Sunday, January 31, 2016

Indigenous Organizations Demand Clean Up of ‘Homegrown’ Radioactive Pollution Crisis




Klee Benally, Dine'
Photo by Eli Laliberte
15,000 Abandoned Uranium Mines Protested at DC EPA Headquarters
'We are the Miner's Canary': Indigenous Organizations Call for Clean Up of 'Homegrown' Radioactive Pollution Crisis

By Klee Benally
cleanupthemines@gmail.com
www.cleanupthemines.org
Censored News
Editors: High resolution photos and B-roll available. attached photos by Eli Laliberte, Konnected.tv
French translation by Christine Prat
http://www.chrisp.lautre.net/wpblog/?p=3197
IMG_4826
EPA Protest

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, January 28 at 12:30 PM, representatives of Indigenous organizations from the Southwest, Northern Great Plains, and supporters called for "no nukes" in a protest addressing radioactive pollution caused by 15,000 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) posing a toxic threat in the US. The demonstration was held at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters to call for immediate clean up of these hazardous sites, protection of Indigenous sacred areas from uranium mining, and for intervention in communities where drinking water is poisoned with radioactive contamination. The groups charged that the EPA has been negligent in addressing these toxic threats that severely threaten public health, lands, and waterways.
"Native American nations of North America are the miners' canaries for the United States trying to awaken the people of the world to the dangers of radioactive pollution", said Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota based organization Defenders of the Black Hills.
Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.44.51 PM
Charmaine White Face
South Dakota has 272 AUMs which are contaminating waterways such as the Cheyenne River and desecrating sacred and ceremonial sites. An estimated 169 AUMs are located within 50 miles of Mt. Rushmore where millions of tourists risk exposure to radioactive pollution each year.
Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted as approximately 75% of AUMs are located on federal and Tribal lands. A majority of AUMs are located in 15 western states with the potential to impact more than 50 million people.
IMG_20160128_212802
Harold One Feather
Out of 272 AUMs in South Dakota only one, the Riley Pass Mine located on US Forest Service held lands, has been cleaned up but the process has been called inadequate and concerns were raised about the reclamation budget. "My concern is how with the balance remaining from a $179 million mine reclamation settlement, the USFS says that local affected communities will be able to use the remainder on community projects and training to replace uses of the Grand River, which flows into Missouri River. The river is destroyed through this act of radioactive genocide." stated Harold One Feather, a member of Defenders of the Black Hills, "After discussing the $179M Tronox settlement for the Riley Pass Uranium Mine Reclamation, the US Forest Service said the affected communities can submit budgets to use up any remaining balance after mine reclamation."
Outside of the EPA headquarters the groups chanted, "Radioactive Pollution Kills!", "No More Churchrock Spill, No More Fukushima!", and "Clean Nuclear is a deadly lie!" in response to the EPA's Clean Power Plan which they state promotes nuclear energy.
IMG_20160128_182008
Banner in EPA building
A massive banner stating "Radioactive Pollution Kills" with the image of a Miner's Canary and radioactive warning symbol was dropped inside the EPA headquarters.
From January 25-28, Clean Up The Mines, Defenders of the Black Hills, Diné No Nukes, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment & Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, and Indigenous World Alliance, met members of congress, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, DC.
IMG_20160128_212908The Clean Up The Mines! campaign is focused on passing the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act that would ensure clean up of all AUMs. The act was submitted as a draft to Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D–AZ) two years ago but has yet to be introduced to Congress.
Currently, no comprehensive law, regardless of mining era, requires clean-up of all these dangerous abandoned uranium mines allowing corporations and the federal government to walk away without taking responsibility for the continuing harms they have caused.
"This is an invisible national crisis. Millions of people in the United States are being exposed as Nuclear Radiation Victims on a daily basis." said Mrs. White Face, "Exposure to radioactive pollution has been linked to cancer, genetic defects, Navajo Neuropathy, and increases in mortality. We are protesting the EPA today because we believe that as more Americans become aware of this homegrown radioactive pollution, then something can be done to protect all peoples and the environment. In the meetings we had in DC, not only were AUMs discussed, but we also talked about radioactive pollution from coal dust, coal smoke, and in water.
These show a need for amendments to the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act." said Mrs. White Face.
Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.55.08 PM
Petuuche Gilbert
The groups addressed extreme water contamination, surface strip coal mining and power plants burning coal-laced with radioactive particles, radioactive waste from oil well drilling in the Bakken Oil Range, mill tailings, waste storage, and renewed mining threats to sacred places such as Mt. Taylor in New Mexico.

