Monthly Archives: March 2011

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Community Benefit Concert "No uranium mining in the Grand Canyon"

SAVE THE DATE: Community Benefit Concert “No uranium mining in the Grand Canyon”  Time: Saturday at 6:00pm – Sunday at 1:00am, Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen St, Flagstaff, AZ. For over 25 years, international uranium mining companies have aggressively pursued uranium at Grand Canyon. The citizens of Arizona need to be informed about the dangers and everlasting health effects caused by uranium mining. Past uranium activity has caused direct health affects to the local Indian Tribes living in and around the Grand Canyon region. For instance, many Navajo families have been diagnosed with many types of cancer due to the abandoned uranium mines located all over the Navajo, Reservation.

Furthermore, the Havasupai Tribe has been fighting proposed uranium mines on the rim of the Grand Canyon, which are located directly above their groundwater source and near their sacred Red Butte for many years. The Tribe has learned about the irreversible contamination that uranium mining can cause to Havasu Creek. For this reason, many non-profit organizations have joined forces with neighboring Tribes and community members to continue the fight for clean water for all humans and animal life whom reside in the Grand Canyon region.

We are proposing a Community Benefit Concert for an evening of networking and uranium education. “If the mine poisons our water, it will be the end of my people,” said Carletta Tilousi, a Tribal Council member working to protect the health and future of her tribe. Promoting awareness to protect the Grand Canyon Watershed is the utmost important reason to host a Community Benefit Concert to promote “life”.

Gosar wants action in former Bennett Freeze area

Gosar wants action in former Bennett Freeze area By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, 3/16/2011.  WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation is hoping U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, will pick up where former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick left off when it comes to the former Bennett Freeze. And if Gosar’s remarks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs are any indication, Navajo might have a new friend in Washington.  Raymond Maxx, executive director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, said Tuesday that Gosar and his staff visited Window Rock during the 22nd Navajo Nation Council’s winter session.

“We kind of grabbed him off his route and took him to our office and we had like an hour and a half sit-down with him,” Maxx said. They oriented him on Navajo Partitioned Land, Hopi Partitioned Land, and more specifically, on the Bennett Freeze. “We gave him a big packet we put together and asked him to champion our Bennett Freeze legislation in D.C.”

Gosar received a draft of the Former Bennett Freeze Area Development Act introduced by Kirkpatrick in December “to see if he can introduce it for us right away,” Maxx said. The legislation would create a new trust fund and enable the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe to take on the work of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation through contracting. It also would authorize the office to oversee a rehabilitation program for the former Bennett Freeze area.

“Our priority is to just get it introduced ASAP this time, not at the end of the term. We emphasized to him that even though Kirkpatrick introduced the bill, it’s not her bill, it’s actually the Navajo Nation’s legislation, position and everything. We went back and forth on it,” Maxx said.

On March 8, the subcommittee held its first oversight hearing on the effectiveness of federal spending on Native American programs, and on President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Gosar said he was anxious to hear from the witnesses about a long term plan to address the former Bennett Freeze area. “For 40 years, the U.S. government prohibited the Navajo and Hopi tribes from developing any further infrastructure on their disputed land,” he said, adding that today it remains “the most depressed area by far on the Navajo Reservation.”

A recent study commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs found that 77 percent of the homes in the Bennett Freeze area are not suitable for residences, and that nearly 40 percent are without electricity.

“This isn’t the result of anything but pure government inaction, at the expense of my constituents. I am distressed at the apparent lack of action on the part of the current government to address this blight on our society,” Gosar said. “While none of us present here today took part in the initial Bennett Freeze in 1966, the fact is staring us all in the face that it is our responsibility to redress these grievous and unfair wounds.”

Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, said the FY 2012 budget request includes $1.2 million for land development in the former Bennett Freeze area. In addition, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 authorized settlement payments to the Navajo Nation. The budget includes $6 million for Navajo Nation Water Resources Development Trust Fund and $4.4 million for the San Juan conjunctive use wells and San Juan River Navajo Irrigation Rehabilitation Project which are part of the Navajo-Gallup Settlement.

The budget request also includes a reduction of $9 million for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project. Indian Affairs is evaluating continuing construction on the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, Echo Hawk said.

NIIP is more than 40 years behind schedule. It was supposed to have been finished in the same time-frame as the San Juan Chama Diversion project. It never was. Since that time, the project has been the victim of a series of federal funding cuts.

