Tag Archives: Navajo

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: NEW HAVEN, Conn.: Forget every stereotype you ever had about Yale University. Especially the “Yale man.” “Tall, white, muscular, and wearing a cardigan vest,” grinned Christian Brown, ticking off the attributes he associated with Yale students – before he became one. Actually, aside from being a different color, Brown is not too far off the mark. He is medium height and broad-shouldered, and last Saturday, he happened to be wearing a sweater vest. But it was a special occasion. He and the other Diné students at Yale were assigned to take the visiting Navajo Nation Supreme Court justices out to dinner at one of the best restaurants in New Haven – on the university’s tab.

“Not something that would happen at your typical state university,” declared the dapper freshman, who is Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan), born for bilagaana.

Dinée Dorame, Tabaaha (Edge Water Clan), born for Naakaii Diné’e (Mexican People Clan), was sporting a Yale T-shirt and shorts. She had just come from working out at one of the campus’s many gyms, having blown off a club basketball game in favor of meeting the justices.

“Yeah, I’m a jock,” she confessed. “You can be a jock at Yale, too.”

Right at home

Far from their hometowns of Phoenix and Albuquerque, and two of only six Navajo students at Yale, you might expect the two freshmen to be at least a little freaked out. But they seem right at home. And they are interrupting each other in their zeal to sing the praises of their new alma mater.

10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land

Photo: A picture taken near Black Mesa, Ariz., part of the Hopi Paritioned Land 10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land: In response to the recent discovery of water contamination on Hopi Partitioned Lands (HPL), the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management has capped several water wells and fenced off windmills as a public safety measure, including some used by trespassing Navajo tribal members who have not signed Accommodations Agreements (AA) to reside on HPL. Water contamination was among the issues discussed earlier this month during a Navajo AA Permittees meeting held on HPL on behalf of the Navajos who have signed a 75-year AA. These AA Navajo families legally reside on HPL with grazing permits recognized by the Hopi Tribe.

“Many of the issues they’re having on not only HPL, but the Navajo Partitioned Lands (NPL), are because Navajos who have not signed the Accommodation Agreement are illegally trespassing, cutting fences and bringing in their own livestock in the middle of the night,” said Hopi Tribal Councilman Cedric Kuwaninvaya, from the village of Sipaulovi and chairman of the Hopi Land Team. “One would expect this to be a problem of Navajos against the Hopi, but it’s not; it’s Navajos against Navajos.”

Present at the Navajo AA Permittees on HPL meeting, Councilman Kuwaninvaya said he had the opportunity to speak and asked if there were any delegates from the Navajo Nation [government] at the meeting and the answer was none. “Only one representative from the Navajo grazing committee from the area was present and no one representing the Navajo Nation Council. I would have liked to have seen one of their representatives, as we have issues on both the HPL and NPL sides that we need to address as tribal governments.”

Though Navajo permittees have signed an AA, some may still require assistance from their own Navajo Nation government.

“The safety of anyone on Hopi land, not just Navajo and Hopi people, is of utmost importance to us,” said Clayton Honyumptewa, Director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources. “The capping of water wells on the HPL was due to the fact that they were contaminated with uranium and arsenic, an obvious threat to anyone who was to drink it.”

“Our Windmill Crew will actively work to repair broken or malfunctioning windmills on the HPL,” he said. “We continue to work in keeping the lands, water wells and windmills as originally intended and urge those whose lands are being infringed upon to notify us of any wrongdoings and repairs needed.”

The meeting was sponsored by the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management and was attended by the Hopi windmill repair crews, Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Resource Enforcement Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in addition to the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Commission, Councilman Kuwaninvaya and a staff member from the Hopi Chairman’s office.

About Hopi Partitioned Lands:

The U.S. Congress partitioned the disputed 1882 Executive Order Hopi Reservation in a 1974 Congressional Act with parcels given to Navajo and Hopi Tribes resulting in the forced relocation of both Hopi and Navajo families. Forty-nine Navajo families signed a 75-year Accommodation Agreement to reside on HPL and all Hopi families voluntarily relocated from said disputed lands. Meanwhile several Navajo families continue resisting relocation from HPL to this day. The Hopi Tribe is working to restore the HPL with guidance from Hopi stewardship values and practices.

9/17/2011 Gallup Independent: Options discussed to save the Peaks from reclaimed water use at Snowbowl

9/17/2011 Gallup Independent: Options discussed to save the Peaks from reclaimed water use at Snowbowl By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, next week to hear U.N. Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the protection of sacred sites. On the home front, efforts will continue to ensure reclaimed water is not used to desecrate the sacred San Francisco Peaks. Some present and former Navajo Nation Council members and a representative of Dine Hataalii Association met in August with officials from the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort to discuss options to stop the use of reclaimed water for artificial snow-making at the resort.

A preferred alternative would be to support amending the U.S. Forest Service permit to allow the use of well water drawn from land at the base of the mountain owned by the Snowbowl. A water source that does not rely on Flagstaff’s water treatment plant and is not connected to the city system would ensure reclaimed water is not used.

Ivan Gamble of LeChee, who does not work for any of the entities involved and said he has never skied at the Snowbowl, has been trying to facilitate discussions between Navajo, Hopi and Snowbowl owners.

“We used to have a very good working relationship with the tribes back in the mid-’90s when we supplied a lot of logs for reconstruction of the villages and the kivas,” Eric Borowsky, Snowbowl general partner, said Friday. “Then once we started the upgrade proposal, the Forest Service said we could no longer have direct communication with the tribes, it all had to be government to government.”

Borowsky said he has been trying to come up with an alternative water source. “We do have permission to use reclaimed water, but I know the tribes would like a different source of water. I’m very happy to work with them to try to come up with an alternate solution and to return to the days when we had a very good working relationship.”

The possibility of drilling wells has been mentioned, he said, but whether to move forward on that option would be up to the tribes. “They have to take a formal position on this matter and then we’ll have to work together to try to make it happen.”

Jerry Honawa, 74, of Hotevilla, a member of the Tobacco Clan and the Pure Moon Society, has started a petition to obtain signatures of traditional practitioners from various villages and kivas at Hopi.

San Francisco Peaks, or Nuvatukyaovi in Hopi, is considered the “Temple of the Gods,” Honawa said Friday. “From what we are taught about our migration, this is one of the farthest northern temples from the migration from way down South America somewhere. They left temples along the way, and this is the last one on this continent.”

Honawa does not condone the string of protests which have been taking place in Flagstaff and Albuquerque. “The way it is done does not signify anything that a practitioner or a medicine man would be doing.” The proper way would be dialog across the table, he said, “rather than on the street corner yelling my lungs out. This is the way I believe and this is the way I was raised.”

Honawa does not speak for the kikmongwis, or traditional village chiefs, because Hotevilla doesn’t have a kikmongwi anymore. “They’re kind of extinct,” he said. “But we do have acting people that are kind of like the leaders within the village.”