"The U.S. is violating its own Executive Orders and laws intended to protect areas sacred to Native American people on public lands by applying the General Mining Act of 1872." Petuuche Gilbert of the Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment and President of the Indigenous World Association, "The U.S is discriminating against Indigenous peoples when it permits mining on these lands. Specifically, the U.S. is violating: Executive Order 13007, Executive 13175, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
"With adherence to out-dated, racist policies promoting colonialism, such as the 1872 mining law,
Leona Morgan
Leona Morgan
Leona Morgan
Indigenous peoples across the country will continue to be oppressed, and we will continue to demand that our land be returned and restored to its original condition, to that of before the colonization by the United States," stated Leona Morgan of Diné No Nukes. "The United Nuclear Corporation mill tailings spill of 1979, north of Churchrock, New Mexico left an immense amount of radioactive contamination that down-streamers, today, are currently receiving in their drinking water. A mostly-Navajo community in Sanders, Arizona has been exposed to twice the legal limit allowable for uranium through their tap–this is criminal!" said Morgan.
Diné No Nukes is a collective focused on educating the general Navajo population about the issues created by US Atomic Energy Commission, as well as ongoing and new threats from the nuclear industry.
Tommy Rock, a member of Diné No Nukes and graduate student from the state of Arizona stated
(Below: Tommy Rock at USDA)
Tommy Rock at USDAthat the water crisis in Flint, Michigan was extremely similar to a crisis near the Navajo Nation in Sanders, AZ. "The regulatory agencies are responding by sending the Army National Guard to provide bottle water for the community of Flint. However, the small community of Sanders which is also predominantly an Indigenous community that is off the reservation are not receiving the same response from the state regulatory agency or the state legislatures and the media," stated Rock who worked on a recent study that uncovered levels of uranium in the drinking water system of residents and an elementary school in Sanders that violated the drinking water standard for uranium. Rock continues, "The same can be said about two Lakota reservations. They are Pine Ridge and Rock Creek, Standing Rock Reservation that have not received any assistance from regulatory agencies. This exemplifies the inconsistency among the US EPA regions about responding to Indigenous communities compared to non-Indigenous populations which are facing the same issue regarding access to safe drinking water."
Mr. Rock called for the community of Sanders to be included in the second Navajo Nation 5-Year Clean-Up Plan and an amendment to the Clean Water Act. "Another issue around water is the mining industry is contaminating the rivers. They are disregarding the Clean Water Act because the act does not address radionuclides. This needs to be amended so the policy can enforce that companies be accountable for their degradation to the watershed areas. This can also be beneficial to US EPA because they do not have the funds to clean every contaminated river by the mining industry and other commercial industry," stated Mr. Rock.
EPA Protest
EPA Protest
"These uranium mines cause radioactive contamination, and as a result all the residents in their vicinity are becoming nuclear radiation victims," states Petuuche Gilbert, a member of the Acoma Nation, LACSE, MASE, and IWA. "New Mexico and the federal government have provided little funding for widespread clean up and only occasionally are old mines remediated. The governments of New Mexico and the United States have a duty to clean up these radioactive mines and mills and, furthermore, to perform health studies to determine the effects of radioactive poisoning. The MASE and LACSE organizations oppose new uranium mining and demand legacy uranium mines to be cleaned up," said Mr. Gilbert.
"In 2015 the Gold King Mine spill was a wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines, but there are currently more than 15,000 toxic uranium mines that remain abandoned throughout the US", said Ms. White Face. "For more than 50 years, many of these hazardous sites have been contaminating the land, air, water, and national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Each one of these thousands of abandoned uranium mines is a potential Gold King mine disaster with the greater added threat of radioactive pollution. For the sake of our health, air, land, & water, we can't let that happen."
The delegation was supported by Piscataway Nation and DC area organizations such as Nipponzan Myohoji Temple, Popular Resistance, Movement Media, La Casa, NIRS, & the Peace House.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pro-Tunnels Group Bars Journalist From Media Teleconference



