from the Pacific Ocean to be transported by atomic-powered plants and delivery systems.

This created controversy among free market, county and state, and federal advocates on how all parties would come together to secure their water and energy needs.  As a result, an alliance among all non-Indian stakeholders came into being.

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the exploration of our natural resources on the Colorado Plateau had already revealed it ranked among the world’s best storehouses of huge deposits of high quality fossil fuels:  coal, oil and gas, oil shale and tar sands; and water.

Early on and in order to harness water and electricity supplies from Hopi and Navajo resources to serve central and southern AZ and southern CA and NV, Phoenix energy interests led by the Salt River Project (SRP) were heading up various consortia to build a coal-fired plant in northern AZ.  And, yes, you guessed it:  the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) was born to produce their electricity.

Around the same time, the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, AZ was built to help generate electricity for AZ, and southern CA and NV.  And, the Central AZ Project (CAP) completed construction of its canal system to channel our water to central and southern AZ for domestic and industrial uses.

The Central AZ Water Conservation District, an AZ political subdivision, was created to operate the CAP, and SRP and AZ Public Service (APS) became the initial operators and regulators of electricity for AZ.

The final ingredient to producing electricity was to mine and provide our coal on Black Mesa to transport and burn at the Mojave Generating Station (MGS) at Laughlin, NV and NGS at Page.

Hopi and Navajo coal and N-aquifer water would be used to generate steam in order to produce electricity.  N-aquifer water was also used to slurry pulverized coal from the Black Mesa Mine to the MGS.  In the 1960s, Peabody Western Coal Company was born, currently known as Peabody Energy.

All the ingredients were now in place, except for compensating the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation for past and present uses of their coal, water and generated electricity at fair market value.  This is still the case.

“The future of Arizona’s water supply will not be in the discovery or importation of new water, but in the management of our water supply.”

Karen L. Smith, Scholar and Author, 1987

Today’s Perspective

Before I continue, I ask our present Hopi political leaders, “Where did the burden of providing water and electricity to central and southern AZ, and southern CA and NV become the inherent responsibility of the Hopi Tribe?”

Because rural and urban centers throughout AZ continue to mismanage their water and electrical supplies via runaway industrial development and growth and associated population explosions, shouldn’t it be their responsibility to find solutions to their dilemma without imposing on our federal and 1908 Winters Doctrine reserved water rights?

Theoretically, if this scenario was reversed, you can be certain these outside interests would gawk at both tribes by stating, “’Go find solutions to your own problems, and don’t come begging to us to bail you out!”

These outside conglomerates and entities need to come to terms with themselves and publicly admit they have been “robbing” us of our precious water for the past 150 years while imposing price-fixing schemes on water and electrical users; and turning their backs on the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation by not compensating them for the cheap use of their coal, water and generated electricity at fair market value.

Today, as these opportunists continue to profit from our resources, both tribes still lack improved and sustainable programs, services and capital projects on their reservations.  And our water and the electricity generated at the MGS and Glen Canyon Dam continue to bypass both reservations subverting other benefits to the grassroots people, villages and communities.

This is a classic example of being swindled right under our noses with more to come, thanks to Kyl, McCain, and our Hopi political henchmen and their questionable water attorneys.

Original Hopi Tribe Statement of Claimant, First Amended Statement of Claimant, Comments of the Hopi Tribe on the Preliminary Hopi Hydrographic Survey Report, Second Amended Statement of Claimant

There are volumes of history addressing the Hopi Tribe’s pending adjudication case in the Little Colorado River (LCR) basin and recently negotiating the Tribe’s claims to water rights per S.2109.  In order to not confuse the Hopi people, I’d rather summarize the factual highpoints to our “water war”.

Since 1863, non-Indian interests in AZ have been engaged in this water war through 1978 (115 years later), when Phelps Dodge Corporation finally petitioned the State of AZ “to determine the rights of ‘all water users’ in the LCR basin”.

One year later (in 1979), this matter was transferred to the Apache County Superior Court, St. Johns, AZ and designated as “The General Adjudication of all Rights to Use Water in the Little Colorado River System and Source (Civil Case No. 6417), to be adjudicated by all registered claimants as required by the AZ Department of Water Resources (ADWR).

Federal court decisions from the past have determined that state courts are the proper forum for adjudicating all federally-reserved water rights, including Indian water rights.

Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed water rights claims “for historic and reserved water rights to surface and groundwater in the LCR basin” including the rights of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni.

Each of the tribes also filed separate claims.  Since then, the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni have settled their cases.

In addition, the DOJ also filed claims on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service.  Altogether, 11,000 total claims were initially filed on behalf of some 3,000 claimants.

The Hopi Tribe ensued by filing its “Original Statement of Claimant” on November 3, 1986 (7 years from the time the civil case was transferred to the Superior Court); filing its “First Amended Statement of Claimant” on January 29, 2004; filing its “Comments of the Hopi Tribe on the Preliminary Hopi Hydrographic Survey Report” on June 30, 2009; and filing its “Second Amended Statement of Claimant” on November 13, 2009.

