I have a message from a very good fren/sister, Eloise Brown-Dixon, who has stood up against coal mining since former Navajo Nation President Shirley and then Vice President Ben Shelly tried to establish a coal-fire generating station on Burnham, N.M., which is in the eastern part of the Navajo Reservation and near the BHP coal mine.
Elouise mobilized the community people into an organization called Doo dah Desert Rock! Doo dah is the Navajo word for no. Desert Rock was the name of the proposed power plant that was shut down by Doo Dah Desert Rock and a coalition of other grassroots, national and international groups that Elouise and Doo Dah Desert Rock were able to gather support from through their work on the internet.
This time, Elouise is working on mobilizing the people against the Navajo Nation Council’s Resources & Development Committee’s approval of a In-Situ Uranium Mining Demonstration Project near Church Rock, N.M., which is in the eastern part of the Navajo Reservation, and the approval of a Sub-Committee to draft an agreement related to uranium mining tomorrow, Dec. 23, at 9 .m. at the Chilchinbeto, Ariz., Chapter.
I also have a message from Ed Becenti & Anna, grassroots activists and community organizers regarding plans tomorrow by the Navajo Council, Budget & Finance Committee and Naa’bik’iyati Committee to approve the 100 percent waiver of tribal sovereign immunity as part of the tribal purchase of BHP’s operation of Navajo coal mine. The Navajo Council is having a special session tomorrow, Dec. 23, at 1 p.m. at the Council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz. The B&F is meeting at 9 am in its conference room in Window Rock. And the Naabi Committee is meeting before the Council in the Council chamber.
The coal already belongs to the Navajo Nation. BHP mines it for the tribe under an agreement that generates about $40 million in revenues, which is deposited into the tribal treasury. Under Navajo law, only the Council distributes the tribal wealth, which is primarily generated from coal.
The coal mined by BHP, which has a workforce of primarily Navajo people, is sold to Four Corners Power Plant, which generates electricity for New Mexico, Arizona and California. There are Navajo families that live near the BHP coal mine and Four Corners Power Plant that have no electricity and running water. Those families are also suffering from coal-related diseases, such as asthma and lung cancer. And there have never been any health studies of the impact of coal mining and coal-fired power plants on the Navajo Reservation.
I’ve asked both tribal elected officials and coal company officials why they can’t fund such health studies. The coal companies say that if they do the health studies that no one trust the studies. They’re probably right. So why can’t they just provide the money and allow the concerned grassroots groups select an independent group to do the studies. I asked President Shelly and he have me an answer that I couldn’t understand. I asked him why he hasn’t asked the coal companies that do business with the tribe to do health studies. Shelly said that the health studies were the responsibility of the U.S. Indian Health Services. And so I asked him if he was going to ask the IHS to do the studies. I never got an answer because his staff took him away.
When BHP and Navajo Transitional Energy Company, which is the tribal enterprise that the Navajo Council created to complete the coal mine purchase, signed the agreement for the mine purchase on Halloween, Oct. 31, 2014, BHP issued a press release with a photo of BHP Coal Asset President Pat Risner surrounded by BHP workers, who were Navajos, in a Hogan. Risner and an unidentified BHP worker sat at a table covered with a Pendleton blanket. The 800 BHP workers who are Navajo and the whole Navajo theme, such as the Hogan and Pendleton blanket, have been shamelessly exploited by BHP, President Shelly, Speaker Naize and the Council for about a year now because that’s about how long the people have known about the plans by BHP and the tribe to take over BHP’s coal mining operations. This is an $85 million deal and it was sealed in less than a year. Amazing. Maybe it’s because BHP says we, the Navajo people, are their friends. So if we’re friends, why is BHP charging a 6 percent interest loan on the $85 million. Yes, folks, BHP – out of the kindness of their hearts – is loaning the tribe the $85 million, plus 6 percent interest, to buy BHP coal mining equipment, etc. so BHP can continue operating it under an agreement with Navajo Transitional Energy Company or the Council. I’ve asked BHP what is the amount that NTEC is paying them to operate the coal mine but mum is the word. And so the total price tag for the tribe to take over BHP’s mining operation could be around $100 million. But hey folk, we’ll still be getting the $40 million in annual royalties, unless that’ll be used to pay back BHP and pay BHP to operate our coal mine. But for sure about 800 Navajo people will continue working and supporting their families and the Navajo families living without electricity and running water…well, I guess they’ll continue being left out of the discussion, along with Navajo and non-Navajo children suffering from asthma, lung cancer, ingestion, which can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers, anemia and stomach cancer, that live in the vicinity of BHP coal mine, Four Corners Power Plant and San Juan Generating Station. Health studies of children living near coal mines and power plants also showed that the children are suffering from impaired vision, paralysis and death.