See article

Please join Forgotten People building projects

Please help Forgotten People and our partner Project Pueblo (college students from UC Berkeley and La Sierra University who are helping create gardens, building an eco dome, and continuing construction on a house for a veteran in Tuba City beginning Monday, March 21, 2011 through Friday, April 1, 2011. For more information, please call: (928) 401-1777 or send an E-mail to:

Forgotten People pull out of Navajo Generating Station (NGS) EN3 meetings Forgotten People pull out Friday, March 18th, 2011: Forgotten People decided after much thought and discussion to join all the grassroots and environmental organizations pulling out of the NGS EN3 process. Instead, we will all spend Friday, March 25th together to discuss our next steps to ensure US EPA Clean Air, BART compliance and a transition to renewable energy. Forgotten People does not want to be used as a “checklist” for community input to stall US EPA BART regulations. As directly affected people we see NO real timeline for a transition to renewable energy on the table, NO serious community input in your processes, no series of community tours to allow real input, NO response to our United Nations case submitted 3/1/2011 for the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation…

From the beginning of our participation in this process, we have clearly stated our goal and objective for a transition time line to clean energy.

Unfortunately what we see is a process that seeks to keep the NGS running and stall US EPA Clean Air regs. What the NGS owners and stakeholders will miss seeing first hand on a community tour is significant: Coal dust over Black Mesa, desecrated cemeteries, burial and sacred site desecration, open graves marked by archeologists stakes, people who do not know where their family members are buried in areas that were mined, dismantled wells, water sources degraded and diminished like sacred Sagebrush Spring, people living without electricity and piped water, and impassable, ungraded dirt roads that Peabody refused to grade under a Navajo Nation State of Emergency. It is for these reasons that the people cannot afford to be used to keep the NGS operating. We strongly believe the time for burning fossil fuels is coming to an end and it is time to consider the health of the people and the environment.

Please check out Forgotten People’s case submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 3/1/2011. Scribd is the world’s largest social reading and publishing site.

Please check out Forgotten People’s PowerPoint Presentation on the NGS website: Forgotten People and NGS – Securing Economic & Climate Justice

Forgotten People NGS PowerPoint Presentation link.

Please check out the US EPA News Release: EPA Proposes First National Standard for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants / Mercury and air toxics standards represent one of strongest health protections from air pollution since passage of Clean Air Act


Category: NGS Project
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Shirley refusing to release OnSat, BCDS documents

Navajo Times By Bill Donovan Special to the Times WINDOW ROCK, Friday, March 18, 2011: Shirley refusing to release OnSat, BCDS documents. Former President Joe Shirley Jr. is suing the Navajo Nation’s special prosecutor to prevent his access to computer hard drives that might reveal wrongdoing by Shirley and members of his administration. In the last weeks of the Shirley administration, lawyers for Shirley filed a suit – so far unnoticed by the local media – that would hinder Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran’s probe of two costly business deals the former president had backed. But Shirley is gone now, replaced by his estranged former vice president, Ben Shelly. And in a Feb. 22 court filing, Balaran wondered why the tribe is still spending tens of thousands of dollars to “undermine” his investigation.

Balaran raised the question in a procedural motion. The lawsuit was initiated by the Shirley administration Nov. 29, 2010, after Balaran “demanded” that his office “immediately turn over hard drives that were previously searched for responsive documents.”

The lawsuit referred to a document that Balaran presented, demanding all responsive documents, both paper and electronic, within the next few days or he would instruct the tribe’s chief prosecutor to file obstruction charges against anyone who did not comply.

The president’s office refused to comply with the request, claiming that some of the documents that Balaran was requesting were protected by attorney-client privilege. It called Balaran’s argument that there is no privilege “without merit.”

“Unless the special prosecutor has specific information that a particular document or documents shows evidence of a crime, he cannot argue that the privilege should not apply,” the suit states.

The lawsuit goes on to say that some of the documents reflect the deliberations that went on within the president’s office and need to be protected “to ensure that the president reaches the best, most informed decision and makes decisions that promote hózhó.”

According to court records, the tribe has spent at least $83,000 over the past year to push the case. It used the money to hire the Phoenix law firm of Gallagher and Kennedy, and former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who is representing Shirley and President Shelly.

“The special prosecutor questions why the Office of the Attorney General would retain G&K and pay them $83,203.74 to undermine the special prosecutor’s ability to carry out the very tasks assigned to him by the Special Division of the District Court,” Balaran said in one of his responses to the lawsuit.