Governor Jerry Brown pushes his Delta Tunnels Plan at his opening address at ACWA's "Water 2.0" event in Sacramento on January 14, 2016. Photo by Dan Bacher.

Pro-Tunnels Group Bars Journalist From Media Teleconference

by Dan Bacher
Censored News

It appears that Californians for Water Security, the "coalition" created by corporate agribusiness interests to promote  the California Water Fix plan to build Governor Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels, does not want independent journalists to ask them any tough questions about the controversial water project.   

On January 27, I received a "media advisory" from Inez Kaminski of Californians for Water Security advising me of a teleconference the following day at 10:30 am to "discuss the urgency of implementing California's Water Fix." The advisory originated out of the Sacramento-based Swanson Communications, the public relations firm promoting Californians for Water Security.   

The advisory stated:
"On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the day before the State Water Resources Control Board holds its initial meeting to consider issuing permits for the California Water Fix, supporters including water experts, environmentalists and business and labor interests will host a media teleconference to discuss the importance of implementing the Governor's plan to update our aging water infrastructure.
The California Water Fix has endured nearly a decade of extensive expert review, planning and scientific and environmental analysis by the state's leading water experts, engineers and conservationists, and unprecedented public comment and participation.
The coalition urges the Water Board to approve the petition as the only viable plan to protect the health and water quality of the Delta, while securing water supplies for nearly 2/3 of our state's homes, farms and businesses. " 
The speakers at the teleconference were Rich Atwater, Executive Director, Southern California Water Committee; Jerry Meral, California Water Program Director, National Heritage Institute; and Michael Quigley, Executive Director, California Alliance for Jobs.   
The pro-tunnels teleconference was apparently spurred by the Restore the Delta's teleconference on Monday, "The State Water Board and the Declining Health of the SF Bay-Delta Estuary." That call featured a panel of experts who have followed the State Water Resources Control Board for decades. Their teleconference is available below:  
I had participated in the Restore the Delta teleconference on Monday, so I set aside the time on Wednesday to listen to — and ask some hard questions of — the tunnels proponents on Wednesday.
However, when I called in on the teleconference phone number, four conference operators in a row told me I wasn't on the "approved credentialed media list."
I asked them all, "So why did they send me a media advisory about the event (twice!) when they didn't want me to get on the call?"
Frustrated, I then sent the following email, with the advisory attached:
Inez
You sent me this media advisory, but four phone operators said I was not on the "approved list" of ''credentialed media."
Then why are you sending me these press releases?
I am requesting that the person in charge of this call inform me why you are sending me these press releases if I can't join the conference call.
Thanks
Dan Bacher, Editor, Northern California Angler Publications
I am a dues-paying member of the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Local 39521
So far, I haven't  received any response from Californians for Water Security. However, the following day, Thursday, I did receive another press release, headlined, "ICYMI: New PPIC Report Highlights Importance of CA WaterFix to Protect Water Supply."
So again the question: Why didn't Californians for Water Security allow me call into their media teleconference? Were they afraid I would ask tough questions about the Delta Tunnels project that they couldn't answer? 
The Brown administration and supporters of the California Water Fix have become infamous for their lack of openness and transparency about the widely-contested Delta Tunnels project. This refusal to allow an independent journalist to participate in a media teleconference is just typical of the lack of transparency that infests the California Water Fix fiasco.

