Sacred Arizona Site Under Siege Pending House Vote

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

On Thursday, the House will vote on a bill that would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to convey more than 2,400 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in southeast Arizona to the Resolution Cooper Mining Co. Enactment of the bill would allow Resolution Cooper, dually owed by Rio Tinto Mining and BHP Billiton, to operate a large-scale cooper mine on Oak Flat disrupting sacred tribal grounds.

If passed, this bill referred to as the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Act, could potentially destroy sacred tribal places of worship by allowing the foreign mining giants to extract one cubic mile of ore from beneath the surface of the earth. The mining companies would extract the ore through an ecologically destructive process called block cave mining.

In 2011, ICTMN reported that Resolution Copper would use controversial block-cave method, in which explosives are set off below the ore body, creating a space underneath and allowing the ore to collapse from its own weight, after which it’s extracted. Opponents fear the method could damage Native American sacred lands, among them the historical Apache Leap, where tribal warriors leaped to their deaths rather than surrender to Arizona soldiers, according to historical accounts like this one.

In a press release, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) urged colleagues to vote “no” on the bill and said that Oak Flat has been a place where Native Americans have prayed, gathered medical herbs and plants, healed in holy perennial springs, and performed religious ceremonies for decades.

“The protection of places of worship is a fight for which we should all be united,” Moore wrote in a press release to her colleagues. “We must stand together to protect places of worship, including tribal sacred sites because these sites are part of the rich heritage and culture of our country and the essence of our moral identies.” She said the bills passage would jeopardize the cultural history of other sacred sites by setting a precedent with regard to federal protection of tribal sites.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) in February. Last month, Gosar invited the public to a town hall meeting to gage support of his efforts to bring thousands of jobs to Arizona’s Copper Corridor. He said this goal could be achieved if 678 is passed. “Getting this critical jobs bill across the finish line requires Arizonans to rise up and let their voices be heard. Nearly 4,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity are at stake.”

The withdrawal of Resolution Cooper’s controversial block cave mining process is supported by the San Carlos Apache Tribes, local tribes, and some environmentalists.

Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)


The project has also been opposed by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) whowrote about his oppositionto the bill saying that he was not opposed to mining, in principle, but said that they should not come at the expense of Native American rights.

ICTMN also reported that the bill would give around 2,400 acres of public land in southeastern Arizona to Resolution Cooper Co. in exchange for around 5,000 acres in several parcels around the state. As it stands, the bill has largely remained the same.

The federal government has acknowledged its obligation to protect sacred tribal grounds, but if the land swap bill passes, Moore said, Oak Bluff would be transferred to Resolution Copper for private ownership, and out of the domain of regulation by federal law.

“People who think money is first over water and land, such as some people in Washington, are destroying the earth and that’s where our argument is,” San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Wendsler Nosie, told ICTMN in 2010. “That’s wrong. You cannot do that, and that’s why I’m standing up for this.”



Floods Hit 50 Navajo Nation Chapters Across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah this Week

Source: Native News Network

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA – Since Monday, nearly 50 chapters have called for assistance in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Chinle was hardest hit by the floods as 22 people had to be evacuated from their homes. The floods continued downstream to Many Farms and Rock Point where another 40 people were either evacuated or rescued. In Tonalea, Arizona, officials reported that 20 homes were damaged due to flooding.

Navajo Nation floods

Most of the flash flooding happens after short bursts of intense rain.


“I want our people to know we are working with several different agencies to ensure that our people are safe and their basic needs are met,”

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said, In an attempt to calm concerns.

“Though we are thankful for the rain we have received, I want our people to know that the Navajo Nation programs and departments are responding to calls regarding flash flooding. Please be careful and don’t drive or cross flooded roadways. We want everyone to make through the rains safely,”

President Shelly said.

President Shelly has been getting regular updates about flooded communities throughout the week.

“We need everyone to exercise caution and be alert to their surroundings. Though it might not be raining in your area, it can be raining in areas upstream,”

said Navajo Department of Emergency Management Director Rose Whitehair.

Whitehair added that it is difficult to predict what areas would experience flash flooding since most of the flooding happens after short bursts of intense rain.

“And with the long term drought, the ground is hard so there is nowhere for the water to go,”

Whitehair said.

County and state emergency departments have all been coordinating efforts with the Navajo Department of Emergency Management along with the Red Cross, the Hopi Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“I want to thank all the first responders and agencies for working together. I know you are all working hard but remember the work you are doing is for the good of all the people in need. We are a strong nation and we will endure through these difficult times,”

President Shelly said.

