Navajo Nation Attorney General says there is a “middle ground” for digging up Mother Earth

Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie talks "History of Navajo's Natural Resources Development" on opening day of the Navajo Nation Energy Summit at Twin Arrows Casino & Resort on July 23, 2014. Photo by Marley Shebala. (Please provide proper photo credit when reusing photo.)

Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie talks “History of Navajo’s Natural Resources Development” on opening day of the Navajo Nation Energy Summit at Twin Arrows Casino & Resort on July 23, 2014. Photo by Marley Shebala. (Please provide proper photo credit when reusing photo.)

Here at Navajo Nation Energy Summit at Twin Arrows Casino. Navajo Division of Natural Resources Division Director Fred White gave welcome address. Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie is now speaking. He opened his remarks with Navajo history. “Therefore we are called the Holy Surface People,” he says. “Fundamental law remains unchanged.”

I talked about this when we talked about development of energy policy. Title 1 of Navajo Code, Fundamental law, the Laws of our Deities and I call our Ceremonial Laws, the laws that eminate from our dieties, from our world.

Navajo philosophy is about balance. When end prayers, some pple say its beauty but I say that it’s about maintaining balance, equalibrium. that is very foundation that we are taught. sometime we trash. but that’s what it is. in this discussion, us Navajos, we all like to be chiefs, have a say, pacing back and forth. and we want to talk. that is our nature. so we have all kinds of problems cuz we all want to be chiefs. but this is an energy summit and we want to present from certain perspective.

and then we started relationship with non navajos. in 5083, there was encourter with spainards. first recorded encounter. and columbus stumbled on americas in 1492 and this was 90 years later. we forget about time and place when we have these discussions. and one of the key critical points is govts by indian tribes has always been misunderstood by non indians, who created govt for us.

so now go into actions by federal and state govts, mostly federal govt, and what missing here is action by Navajo govt. when talk about these laws, we govern ourselves by laws. some think we are governed by men. no case on Navajo. we are governed by laws. we elect agents to govern Navajo society. when talk energy it is key to talk abot the laws taht facilitate development and hinderances out there that prevent. so tribal justice dept always ID as road block.

we run to president to change laws but prez can’t change. laws lie with legislative. i want to talk about laws, critiquing ourselves.

the federal govt passed laws regarding land law. so all of you today are bound by this provision. 1793 Act, 1796, 1799, 1834/25 CFR and one of first hinderances – no conveyance of land law. this was one first bedrock principles that restrained us Indians – no conveyance of land and taht was done 1834 which was before federal government had jurisdiction of navajo.

commerce law – this is where federal govt has authority to primarily deal with indian issues and key to understand. early cases defined what going on and call Marshall Triology, established foundation of our relationship with non indians. cherokee v georgia – in this case they determined indian tribe is no foreigh country/state within jurisciton of stte so indian tribes are domestic entities, not like foreign countries and that is key in interaction with outside world and holdup today and from early 1800s. worchester versus georgia and this key win for us and said state of georgia law has no effect in inidna contry cuz only federal govt has responsiblity to tranact business and estab laws for indian tribes. and US didn’t pass laws of general applicability for tribes.

but we had inherent powers of self govt. key is johnson versus mac intosh, which disucssed nature of indian land holdings in US. this case is a shock and still law today. some indians sold land to white settlers and decsion was wether courts recognize sale – Conquest by Law. ulimate decisoin by supreme court is discovery gave absolute title to lands and subject only to the indian occupancy, and extinguish indian title of occupancy either by purchase or conquest to country that discovered. so says european countries that sailed by they could claim discovery and indians watched sailed by and didn’t know title taken from them under US law.

So here is my note that the meaning of this case has been misunderstood for years. reality is this is US law and they used this law when they came into SW and reason covereing is we are taling energy development which deals with pepole and land/place.

so we have treaty of 1848, US defeated Mexico and before than Spainards occupied SW and Mexico took from Spain and US take from Mexico and forget when discuss land and when take action. Treaty of Qyuadalupe Hidalgo says no removal of indians, restain us. there is whole history of navajos being marched to Hweelde and ink not dry on Treaty when Navajo removed and I believe that prevented Navajos removal to Oklahoma.

Treaty of Friendship – no hostilities and you navajos agree to fall under our laws but not really agreed to by navajo leaders. when last Nacheed, about 1859, and this gathering of different clans for ceremony. and took months engaging in planning, future of navajo peoople and that is what doing here – we are going to talk things out. maybe conflict. discussions of different perspectives.

so treaty of 1868 that estanbalished permanent homeland for navajo pepole and with permanent homeland comes resources for energy development. and call permanent homeland, under great covenant with dieties between Sacred Four Mountain and in those mountains are resources that will sustain us and crate life and where we can live. original rez small and thru time, we expended cuz have chiefs and bully ourselves around. we are one of few tribes that didn’t lose land.

2006 we had settlement with hopis to expand. 1930 settlement we expanded.

so this is little history about resource extractoin on navajo and reason covered is because thse our laws.

we have to care about federal laws until we have bigger guns. we can’t say we are not going to comply with federals is if we wage just war against them and boot them out. do we have the capacity to do that today? some claim we can but we have to live in reality. we don’t have the big guns, military so today we have to abide by laws of federal government, congress and supreme court.

but what is missing is action by our government, under treaty of 1869 and after that fedreal govt passed 1880 Allottment Act, where land parceled out to individual Indians.

1934 Indian Reorganization ACt and there was indian termination policiesin 1950s. those were stresses we went thru. now we are in self determination in 1960s. so we all ran around claiming 638 contracts and US funnels money to us to do government business.

