The council needs to reject this proposed legislation [No. 0420-11],” said Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie. … “The central question of the issue is our argument that the Snowbowl Ski enterprise and the U.S. Forest Service are infringing on the religious freedom rights of 13 indigenous nations of Arizona. We continue to argue that position and that position must remain at the forefront and not take away from it by discussing what water should be used to make artificial snow.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2011: NNHRC opposes groundwater use for artificial snowmaking on Dook’o’osliid: ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—The heart of the issue is the infringement of indigenous human rights in the matter of religious freedom stated a Navajo human rights official about the off- course legislation set for a vote by the Navajo Nation on Thursday, December 22, 2011, in Window Rock, Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission opposed Honorable Walter Phelps’ Legislation No. 0420-11, 3-0, on November 4, 2011, to send a responsible consistent message to the Navajo Nation to protect the integrity of Dook’o’osliid from irreversible adverse effects.
“The [Navajo Nation Human Rights] Commission hereby opposes Legislation No. 0420-11 which supports the use of groundwater to be used to produce artificial snow on the San Francisco Peaks for recreational and economic purposes,” according to NNHRCNOV-09-11 legislation. “The [Navajo Nation Human Rights] Commission further recommends that the Navajo Nation Council continue to support the Special Rapporteur report regarding the San Francisco Peaks and that true consultation – in the context of free, prior and informed consent—occur through procedures of dialogue aimed at a consensus on protecting the San Francisco Peaks from further desecration.”
Hon. Walter Phelps introduced the “groundwater legislation” on October 6, 2011, and it was assigned to the Resources and Development Committee where members narrowly opposed it on October 25, 2011, and to the Náabik’iyáti’ Committee of the 22ndNavajo Nation Council set to address it on Thursday, December 22, 2011.
The upcoming groundwater legislation, which has received written public scrutiny, states, “The Navajo Nation believes it is in the best interest of the Navajo People that groundwater rather than reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water be used to make artificial snow thereby preventing Dook’o’osliid from being desecrated by reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water.”
“The council needs to reject this proposed legislation [No. 0420-11],” said Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie. “If it were to approve the legislation, it would send a mixed signal and demonstrate to the world that the Náabik’iyáti’ Committee is taking a position that is adverse to the established position of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, the Diné medicine groups, the Hopi Nation, the 10 other Arizona tribes and concerned citizen groups.”
Yazzie continued, “The central question of the issue is our argument that the Snowbowl Ski enterprise and the U.S. Forest Service are infringing on the religious freedom rights of 13 indigenous nations of Arizona. We continue to argue that position and that position must remain at the forefront and not take away from it by discussing what water should be used to make artificial snow.”
“It is also a basic premise that ‘making’ snow is not within the domain of human kind,” said Yazzie. “Instead that is a power reserved by the Creator and we, as Christians or traditional believers to infringe on that power or support it, is a desecration in itself of the highest order.”
Rachelle Todea, Public Information Officer
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 1689
Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ) 86515
Phone: (928) 871-7436
Fax: (928) 871-7437
“Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” according to Article 3 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc A/RES/295 (Sept. 13, 2007), 46 I.L.M 1013 (2007).
9/29/2011 Navajo Times: Peaks protesters cite rights violationsBy Alastair Lee Bitsoi: Over 130 people turned out for a hearing held by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission in Flagstaff on Sept. 23, which focused mostly on human rights violations rather than the sanctity of Dook’o’oosliid. The hearing was another chapter in the ongoing controversy over the use of wastewater to make snow for the Snowbowl ski resort.
“We would make the respectful request that we don’t go through that discussion again,” said Duane H. Yazzie, chair for the commission. “Very obviously, it was those testimonies we heard through public hearings, where we brought the issue to where it is today.”
“The main reason why we’re organized is to respond on acts of discrimination of Navajo people in border towns or whenever,” Yazzie said.
Rodney Tahe, the commission’s policy analyst, said the purpose of the public hearing is to gather new information from current issues surrounding the Peaks.
Tahe said the testimony from the hearing would be used for a new report, which will be submitted to the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur, Professor James Anaya.
On Sept. 21, Anaya presented his report – Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – to the 18th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Anaya’s report included the testimony of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe on the San Francisco Peaks – a mountain both tribes consider sacred.
“We are not here to hear again the significant religious premise, beliefs as related to the Peaks,” Commissioner Steve Darden said before testimony began.
Darden also said those individuals testifying need strong evidence to back up their claims of any human rights violations.
In total, 20 Navajos and non-Navajos provided testimony about criminalizing protests and issues regarding property, health, environment, policy and indigenous human rights.
Three of those testifying included Klee Benally, 36, of Black Mesa, Ariz., Lyneia Begay, 21, of Flagstaff, and Marlena Garcia, 17, also of Flagstaff.
When Benally spoke most in the crowd raised their hands when he asked if they felt their human rights were violated during their recent protests and encampment on the Peaks.
“I’m here before the NNHRC to address specific violations and request for immediate relief from those violations,” Benally said.
To date, Benally has been arrested twice and faces a total of three charges: obstruction to a public thoroughfare during an Aug. 7 march and disorderly conduct and trespassing from Aug. 13 protest.