In addition, each kiva has a person they look to as their leader for whichever clan is responsible for that kiva, he said. “We have six of them here. Out of the six, three are the responsibility of the Snake Clan and the Sand Clan, one is the Badger/Butterfly, one of them is the Sun Clan, and the other is the Spider/Bluebird.”

As the Tobacco Clan patriarch, Honawa visits most of the kivas, he said. “Tobacco is at every kiva and I go to each one of them at certain periods of time. I am also a member of the Pure Moon Society, and that is where the smoke hazing of the Katsinam (Hopi ancestral spirits) is prevalent. That’s the kiva of the Badger Clan People, where the Pure Moon Society has their headquarters, basically.”

The Hopi believe that the Katsinam are responsible for moisture and that the installation of snow-making technology within the 777-acre special use permit area would alter the natural processes of the San Francisco Peaks and the responsibilities of the Katsinam. The use of reclaimed water, especially, would contaminate the natural resources needed to perform the required ceremonies that are the basis of Hopi cultural identity.

Hopis often are asked why they aren’t seen when they make their pilgrimages to Nuvatukyaovi. The reason is “a lot of this is done in a sacred way to where it is not for the public eye,” Honawa said.

“One of my first experiences, when my grandfather was still with us, I took him there; and when we saw these people, he said, ‘Act like we’re not doing anything special.’ We acted like tourists, and then when the people were gone, then we continued. These are some of the things that they practice and they asked us to carry it like that.”

Honawa’s petition states that the signers do not support artificial snow-making. “This issue has gone on too long, has been fought in the wrong places. We support the compromise being fashioned between the various entities and hope they are able to secure a compromise based on good faith and mutual understanding.”

A focus group from Navajo District 5, which is comprised of elders from Birdsprings, Leupp and Tolani Lake, said it would be less offensive to use well water on the mountain, known to Navajo as Dook’o’oosliid, rather than reclaimed water. Dine Hataalii Association reportedly is weighing the option and has not issued an outright objection.

9/7/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Special Rapporteur reports on San Francisco Peaks to UN Human Rights Council

9/7/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Special Rapporteur reports on San Francisco Peaks to UN Human Rights Council By Brenda Norrell FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council stating alleged human rights violations of indigenous peoples around the world. In the US, the report includes the plan to violate sacred San Francisco Peaks with snow made from wastewater. The report also includes the case of imprisoned Leonard Peltier and the protection of sacred Sogorea Te (Glen Cove in Calif.) The international cases of human rights abuses include the Wixarika (Huicholes) in Mexico struggling to protect their sacred lands from mining, along with cases from indigenous peoples in Guatemala, Chile, Israel, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Thailand, in Anaya’s Aug. 22 report.

Anaya urged the US to review the need to protect sacred San Francisco Peaks from the plan to use recycled wastewater for snowmaking by the private corporation Arizona Snowbowl. Further, Anaya urged the US to carry out consultation with American Indian Nations as required by US law and in accordance with international human rights obligations.

Anaya, pointing out the sacred nature of San Francisco Peaks to area Indian Nations, said, “To them, the sacredness of the San Francisco Peaks depends on the purity of the water and plant life in the area, which allegedly will be contaminated if wastewater is introduced into the Peaks through the planned artificial snowmaking.”

Anaya states San Francisco Peaks is sacred to 13 area American Indian Nations and points out the specifics of the connections of Hopi and Navajo to the sacred mountain.

In his recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council, Anaya said the US should give serious consideration to suspending the permit for the Arizona Snowbowl.

“In this connection, the Government should reinitiate or continue consultations with the tribes whose religions practices are affected by the ski operations on the San Francisco Peaks and endeavor to reach agreement with them on the development of the ski area. The Government should give serious consideration to suspending the permit for the modifications of Snowbowl until such agreement can be achieved or until, in the absence of such an agreement, a written determination is made by a competent government authority that the final decision about the ski area modifications is in accordance with the United States’ international human rights obligations.”

Annex X United States of America: Situation of the Native Americans in relation to artificial snowmaking from recycled wastewater in the San Francisco Peaks USA 1/2011

1. In a communication of 10 January 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of the United States of America to information received relating to the proposed use of recycled wastewater for a commercial ski operation the San Francisco Peaks (or the “Peaks”), a mountainous area that is sacred to several Native American tribes. The full text of this communication can be accessed from the electronic version of the joint communications report (A/HRC/18/51), which is available on the web site of the Human Rights Council. In his communication the Special Rapporteur requested a response within 60 days. He regrets that there is no record of a response in the files of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time of finalization of this report. In the absence of a response, the Special Rapporteur developed the observations below, which include an evaluation of the situation and recommendations to the Government of the United States. These observations were transmitted to the government on 6 July 2011.

2. The San Francisco Peaks are located north of the city of Flagstaff, Arizona within land that is administered by the United States Forest Service as part of the Coconino National Forest. According to information received, the Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (“Snowbowl”) owns and operates a commercial ski operation in the western flank of the San Francisco Peaks, under a 777-acre special use permit issued by the Forest Service. In 2002 Snowbowl filed an application for expansion of its facilities, including a request for approval to make snow from treated sewage effluent. In February 2005, the Forest Service issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision approving the proposed artificial snowmaking from recycled waste wastewater, the construction of a pipeline from Flagstaff to carry the treated effluent from Flagstaff and improvement of guest service facilities. Several Native American tribes and organizations have vigorously opposed the Forest Service’s decision. To them, according to sources, the sacredness of the San Francisco Peaks depends on the purity of the water and plant life in the area, which allegedly will be contaminated if wastewater is introduced into the Peaks through the planned artificial snowmaking. However, their federal court lawsuit to challenge the approval of artificial snowmaking on, inter alia, religious freedom grounds was unsuccessful. 1

Observations of the Special Rapporteur
3. On the basis of information he has received and gathered on this situation, which he considers to be in material respects undisputed, the Special Rapporteur offers the following 1 See Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service, 535 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2763 (2009). A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 44 observations, in the hope that they will serve to promote appropriate action by the United States to address the human rights matters raised.

4. The extensive documentation by the Government and federal courts in relevant proceedings makes clear that the San Francisco Peaks are sacred to several Native American tribes, and that the presence of the ski operation and now the initiative to make artificial snow from recycled wastewater on the Peaks offend the religious beliefs and practices of members of these tribes. Apart from the provisions of domestic law that have been applied by the courts to examine this situation, international standards, including those based on human rights treaties to which the United States is a party to and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, require adequate consultation and close scrutiny for any action that affects the sacred sites and religious practices of indigenous peoples. The United States should engage in a comprehensive review of its relevant policies and actions to ensure that they are in compliance with these international standards in relation to the San Francisco Peaks and other sacred sites of Native Americans, and should take appropriate remedial action. In the paragraphs below, the Special Rapporteur elaborates upon these points. The effects of the planned snowmaking on Native American religion

5. The Special Rapporteur is aware that the development of the Snowbowl ski area and the recent plans for expanding its facilities, including for artificial snowmaking with recycled wastewater, have proceeded with extensive examination and documentation by the Government and federal courts of the impacts on Native American culture and religion. Required environmental impact studies and the legal challenges to the federal permits for Snowbowl’s expansion on the San Francisco Peaks have prompted this examination and documentation, which make abundantly clear the sacred character of the Peaks to the tribes, the affront on their religious beliefs and the tribes’ opposition to the planned snowmaking.