Below is the media advisory:
Californians for Water Security

TODAY
Media Advisory

In Advance of State Water Resources Control Board Hearing to Consider Permit,
Groups Hold Teleconference to Discuss Urgency of Implementing California Water Fix


On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the day before the State Water Resources Control Board holds its initial meeting to consider issuing permits for the California Water Fix, supporters including water experts, environmentalists and business and labor interests will host a media teleconference to discuss the importance of implementing the Governor's plan to update our aging water infrastructure.

The California Water Fix has endured nearly a decade of extensive expert review, planning and scientific and environmental analysis by the state's leading water experts, engineers and conservationists, and unprecedented public comment and participation.

The coalition urges the Water Board to approve the petition as the only viable plan to protect the health and water quality of the Delta, while securing water supplies for nearly 2/3 of our state's homes, farms and businesses. 
WHAT:

Teleconference with water experts on CA Water Fix

WHEN:

Today, Wednesday, January 27th
10:30 a.m.

WHO:

Rich Atwater, Executive Director, Southern California Water Committee

Jerry Meral, California Water Program Director, National Heritage Institute

Michael Quigley, Executive Director, California Alliance for Jobs


MEDIA ONLY:          1-800-285-6670  
For more information on Californians for Water Security, visit:www.watersecurityca.com

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Swanson Communications
1020 16th Street
#31
Sacramento, CA 95814

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tommy Rock's Photos: Indigenous protest US EPA radioactive mines





Photos by Tommy Rock, Dine'

Navajo, Lakota and Acoma Pueblo protest US EPA in DC today.
Clean Up the Mines delegation protests abandoned uranium mines, polluted water and high rates of cancer and disease in Indian country.

Mohawk Nation News 'The Russians Remember'

Navajo Nation's non-Indian attorney gives away Utah Navajo water rights

Photo Goosenecks San Juan River, Utah
Navajos urge veto of Utah Navajo water rights settlement ramrodded through the Navajo Nation Council

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News copyright
Dutch translation by Alice Holemans, NAIS
http://www.denaisgazet.be/nieuws/niet-indiaanse-advocaat-van-de-navajo-nation-geeft-utah-navajo-waterrechten-weg

WINDOW ROCK -- The Navajo Nation's non-Indian water rights attorney is once again giving away Navajo water rights. Navajos are urging the Navajo President to veto a water rights settlement for Utah Navajo water rights, ramrodded through the Navajo Nation Council on Tuesday. 

Ed Becenti, Navajo, is urging Navajo President Russell Begaye to veto the Utah Navajo water rights giveaway.

"Another bad water deal for the Navajo Nation is being pushed through by 'our' own water lawyer and 13 Navajo Nation council delegates. They rushed this legislation through in less than a month's time without informing all the community members that it really impacts," Becenti said.

"The deal was rushed through in less than a month with no community education. If this is a good deal for the Navajo Nation, why are they rushing it through?"

The Navajo Nation has employed the same non-Indian water rights attorney, Stanley Pollack, since the 1980s. Pollack has spearheaded the loss of Navajo water rights in the three states of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, where the Navajo Nation is located. The negotiations have involved extensive secret negotiations and closed sessions of the Navajo Nation Council.

Pollack has intervened to prevent the Winter's Doctrine from being used to ensure future Navajo water rights. The Winter's Doctrine would ensure sufficient water to meet the needs of future generations of Navajos.

Becenti said the Utah settlement was approved by less than 3 percent of community members.

"There were no public hearings!" Becenti said not all of the chapters impacted have even been informed about the settlement or given the opportunity to vote.

