On Poisoned Land | Contaminated Life on the Dine’ (Navajo) Reservation

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns of the Navajo Nation as a case study in irresponsible nuclear resource extraction:

“For decades the Navajo Nation has been especially affected by boom-and-bust uranium mining. On Navajo land alone, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from 1944 to 1986; left behind were more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, four inactive uranium milling sites, a former dump site, and the widespread contamination of land and water. Only recently has the government attempted to assess and mitigate this contamination, but full reclamation of the land is unlikely.”
According to an international water charity, DigDeep, Navajo people are 67 times more likely than other Americans to live without running water or a toilet. In practice, this means families across the Navajo Nation have to wash their children’s hair in small washtubs. They have to haul all drinking and washing water from the closest towns and cities, with round trips sometimes reaching 100 miles. The tasks required for even the smallest of families are time-consuming and strenuous.
In September 2014, at Window Rock, Ariz., the Obama administration reached a settlement with the Navajo Nation after years of litigation over mismanagement of lease revenues and royalties from mining, ranching, and timber harvesting on Navajo trust lands. The United States will award the Navajo $554 million to settle claims arising from the federal government’s mismanagement of tribal trust funds dating back to 1946, making this the single largest settlement between the United States government and an American Indian tribe, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday, January 18, 2017, it reached a legal settlement with Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) to clean up 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The U.S. government will cover half of the costs of the clean-up settlement. Read the article here | Phoenix Business Journal

“This historic settlement will clean up almost 20 percent of the abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss for the EPA Pacific Southwest. “Cleaning up the uranium contamination continues to be a top environmental priority for our regional office.”

The U.S. government and mining companies mined radioactive uranium from hundreds of mines on Navajo lands from the end of World War II and throughout the Cold War.

The last mine shut down in 1986.

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Navajo Republican Leader Carlyle Begay Has a New Job at The White House | Politics, the Future of Energy Policy, the Envirnment, and What was Missed in the Process

Dine’ (Navajo) Nation officially supported Hillary Clinton during the elections. But was the sentiment of the majority of the Dine’ people equally clear? Let ‘s trace the dots.

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Donald Trump with Arizona tribal leaders and State Sen. Carlyle Begay (R), second from left, on June 18, 2016 | Photo by Francisco Valencia via The Navajo Post

Leaders of three Arizona tribes met with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 18, 2016, Indian Country Today and The Navajo Post reported. Representatives of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Cocopah Tribe, and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe spent about 30 minutes with the real estate mogul during a campaign stop in Phoenix on Saturday, ICT said. Carlyle Begay, a Republican state lawmaker who is a member of the Navajo Nation and is running for Congress, also took part.“It’s important to build bridges,” Begay told ICT of the encounter. “I don’t think we should turn down the opportunity to meet with any candidates and get them to understand the importance of federal trust responsibilities, about the history of tribes, which is replete with mistakes, tragic actions and lost opportunities. We can’t change that history, but we’re not condemned to repeat it.” (Read the full article here)

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Donald Trump Jr. speaking in Shiprock AZ at a Trump rally in Navajo Nation (November 4, 2016) | from the Instagram page of Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. spoke for about 20 minutes. Although he was grateful for the support shown for his father on the reservation, he did not talk about any tribal issues.He used the word “sovereignty” at least once but did not elaborate on what it means to the candidate. He also didn’t discuss what Trump would do for Indian Country if he wins the election on November 8.Despite the warm welcome for candidate’s son, other tribal citizens were out in force to express their distaste for the man on top the Republican ticket. (Indianz.Com)

The event marked the Trump campaign’s second foray in Indian Country. Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence hosted a town hall at a venue at Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico in August although tribal issues did not play a role at all in the event.

After the elections, the top two leaders of the Navajo Nation encouraged unity, as they congratulated President elect, Donald Trump on his victory. Here is the official announcement:

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A significant issue the Navajo Nation faces is their energy sources. Overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuel for the nation’s energy needs (which is provided for free to a large number of the reservation’s rural residents), the Navajo Nation also contributes to the largest methane concentration in the USA, at the Four Corners region.

  • Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, rated at 3,937 net megawatts, is the largest nuclear power plant and the second largest power plant of any kind in the nation.
  • Arizona’s only operating coal mine, Kayenta, on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, supplies the 7-to-8 million short tons burned annually by the Navajo Generating Station’s three 750-megawatt units.
  • Arizona’s Renewable Environmental Standard requires 15% of the state’s electricity consumed in 2025 to come from renewable energy resources; in 2014, 8.9% of Arizona’s net electricity generation came from renewable resources, primarily from the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.(US Energy Information Organization)

Precedent | Federal Warrant to Recover Stolen Acoma Pueblo Ceremonial Mask Auctioned in France

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http://www.indianz.com/News/2015/04/10/leader-of-hopi-tribe-sues-over.asp

The leader of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, Mr. Herman Honanie, and the Holocaust Art Restitution Project filed a lawsuit over the auction of sacred property in France in 2015 .The tribe tried to halt an auction last December but was rebuffed by the board of auction sales. The same board had also refused to halt a different auction of sacred property in June.”These two decisions close the door to ANY tribal group AND their members to file any cultural claims in France involving auction houses, regardless of title-related merits,”

Ori Z. Soltes, the chairman of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, said in announcing the lawsuit with Chairman Herman G. Honanie of the Hopi Tribe.The U.S. Embassy had asked authorities in France to halt both auctions in order for the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation and other tribes to examine the items being sold. The diplomatic entreaties failed despite international pressure that accompanied the June sale.The Annenberg Foundation purchased some items at that auction and returned them to the Hopi Tribe, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and theWhite Mountain Apache Tribe

Navajo Vice President Rex Lee Jim went to France and acquired seven masks at the sale in December when a personal appeal to the the Drouot auction house failed.

Things went a bit differently for the Acoma Pueblo tribe this year.

A federal judge has granted a warrant to recover a sacred shield that was stolen from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico.The shield was taken from the reservation sometime in the 1970s. Somehow it ended up in the hands of an auction house in France, where it was almost sold to the highest bidder in late May.”The ceremonial shield was stolen, taken and removed from the Pueblo of Acoma in the 1970s and transported in interstate and foreign commerce,” a July 20 complaint submitted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico reads. “The shield was smuggled out of the United States and taken to its current location in Paris, France.”The warrant was approved on Tuesday. It authorizes the seizure of the shield “whatever means may be appropriate.””You are, therefore, hereby commanded to arrest the Defendant Property as soon as practicable by serving a copy of this warrant on the custodian in whose possession, custody or control the property is presently found, and to use whatever means may be appropriate to protect and maintain it in your custody until further order of this court,” the warrant reads. (read the full article | Indianz.Com)

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A Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever

In a warehouse in Utah, federal agents from BLM are storing tens of thousands of looted objects recovered in a massive sting in Blanding, UT, back in 2009.

[At dawn on June 10, 2009, almost 100 federal agents pulled up to eight homes in Blanding, Utah, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying side arms. An enormous cloud hung over the region, one of them recalled, blocking out the rising sun and casting an ominous glow over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. At one hilltop residence, a team of a dozen agents banged on the door and arrested the owners—a well-respected doctor and his wife. Similar scenes played out across the Four Corners that morning as officers took an additional 21 men and women into custody. Later that day, the incumbent interior secretary and deputy U.S. attorney general, Ken Salazar and David W. Ogden, announced the arrests as part of “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.” The agents called it Operation Cerberus, after the three-headed hellhound of Greek mythology.

Preview thumbnail for video 'Plunder of the Ancients

The search-and-seizures were the culmination of a multi-agency effort that spanned two and a half years. Agents enlisted a confidential informant and gave him money—more than $330,000—to buy illicit artifacts. Wearing a miniature camera embedded in a button of his shirt, he recorded 100 hours of videotape on which sellers and collectors casually discussed the prices and sources of their objects. The informant also accompanied diggers out to sites in remote canyons, including at least one that agents had rigged with motion-detecting cameras.

The haul from the raid was spectacular. In one suspect’s home, a team of 50 agents and archaeologists spent two days cataloging more than 5,000 artifacts, packing them into museum-quality storage boxes and loading those boxes into five U-Haul trucks. At another house, investigators found some 4,000 pieces. They also discovered a display room behind a concealed door controlled by a trick lever. In all, they seized some 40,000 objects—a collection so big it now fills a 2,300-square-foot warehouse on the outskirts of Salt Lake City and spills into parts of the nearby Natural History Museum of Utah.