6. The Final Environmental Impact Statement compiled by the U.S. Forest Service to assess the proposal for artificial snowmaking and other additions to Snowbowl’s operations on the Peaks included the following observations: The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to at least 13 formally recognized tribes that are still actively using the Peaks in cultural, historic, and religious contexts. A central underlying concept to all tribes for whom the Peaks are especially important is the recognition that the San Francisco Peaks are a source of water in the form of rain, springs, and snow. It is believed that the Peaks were put there for the people and it is therefore the peoples’ duty to protect it for the benefit of the world… [N]ine
significant qualities… characterize the Peaks for the tribes.

These qualities include:

• They are the abode of deities and other spirit beings.
• They are the focus of prayers and songs whereby humans communicate with the supernatural.
• They contain shrines and other places where ceremonies and prayers are performed.
• They are the source of water.
• They are the source of soil, plant, and animal resources that are used for ceremonial and traditional purposes.
• They mark the boundaries of traditional or ancestral lands.
• They form a calendar that is used to delineate and recognize the ceremonial season. A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 45
• They contain places that relate to legends and stories concerning the origins, clans, traditions, and ceremonies of various Southwestern tribes.
• They contain sites and places that are significant in the history and culture of various tribes.

Two examples of the cultural significance of the San Francisco Peaks are the Hopi and Navajo peoples’ religious and spiritual connections to the Peaks, as discussed below.


Hopi clans migrated through the San Francisco Peaks (called Nuvatukyaovi, “High Place of Snow”), made settlements nearby, and placed shrines on the Peaks. All of the religious ceremonies focus on Nuvatukyaovi and demonstrate the sacred relationship of the Peaks to the Hopi people. The history of clan migrations through the area continue to be related, discussed, and passed on from generation to generation. The Peaks contain clan and society shrines, and gathering areas for medicinal and religious use. Hopi religious leaders visit the Peaks annually. The San Francisco Peaks are the spiritual essence of what Hopis consider the most sacred landscapes in Hopi religion. They are the spiritual home of the Katsinam, significant religious beings that all Hopis believe in, and are therefore, sacred. The ceremonies associated with the Peaks, the plants and herbs gathered on the Peaks, and the shrines and ancestral dwellings located in the vicinity of the Peaks are of central importance to the religious beliefs and traditions that are the core of Hopi culture….

The Navajo people believe that the Creator placed them on land between four sacred mountains: Blanca Peak in Colorado, Mount Taylor in New Mexico, the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, and Hesperus Peak in Colorado. According to their own
history, the Navajos have always lived between these mountains. Each of the four mountains is associated with a cardinal direction, symbolizing the boundaries of the Navajo homeland. For the Navajo, the Peaks are the sacred mountain of the west, Doko’oo’sliid, “Shining on Top,” a key boundary marker and a place where medicine men collect soil for their medicine bundles and herbs for healing ceremonies. Navajo traditions tell that San Francisco Peak was adorned with Diichilí, Abalone Shell, Black Clouds, Male Rain, and all animals, besides being the home of Haashch’éélt’i’í (Talking God), Naada’algaii ‘Ashkii (White Corn Boy), and Naadá ‘Altsoii ‘At’ééd (Yellow Corn Girl). The sacred name of the Peaks is Diichilí Dzil – (Abalone Shell Mountain). The Navajo people have been instructed by the Creator never to leave their sacred homeland. Dook’o’osliid and the other three sacred mountains are the source of curing powers. They are perceived as a single unit, such as the wall of a hogan, or as a particular time of a single day. Dook’o’osliid is seen as a wall made of abalone shell and stone, with mixed yellow and white bands….

Environmental Consequences
The 1975 Hopi Tribal Resolution noted that there are numerous medicinal herbs and other plants at several levels of the Peaks that are used to treat the ailments of the Hopi people. The Forest Service is unaware of any plants or other natural resource material used by the Hopi within the Snowbowl … area; however, the addition of new trails, increased parking, and the potential for additional annual visitation within the … area and the San Francisco Peak themselves causes concern among the Hopi and other tribes that their areas of traditional use would be impacted. Specifically, A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 46 the Hopi make pilgrimages to shrines and use the Peaks for religious reasons such as gathering evergreens and herbs and delivering prayer feathers. Although the reclaimed water proposed for use in snowmaking fully meets both the Federal and Arizona state water quality standards, it is believed that trace levels of unregulated residual constituents within reclaimed water (e.g., pathogens, pharmaceuticals, hormones, etc.) could negatively impact the spiritual and medicinal purity of resident flora on the Peaks. Several specific concerns have been raised about the impact of snowmaking on the spiritual values of the Peaks.

An additional concern is that some of the reclaimed water once passed through hospitals or mortuaries could carry the spirits of the dead with it. Those spirits, as part of the water draining from the Peaks, would then infiltrate plants, thus affecting their ritual purity.

From both a Hopi and Navajo perspective, any plants that would come into contact with reclaimed water would be contaminated for medicinal purposes, as well as for use in ceremonies needed to perpetuate their cultural values…. The Hopi believe that the Katsinam are responsible for moisture and that the installation of snowmaking technology within the SUP [special use permit] area would alter the natural processes of the San Francisco Peaks and the responsibilities of the Katsinam.

The Hopi, Navajo, and other tribes have existed in the region of the San Francisco Peaks for thousands of years and have developed their cultures and religious institutions around the natural and cultural landscape of the San Francisco Peaks. Traditions, responsibilities, and beliefs that delineate who they are as a people, and as a culture, are based on conducting ritual ceremonies they are obligated to perform as keepers of the land. These obligatory activities focus on the Peaks, which are a physical and spiritual microcosm of their cultures, beliefs, and values. Snowmaking and expansion of facilities, especially the use of reclaimed water, would contaminate the natural resources needed to perform the required ceremonies that have been, and continue to be, the basis for the cultural identity for many of these tribes. 2

7. The records of the proceedings in federal court litigation concerning Snowbowl’s ski operations on the San Francisco Peaks reinforce the above assessment of the sacred character of the Peaks, and of the effects on Native American religion of the planned snowmaking and other modifications, on top of the effects of the existing ski facilities. 3 Even while holding that the Government’s approval of the Snowbowl modifications did not violate federal law, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, acknowledged the sacred character of the San Francisco Peaks and that “[t]o the [tribes], the [presence of recycled wastewater] will desecrate a sacred mountain and will decrease the spiritual fulfillment they get from practicing their religion on the mountain”. 4