The Associated Press reports that the Navajo Nation approved the legislation Tuesday. AP refers to it as a "settlement" of the Navajo Nation's claims to water in the upper Colorado River basin in Utah. 

"The bill passed 13-7 Tuesday without any debate and with few people in attendance at the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock. Lawmakers debated the settlement in executive session Monday and held a work session last week. The settlement would give the tribe 81,500 acre-feet annually of Utah's unused share of water. The Navajo Nation could draw the water from aquifers, and the San Juan River and its tributaries. It also could divert water from Lake Powell, although it has no plans to do so," AP reports.  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/27/the-associated-press-navajo-lawmakers-approve-water-rights-settlement-with-utah.html

The pattern of non-Indian water rights attorneys ramrodding Indian water rights settlements has been occurring throughout the west.

Becenti said this deal is a terrible one for the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation, population 300,000, is only claiming 81,500af per year while the Uintah-Ouray Utes, population 1,200, won over 470,000af. 

"The Navajo Nation should claim at least that much," Becenti said. He said the leasing of 57,000af of water per year is valued at over $100 million while the settlement only gives the nation $5 million for water projects.

Update from Censored News:
It seems no one can answer this question: 'Why is a non-Indian water rights attorney still employed by the Navajo Nation after 30 years?'
This is happening all over the west.
Here is one question to ask all those non-Indian attorneys now pushing the so-called 'water rights settlements.'
The question is: 'Does this new settlement prevent the use of Winter's Doctrine in court in the future?'
The Winter's Doctrine ensures Native Americans will have all the water they need for future generations.
The non-Indian attorneys are working to negate the Winter's Doctrine. They are working in the interests of the states, US government and corporations.
Many of these non-Indian attorneys pushing these water rights settlements in Arizona and DC knew each other in Window Rock, Arizona. They worked together when employed by the Navajo Nation and took part in the removal of former Chairman Peter MacDonald. This happened after MacDonald told the United States government that he would use the Winter's Doctrine to ensure water rights.

Read more on Navajos urging veto:

http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2016/01/to-bei-nihi-dziil-opposes-councils.html?m=1

Becenti urged Navajos to contact the Navajo Nation and tell them to VETO legislation 0412-15.
Other executive staff to message: rjoe@navajo-nsn.govrjoe.opvp@gmail.com
Staff Assistant's # 928-871-7915


Copyright Censored News
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Indigenous protest abandoned uranium mines at US EPA


.


NEWS ADVISORY


Thursday, January 28, 2016


By Klee Benally
Clean Up The Mines, organizer
cleanupthemines@gmail.com
Photos by Tommy Rock: Delegation in DC
www.cleanupthemines.org

15,000 Abandoned Uranium Mines to be Protested at DC EPA Headquarters

'We are the Miner's Canary': Indigenous Organizations Call for Clean Up of 'Homegrown' Radioactive Pollution Crisis

Editors: Indigenous organizations will make statements and representatives will be available for interviews. Large banners saying "Radioactive Pollution Kills," "Clean Up The Mines" & "Clean Nuclear is a Deadly Lie." Signs with numbers of mines in significantly impacted states.

Washington, DC — On Thursday, January 28 at 12:30 PM, representatives of Indigenous organizations from the Southwest and Northern Great Plains will protest radioactive pollution caused by 15,000 uranium mines posing a toxic threat in the US. The demonstration will be held at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. The groups charge that the EPA has been negligent in ensuring clean up of abandoned uranium mines that severely threaten public health, lands, and water ways.

What: Indigenous organizations and supporters protest for clean up of   15,000 uranium mines abandoned throughout the US. 

When: Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 12:30 PM.

Where: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004

Who: A delegation of Indigenous People from the Southwest and Northern Great Plains including; Clean Up The Mines, Defenders of the Black Hills, Diné No Nukes, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment & Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, & Indigenous World Alliance.

