Plundering Natural Resources; Water From Indian Lands (Part II)
by Blue Evening Star
Part 2 (See Part 1 in the January/February 2004 issue of the Alternative Voice)
It is hard to tell a story about a legal theft where there is no smoking gun. It is also hard to tell a story about water resources running out. Water compacts, established in the last century between states in the southwest which carved up the water from the Rio Grande and the Colorado, were primarily for irrigated agricultural needs. (This, incidentally, is why large quantities of water are measured in “acre feet” for applications which have nothing whatsoever to do with agriculture.) No one at that time anticipated the rapid sprawl growth that is occurring now.
On paper all the Indian reservations have “prior and paramount” rights to the amount of water they were using at the time of the establishment of the various pacts, but this water is also seen as being needed for the predominantly white urban populations and sprawl developments in Arizona and New Mexico. Native Americans have been in court for decades trying to get the water that they are legally entitled to. And nowhere in these compacts is there any “prior appropriation” rights for the needs of the environment in order to sustain its water cycles and habitats for plant and animal life.
A SNAKE EATING ITS OWN TAIL
Researching Arizona water issues on Indian lands is like finding a snake eating its own tail. The coal from the Black Mesa was needed to produce cheap energy to develop urban areas throughout the southwest and to build and maintain the Central Arizona Project (CAP). The CAP is a system of pipelines and canals stretching over 300 miles from the Colorado River through Phoenix and on down to Tucson. Climbing three mountain ranges en route, it is an engineering feat utilizing dams, siphons, tunnels, reservoirs, and fifteen electrically-powered pumping stations that bring water to the Sonoran Desert, the hottest desert in North America. This desert has become an oasis because of a 335 mile conduit of the most expensively-subsidized water in the world. The state of Arizona still owes millions of dollars for the building of the CAP, while many tribes in southern Arizona are locked in decades-long litigation to win the right to use the water awarded to them by the federal government in 1908, when it was decided that a federal reservation includes an amount of water necessary to fulfill the reservation’s purpose. The only problem is that the amount of water each reservation can claim was not established.
The Arizona Water Settlements Act (currently before Congress) is an effort to settle claims over Indian water rights and allows the U.S. and Arizona to settle repayments owed to the federal government for construction of the CAP, using funds generated from a tribal-state compact called the Water Settlement Fund, administered by the Department of Gaming. In order to settle, the Gila River Indian Community waives all pending water claims and injuries. The National Congress of American Indians has passed a resolution that “application of these principles as a condition to securing the water settlements sets a dangerous precedent for all Indian tribes within the United States and is an invasion of the federal-tribal trust relationship...an unwarranted and selective modification of federal law on trust land acquisitions.” So, the plundering goes on.
Currently in national news is the story of how the Interior Department is reorganizing two agencies in response to a class-action lawsuit that alleges the misplacement of billions of American Indian trust fund dollars. The Bureau of Indian Affairs must file a comprehensive plan with the courts for conducting a major accounting of the trust fund monies going all the way back to 1887. Each year the bureau collects about $100 million in royalties on behalf of 300,000 Indians from companies that cut timber, mine, graze livestock, grow crops, and drill for oil and gas on Indian-owned lands. These trust-funds owners are often shuffled around to multiple government offices when trying to find a missing check or to get information about who is leasing their property. Managing trust funds of monies and resources (such as water) on Indian lands is an oxymoron.
BLACK MESA TRUST
Here in Arizona, the sanest voice in the confusion of Black Mesa water comes from a voice that has been silent for many years. The Black Mesa Trust (www.blackmesatrust.org) was started by Hopi people who have decided to share with the world what they know about water. The fact that a child dies every 8 seconds from drinking polluted water somewhere in the world has made them feel it is time to change their traditional preference for privacy and to share more of their beliefs with the world.
Black Mesa Trust is also spearheading the most effective activism in defense of the water, land, and people of Black Mesa; and so they too have become a thorn in the side of Peabody Coal. They have succeeded in generating increased local and national visibility and pressure to end Peabody’s destructive drawdown on the N-Aquifer through numerous articles in national and international papers. Hopi and Diné elders living on Black Mesa are speaking with one voice and passing resolutions to cease all pumping from the N-Aquifer for the coal slurry line to the Mojave Generating Station (MGS). This has caused the California Public Utilities Commission to revisit its plans to extend the operation of the MGS, and to recognize Black Mesa Trust as a stakeholder participant in discussions about the future of the MGS. In one of many public education events hosted by Black Mesa Trust, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance, said “One day Peabody will pull out and leave behind a barren landscape which has no hope of regenerating a sustainable environment. Peabody is stealing what belongs to the next generations of your children.”