8. Despite such acknowledgment, the federal appellate court held that this impact on religion is not of the kind that could lead to finding a violation of the federal Religious 2 USDA Forest Service, Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvements Final Environmental Impact Statement, Vol. 1 (2005), pp. 3-7 to 3-11, 3-16 to 3-18 (hereinafter “FEIS”). 3 See Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service, 408 F. Supp. 2d 866 (D. Ariz., 2006), aff’d in part and rev’d in part, 479 F.3 1024 (9th Cir. 2008); aff’d on rehearing, 535 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2763 (2009); Wilson v. Block, 708 F.2d 735 (D.C. Court of Appeals, 1983), cert. denied 463 U.S. 958 (1983). 4 Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service, 535 F. 3d 1058, 1070 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2763 (2009). A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 47 Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). For the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, RFRA only protects against government action that actively coerces Native American religious practitioners into violating their religious beliefs or that penalizes their religious activity with loss or threat loss of government benefits. Along with finding the absence of such conditions, the court pointed to the lower court determination that in fact no plants or religious shrines would be physically affected by the snowmaking and that practitioners would continue to have access to the mountain, including the ski area, to conduct religious activities. 5 Neither the appellate nor lower court questioned, however, that for Native American religious practitioners from several tribes, snowmaking with recycled wastewater in Snowbowl would be a desecration of a sacred mountain, even if federal and state environmental standards are met and they continue to have access to the mountain along with skiers.

9. It is not the purpose of the Special Rapporteur to review or challenge the application of domestic law by the United States judicial system. Rather, the Special Rapporteur means to draw attention to the relevant international standards that bind the United States and that should guide action by Government actors, even when certain decisions may be permissible under domestic law. The Special Rapporteur respectfully reminds the United States that the judicial applications and interpretations of the legal protections for Native American religion available under domestic law do not pose any legal barrier to Government action in accordance with a higher standard. The lack of indigenous agreement or consent to artificial snowmaking on a sacred mountain

10. In its Record of Decision to permit snowmaking from recycled wastewater and other modifications to the ski operation on the San Francisco Peaks, the United States Forest Service acknowledged that “[o]ver the years the tribes have continued to state their opposition to development at Snowbowl”, as they did in 1979 when the Forest Service was considering the option of closing down the ski operation but decided instead to allow it to expand. 6 The Forest Service reported extensive consultations with the tribes about the most recent plans for Snowbowl enhancements. “In all 200 phone calls were made, 41 meetings were held, and 245 letters were sent to Tribal officials, tribal historic preservation offices, traditional tribal leaders/practitioners, and the general tribal public”. 7

11. The Forest Service confirms that “[a]s with the decision in 1979, the proposal to improve the facilities at the Snowbowl has been met with adamant opposition from the tribes, even though there have been changes in laws, improvements in working relationships and successes in working together on other projects …”. 8 Despite this adamant opposition by the tribes based on their religious practices and beliefs, the Forest Service decided to approve the artificial snowmaking and other ski area modifications, bringing into question the United States’ adherence to international standards to which it has expressed its commitment. Article 19 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free 5 See Ibid., pp. 1063, 1070. 6 USDA Forest Service, Record of Decision – Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvements Final Environmental Impact Statement and Forest Management Plan #21 (February 2005), p.3 (hereinafter “FEIS-Record of Decision”). 7 Ibid., p. 9. 8 Ibid., p. 3. A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 48 prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing any legislative measure that affects them.

12. This standard of consultation and consent is a corollary of the right to self determination and the cultural rights of minorities that are affirmed, respectively, in articles 1 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as manifested by the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee. 9 Additionally, it is instrumental to implementing the principles of non-discrimination found in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as instructed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). 10 In its General Recommendation 23, CERD calls upon State parties to “[e]nsure that members of indigenous peoples have equal rights in respect of effective participation in public life and that no decisions directly relating to their rights and interests are taken without their informed consent …”. 11

13. Under the cited human rights treaties, to which the United States is a party, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the United States has endorsed, consultations should take place with the objective of achieving agreement or consent by indigenous peoples to decisions that may directly affect them in significant ways, such as decisions affecting their sacred sites. Simply providing indigenous peoples with information about a proposed decision and gathering and taking into account their points of view is not sufficient in this context. Consultation must occur through procedures of dialogue aimed at arriving at a consensus. 12

14. It is far from clear that the consultations with the tribes about the artificial snowmaking and other ski area modifications were undertaken through procedures involving negotiations toward an agreed-upon outcome. It appears instead that the
consultations were more in the nature of dissemination of information about the Snowbowl development plans and gathering of views about those plans, within a process of government decision making that did not depend on agreement or consent on the part of the tribes. 13 In any case, it is beyond question that the tribes have not agreed or consented to the
Snowbowl modifications; indeed they have actively opposed them.

15. In the absence of consent by indigenous peoples to decisions that affect them, States should act with great caution. At a minimum, States should ensure that any such decision does not infringe indigenous peoples’ internationally-protected collective or individual rights, including the right to maintain and practice religion in relation to sacred sites. It is 9 See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, A/HRC/12/34 (15 July 2009), paras. 40- 41 (hereinafter “2009 annual report of the Special Rapporteur”). 10 Ibid., para. 40. 11 A/52/18, annex V at para. 4(d). 12 For a discussion of the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples affecting them, see 2009 annual report of the Special Rapporteur, supra, paras. 36-74. 13 The Forest Service did develop a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) related to adverse effects of the proposed ski area modifications, as a result of the nomination of the San Francisco Peaks for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and it invited the tribes to sign the MOA as concurring parties. The Forest Service reported that four of the affected tribes did sign, while the others (including Navajo and Hopi) declined to do so or did not respond. FEIS-Record of Decision, pp. 26-27. The MOA does not embody or propose agreement to the ski area modifications but rather provides for a series of measures calculated to mitigate adverse effects of the development of the ski area and to protect the cultural values associated with the San Francisco Peaks. See FEIS, Appendix D. While most of the affected tribes did not sign the MOA, it is not clear that any of them were involved in developing its terms, other than indirectly through the consultations reported by the Forest Service. A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 49 therefore necessary in this case to assess the nature of the right of Native Americans to practice their religious traditions under international human rights standards and the scope of permissible restriction of the right. International standards protecting the right of Native Americans to maintain and practice their religious traditions

16. Under relevant sources of international law, the United States has a duty to respect and protect Native American religion, a duty that goes beyond not coercing or penalizing Native American religious practitioners. The right of indigenous peoples to maintain and practice their distinctive religions, including in relation to sacred areas, is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Further, it is recognized specifically by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which provides an authoritative statement of standards that States should follow in keeping with their obligations under these and other human rights treaties, as well as under the human rights clauses of the United Nations Charter. Any restriction on the right of indigenous peoples to maintain and practice their religious traditions, not just those involving active coercion or penalties, is subject to the most exacting scrutiny under these international instruments.