US holds title to our lands. Johnson versus Mac Intosh – federal govt hold absolute title and Indian only have title of occupancy so US says we have absolute title and we can boot you out anytime and we will pass laws to maintain land which prevented economic development. prior to US we sustained ourselves from land. but there there was federal livestock reduction time which forced us into another way of life. WW II our navajo sent sons to war and used language to defeat an enemy. and someone thot of most gruesome weapon, atomic bomb and US need fuel source, uranium. and they approached navajo.

from their actions we saw that they saw us as expendable. we will send into mines and they will toil away for pennies. so we are untrustful of smiling faces, we have deal for you. so navajos are hesitant. uranium mines impacted whole navajo nation. discussion on navajo council floor. many widows, children without fathers, no grandparents. compensation late, too little and no apology. that is energy history.

navajo generating station, navajo mine, mc kinley mine, peabody mine provided benefit. it was good but we are looking to re establish balance but need jobs, tuition for children. but bring health effects, water use to generate energy. and it’s a discussion that has on a spectrum is good and bad. but to make more favorable, rather than US pass laws such as Indian Mineral Development Act. why not take action? this is way be for navajo which is energy policy.

last three years, we renew Four Corner Powers plant, Navajo Generating STation, we bought Navajo mine from BHP, we pased Energy Act 2013, settled claim for $554 million for misuse of trust funds. when i enetered office settled racketeering lawsuit against Peabody. active time and culminate today, energy summit.

go back to statement – we have to go back to way lived, herding sheep, etc. but i have son as mechanical engineer. maybe wat we want but do they want life without energy. do they want to ride around on horses? it is their future. shud we be in way to say you can’t have? those are difficult questions. US laws say no so are we going to pass navajo laws.

we have laws on book, like Navajo Preference in Employment Act and Navajo Preference in Business but we have crated laws that are overly protected and ask why children no coming home. children can’t own land cuz we only have right to occupy so they go off rez. they don’t have freedom such as buying drink, gambling. YOu can’t do this? that is what is happening.

unemployment 50 percent. time to revisit issues and assess ourselves. shud i tell son u can’t do that. so here to raise those issues and questions. tribal justice department accused of saying u can’t. we are in protectioness jurisdiction. we live in the midst of largest economy in the world. we are smack in the middle of it and the laws we pass are protectionist and we complain that there is no economic development. no jobs for kids.

i believe we lost our right to our water rights because of pple that swayed leaders. our air, land, water are essential. we need to rethink our policies and real legal environment that is good for us, not just me, but navajo people.

i talked about all of us wanting to be chiefs, what is good for me. go back to navajo people. some people say we are Dine’. Yes, maybe. Here is says, first man performed ceremonies to lead the Beings. what are Beings? more than Dine’. we say Beings are Insects. Our name is Holy Earth Surface People and what distinguishes from other Beings is we have capacity to intellectualize, think. that is capability in our laws that have us plan. so if want better quality of life and free ourselves from federal shackles, then we must be sovereign.

that is how i see it. we need to critique ourselves. that is part of what we are hoping to do. some of us are too protectionist. Aktar, Fred White accused of that. attorney general’s fault. and not one person’s fault. its our laws. so we shud create better legal environment and use history, philosopy. there are laws in place dealing with assets that we have to deal with to just take one action.

where are we going to go? what is good for us? some say renewables, geothermal. on other side, many of us recognize that good but we want ot create revenues, jobs at chapters, revenue. so what is is going to be. so there should be balance, not just one side. how do we achieve and we tried with 2013 Energy Policy. we didn’t want to call public hearings cuz sounded like federal govt.

we understand natural resources subsidizing non indians. we cud file lawsuits and we did. so shud our focus be on past or future. navajo philosophy says not dwell in past but in future. look to children. we can’t relive the past. these are laws in books.

some pple say we are colonized and suffered too much and can change. but i dont believe that. we need to dwell in future. there are new ideas out there. Obama administration on attack on coal. we have folks here experimenting with gasification, folks doing solar projects. one is not the answer. but we can facilitate with laws such as tax credits.

navajo pple are only ones expanding their terrorities, expanding water rights – ensuring resources today cuz tougher 20-50 years. there will be more non Indians battling us for land, resources.

history – outsiders saw farms, land, water – Promised Land. these aliens are coming in to take our lands and impose their will. we shud have had big guns out front but we didn’t. that is history, lesson.

the depopulation in 1492. at turn of 1900s, estimates of indigenous was 20 million and that is conservative. over 300 years of interaction, that population reduced to less than million. where did all those people go? it’s tragic; its history. that is American holocaust. if this depopulation had not happened, the indigenous people would be majority. depopulation was done by law and what we have to understand. works silently.

US holds superior title and this is what our leadership shud be focusing on. until get that title we will be strung around. right? rather than squabbling over here about insignificant things, we need to discuss, think energy. we spend little time talking about how to uplift people. we are wholistic people.

non indian education are based on linear sequential system so shouldn’t our education be based on our way of thinking. so there are lot of issue not addressing and because we all want to be bosses and you are just kid so you have nothing to say.

there is middle ground about digging up the earth. some of us care and some of us don’t, we only care about getting dollar. but energy development is about harassing energy for better way of life. we live in day of trains, car, planes. we used energy, gas to get here. who wants to live without energy? some of us do. but we want to access quality life for people instead of polluting lungs with coal burning stoves.

we used money from energy development to build this place and operate government. all my staff and me are paid from general funds and those dollars come from natural resource development, taxes. rmember that the economy on navjo reservatoin, only thing that we have for sale is these energy projects. they go from four corners power plant to metropolis and meters turn. i call energy junkies. the meter turns and we get dollars in pockets. jewelry, livstock does’t generate revenues for entire tribe. so why having energy summit.


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