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED BY WATER
In a talk given in Sedona on October 30, 2003, Vernon Masayesva of Black Mesa Trust stated: “It is our responsibility to recognize that every drop of water has its own song—it responds to people, emotions, and feelings in the same way that plants respond. Every drop of water has a face, a song; it is not a commodity. Every raindrop has its own song. Rain and mankind interacting are what all the Hopi songs are about. Hopis don’t see N-Aquifer as separate from clouds, oceans, rivers, or springs. We are all water people. We are conceived, gestated, and birthed in water. We are all connected by water and need to find out the lessons that water can teach us about being all connected together.”
At a talk given at a Sunday CosmoService at Future Studios in Sedona on December 14, Pastor Gabriel of Urantia stated: “Our combined love and energy can speak to the elements—to Mother Earth. When people set aside their lower tendencies (greed, jealousy, envy, selfishness, etc.) and replace them with godly virtues (love, faith, brotherhood, peace, etc.) the circuits of God open up and the consciousness changes for the better. This happens every year at Christmas to the greatest degree. People become more loving and generous, and something magical happens for a few days. The spirit of God is in the air, pervading the ethers, and the entire planet feels it. This same consciousness needs to be generated all throughout the year so that our planet can survive and heal, and enter the era of light and life.”
The members of Black Mesa Trust have recently gone to Japan and made contact with Dr. Masaru Emoto, who has written the book Messages from Water. They find they have much in common regarding their views on the life force of water. Dr. Emoto investigates “hado” (rhymes with shadow) which he defines as “the intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter.” Using revolutionary photographs of water crystals, he claims that water changes its expression as a result of human actions. Dr. Emoto and Vernon Masayesva will be presenting their ideas about water together in Sedona on April 27, 2004. (For details on Dr. Emoto’s speaking schedule, visit his website at www.masaru-emoto.net.)
PEABODY COAL DEPLETING N-AQUIFER
Human actions need a great deal of altering in order for water cycles to maintain sustainability for generations to come, not only for those who rely on the N-aquifer for their water, but eventually for everyone on the planet. Now that Black Mesa Trust and many other supporters in the Navaho Resistance are pushing for Peabody Coal to find an alternative to the slurry lines for the coal, based on the depletion of the N-Aquifer, the giant consortium that feeds on the coal of Black Mesa with all its far-reaching tendrils is turning its eye to the C-Aquifer (Coconino Aquifer) which underlies Flagstaff and other nearby cities and towns.
SEEDS FOR THE FUTURE
Black Mesa Trust is not only confronting the problems involved in the coal mining at Black Mesa, but is also developing alternatives which are innovative, practical, and healthy for the community and the environment for generations to come. They have presented a proposal for a solar-generating station to replace the coal-powered stations. They want to teach food-growing methods using water saving techniques, a legacy from lifetimes of successful Hopi farmers. They envision a “learning plaza” where Hopi elders can teach youth how to live in harmony with the Colorado Plateau. They are also involved in the important work of preserving traditional Hopi drought-resistant seeds. These ideas qualify as “Spiritualution” solutions; solutions which are successfully contributing to the creation of a sustainable world by utilizing valuable ancient ways that are fused with life-enhancing tools and resources for the future.
Some cry out: “What will it take for people to take decision makers by the lapels and say, “You’ve got to plan!” And yet, as long as various groupings of individuals square- off to defend what each considers to be their own water, we get farther and farther away from taking steps to preserve the gifts our Mother Earth gives us. Sooner or later, we are all going to have to work together to solve out mutual problems.
The Global Community Communications Alliance is so named to reflect the cosmic family regathering of a Divine Administration; receiving and teaching revelatory concepts which are symbolized by the waters of life, which herald the Aquarian Age (water age) of planetary cooperation. Fundamental global changes must be made without the use of force, in order to be in tune with God. As long as individuals continue to compromise with what we know to be wrong, the world will not change. The question is: How long will people suffer before they see they are in danger of expiring, and CHANGE? This Hopi prophesy may come true for the Hopi people sooner than for others in the world, but should be hearkened to by all.
One day you will sell rain water
Springs will dry up, then
Your exodus will begin,
With “tin-cups” in hand,
Looking for water
where springs once ran healthy,