17. The right to practice or manifest religion or belief is protected under Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion [which includes] freedom … either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” State parties have a duty to take the measures necessary to ensure the effective enjoyment of this and other rights recognized the Covenant (Art. 2(2)). In its Article 27, which is also of relevance to indigenous peoples, the Covenant gives special consideration to the rights of minorities whose cultural and religious traditions differ from those of the majority. Article 27 states, “Persons belonging to minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own
religion …”. In its interpretation of State parties’ obligations under Article 27, the Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment 23 affirmed that “positive measures by States may also be necessary to protect the identity of a minority and the rights of its members to enjoy and develop their culture and language and to practise their religion, in community with other members of the group”. 14

18. Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides that State parties are to “guarantee the right of everyone … to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of …[t]he right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” In interpreting and applying this Convention, CERD has observed the need to take into account the particular characteristics of groups in order to achieving effective equality in the enjoyment of their human rights. Otherwise, “[t]o treat in an equal manner persons or groups whose situations are objectively different will constitute discrimination in effect, as will the unequal treatment of persons whose situations are objectively the same.” 15 Accordingly, in its General Recommendation 23, CERD has noted the distinctive characteristics of indigenous peoples in light of their histories and cultures, and has called upon States to take particular measures to protect their rights, including 14 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.5, para. 6(2). 15 CERD General Recommendation 32: Special Measures, para. 8. A/HRC/18 35/Add.1 50 measures to “[e]nsure that indigenous communities can exercise their rights to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs …”. 16

19. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which reinforces the call to ensure for indigenous peoples the enjoyment of fundamental human rights historically denied to them, for its part affirms that “[i]ndigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the rights to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites” (Art. 12). Additionally, Article 25 of the Declaration provides that indigenous peoples’ right to “maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories … and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” The Declaration thus recognizes that, for indigenous peoples, the ability to effectively practice and manifest their religion and beliefs depends many times on the protection of and access to sites of particular religious
and cultural significance. Consequently, the duty of States to ensure on an equal basis the right to the free exercise of religion includes that duty to adopt safeguards for the exercise of indigenous religious traditions in connection with sacred sites. Permissible limitations on the right to maintain and practice religion

20. The international law duty of States to ensure the exercise by indigenous peoples of their religious traditions extends to safeguarding against any meaningful limitations to that exercise, not just limitations that entail coercion to act against one’s religious beliefs or penalties for doing so. Under Article 18(3) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” With this standard there is no qualification on the kind of limitation or restriction that must undergo examination for justification on the basis of the stated purposes. Under the plain language of Article 18 of the Covenant, any clearly observable limitation that makes for a meaningful restriction on the exercise of religion is subject to scrutiny.

21. The process of snowmaking from reclaimed sewage water on the San Francisco Peaks undoubtedly constitutes a palpable limitation on religious freedom and belief, as clearly indicated by the U.S. Forest Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. This limitation exists even assuming minimal physical environmental degradation as a result of the snowmaking. It bears remembering that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the effect of the proposed use of reclaimed wastewater would constitute a desecration of the affected indigenous peoples’ religion. 17 The religious freedom at stake is not simply about maintaining ceremonial or medicinal plants free from adverse physical environmental conditions or about physical access to shrines within the Peaks. More comprehensively, it is about the integrity of entire religious belief systems and the critical place of the Peaks and its myriad qualities within those belief systems. Is the limitation on Native American religion necessary to achieve a valid public purpose or protect the human rights of others?

22. It may be concluded without much difficulty that the limitation on Native American religion resulting from the decision of the U.S. Forest Service to permit the artificial snowmaking is “prescribed by law”, in the sense that it is pursuant to the Forest Service’s authority and legally prescribed procedures for managing the lands around the San 16 CERD/C/51/Misc.13/Rev.4, para. 4(d)(e)). 17 See Navajo Nation, 535 F. 3d at 1070. A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 51 Francisco Peaks. The question remains, however, whether the limitation from that decision is “necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”, as stipulated by Article 18(3) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights. This question in turn entails two inquires: first, whether an adequate purpose is being pursued and, second, whether the limitation on Native American religion is necessary to achieve that purpose.

23. As to the first question, whether there is a sufficient purpose within the terms of article 18(3) of the Covenant, the Human Rights Committee in its General Recommendation 22 has explained that this provision “is to be strictly interpreted:
restrictions are not allowed on grounds not specified there… Limitations may be applied only for those purposes for which they were prescribed”. 18 It is far from apparent how the decision to permit snowmaking by a private recreational ski facility is in furtherance of one of the specified public purposes – public safety, order, health or morals – or the human
rights of others. In its Record of Decision on the artificial snowmaking and other modifications to the ski area, the Forest Service explained that “[d]ownhill skiing is an important component of the recreation opportunities offered by National Forests, and the Forest Service and the ski industry have forged a partnership to provide recreational opportunities on [National Forest Service] lands.” 19 In the view of the Forest Service, “the overall benefits of providing stable winter recreational opportunities for the public and the community… merits [the] selection” of the proposed use of recycled wastewater for snowmaking operations. 20 In this connection, the Forest Service considered the financial viability of Snowbowl to be a factor: “Snowbowl’s ability to maintain or improve its current level of service and endure the business conditions caused by unreliable snowfall is questionable… [Therefore] the installation and operation of snowmaking infrastructure… will enable a reliable and consistent operating season, thereby helping to stabilize the Snowbowl’s viability”. 21

24. Even assuming that a sufficient purpose could be discerned, it is left to be determined whether the limitation on religion arising from the artificial snowmaking is necessary for that purpose, necessity being in significant part a function of proportionality. As stated by the Human Rights Committee, “[l]imitations … must be directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which they are predicated”. 22 An assessment of necessity and proportionality requires examination of the nature and severity of the limitation on religion, in relation to the identified valid purpose and the manner in which
the purpose is being pursued. In this respect as well, it is far from readily apparent how the limitation on Native American religion imposed by the planned snowmaking can be justified.

25. In determining necessity and proportionality, there must be due regard for the significance of the San Francisco Peaks in the religious traditions of the tribes, the desecration that the artificial snowmaking signifies, and the cumulative effect of that desecration. The artificial snowmaking simply builds on what already was an affront to religious sensibilities: the installation of the ski area in the first place and its gradual expansion. In its Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Forest Service noted the past, present and potential future cumulative effects of the ski operation, with its expansion and
upgrades, on the cultural resources in the area. 23 The cumulative effects on Native 18 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, para. 8.
19 FEIS-Record of Decision, p. 23. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid., p. 24. 22 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, para. 8. 23 FEIS, supra, at 3-25.
A/HRC/18/35/Add.1 52 American religion of the expansions and upgrades of the ski operation, and not just the added effects of the snowmaking, must be found necessary and proportionate in relation to some sufficient purpose. It is highly questionable that the effects on Native American religion can be justified under a reasonable assessment of necessity and proportionality, if the purpose behind the Government decision to permit the enhancements to the ski operation is none other than to promote recreation.

26. On the basis of the foregoing, the Special Rapporteur respectfully recommends that the United States Government engage in a comprehensive review of its relevant policies and actions to ensure that they are in compliance with international standards in relation to the San Francisco Peaks and other Native American sacred sites, and that it take appropriate remedial action.