Benally showed video footage of an incident when he was asked to leave the Snowbowl premises on the opening day of the ski resort’s winter season.
Benally said Snowbowl security officials interfered with prayer gatherings and his group has been singled out and harassed by local police and he has experienced racism, among other violations.
Benally also said the Arizona Daily Sun has been biased in its news coverage. The Navajo Times and other papers covering tribal communities have largely ignored the issue, he said.
Benally recommended the commissioners visit areas being desecrated and witness what many of the young Native and non-Native protestors have faced when being arrested.
“The time for inaction has far been over,” he said. “If it is true, what has been taught to me, what I have heard countless times at ceremonies, in sweat lodges, at flea markets, if it is true that our cultural survival is at stake, then declare a state of cultural crisis and take action accordingly.”
In her testimony Begay said she has experienced racism and hatred for being a strong advocate for the preservation and protection of Dook’o’oosliid.
“Go get a life,” “return to your teepee on the reservation,” and “there goes the squaw” are some of the racial remarks Begay said she has heard while living in Flagstaff.
“It’s time we take care of our youth,” Begay said, “before it’s too late. Which begs the question, when is too late? Right now, you’re asking for documentation, evidence, a bureaucratic process that emulates the very justice system that has made it impossible to prosecute non-Natives who rape Native women. Do you see the correlation? I hope so.”
Marlena Garcia, 17, also of Flagstaff, said Coconino County sheriffs nearly choked her to death when she was arrested during a June 16 protest against the Snowbowl’s construction of pipelines.
“I told police officers they were choking me and they told me I was fine,” Garcia said. “It was not until I started to lose consciousness that they let me go. The officers denied everything. Within hours, I had bruises and was really sore.”
Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler attended the hearing and said she’s looking forward to receiving a report and to share the testimony with the city council and other community leaders.
Vice Mayor Celia Barotz was also present but no members of the city council attended the hearing.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 at 5:00 PM at City Hall in Flagstaff, Ariz. On the Use and Preservation of Dook’o’osliid: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission will hold a public hearing to give Navajo citizens an opportunity to give oral testimony, written information, or send written testimony to NNHRC about Dook’o’osliid as they relate to use, need for preservation, protection and other issues on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 5 p.m. at City Hall in Flagstaff, Ariz.
NNHRC is established under the legislative oversight of the Naabik’iyati’ Committee of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council. NNHRC advocates for recognition of Navajo human rights and directly networks at the local, state, national and international level to assess the state-of-affairs between Navajos and non-Navajos by conducting public hearings. NNHRC also investigates written complaints involving discrimination of Navajo citizens and addresses the public about human rights and the Navajo Nation’s intolerance of human rights violations.
The mission of the NNHRC is “[t]o protect and promote the human rights of Navajo Nation citizens by advocating human equality at the local, state, national and international levels based on the Diné principles of Si’a Naaghai Bik’eh Hózhóó, Hashkéejí, Hózhóójí and K’é.” The Diné principles translate to being resilient, content, disciplined and maintaining peaceful relationships with all creation.
If a willing participant cannot make the hearing, NNHRC will accept a written testimony by mail. Be sure to include your full name, date, and chronological history of events pertaining to your concern about sacred sites, also, state the problem, and state the solution you want if you have one to recommend. Send your testimony to: Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, P.O. Box 1689, Window Rock, AZ 86515.
For more information, call the NNHRC at (928) 871-7436 or visit the NNHRC website at www.nnhrc.navajo-nsn.gov.
8/10/2011 Navajo Human Rights Commission: Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale joins the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission: “Denetdale will join Commissioner Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie, Commissioner Vice-Chairperson Clarence Chee, Commissioner Steve Darden, and Commissioner Irving Gleason; and direct seven staff members for the Commission. Denetdale will serve the remainder of the term of the vacated position from the time of appointment to July 2012.” FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (August 9, 2011): ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Ph.D, will fill the position on the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, which requires “an extensive background in education.” Her appointment to the Commission was confirmed on August 1, 2011 at the Naabik’iyati’ Committee of the Navajo Nation Council with a vote of 18 in favor and 0 opposed.
Denetdale was recommended by the Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize to the Naabik’iyati’ Committee. Denetdale will join Commissioner Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie, Commissioner Vice-Chairperson Clarence Chee, Commissioner Steve Darden, and Commissioner Irving Gleason; and direct seven staff members for the Commission. Denetdale will serve the remainder of the term of the vacated position from the time of appointment to July 2012.
During her term, Denetdale will guide staff at the Commission involving areas of civil and human rights, including but not limited to, employment, housing, cultural and intellectual property, sacred sites, race discrimination, advising accordingly as the educational representative to the Commission.
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission is an authorized entity of the Navajo Nation legislative branch to advocate for Navajo human rights and to address discriminatory acts against Navajo citizens.
The Commission’s office is located in St. Michaels, where Commissioners meet regularly every first Friday of each month. Commissioner meetings are open to the public.
Staff members address complaints filed by Navajo citizens. Complaint forms are available to download at www.nnhrc.navajo-nsn.gov.