The idea of hiring a special prosecutor originated in the Navajo Nation Council, but attitudes there changed when Balaran’s mandate was expanded to include an investigation of discretionary fund spending, which so far has resulted in criminal charges against 78 people including Shelly. (His case and two others have been settled or dismissed. The rest are still headed for trial.)

Meanwhile, however, the original probe into business dealings involving the president’s office percolated along out of the spotlight.

Shirley administration officials including Chief of Staff Pat Sandoval said publicly Shirley had no fear of an investigation because he had done no wrong.

At the same time these statements were being made, however, it now appears that the president’s office was actively trying to keep Balaran from looking into the OnSat and BCDS business. Both cost the tribe millions.

Balaran, in documents he filed with the Window Rock District Court, noted that there have been three studies – one on the tribe’s e-rate program, another on BCDS and a third on OnSat – that outlined possible legal violations.

“Each of these reports implicated then President Joe Shirley Jr., among others, as having engaged in malfeasant conduct, unethical behavior and possibly criminal actions,” Balaran said in court documents.

Balaran viewed the hiring of Charlton and G&K as an “attempt to shield the president from the investigatory efforts of the special prosecutor into OnSat and BCDS.”

While the investigation into the discretionary funds case has resulted in dozens of people being charged criminally, no charges have been filed as yet by Balaran in connection with the OnSat and BCDS investigations. He has also not spoken publicly on the status of these investigations or when charges may be filed in these cases.

Balaran’s court motions indicate that the attorney general’s office is part of the group trying to thwart his attempts to investigate matter related to the Shirley administration.

Just last month, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court issued a ruling in which justices commented on the huge task ahead for Balaran. In that ruling, which denied a defense motion to dismiss the slush fund cases, the court suggested that Balaran could seek help from the tribe’s Department of Justice and the prosecutor’s office, which is within the Justice Department.

So far, nether the prosecutor’s office or the attorney general’s office has announced plans to help the special prosecutor.

Balaran is asking the district court not to admit Charlton as Shirley’s attorney on grounds that it would violate a Navajo Nation Bar Association rule that limits non-members to participating in one case per year in tribal courts.

Charlton participated in at least two other cases before the Navajo courts in 2010, both times representing Shirley, Balaran said.

Charlton has filed a response asking the court to interpret the bar association rule as allowing non-member attorneys one case per calendar year, which would allow him to represent Shirley in the documents case.

See article

Where is the water for Twin Arrows Casino?

Letters – Navajo Times The Newspaper of the Navajo people FROM THE READERS, March 17, 2011 Where is the water for Twin Arrows Casino? Where is the water for the Navajo’s Twin Arrows Casino? CEO Bob Winter said he didn’t know how much the casino would use and does not know where water for the casino will come from. A current article stated drilling is being done which will be the deepest in the world to find water and fears it will result in empty caverns. Bob Winter better advise the Navajo leaders they had better bring their own water to Flagstaff’s casino because Flagstaff is hurting for water, and, too, the five planned Navajo casinos will need water for their swimming pools and their golf courses. The locals can barely tolerate windy Navajo country and its dust, and in some areas at times, red dust. Navajo lands suffer very cold winters, so no swimming or golfing during those times of year.

Winter must not have informed the Navajo leaders that only casinos situated near large cities profit from the most, not remote, rural casinos that the Navajo casinos will be. Fire Rock Casino’s success is from Navajo tribal members spending all or a great deal of their government checks (disability, SSI and retirement) at gaming.

The Navajo lands are considered a Third World country right here in America with many living without running water and electricity in remote areas, living off the land and sheepherding. Yet, the leaders prefer to spend $200 million on five casinos that care for their people’s basic necessities.

The federal government has allocated $33 million dollars in taxpayer money for high-tech communication lines and cell towers to be situated on Navajo lands.

Well, if the starving Navajos don’t have food on the table, running water or electricity, the government wants them to have cell phones.

Derek Zoe
Camp Verde, Ariz.,

Who Benefits and Who Pays the Price? Gallup Independent: A radioactive waste dump in Gallup’s back yard?

A radioactive waste dump in Gallup’s back yard? By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent, 1/23/2011 CHURCHROCK – If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and General Electric prevail over the wishes of the Red Water Pond Road Community, Gallup will have a radioactive waste dump right next door at the former United Nuclear Corp. Mill site. Clancy Tenley of the EPA Region 9 Superfund program told community residents and stakeholders Thursday evening that it is EPA’s goal to take the radium-contaminated soils from Northeast Churchrock and Quivira mines and bury them in “one well-designed facility that would protect everybody” at the UNC Superfund site now owned by General Electric.