27. In this connection, the Government should reinitiate or continue consultations with the tribes whose religions practices are affected by the ski operations on the San Francisco Peaks and endeavor to reach agreement with them on the development of the ski area. The Government should give serious consideration to suspending the permit for the modifications of Snowbowl until such agreement can be achieved or until, in the absence of such an agreement, a written determination is made by a competent government authority that the final decision about the ski area modifications is in accordance with the United States’ international human rights obligations.

28. The Special Rapporteur wishes to stress the need to ensure that actions or decisions by Government agencies are in accordance with, not just domestic law, but also international standards that protect the right of Native American to practice and maintain their religious traditions. The Special Rapporteur is aware of existing government programs account their religious traditions in government decision-making with respect to sacred sites. The Special Rapporteur urges the Government to build on these programs and policies to conform to international standards and by doing so to establish a good practice and become a world leader that it can in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

8/27/2011 CENSORED NEWS: New Wikileaks: Forced Exiles of Native Americans and Palestinians

8/27/2011 CENSORED NEWS: New Wikileaks: Forced Exiles of Native Americans and Palestinians: While the US media censored the truth, the world was watching By Brenda Norrell: The release of thousands of Wikileaks cables includes the comparison of how the colonial United States government forcibly drove Native Americans from their homes, while Israel forcibly expels Palestinians from their homes. The new Wikileaks cables reveal that while the US media was censoring the truth, the world was watching. In a diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in Kuwait released Friday, dated June 21, 2004, the US Embassy in Kuwait provides this quote from the media:

¶3. “Journey Of Tears” Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh wrote in independent Al-Qabas (6/19): “The way the United States was founded is identical to the way the Zionist entity was founded. In America, Native Americans were forcibly driven away from their homes. Israel in 2004 is doing the same thing by forcibly expelling Palestinians from the West Bank, east of Jerusalem and Gaza. According to author Muneer Al-Akesh, America’s idea of exchanging a nation and a culture with another, through forcible evacuation and unjustified explanations, is in fact Israel’s historical raison d’etre. While Sharon is in Palestine, Bush is in Iraq. There is no difference.”

It is the second cable released in the past few days where US Embassies refer to media quotes about the atrocities committed by the US government and the exile of Native Americans.

A second Wikileaks cable revives an article censored by Indian Country Today. While the newspaper censored an article stating that the war in Iraq is a continuation of the atrocities inflicted on American Indians — the truth was already known around the world in Turkey.

The US Embassy in Turkey quoted Omer Ozturkmen in 2004, in the Wikileaks cable: “The Iraqi people were expecting to watch Saddam’s trial on TV while the president of the US focused on his re-election bid. Now, the torture photos from Iraq have recalled for the American people the long forgotten atrocities faced by American Indians.”

It is an important fact that Turkey knew this truth at the beginning of the Iraq war, because in the United States, this fact was being censored.

Louise Benally of Big Mountain, Ariz., longtime Navajo resister of relocation, was among the most vocal from the beginning opposing the war in Iraq. When Benally compared the war in Iraq to the forced exile and imprisonment of Navajos on the Long Walk by the US Calvary, the newspaper Indian Country Today, where I served as a staff writer, censored Benally’s comments in 2005.

Pressed to publish a correction, the newspaper refused.

Here are the censored comments:

Navajos at Big Mountain resisting forced relocation view the 19th Century prison camp of Bosque Redondo and the war in Iraq as a continuum of U.S. government sponsored terror.

Louise Benally of Big Mountain remembered her great-grandfather and other Navajos driven from their beloved homeland by the U.S. Army on foot for hundreds of miles while witnessing the murder, rape and starvation of their family and friends.

“I think these poor children had gone through so much, but, yet they had the will to go on and live their lives. If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be here today.

“It makes me feel very sad and I apply this to the situation in Iraq. I wonder how the Native Americans in the combat zone feel about killing innocent lives.”

Looking at the faces of the Navajo and Apache children in the Bosque Redondo photo, Benally said, “I think the children in the picture look concerned and maybe confused. It makes me think of what the children in Iraq must be going through right now.

“The U.S. military first murders your people and destroys your way of life while stealing your culture, then forces you to learn their evil ways of lying and cheating,” Benally said.

We know now that not only were Benally’s comments censored at the time, but Native Americans and other peace activists were being stalked and spied on by law enforcement throughout the United States. The spy files of the Denver Police Department, made public, revealed that activists at Big Mountain were among those on the police watch list.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, the truth was known that when American Indians viewed torture photos in Iraq, they recalled the atrocities inflicted on Native Americans.

A US diplomatic cable in Turkey, dated May 21, 2004, states:

“The US is in Trouble in Iraq”

Omer Ozturkmen observed in the conservative Turkiye (5/21): “The fact is, US diplomacy was mistaken in planning for the post-war scenario in Iraq. The US could never imagine the kinds of problems they were going to face there. The Iraqi people were expecting to watch Saddam’s trial on TV while the president of the US focused on his re-election bid. Now, the torture photos from Iraq have recalled for the American people the long forgotten atrocities faced by American Indians. Let us see how the president will explain the loss of American lives in Iraq during his campaign. When put next to the torture the Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of the coalition, Saddam’s Halapja massacre looks mild by comparison. Those obscene photos are already being circulated among international terrorist groups to recruit fighters against the United States. The Bush Administration, which at one time put sacks over the heads of allied troops, now buries its own head to hide its shame. The US is paying the price for excluding Turkey in its policies in Eurasia. It looks that that price will continue to be paid.”
Reference id: 04ANKARA2881 Origin: Embassy Ankara Time: Fri, 21 May 2004 16:38 UTC
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Finally, here are more of Benally’s comments from 2005:

Suffering and strength at Bosque Redondo
By Brenda Norrell

BIG MOUNTAIN, Ariz. – Viewing a photo of Navajo children at Bosque Redondo for the first time, Louise Benally wondered which ones were her great-grandparents who endured the Long Walk to Fort Sumner, N.M. and suffered in the prison camp for four years.

”On my mother’s side they went: and my great-grandfather was just 5 years old. He had seen a lot of hard times, where parents and other relatives were killed,” Benally said.

”My grandma passed on three years ago – she was 116 years old. When she left, she would tell us that they did some healing ceremonies which were called ‘Without Songs.’ She would sometimes have me perform this one: ‘The Blacken Way.”’ She remembered her great-grandfather and other Navajos who were driven from their beloved homeland by the U.S. Army on foot for hundreds of miles while witnessing murders, rapes and starvation.

One-third of the 9,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache who suffered at the prison camp from 1863 – ’68 succumbed to pneumonia, dysentery, starvation and exposure.

She also said that some Navajos who eluded capture secretly helped others. ”On my father’s side of the family, they didn’t go on this march. But, as supporters from the outside, they brought food in the night and other health supplies.”