Since July nearly 60 chapters have reported to the Navajo Department of Emergency seeking assistance for damages occurred as a result of flooding. Issues have been from road washouts, road closures, rescue operations, shelter for flood victims and road clearing.

President Shelly signed a declaration of emergency in August regarding the flooding and plans are to update the declaration for recent flood events.

Navajo Department of Emergency Management and chapters are working according to a declaration of emergency that President Shelly signed in August.

For those unfamiliar with the Navajo Nation, a chapter is a unit of local government most similar to townships found in most midwestern and northeastern states of the US and Canadian provinces.

Native American Drinking Water Plant Honored with Water Project of the Year Award

The Ak-Chin Indian community in Arizona has been recognized by the AZ Water Association and received the 2013 Water Project of the Year Award for its water treatment plant that uses GE’s ZeeWeed technology.

Ak-Chin Indian Community’s surface water treatment plant (Credit: AK-Chin Indian Community)
Ak-Chin Indian Community’s surface water treatment plant (Credit: AK-Chin Indian Community)

Jul 23, 2013

Environmental Protection Online

The Ak-Chin Indian Community’s surface water treatment plant, featuring GE’s ZeeWeed 500treatment technology, was recently honored with the 2013 Water Project of the Year Award from the AZ Water Association. The new plant, commissioned in 2012, has a capacity of 2.25 million gallons per day and provides drinking water to community members and Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

This surface water treatment plant is the first for the Ak-Chin Indian Community, located in the Santa Cruz Valley of Southern Arizona, 50 miles south of Phoenix in the northwestern part of Pinal County. GE provided the technology for the Ak-Chin Indian Community’s nearby membrane bioreactor water reclamation facility, which provides Arizona Class A+ effluent for water reuse and recharge, and won an international and multiple state awards.

The Ak-Chin Indian Community’s surface water treatment plant takes advantage of its surface water allotment of Colorado River Water supplied via the Maricopa-Stanfield canal system and the Central Arizona Project canal, which gives it a secure source of water, allowing for the population to properly plan for future growth and expansion.


“We chose GE’s ZeeWeed technology for our surface water treatment plant because it is the same technology that we have in our award-winning water reclamation facility. It was the best technology available to ensure years of reliable service and the best overall value for the Ak-Chin Indian Community,” said Jayne Long, capital project manager, Ak-Chin Indian Community.

GE ZeeWeed 500 technology is a filtration technology that separates particles, bacteria, and viruses from water or wastewater. Its ability to handle high peaks of solids and turbidity, combined with the high-efficient process and low energy and chemicals usage, makes it ideal for treating deteriorated or high-variation raw water sources and produces high and stable drinking quality water.

Leaders Praise Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Voting Rights

Tanya Lee, Indian Country Today Media Network

Tribal leaders in Arizona praised the Supreme Court’s June 17 decision to strike down Arizona’s Proposition 200, which effectively restricted the voting rights of American Indians in the state.

The Hopi Tribe, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and other groups in the voting rights case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, were represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which characterized the Arizona law as a “state voter suppression measure.” The law would have required potential voters present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote by mail.

Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa says the tribe took the case to the country’s highest court because “no tribal member should be required to come in and say, ‘I’m a citizen of the United States.’ We’ve always been here. Many tribal members were born in homes. Many have no birth certificate. It’s not right for anyone to deny us the right to vote.”

Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Councilwoman Lorna Hazelwood also welcomes the ruling. “As a sovereign Indian tribe in Arizona, we recognize that the Supreme Court’s ruling on voter’s rights is a victory for Arizona tribes. Our people have been challenged for decades in engaging in the voting process, just based on the historical segregation of demographics. The 2004 voter approved Prop 200, continued to further discourage election participation of our people. The Supreme Court’s decision eliminating this provision is commended and welcomed by our Tribal Leader’s and eliminates the discouragement and challenges of our tribal voters.”

On the other hand, Gila River Indian Community Gov. Gregory Mendoza says that the ruling, while allowing “voter registration drives and individual registrations to continue without eligible voter registrants being burdened with providing documentation of citizenships,” still leaves open the possibility of voter discrimination. “The Court provided that Arizona cannot require individuals registering to vote to provide evidence of citizenship when they register [to vote] using a federal form. Nevertheless, the state can require individuals to prove their citizenship with documents such as a driver’s license or passport when registering with a state form…. The ruling left in place a dual-registration system; a federal system and a state system. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Community members predominately use the state form.”

Gov. Mendoza’s concern that voter discrimination could continue in Arizona was underscored when on June 25, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. Shelby County, Alabama, argued that the special circumstances under which the federal government assumed the authority to approve changes to state voting procedures, among them lower voter turnout among minorities, specifically African Americans, no longer exist 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Justice Clarence Thomas, in an opinion concurring with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote, “Regardless of how one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the nation in 1965.”