Why: In 2015 the Gold King Mine spill was a wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines, but there are currently more than 15,000 toxic uranium mines that remain abandoned throughout the US. For more than 50 years, many of these hazardous sites have been contaminating the land, air, water, and national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Each one of these thousands of abandoned uranium mines is a potential Gold King mine disaster with the greater added threat of radioactive pollution. Representatives will also address how and why "clean nuclear" is a deadly lie.

"Native American nations of North America are the miners' canaries for the United States trying to awaken the people of the world to the dangers of radioactive pollution", states Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota based organization Defenders of the Black Hills.
South Dakota has 272 Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUMs).

Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted as approximately 75% of AUMs are located on federal and Tribal lands. A majority of AUMs are located in 15 western states with the potential to impact more than 50 million people.

The Clean Up The Mines! campaign is focused on passing the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act through Congress. The legislation would ensure clean up of all AUMs.

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California Rally for Clemency for Leonard Peltier


Media Contact:

Corine Fairbanks
American Indian Movement Southern California aimsocalifornia@ymail.com

Carolfrances Likins
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace cfljustice@gmail.com

On Feb. 6, 2016, on the 40th anniversary of Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier's arrest, a broad coalition of organizations will hold an important event in Los Angeles to demand the immediate release of Native American political prisoner, Leonard Peltier.
"Much of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and its prosecution of Leonard Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."
10th Circuit Court of Appeals

WHO: A coalition of solidarity scholars, educators, community organizers and activists is organizing the event. The list includes American Indian Movement Southern California (AIM), Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER), International Action Center (IAC), Idle No More Los Angeles, and Native American Caucus SEIU local 721.
KPFK Radio is a proud media sponsor.

In addition to attached flyer highlighting speakers and performers added the following-

Key Speaker: Danny Blackgoat, Dineh Black Mesa- Retired Educator, Activist, Long time advocate for Leonard Peltier

Kat High- Cultural Education and Environmental Education, former Director of the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center, board member Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation, CISA, American Indian Scholarship Fund of Southern California, videographer & recording engineer

Julia Bogany is a Elder of the Tongva Nation/ Gabrielino Band of Mission Indians. Board President to the Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation, educator, director and activist for over thirty years fighting for equal rights for all Native Americans.

Matt Sedillo, Indigenous Poet, and a two-time national slam poet, grand slam champion of the Damn Slam Los Angeles 2011 and the author of For What I Might Do Tomorrow published by Caza De Poesia 2010

Julio Rodriguez The Conga Poet- Puerto Rican-Panamanian, Conga player,writer, poet and lyricist since 2010.

WHAT: In solidarity with international actions to demand clemency and freedom for Leonard Peltier on this date, a full day is planned in Los Angeles, with speakers, musical performances, traditional Native singing and drumming, a children's corner, and food. Over 15 community-based organizations are planning to participate to bring awareness and education in how the incarceration of Peltier indirectly affects the issues that neighborhoods and communities are facing today. "Today, even behind bars, Peltier is recognized internationally as an advocate for human rights and the environment," says Corine Fairbanks, Director of the American Indian Movement Southern California. "Ironically, this is what he was standing up for when he was arrested."

This is a family-oriented, free event; donations will be appreciated and happily accepted at the door. Tribal elders and spiritual leaders will be ending the day with a Candlelight Vigil and Prayer ceremony at 8:30pm.

WHEN: Saturday, February 6, 2:00 – 9:00 PM

WHERE: Chuco's Justice Center, 1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302

WHY: Peltier, declared by Amnesty International to be a political prisoner, has been incarcerated for 40 years. He is in bad health and has been denied proper medical treatment. Education, awareness and signatures are needed to pressure President Obama to grant clemency to Peltier before the end of his presidency.

"It is not just about ending an unjustness to one individual," stated Carolfrances Likins of the ICUJP. "Leonard was targeted by the FBI for defending his people and the land from energy companies. Our solidarity with Indigenous people, and the defense of the environment, needs to include his freedom."