These collective statements and comments culminated in the Hopi Tribe’s official claims to water rights in the LCR basin.

 

All of the Hopi Reservation lies in the LCR basin.  The Hopi Tribe has purchased land within the LCR basin as provided in the “Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996”, as contained in the S.2109 language.  Asserting water rights in these lands is set forth in the 1996 settlement act.

Moreover, the Hopi Tribe’s pending case in the Apache County Superior Court is being “adjudicated” while S.2109 is being “negotiated” with certain non-Hopi/-Navajo claimants.

Together, along with the 1996 settlement act, they all have a real bearing on what direction the Hopi Council will take us while protecting, preserving and quantifying our comprehensive water rights into the future.

S.2109:  Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Settlement Act of 2012

The proposed S.2109 was introduced to Congress February 14, 2012 (Valentine’s Day) by Kyl and McCain, exactly “one century” from the time AZ obtained statehood.  What a coincidence!

The impetus to have Congress honor a settlement agreement and possibly legislate S.2109 come at the coattail of Kyl’s retirement from politics on January 3, 2013.  Another coincidence?

There are high suspicions by grassroots Hopis that the de facto Council, Water & Energy Team and their water attorneys have grossly failed to weigh the merits of especially the 40-page “November 13, 2009 Second Amended Statement of Claimant” and its exhibits against S.2109.

If they did, S.2109 would have never evolved, and we wouldn’t be even challenging dangerous provisos in the proposed bill.

Unfortunately for them, they went on their own tangent in entertaining S.2109, and as a result, they’re facing the consequences of their mistakes.

As professionals in our own right, we’re only pointing out the dangers of S.2109 hoping to get deserved attention, yet, we have not been directly invited into the circle to exchange meaningful dialogue and to shed light on certain harmful provisions detrimental to the Hopi people.

Recent and limited meetings conducted by Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa, the Council and its Water & Energy Team with our people were only “token consultations”.  The information shared by their power point presentations only provided “half-truths” and didn’t provide the overall picture on all factors affecting our comprehensive water rights.

If S.2109 was to be enacted by Congress, with the support of the Council, it would forever extinguish and waive our present and future claims to our water rights in the LCR and Lower Colorado River Basin systems, water quantification/quality and tribal sovereignty; and threaten our culture, traditional values, ceremonies and religious secular affairs based on an infinite Hopi Calendar.

These aren’t the only important issues that would be impacted.  If the Council passes a resolution supporting S.2109, it would:

1)    Automatically and directly threaten and undermine the time (26 years), energy and costs spent on filing the Hopi Tribe’s “Original Statement of Claimant” in the Apache County Superior Court; and three years since the Tribe filed its “Second Amended Statement of Claimant”;

2)    Waive all liability for past, present and future damages of mined lands, destruction of the N-aquifer and impacts on the overall regional environment by the federal government, Peabody and NGS;

3)    Not guarantee a “direct congressional appropriation” for planning/designing, constructing, and operating and maintaining the proposed Hopi Groundwater Project.  That funding would be required to come through separate legislation, if Congress ever agreed to such terms;

4)    Coerce the Hopi and Navajo councils to agree that Peabody and NGS continue their operations while uncontrollably using N-aquifer water and coal from the Black Mesa and Kayenta mines, while both tribes and the federal government turn their backs to all past and ongoing destruction to Black Mesa and the surrounding environment with further destruction to the N-aquifer; and

5)    Not require the Council to prove a net benefit to U.S. taxpayers; not require the Council to undermine other programmatic funding already contained in the overall federal budget; and not require the Council to increase the national budget deficit.

Yes, and Shingoitewa and George Mase, chairman of the Council’s Water & Energy Team; Robert Lyttle, the Council’s questionable general counsel; and Joe Mentor Jr., the Council’s supposed and recently hired water attorney, are in a hurry to have the Council pass a resolution to enact S.2109.

The “proof is in the pudding”.

  • On the Hopi Tribal Council March 1, 2012 Second Quarter Session Agenda/9th Amendment, per Action Item #053-2012, Mase had already submitted said Action Item and an accompanying proposed resolution “to endorse the proposed settlement of its claims to the Little Colorado River and its sources”, which is currently pending Council action.  (Note:  The proposed resolution is poorly written and misleading, and needs a total overhaul to ensure that all Hopi rights and interests are protected.)
  • On March 8, 2012, Mentor, along with Navajo Nation water attorney Stanley Pollack and 30 other non-Indian claimants to S.2109, signed a letter addressed to Kyl and McCain confirming their support for S.2109.  In the letter, the 32 signees, as counsel and representatives of the respective claimants, also advised their governing bodies (i.e., Hopi Council) would be informed of their support for S.2109, and their support would be considered, subject to review and approval of its attached exhibits.  Furthermore, the governing bodies would still be required to conduct a final review of the settlement documents and make an independent and final decision.  Let it be known that Mentor does not speak for the grassroots Hopi.
  • Most recently, Hopi Vice Chairman Herman Honanie was willing to sign an Action Item to be included on the Council’s March 2012 agenda, that was received and date stamped April 3, 2012 by the Tribal Secretary’s Office.  Suspiciously enough, another date stamp indicated it was received April 16, then received and date stamped April 17 by the Office of General Counsel.