The court, in its 5-4 decision, agreed and struck down the part of the law that determined what criteria would be used to put a state under federal oversight in regard to voting rights in elections for everything from choosing a U.S. president to choosing local school board members.

In their dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote that “second-generation barriers,” such as gerrymandering district boundaries to put a majority of whites in each voting district and at-large voting, which dilutes the voting power of minorities, still exist. They noted that “between 1982 and 2006, DOJ [U.S. Department of Justice] objections blocked over 700 voting changes based on a determination that the changes were discriminatory.”

Arizona was among the nine states that were covered by the Voting Rights Act and that had to seek preclearance before it could make any changes to its voting procedures, which included how districts were drawn, where polling places were located and when they were open. That is no longer the case. What the Supreme Court gave with one hand, it may have taken back with the other.


Related stories:

Supreme Court Backs Cheap Tricks That Keep You From Voting

Custer’s Revenge? Supreme Court Guts VRA on Little Big Horn Anniversary

Supreme Court Ruling Impacts Voting Rights in Indian Country

Supreme Court Upholds American Indian Voting Rights



Interior Approves Large-Scale Wind Energy Project on Arizona Public Lands

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

On June 28, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the approval of a major wind energy project in Arizona that, when built, will provide up to 500 megawatts to the electricity grid—enough energy to power up to 175,000 houses—and create approximately 750 jobs through construction and operations.

The project advances President Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution and move the country’s economy toward domestic-made clean energy sources, thus hopefully slowing the effects of climate change.

As part of his comprehensive climate action plan, Obama challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve an additional 10,000 above the original goal of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands by 2020.

The project, proposed by BP Wind Energy North America, Inc., would erect up to 243 wind turbines on federal lands for the Mohave County Wind Farm, which would be located in northwestern Arizona about 40 miles northwest of Kingman.

“These are exactly the kind of responsible steps that we need to take to expand homegrown, clean energy on our public lands and cut carbon pollution that affects public health,” said Secretary Jewell. “This wind energy project shows that reducing our carbon pollution can also generate jobs and cut our reliance on foreign oil.”

With this recent announcement, Interior has approved 46 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands since 2009, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide enough electricity to power more than 4.4 million homes and support over 17,000 construction and operations jobs.

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has identified an additional 14 active renewable energy proposals slated for review this year and next. The Bureau recognized these projects through a process that emphasizes early consultation and collaboration with its sister agencies at Interior—the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service—demonstrating President Obama’s and Interior’s ongoing commitment to “smart from the start” planning.

The decision to approve the Mohave County Wind Farm paves the way for right-of-way grants for use of approximately 35,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land and 2,800 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land.

The company agreed to undertake significant mitigation efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife and other resources, including reducing the project’s footprint by about 20 percent from the original proposal. The smaller footprint will protect golden eagle habitat and reduce visual and noise impacts to the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. In particular, the Interior’s decision bars the installation of turbines within designated sensitive areas to avoid golden eagle nesting locations, as well as provides for a 1.2-mile buffer zone to protect the nests.

Additionally, no turbine will be closer than a quarter-mile to private property. “The project reflects exemplary cooperation between our Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions,” said Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “This decision represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”

“I added my signature of approval for this vital project on the same week that President Obama challenged Interior to intensify its development of clean, renewable energy,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor said. “Reclamation’s hydropower resources are a centerpiece of the nation’s renewable energy strategy. We are pleased to also play a significant role in this important wind energy project.”



Hero Firefighters Named, Mourned, in Arizona

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Memorials and fund-raising assistance were launched throughout the day on July 1 as Prescott, Arizona descended into grief at the loss of 19 of their fire department’s elite combat team, who were dubbed heroes.

The Granite Mountain Hotshot elite firefighting team members died after a wind shift brought a wall of flames up to 30 feet high crashing into their hurriedly assembled last-ditch fire shelters. One member of the 20-man team was deployed elsewhere and not injured.

The firefighters, 14 of them in their 20s, are being hailed as heroes. They are Andrew Ashcraft, age 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21, and Garrett Zuppiger, 27.

Currently covering more than 4,000 acres as of Monday night, it’s the deadliest wildfire for firefighters in 80 years and one of the worst in U.S. history, CNN reported. It was being battled by 400 personnel, according to InciWeb, but was zero percent contained on Monday.