In some spots in the Four Corners, Operation Cerberus became one of the most polarizing events in memory. Legal limitations on removing artifacts from public and tribal (but not private) lands date back to the Antiquities Act of 1906, but a tradition of unfettered digging in some parts of the region began with the arrival of white settlers in the 19th century. Among the 28 modern Native American communities in the Four Corners, the raids seemed like a long-overdue attempt to crack down on a travesty against their lands and cultures—“How would you feel if a Native American dug up your grandmother and took her jewelry and clothes and sold them to the highest bidder?” Mark Mitchell, a former governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque, asked me. But some white residents felt that the raid was an example of federal overreach, and those feelings were inflamed when two of the suspects, including the doctor arrested in Blanding, committed suicide shortly after they were arrested. (A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his widow is pending.) The prosecution’s case was not helped when its confidential informant also committed suicide before anyone stood trial.

Ultimately, 32 people were pulled in, in Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. None of them were Native American, although one trader tried vainly to pass himself off as one. Twenty-four were charged with violating the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, among other laws. Two cases were dropped because of the suicides, and three were dismissed. No one went to prison. The remainder reached plea agreements and, as part of those deals, agreed to forfeit the artifacts confiscated in the raid.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has custody of the collection, spent the last five years simply creating an inventory of the items. “Nothing on this scale has ever been done before, not in terms of investigating the crimes, seizing the artifacts and organizing the collection,” BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall told me. Before they were seized, these objects had been held in secret, stashed in closets and under beds or locked away in basement museums. But no longer. Recently the BLM gave Smithsonian an exclusive first look at the objects it has cataloged.

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With its inventory done, the BLM will give priority to returning whatever objects it can to the tribes from which they were taken. Even though the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has highly specific guidelines for repatriating artifacts, several experts in the Native American community said the process will be complicated by the lack of documentation.

Once the BLM’s repatriation effort is complete, which will take several more years, the agency will have to find homes for the artifacts that remain. It hopes to form partnerships with museums that can both display the artifacts and offer opportunities for scholars to research them. “Part of our hope is that we will form partnerships with Native American communities, especially those that have museums,” said Mahaney. The Navajo have a large museum, while the Zuni, Hopi and others have cultural centers. Blanding, Utah, where several of the convicted looters live, has the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. Even so, it will take years of study before the Cerberus collection begins to yield its secrets.]

(… more, with a video of the raid, here | SMITHSONIAN)

4 CORNERS STONE

Chronicle of a Story Foretold | John McCain on Dine’ (Navajo) Land

[Protesting members of the Navajo Nation literally chase Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) off of their reservation. McCain was running from their frustrated questions, demanding answers for the Senator’s decision to trade away land containing a Navajo sacred site to a foreign mining company. In addition, they are enraged by the slow response to the recent Gold King Mine spill, which has contaminated local drinking water with arsenic, lead, and mercury.

After declining to address the issues, McCain flees to his SUV while being pursued by chanting and drumming Navajo protesters. It’s a humbling moment for an outspoken man whose Native American constituents have called for him to be removed from the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs. “This man has no regard for human life. In his state alone the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute continues, tribes are losing their water rights, and over half the Navajo Nation now lives off the reservation” reads the letter. It is far past time Arizona elected itself a government that will fight for the rights of minorities.]

Read the full article here

The Enduring, Symbolic Power of Trophies

[Peabody Energy, the largest mining company in the world, took hundreds of ancestors and millions of artifacts from the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation. The remains of about 200 ancestors are being held by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. How they got there is somewhat of a mystery — a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they were loaned to Hampshire College in Massachusetts but that institution claims it never had them. “I am incensed that my ancestors were dug up, ground up and send off to universities to be studied,” Vernon Masayesva, a former Hopi chairman, told The Guardian. Peabody also dug up 1.3 million artifacts from the Black Mesa mining site. The collection is being held by the University of Illinois in what the Army Corps said were “substandard” conditions, the Guardian reported. Members of the two tribes, along with the Sierra Club, are suing the federal government in hopes of protecting burial and sacred sites from future damage. They also want their ancestors returned under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act .]     Read the full article | INDIANZ.COM

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12 Native Americans, Among Hundreds of Others, Who are Making a Difference

These Native Americans are standing up to represent their heritage and their culture. Watch some of them taking a stand on Rebel Music: Native America NOW, an MTV Facebook Premiere Exclusive.

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