Benally is among the Navajos who are resisting forced relocation from her home on Big Mountain. The Navajo descendants of Long Walk survivors at Big Mountain gained strength and fortitude from their ancestors for their 30-year struggle to remain on the land as protectors, she noted.

Benally pointed out that the so-called ”Navajo and Hopi land dispute” resulted from legal maneuvers, documented by Colorado professor Charles Wilkinson, to remove Navajos from the land to make way for the expansion of coal mining on Black Mesa.


About a year after their initial investigation, the EPA demolished Elsie’s highly-contaminated hogan. EPA consultant Andrew Sowder is seen at the end of this clip suggesting that the agency should construct fencing or a sign around the area to protect local residents from further contamination.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jennifer Amdur Spitz (773) 771-7696: NAVAJO FILM & MEDIA CAMPAIGN WIN CLEAN UP OF URANIUM CONTAMINATION: Filmmaker and Navajo activist invited to teach tribal environmental leaders how to build new groundswells for action: GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN — An internationally acclaimed documentary film, The Return of Navajo Boy tells a Navajo family history involving Hollywood, houses made out of uranium, and a long lost boy. The film and public engagement campaign are credited with triggering a federal investigation into uranium poisoning, pressuring changes in federal legislation, and after a decade of persistence, inspiring the EPA to clean up uranium contamination at Elsie Begay’s home. Now, the Navajo activists and filmmakers are bringing their media justice experience to other tribal environmental activists at the Tribal Lands and Environment Forum in Green Bay, WI.

“While everyone is talking about Japan’s radiation crisis, the Navajo Nation is struggling to secure a federal clean up of Cold War uranium contamination,” says Spitz. “Navajos are dying of cancer at high rates, and we’re working with new media tools to fight for environmental justice.”

Since the film’s premier at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Jeff Spitz and Navajo grandmother and activist Elsie May Begay have criss-crossed the nation showing the film and telling the story. Spitz raises awareness through the media, websites, and live events by working through Groundswell Educational Films, the Chicago-based nonprofit he co-founded.

Groundswell enables Navajo activists to film the clean up with video cameras and travel around the reservation educating
peers on health issues surrounding uranium. Sparked by the success of this advocacy effort, tribal leaders invited Groundswell Films and Navajo activist Mary Begay to present the keynote at the 2011 Tribal Lands and Environment Forum on August 23rd in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This special presentation of The Return of Navajo Boy, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and PBS will include a ‘webisode’ about the clean up taking place at this time in Monument Valley.

Navajo activist Mary Begay will introduce the film, its recent epilogue and new webisodes which she filmed. Groundswell co-founder Jennifer Amdur Spitz will share Groundswell’s methodology for media and social change. In addition, Groundswell is bringing attorney John Hueston, formerly the lead prosecutor in the Enron trials to discuss “Potentially Responsible Party” lawsuits involving major corporations and their environmental legacies. On behalf of the Navajo Nation Hueston successfully negotiated with GE and then pursued Kerr-McGee resulting in more than $20 million in new funds targeted for cleaning up Cold War-era uranium contamination in the Navajo Nation. Over 500 more abandoned uranium mines remain on the Navajo Reservation.

“Members of our tribal steering committee had seen this documentary at other venues and believed showing it at our forum would make a wonderful addition to breakout sessions and trainings,” said Todd Barnell, Program Coordinator at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. “They believed that showing a local issue that highlights community-level involvement would be exciting and thought-provoking for our attendees.” The Tribal Lands and Environment Forum brings together tribal and federal employees working in solid waste, brownfields, Superfund sites, underground storage tanks, and emergency response. The Forum convenes at the Oneida Tribe’s Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay, from August 23rd – 25th.

The 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation contain the largest uranium deposits in the US and more than 500 abandoned Cold War era uranium mines according to the US EPA, which continue to contaminate land, water and homes and impact the health of residents.

* 1950s-1970s: The US government failed to warn Navajos about the dangers of uranium mining and radioactive waste despite the fact that the United States government was the sole purchaser of all the uranium.
* In 1990 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). RECA represents an official government apology to victims of America’s Cold War nuclear program. RECA expressly acknowledges the United States’ failure to warn three groups of victims: uranium miners, on-site atomic test victims and downwind communities exposed to fallout from the atomic bomb tests.
* In 2005 the Navajo Nation became the first indigenous government to ban uranium mining and exploration on its lands.
* In 2006 and 2007 Congress, led by Henry Waxman (D-California, Chair of the Budget and Government Oversight Committee) sought direct testimony from Navajo officials and demanded a plan of action from the five federal agencies responsible for what Waxman described as a “40 year history of bipartisan failure and a modern American tragedy”.
* In 2008 Congress authorized a comprehensive 5-year plan to coordinate the clean up of contaminated structures, soil and water in the Navajo Nation. This summer marks the fourth year of the EPA’s comprehensive clean up plan.
* In April 2011 US EPA began its clean up operation in Monument Valley at the abandoned Skyline Mine which contaminated the homesite of the Navajo family featured in The Return of Navajo Boy.

About Groundswell: Groundswell Educational Films is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization with a mission to collaborate across cultures in the art of documentary filmmaking, transfer media skills into disadvantaged communities and partner with stakeholders to engage audiences in social justice stories.

About 2011 Tribal Lands Forum: Tribal Lands and Environment: A National Forum on Solid Waste, Emergency Response, Contaminated Sites, and USTS is hosted by The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, National Tribal Waste and Response Assistance Program (TWRAP) Steering Committee and USEPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER).

CENSORED NEWS: Navajo government ignores elderly without water

Navajo government ignores elderly without water: Navajo Nation government caters to coal mines and power plants, while Navajo elderly go without water By Brenda Norrell Censored News BIG MOUNTAIN, Ariz. — While Peabody Coal and power plants use the precious aquifer water here, Navajo elderly go without. Forgotten People shares the voices of Navajos resisting relocation, where Navajo elderly are forced to haul their water, elderly who are often ill and without transportation. The wells have been capped off and the springs are drying up. Still, the Navajo Nation leaders only make an occasional, superficial gesture at caring about the suffering of Navajo elderly without water. Instead, the Navajo government continues to focus on polluting and disease producing industries.

By ignoring the suffering of Navajos on Black Mesa, and instead catering to the needs of Peabody Coal, the United States government and other mining and power plant operations, the Navajo Nation government has engaged in a crime against humanity. While providing the Southwest cities with electricity produced with large quantities of pure water, the Navajo government has neglected to provide water for their own people.

The media has been a complicit partner in this crime. While failing to expose the suffering and injustice on Black Mesa, the media has continued to promote the polluting industries on the Navajo Nation, even cheerleading for more coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power plants not only use excessive water, but they are the primary cause of global warming and the melting of the Arctic, now causing Native villages to crash into the waters. The pollution from coal-fired power plants has resulted in habitat change in the far north, causing the deaths of polar bears, walruses and other wildlife.

