Dine' Water Rights Resistance

mari - Posted on 04 October 2010


Navajo Nation Council Tables Water Rights Settlement
Grassroots Dine’ (Navajo) Vow to Stand Against Oppression
WINDOW ROCK, AZ – Due to pressure from the community, the Navajo Nation Council decided to put off voting on the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement (NAIWRSA) and gave one week for public review but did not specify what the review would look like. The Council is set to consider the legislation again on Friday, October 8th but the date is subject to change.
Legislation No. 0422-10, also known as NAIWRSA, sponsored by Council Delegate George Arthur has faced increasing community criticism in the last few weeks.
More than 160 concerned Dine’ (Navajo) marched, rallied and then packed the council chambers to send the message for the council to “VOTE NO!” on the water rights settlement. Children, elders, parents, students and others from throughout the Navajo Nation joined together in chanting, “Water is life! Save our Future!”
NAIWRSA was created by lawyers including a non-native, Stanley Pollack, with the Navajo Nation as an attempt to resolve water rights claims of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe for water from the Little Colorado River and from the lower Colorado River.
Dine’ community members have raised concerns that NAIWRSA gives the Navajo Nation only 31,000 acre-feet per year of 4th Priority Colorado River water, which would not be available in times of drought, and would require more than $500 million of new federal funding to pay for pipeline infrastructure to deliver water to communities in need. The federal funding would have to be appropriated by U.S. Congress.
One pipeline would be built to send Colorado River water from Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border to the reservation.
During the special session Hope Macdonald Lonetree, Council Delegate from Tuba City, raised concerns on the council floor regarding the document as being flawed & different than what was presented to the Navajo Nation committees. Specifically, exhibit A was not located in the agreement and the issue of the agreement being distributed to delegates moments before the meeting. She motioned for the agenda item to be stricken from the agenda but failed to gain votes.
Delegate Amos Johnson motioned to table the legislation and to give one week for council delegates to take the agreement back to their communities for review. 49 voted in support, 32 against with 7 not voting.
“It is appropriate for the Navajo Nation to consider Hogan level family’s water rights and they have an obligation to do that, to take it to the communities for their input which has not been the case,” stated Milton Bluehouse Sr. former Navajo Nation President. “The more informed the people are the better the decision will be made, with respect to their rights.”
Hope Macdonald Lonetree asked, "Why would we waive our rights to the water for just a promise of federal funding, when we know historically the appropriations have not come to Navajo?"
“Why was there no deliberate and detailed consultation with the affected Dine' communities?” said R Begay a concerned Dine'. “Why has this process been so secret? What does Stanley Pollack have to hide? This is an extension of colonialism and genocide against our people. We will stand against this oppression.”
“The most important thing to show our leaders is that we are watching them, we are making sure that they are accountable to their communities and what we hold sacred as Dine’ people,” stated Kim Smith, resident of St. Michaels. “Water is an essential part of our way of life, our ceremonies, our livestock and most importantly, it’s our future. We are calling on all Dine’ people who value their future, their sacred water to join us when the council goes back into session and let them know we want them to VOTE NO!”
Concerned citizens for Dine’ Water Rights along with organizations such as Dine’ Care, To’ Nizhoni Ani’, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto, ECHOES, and others are calling for another rally and march at the next council session.
The date and time have not yet been set. Visit www.dinewaterrights.org for further details.
“This movement to oppose the Arizona Water Settlement is about our children, and we will not waive their water rights, not now not ever,” Stated Ron Milford, a concerned citizen with Dine’ Water Rights.
“Only one percent of the water in this world is water we can consume,” stated Daniel Tulley a Dine’ student from Phoenix who made the trip with a caravan of ASU students to Window Rock to voice his concerns. “Worldwide water shortages are facing us, we need to protect what we have here, because it is sacred and we need to protect it for future generations.” 


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