This Action Item recommended that Council: 1) explain to tribal members, including traditional leaders and practitioners, the terms and conditions of the Agreement-In-Principle and provisions of S.2109, 2) allow a forum for tribal members and practitioners to express and present their concerns to the Council relative to S.2109, 3) enact legislation that expresses the Will of The Hopi Senom, 4) prohibit any further negotiations by the Hopi Tribe, its Chairman and Water & Energy Team on S.2109 until a special hearing is conducted, 5) mandate that any and all further and separate negotiations of Tribe’s water rights be conducted with full and open disclosure and with full consultation with the Hopi Senom, and 6) not pursue further and separate water rights agreements without the formal vote of tribal members via a Voter Referendum.

It has now been 13 working days since Lyttle has sat on the Action Item signed by former chairmen Vernon Masayesva, Ivan Sidney Sr. and Benjamin Nuvamsa; and former vice chairmen Caleb Johnson, Clifford Qotsaquahu, Phillip Quochytewa and Todd Honyoama Sr.

There is absolutely no reason or logic, legally or technically, for Lyttle to hold up the Action Item from being placed on the agenda, considering it is coming directly from grassroots Hopi representatives opposing S.2109, not any tribal government arm.  Is he illegally tampering with the submittals?

Perhaps it is because he, Shingoitewa and Mase are conspiring and hoping Mase’s Action Item/resolution will be entertained and passed by the Council before the grassroots’ Action Item and resolution even come before the Council.

In any case, it is the Hopi villages that have the ultimate authority to act on water matters of this magnitude, not Lyttle, Shingoitewa, Mase, Mentor, Water & Energy Team nor the Council.  The Constitution and By-Laws of the Hopi Tribe and Hopi Tribe Ordinance 21, combined, prevent this.  In February 2010, the Hopi Appellate Court upheld the villages’ authorities, and has never been vacated.  The court’s decision was based on case law, and the rule of law.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re probably in the menu.”

Oren Lyons, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy

11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

New York City, May 2012

Our collective voices will no longer be suppressed by fly-by-night and arrogant Hopi politicians and attorneys, and their backers.

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SB 2109 and Sovereign Rights of Hopi Villages

Below is an email from Ben Nuvamsa, former chairman of the Hopi Tribe, that he sent to a number of Hopis (including myself) on April 25, 2012. Please note that the documents that Nuvamsa refers to are included at the bottom of this post. Many thanks to Mr. Nuvamsa for allowing me to publish his email on BEYOND THE MESAS.

Hello Everyone.

Attached is a copy of the tribal council agenda which contains Action Item No. 053-2012 and proposed council resolution that George Mase (Sipaulovi) endorsed as Chairman of the Hopi Water and Energy Team.  Also attached is a copy of the March 8, 2012 Agreement-in-Principle that attorneys for the parties have signed, including Joe Mentor on behalf of the Hopi Tribe.  Note that the Agreement says they will endeavor to support S.2109, subject to the review and approval of the governing bodies.

Remember, neither Leroy Shingoitewa, George Mase, the Hopi Water & Energy Team, nor the Hopi Tribal Council have the legal authority to commit to endorsing S.2109.  This is the sovereign right of the villages.  Only the villages have a legal and sovereign right to decide on this matter.  In addition, only four (4) villages are represented on the tribal council, leaving out the remaining villages.  None of the traditional villages are represented.

Impose on your representatives to require that Shingoitewa and Mase withdraw Action Item No. 053-2012 as it is not properly before the tribal council.  None of the villages have been consulted on this Action Item.  Also, we urge all villages to enact village resolutions or write letters to the tribal council to withdraw this Action Item as soon as possible; and instead to reject S.2109.

Signed Agreement in Principal (March 8, 2012)

Water Resolution (Action Item No. 053-2012)

Hopi Tribal Council March Agenda 2012 Second Quarter

Former Navajo Nation President Peter MacDonald on SB 2109

[UPDATE April 12, 2012: For a reason unknown to me, “This video has been removed by the user.” I’ve looked around on-line, but I’m unable to find the video through a different source. If anyone comes across the video, please let me know in the “Comments” section of this post]

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.”

###

Click here for the official press release.


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2018. 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 (Hopi) is Professor of American Indian Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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New book on Hopi runners set to launch in October!

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 2013)

Foreword to Kevin Whalen’s Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute’s Outing Program, 1900-1945

A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930”, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

“‘The Hopi Followers’: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909”, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

Matt’s Goodreads

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