Black Mesa comments from Forgotten People:
Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain speaks: We want to participate in a water hauling project. The wells throughout HPL (Hopi Partitioned Lands) have been capped off, fenced off, bulldozed and the natural water source near me is contaminated and unregulated. When I drink the water it hurts my throat and I have a reaction when I swallow it and get sick. I have no vehicle and have no access to safe drinking water. My livestock are thirsty. We are living under a State of Emergency! We are endangered, denied access to water, forced to travel over unpassable dirt roads and endure violations during our ceremonies that the Hopi Tribe says requires a permit to conduct. There are other water sources near me and they are all denied to me for my use. When I was offering a sacrament to the water the Hopi told me to leave the water alone, it does not belong to me. I speak on behalf of my people. We have brought our case and our words (as attached) to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (see link for UN OHCHR website), Congressional, federal, and tribal forums advocating for our human right to water and sanitation.

Caroline Tohannie, Black Mesa speaks: Our springs were our wetlands with cat tails and other wetlands growth. But they are no longer here. This is where we make offerings and get our healing medicine like cat tails or wreaths for ceremonial purposes. These are our sacred sites. The BIA made wells that had concrete covers and manual pumps. But BIA Rangers came around and disassembled them, taking the pumps out, unscrewing parts, taking off pipes. All the windmills in our region were capped off by the BIA. At first one windmill was capped off but we could reopen it at first but then found the BIA welded the cover shut with dirt over the well opening. There was no longer any way to get water from the well. At another windmill in the area, the BIA disassembled the windmill pump so it would not work. We have been fenced and capped off from access to water. This has created many problems for living things, even insects that need water, animals, birds and people. These tactics are being done to force us off our land so Peabody Coal Company can expand their mining operations.

Read more statements from Navajos on Black Mesa:


7/31/2011 AZ Daily Sun: STAR filmmakers tell their stories

Taylor Long, left, and Larissa Luther, both 12, stand next to their media instructor, Rachel Tso, inside the multi-purpose room Thursday morning at STAR Charter School on Leupp Road. They are standing in front of the backdrop they normally use when conducting film interviews. The students have taken two summer video workshops with Tso and are members of her regular media arts class, which began July 20 at the school. They helped on “Redbird Saves the Corn,” one of the five STAR student films being shown at the annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture next weekend. (Betsey Bruner/Arizona Daily Sun) 7/31/2011 AZ Daily Sun: STAR filmmakers tell their stories: In the shade of a strawbale building on the campus of STAR Charter School, two girls hovered over the viewscreen on an HD video camera, wondering why they couldn’t see the image better.

“It’s a neutral density filter,” explained Rachel Tso, their media art instructor. “When you’re outside, you need the ND filter.”

The students, Taylor Long and Larissa Luther, both 12, worked this summer on the film “Redbird Saves the Corn,” which is a traditional Spider Woman story told through lightbox animation.


Tso is in her third year of teaching film students at STAR, a K-6 school located about 25 miles northeast of Flagstaff on Leupp Road.

It is the nation’s first solar-powered, off-the-grid public school campus.

Students pick their subject matter for films, often dealing with culture and sustainable living.

Films produced thus far have asked some of these questions: How do you make kneel-down bread? What are the benefits of solar power? What are the traditional peacemaking techniques on the Navajo Nation? How do you conduct a sweatlodge ceremony?

Visitors to the annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture next weekend will have these questions and more answered by a group of these young filmmakers when they screen five of their films on both days of the festival.

About eight of them will be at the museum to present their films, Tso said.

“The kids are really excited to go to the museum,” Tso said. “These film projects are really good for the kids, to have their voice heard, to have adults commenting on their work is just invaluable.”

Tso, who is of Scottish and Jewish ancestry, is married to a full Navajo, Francis Tso.

The couple has two daughters, Camille Manybeads Tso, 16, and Bahozhoni Tso, 5.

Camille has been mentoring media arts students at STAR and helped produce the three newest short films.

Tso, pregnant with their third child, is looking forward to a semester of eager film students.

They will learn steps to making a film, including pre-production (like brainstorming ideas), how to frame an interview, how to write the treatment, use of video and sound equipment, how to edit and how to speak to an audience.

“For me, I see the polishing is when they present their work,” she said.


The students and the films will enhance the theme of the festival, “A Walk in Beauty,” which will highlight two days of cultural immersion in the Navajo experience, bringing prominent musical performers, a traditional dance troupe and Heritage Insight talks from the region’s experts, all to the museum and its grounds.

The festival will also gather 75 artists from all corners of the Navajo Nation at the museum, continuing the tradition of bringing artwork to market that began in August 1949, when 15 trading posts submitted 10 of their best rugs to the museum to compete for prizes.

“The festival’s theme of ‘A Walk in Beauty’ describes the weekend’s experience well,” said Robert Breunig, MNA director. “It’s a lovely way to spend a high country summer day among the Flagstaff pines, here at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, or in Navajo, Doo’Ko’osliid.”

This year’s entertainment under the big tent is some of the region’s best, and there will surely be a monsoon shower or two.”

In a benefit for their school, the students already presented and screened some of their films July 16 during a cultural and musical event at Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill.

“They just did the Fort Tuthill presentation, and this time my students will able to talk about their films, talk about the subjects and the process of making films,” Tso said. “For these kids to have an opportunity to do this at the museum, it’s just amazing.”

She said students sometimes opt to make a film instead of write a paper.

“Also, films are accessible; people are more willing to take five minutes to see a film than read a paper the kids have written,” she said.


The STAR School opened Sept. 10, 2001 (the day before 9/11), with 23 students in grades one through six. By the beginning of 2010, the school reached the maximum of 130 students pre-school through eighth grade.

It was an inspired way to beautify a roadside junkyard halfway between Flagstaff and the Navajo reservation community of Leupp.

The school’s name, STAR, stands for “Service to All Relations,” a concept common to Navajo and other Native American cultures that stresses accountability and care for an individual’s surroundings.

Founders Kate and Mark Sorenson, 20-year ranchers in the area, rely on solar power in their home and wanted to pass on the lifestyle to students, most of whom either live in rural homes near the school or in Leupp.

“We have built in green values from ancient times — to take care of the Earth,” said Mark Sorenson, who is the school director. “It’s so gratifying to be able to speak about our interconnectedness with all things.”

A federal grant from the Safe School/Healthy Students Initiative helps fund various programs at the school, including the peacemaking code at the school, which is demonstrated in the “Star Peace Making” film.

“We’re a place-based education school,” Sorenson said. “This area has a long history of having Navajo families, so, we have a philosophy that stems from the core values we find in Navajo peacemaking. It’s so wonderful to have their videos so they can show how they do it.”

He added values that come through Navajo are really universal.

The curriculum at STAR is also project-based. Projects vary and include building a greenhouse, planting gardens, tending wildlife and, of course, making films.

“The wonderful thing about the films is that they can be lessons to future students and to other people, like we are doing at the museum,” he said.

Betsey Bruner can be reached at bbruner@azdailysun.com or 556-2255.

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