But that’s just two mines. In order to clean up the other 518 abandoned uranium mines left over from the Cold War era, the Navajo Nation is going to have to sort through what to do with those wastes, Tenley said. “It’s a huge issue. Those are not decisions that can be made from Washington, D.C. Those are Navajo decisions about Navajo land.”

Siting a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility takes 20 to 25 years, he said. “I want to make sure that we keep moving forward on Northeast Churchrock on something that is implementable. That’s always been our goal here – to get it cleaned up.”

Teddy Nez of the Red Water Pond Road Community Association distributed a list of eight objectives, including conducting a rigorous study of possible sites within 100 miles of the Navajo Nation for permanent disposal of uranium mine wastes, including Fort Wingate. Tenley said EPA’s Cynthia Webmore looked at seven existing sites within a 100-mile radius in New Mexico for the Northeast Churchrock waste, but the bottom line is they didn’t find any site that was suitable. Four already had been closed, Ambrosia Lake will be closed next year, and the only other one is the former Homestake Mill in Milan.

“That needs a lot of work. It’s not really an ideal place to add a lot more material,” Webmore said. So their best idea is to create a newly licensed facility at the UNC site.

Community resident Larry King said Thursday was the first time he had heard anything about a 100-mile radius and that the community is strongly opposed to a new repository at the UNC site.

“This community needs to heal,” he said, adding that they need to move the waste out of the community, not create a new site. In addition, the tailings pile at the UNC Mill is not lined. “If that’s one of the sites being looked at to create another dump site, how are you going to put in a liner? Are you going to dig up the old waste piles? I don’t think that should even be considered.”

Tenley said every place they might take the waste has challenges. The Navajo Nation has said they cannot leave it at the Northeast Churchrock Mine, so EPA has agreed to clean up the site for unrestricted use. EPA also looked at trucking the waste to Idaho, but their analysis predicted an unacceptable 38 traffic deaths during the years of cleanup. “Also if we were to try to order General Electric to do that, they would refuse and we could be tied up in court for years, and the cost of doing it is so high that we don’t even have the money to do that if they would refuse to do it,” he said.

“The UNC site has its challenges,” he said, noting that local resident Scotty Begay had pointed out correctly over a year ago that there was debris buried at the mill site. He said GE will dig 27 test pits to look for it. “The last thing in the world we would ever want is anything like 1979 with settling and spilling. So we have to consider that.”

Begay said the community already had discussed and agreed that they do not want the wastes moved to the UNC site. “I know what’s in there. I put contaminants in there. We buried chemicals in the ground,” not only at that tailings site, but outside the fence, he said. “We just talk in circles. We’re talking about tailings again. Just what is it that GE is going to do as far as removal of all this waste? Where do they stand on this?”

Randy McAlister of GE told the community, “Our overall objective out here is to clean up, and we would rather not wait 20 years to get started. It’s not that we want to rush any one decision, but we would like to get going.”

He said there are some things that they would like to put on the table to help the community and the Navajo Nation. One is to put Navajos to work cleaning up the radioactive wastes. “For any cleanup we would give preference to trained Navajo. We would also provide some additional safety training. … We would like to use as many construction folks as we can. We think that would be a pretty big number of people for a number of years. I want you to think about that.”

He said GE also is prepared to offer the Nation a perpetual scholarship. One Navajo student a year would receive a four-year scholarship at either the University of New Mexico or Arizona State University.

Nez and moderator Philmer Bluehouse had mentioned during a previous meeting that the community association wants four hogans for traditional healing ceremonies and a muti-purpose community center for meetings and other activities. McAlister said GE would be willing to provide materials for the hogans if the community would do the construction.

As far as a community center, he said, there is a stand-alone office building at “ground zero,” or Northeast Churchrock Mine, that might possibly serve in the interim. “It would need to be dusted out pretty good, but that’s a possibility of space that could be provided to the community for meetings and such.”

Sacred Poison 3-minute powerful video

Please check out a link of a powerful 3 minute video clip by Yvonne Latty, a graduate school professor of journalism at New York University profiling Rolanda Tohannie of Box Springs. Sacred Poison: A documentary. The documentary describes the devastating toll past uranium mining has had on the Navajo and the struggles. Forgotten People has been working with Pastors to deliver safe drinking water in the region.