Death. Children are dying from coal mining and power plant activities. Globally our Mother Earth is dying; it’s called climate change. So is anyone surprised that our children are dying if our Mother Earth is also dying because of coal. But before I go any further I want to clarify that it’s actually not the coal that is killing our children and Mother Earth. It’s our abuse of coal, which I was taught is the liver of Mother Earth. I was also taught that everything between the Four Sacred Mountains, which surround our homeland, was placed here for our survival. But as, Dine’ people, we are not to get greedy with it because that is abusing those gifts and the abuse will hurt us, just like over-eating, gambling, materialism, pride, etc. And are we, the Dine’ people, the ones that created coal strip mining, underground coal mining? Are we the ones burning tons and tons of coal? No…but we allow it when we do nothing or justify it.
Yes, the people we elected should have been cultivating alternative energy sources, looking inward instead of outward in providing clean and safe energy, and keeping our children, babies and unborn safe and healthy. And yes, they haven’t. But what have we done to help them to be Leaders with vision, instead of politicians wearing blinders?
Elouise is asking that we gather ourselves together, go to the Navajo Council chamber and, or Chilchinbeto Chapter and help our politicians remember what it means to be a Naataani, Leader.
Here is Elouise’s message:
Please stand with us at the Chilchinbito Chapter House and at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber tomorrow morning, Dec 23rd at 0900 Hrs with your sign!
Enough of the talking….. ACTION time my dear precious relatives!
NO EXCUSES People! Borrow gas money, catch a ride, whatever it takes…. Shaa’ tahwi ajiteigo teiya haniile!
We don’t want Uranium on the Navajo Nation, it is killing our people! Don’t you get it??????
I just loss my dad due to working as a Uranium Mill Operator for many years! Im greiving but want to continue standing up for our Mother Earth and her children which includes YOU!
HERE IS THE MESSAGE FROM ED BECENTI & ANNA, GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS & COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS:
So, who is all going to Window Rock Monday morning to protest the Waiver of our Navajo Sovereignty for BHP? We have a right to protest, like we did when our own land, our home, grazing rights, our water were threatened. It was a humbling experience back when we needed help to see help come from our own people to stand with us to fight for what is right for us. It is time again for us to stand together with our relatives of Burnham area against our own Tribal Government to do what is right for our people. To fight for our sovereignty concerns all of us who call ourselves “Dine’, Navajo”.
What is happening today waiving our sovereignty for BHP is giving up our protective shield, our right to call ourselves a first people of this Nation with sovereign rights. Our sovereignty is on the chopping block to be broken into small pieces and soon it will be no more. We are going to be treated like our displaced/supplanted brothers and sisters of Mexico.
The sale of Navajo Mine was a no-brainer action the Navajo Nation Council took, and number two are the waivers of past, present and future liabilities for BHP. That really hurts to allow the companies that have destroyed our land and brought with it health problems and displaced our people who use to live and had grazing rights in those areas. Today many of those relatives live in border towns with no jobs and no roots to their land their ancestors had. The plan was to restore the land and give it back to the people, but that has been ignored and continues to be ignored by the Federal Government, the many greedy corporations and their insurance companies. They just walked away from reclaiming the land. I wonder what the younger generation is thinking today about that. We are slowly losing our rights to what we hold precious and honorable while our leaders are chasing after the green dollar. The promises, the contracts that were signed are going to be no more with the waivers. History is going to repeat itself – similar to what happened with Kerr-McGee and others during the Uranium Mining era. Our Navajo Nation is going to be held holding the bag for damages, losses, etc. for BHP on a defunct business they know is not going to be worth anything in a few years. Now it’s the Insurance Company that is getting involved – to waive our Sovereignty?
We need each other to stand up against what the Big Corporate companies want. They have no shame, no heart, no compassion – but they do have their forked tongue mentality. Just like their man-made laws to dig away at our sovereignty.