Fund-raising sites sprang up online, and a memorial began in front of the Prescott Fire Department for the families left behind, including numerous children, some of them unborn. The Prescott Firefighter’s Charities, the official charity arm of the Prescott Fire Department, set up a donation site for the families of the victims.

“100% of any and all donations will go to the families of the fallen firefighters,” the group said on its website. “The Prescott Firefighter’s Charities is operated by Prescott firefighters, and we want to ensure everything goes to these families. No money will be diverted for administration costs or anything else—we are doing this on a volunteer basis. It’s a crushing blow for us, but we can’t fathom what their families are feeling.”

The crowdfunding Internet site launched a three-week campaign selling T-shirts honoring the Granite Mountain Hotshots Crew and had already received requests for more than 3,000 by Monday night July 1. Shirts sell for $20, and all proceeds go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which honors those who die battling deadly blazes. Click here to reserve a shirt in the next two weeks, six days.

“Once we have all 19 #Heroes identified, the design of the #HeroesMemorial T-shirt will change to include all 19 names and the logo on the back,” said the Facebook page of In Memory of Prescott Firefighters Lost 6/30/2013. “Thank you all for your support for our Heroes Families!!”

Besides that Facebook page is one for Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots, which has turned into a memorial page, and another for the Yarnell Hill Fire, which contains information from the InciWeb fire information site.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots, and other units like them, are specially and rigorously trained to hit the hottest spot of a fire.

“Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, one of 112 Interagency Hotshot Crews around the country, have never had to use shelters during a wildfire,” wrote the Arizona Republic presciently in an April 2012 profile of the elite squad. “But working in remote locations to get ahead of the most dangerous sections of fires makes knowing how to do so a matter of life and death.”

As the firefighters’ bodies were transported to the medical examiner’s office in Maricopa County, people gathered—praying in front of the courthouse, creating a shrine in front of the fire department and waiting for word on a formal memorial service, the Los Angeles Times reported. Three of the men were from Southern California.

The exact reason for their demise was still being investigated, the Los Angeles Times said, although it appeared that wind gusts were fueled by a thunderstorm cell that moved into their vicinity as they fought the flames.

“The storm created strong and erratic winds in an area described as extremely rocky, with rough terrain and deep canyons,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The gusts pushed the flames toward the hotshots, who were trying to create a firebreak in hopes of stopping the flames’ advance.”

Related: Flags at Half-Staff After Deaths of 19 Elite Firefighters in Yarnell, Arizona Blaze



Navajos Launch Direct Action Against Big Coal

Photo by Black Mesa Water Coalition
Photo by Black Mesa Water Coalition

Sarah Lazare, June 21, 2013, Intercontinental Cry

Navajo Nation members launched a creative direct action Tuesday to protest the massive coal-fueled power plant that cuts through their Scottsdale, Arizona land.

After a winding march, approximately 60 demonstrators used a massive solar-powered truck to pump water from the critical Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal into barrels for delivery to the reservation.

Flanked by supporters from across the United States, tribe members created a living example of what a Navajo-led transition away from coal toward solar power in the region could look like.

Participants waved colorful banners and signs declaring ‘Power Without Pollution, Energy Without Injustice’.

“We were a small group moving a small amount of water with solar today,” declared Wahleah Johns with Black Mesa Water Coalition. “However if the political will power of the Obama Administration and SRP were to follow and transition NGS to solar all Arizonans could have reliable water and power without pollution and without injustice.”

The demonstration was not only symbolic: the reservation needs the water they were collecting.

While this Navajo community lives in the shadow of the Navajo Generating Station—the largest coal-powered plant in the Western United States—many on the reservation do not have running water and electricity themselves and are forced to make the drive to the canal to gather water for cooking and cleaning.

This is despite the fact that the plant—owned by Salt River Project and the U.S. Department of Interior—pumps electricity throughout Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Yet, the reservation does get one thing from the plant: pollution.

The plant is “one of the largest sources of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the country,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While plant profiteers argue it brings jobs to the area, plant workers describe harrowing work conditions. “We are the sweatshop workers for the state of AZ, declared Navajo tribe member Marshall Johnson. “We are the mine workers, and we are the ones that must work even harder so the rest don’t have to.”

These problems are not limited to this Navajo community. Krystal Two Bulls from Lame Deer, Missouri—who came to Arizona to participate in the action—explained, “We’re also fighting coal extraction that is right next to our reservation, which is directly depleting our water source.”

The action marked the kickoff to the national Our Power Campaign, under the banner of Climate Justice Alliance, that unites almost 40 U.S.-based organizations rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and working-class white communities to fight for a transition to just, climate friendly economies.

(Photo by Black Mesa Water Coalition)

(Photo by Black Mesa Water Coalition)