Please check out a re-posted link of a powerful 3 minute video clip by Yvonne Latty, a graduate school professor of journalism at New York University profiling Rolanda Tohannie of Box Springs.

The documentary describes the devastating toll past uranium mining has had on the Navajo and the struggle for change.

US discriminates on right to safe water and sanitation, says UN expert

Please check out the links to the United Nations Independent Expert Report on the situation of human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation in the U.S.: US discriminates on right to safe water and sanitation, says UN expert Dated: March 4, 2011 and Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Independent Expert on the right to water and sanitation: Mission to the United States of America from 22 February to 4 March 2011

Dated: March 4, 2011


Forgotten People’s report to UN Independent Expert on the human rights to safe water and sanitation

Dated: March 1, 2011

Native Women Seek Justice at United Nations

Native Women Seek Justice at United Nations By Haider Rizvi UNITED NATIONS, Mar 2, 2011 (IPS) – The United States is facing international scrutiny for its apparent failure to prosecute criminals who enter indigenous territories to prey on Native women and girls. Between 60 and 80 percent of violent victimisation of Native American women is perpetrated by non-Natives, says a U.N. expert on legal matters related to women’s rights violations worldwide. Rashida Manjoo, the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, notes that in the U.S., indigenous women are much more vulnerable to abuses than any other ethnic group in the country. Manjoo, who met a number of officials and rights activists in her investigation of the situation of women in the United States, cited data showing that one in three Native women is raped during her lifetime.

In most cases, the rapists go free because the tribal elders have limited power to prosecute those who commit crimes on their territory. Native people say it is very hard for them to get help from the U.S. authorities.

“Since 1978 our tribal government, like all Indian nations, has been stripped of the authority to prosecute rapists and abusers that are non-Indians,” says Terri Henry, councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

In 1838, when the European colonisers forced Cherokees to leave their homelands in the South, thousands of natives died on their way to Oklahoma due to lack of food, clothing and shelter.

“Like all other federal statutes and policies towards Indians, the Removal Act legalised the deaths of thousands of Cherokee children, women and men,” explains Henry, who met Manjoo last month.

Henry, who is also a member of the Indian Law Resource Center, says there will be no end to violence against Native women until U.S. authorities “remove the legal barrier that ties the hands of tribal governments”.

The tribal courts can only impose a sentence of one to three years. Whilethe crime of rape in North Carolina, for example, carries a maximum penalty of 40 years, she says, “So for most tribal victims, a three-year sentence is a far cry from equal justice before the law.”

In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of a new task force to protect Native women from violence and abuse.

“We know too well that tribal communities face unique law enforcement challenges and are struggling to reverse unacceptable rates of violence against women and children,” Holder said.

“The task force has been a priority for me since my visit with tribal leaders last year,” he added. “It is a critical step in our work to improve public safety and strengthen coordination and collaboration concerning prosecution strategies with tribal communities.”

The 13-member task force is directed to produce a trial practice manual on the federal prosecution of crimes against women in Indian territories, and includes the U.S. attorney for Nebraska and assistant U.S. attorneys from five other western U.S. states, as well as judges, prosecutors and attorneys from several Indian nations.

The Barack Obama administration also recently endorsed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a move that was welcomed by the leaders of world’s 370 million indigenous peoples.

The historic U.N. declaration, which was rejected by the George W. Bush administration, recognises that indigenous peoples all over the world have the right to control their lands and practice their traditional belief systems.

“The Declaration can be used as a basis for making demands that the federal government fulfill its responsibilities to tribes and carry out its obligations to promote and respect the human rights of Indian nations and tribes,” said Robert T. Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center.

He thinks “it’s time for the U.S. Congress to examine [its] human rights obligations to American Indians and to assess whether existing laws and policies adequately respect the rights established in international law.”

During her two-week visit to the Indian territories and elsewhere in the United States, the U.N. special rapporteur also emphasised that racism and poverty remain deep-rooted problems. Of the more than one million women currently under the supervision of the criminal justice system, for example, black and Latino women represent 46 percent. And the vast majority of them have committed non-violent offences.

Manjoo is due to submit her report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in the next three months.

Meanwhile, Henry describes indigenous women’s situation in the United States as “a human rights crisis”.

“We are glad that the rest of the world is beginning to take notice,” she said.