For up-to-date information on event, copy paste here for event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1102023893171939/


For information about his case: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info
  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tó Bei Nihi Dziil Opposes Council’s Passage of Utah Water Rights Settlement



.



Bei Nihi Dziil Strongly Opposes Navajo Nation Council’s Passage of Utah Water Rights Settlement Legislation

By Colleen Cooley,
tobeinihidziil@gmail.com
Censored News

Window Rock, Ariz. On January 26, during Navajo Nation Council’s 2016 Winter Session, delegates approved the controversial Utah Water Rights Settlement Legislation 0412-15, despite criticisms that the Navajo public was largely uniformed about the details of the lease.

“It’s not required by law,” said Navajo Nation Assistant Attorney General Stanley Pollack to Council Delegate Jonathan Perry (Crownpoint) who asked him about the lack of public participation last Friday during a workshop on the settlement.

Given the significant implications of any Navajo water settlement, Bei Nihi Dziil demands accountability, transparency, and engagement with ALL Navajo stakeholders—not only the seven Utah Chapters,” said Colleen Cooley, coalition organizer.

“The coalition encourages all Navajo citizens to protect Navajo water rights by requesting our Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye to VETO Legislation 0412-15,” said Cooley. These demands are bolstered by the rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (1989).

The Navajo Nation Council reached its 13-7-4 decision without much discussion and raised several critical concerns about the claims of the legislation and the ambiguity of the political process to reach the decision.

The loose coalition of activists and organizers, Bei Nihi Dziil strongly opposes the passage of this legislation due to the subordination of Navajo water claims to existing non-Native water users in times of shortage.

In an era of climate change, water shortage is a strong possibility in the Southwest and the settlement doesn’t address this increasingly important ecological phenomenon” Cooley said. “Climate change is affecting how we think about Indian water settlements and our lawyers need to ensure that our priority rights to the water reflect this reality.”

Within the legislation, there are several problematic claims Bei Nihi Dziil identified:

1) the settlement only claims 81,500 acre-feet/year for Utah Navajo residents; 2) there is NO clear quantification of the percent of surface water and groundwater; 3) NO clear definition of “permanent homeland”; 4) NO accounting for other connected water sources and waterways—lying outside the geopolitical boundaries of Utah—such as Chinle Wash, Oljato Wash, and Laguna Wash; and 5) the Settlement only provides $5 million for agricultural water development to serve 2,500 acres--a rather low funding estimate.

Prior to this work session, Bei Nihi Dziil advocates researched and compiled an informational packet outlining the unresolved issues in the legislation.

Though many delegates were receptive to these concerns and pressed Pollack to clarify these issues, they were not introduced for full Council discussion prior to the vote on late Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation passed WITHOUT adequate deliberation by the Council.

Only 10 delegates were present for the work session discussion: Benjamin Bennett, Herman Daniels, Jr., Davis Filfred, Jonathan Perry, Leonard Pete, Walter Phelps, Tauchoney Slim, Jr., Raymond Smith, Jr., Leonard Tsosie, and Dwight Witherspoon. Delegates who voted in favor of legislation passage on Tuesday include: Kee Allen Begay, Jr., Mel R. Begay, Norman Begay, Benjamin Bennett, Nathaniel Brown, Seth Damon, Herman Daniels, Jr., Davis Filfred, Lee Jack, Sr., Walter Phelps, Tauchoney Slim, Jr., Otto Tso, and Leonard Tsosie.
The full legislation was not posted on the Navajo Nation Legislative Services website until January 21, 2016, one day before the Naa’bik’iyati’ work session and one month after the Legislation opened for public comment period.

The late distribution of the draft Legislation 0412-15 and the lack of deliberation demonstrates a questionable process of accountability to the Navajo people and to the Navajo political procedure,” Cooley said.

Please visit www.facebook.com/tobeinihidziil for more information.

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