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Bears Ears Alternative Moves Into House of Representatives as Opponents Cry Land Grab

bears_ears_sunset-tim_peterson

The Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, touted as an alternative to granting National Monument status to 1.9 million acres in Utah, does not include the two sacred peaks that give the region its name. Photo by Tim Peterson

A congressional bill touted as an alternative to the Bears Ears proposal, an intertribal request to designate nearly two million acres of land as a national monument in southeast Utah, is moving forward to the full House of Representatives.

The Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, H.R. 5780, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) passed 21–13 in the Republican-majority House Natural Resources Committee on September 22.

Committee Democrats, including ranking member Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, expressed several concerns with the bill, saying it did not contain a tribal consultation component or protect half a million acres identified by the tribes in their larger Bears Ears designation request.

Grijalva offered an amendment that would remove the Bears Ears National Conservation and the Indian Creek Wilderness areas from the bill. The Public Land Initiative designates about 1.4 million acres of federal land for “conservation and recreation,” according to a media release from the bill’s sponsors, as well as “exchanges and consolidates certain federal and non-federal land; and provides for economic development within the State of Utah.” Opponents say the measure would open the land to natural-resources development and give a fair amount away to unspecified private interests.

Committee Republicans rejected a total of six amendments from Democrats, including one by California Rep. Raul Ruiz that would have protected land, water, roads or other resources within the Uintah and Ouray Ute Reservation. Calling H.R. 5780 “legislation that tramples over sovereignty and self-determination” and “a modern-day Indian land grab,” Ruiz said the Ute tribe was denied an opportunity to present their concerns to the committee in a formal hearing and that the bill was fast-tracked to avoid a hearing in the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs (IIANA) Subcommittee, where Ruiz is a ranking member.

“Without a hearing in the IIANA subcommittee we’re not able to fully discuss the true status of these lands within the Ute Indian Tribe’s reservation,” Ruiz said. “H.R. 5780 would be the first bill to take away these lands from these tribes. Attempting to justify taking away these lands based on misleading questions raised at the federal land subcommittee hearing last week is wrong and glazes over the disastrous impact on the tribe’s reservation and impact on federal Indian policy.”

Located in northeastern Utah, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation—made up of the Whiteriver, Uncompahgre and Uintah bands—is rich in oil and gas deposits. The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees land and minerals for sections of tribal land, but Ute officials, citing that the issue of ownership has been settled by past litigation, affirmed the BLM-managed land lies within its boundaries and say the land should have been placed under trust through the Indian Reorganization Act. The tribe opposes the bill, stating it “proposes to take Indian lands and resources to fix Utah’s problems.”

Democrats during the hearing continually referred to opposition from area tribes, including the bill’s exclusion of 500,000 acres of the Bears Ears region named after two 9,000-foot twin buttes, an area residents say is sacred and contains more than 100,000 archeological sites.

RELATED: Bears Ears 1.9 Million–Acre Monument Would Be Unique Tribal-Federal Collaboration

California Republican Tim McClintock said the movement to protect Bears Ears came from outside the Four Corners area, and several tribes in the area have supported the Public Lands Initiative (PLI), including a single elected Navajo official, Republican San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally.

“The testimony that we received from the county commissioner called the claim of the Native American support for the Bears Ears monument campaign a sham,” McClintock said. “She says, ‘I’m here to help you unmask it.’ She did. I’m sorry she didn’t have more sway.”

Ruiz took issue with the characterization of Benally as a spokesperson for the entire Navajo Nation and reminded McClintock about tribal sovereignty.

“First of all, saying that one woman, this Navajo woman acting as a commissioner, using her as a token spokesperson for her tribal nation, that is wrong and not right,” Ruiz said. “The Navajo Nation under their president and their council opposes this land grab and are in solidarity with the Ute Nation. It’s their land; they can decide what to do with their land.”

The Navajo Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Tribe and the Hopi and Zuñi Pueblos support the monument proposal, and created the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition last year after failed attempts to work with Utah representatives.

RELATED: Bears Ears Coalition Splits From ‘Disrespectful’ Congressional Reps

The coalition formally asked President Obama to designate 1.9 million acres in the area as a national monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the President signing power to create such monuments on federal lands.

RELATED: Tribes Ask President Obama to Designate Bears Ears as National Monument

During a press tour of the region in July, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the President plans to make a decision on the issue before the end of his term.

RELATED: Sally Jewell Visits Bears Ears, Says Obama Will Decide on National Monument Before Leaving Office

The issue has deeply divided the Four Corners community. The day before the House Natural Resources hearing a group of Utah Navajos during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol opposed the monument, saying a monument designation would interfere with Bears Ears access and their traditional way of life. Six of seven Navajo communities in Utah have passed resolutions supporting a monument.

Standing with Utah lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert, Navajo resident Susie Philemon made a direct plea to the President, “Please do not take this land from us. Please don’t break more promises not again,” according to the Associated Press.

In a video posted on the day of the Natural Resources meeting, Rep. Bishop, who is committee chairman, said the Public Lands Initiative is a compromise after 1,200 meetings, 50 field trips, and public and private hearings.

“There has been no bill before Congress that has had this kind of transparency and this kind of scrutiny,” Bishop said. “And, in the end of it when we take it to the floor of the House, it will be a good bill that will solve the problems and provide stability moving forward into the future.”

US-controlled Hopi Government Arrests, Threatens Traditional People

By Black Mesa Indigenous Support

Hopi Rangers arrested two individuals and impounded 120 sheep this morning at the homesite of Tom and Etta Begay in Red Willow Springs.  Heavily armed rangers guarded and blocked nearby dirt road entrances as well.

“The Hopi Rangers came for our homestead early this morning. They tried to arrest my Aunt Etta who is almost 70 years old and my dad Bahe. They had barricades set up at the top of the hill with two police units, when we tried to get around the barricade they chased us for two miles, trying to hit us with their trucks, and they drew their guns at us.  When we got to the house they brought four more units and tried to block us in by the north hogan. They grabbed us out of our vehicles.  A male officer was grabbing me around my waist. I told them they were violating our rights and violating our elders. They were trying to arrest Etta who didn’t even know what they were saying [she doesn’t speak English]. She wasn’t doing anything. They arrested my younger brother Lance and me. Because we were a threat to them for voicing our rights and defending our family. It took three officers to detain me and another three to detain my brother.   We didn’t  go down without a fight. We were let go after six hours of detainment. I told them they are threatening our family who is all alone and elderly and they come out with guns and threaten and scare them. Who would have defended our family if we didn’t come?  We didn’t come with guns and knives; we are not violent, we just came to protect our family.  Who knows what they would have done if we weren’t there. We said, we are not scared.  We are protecting our elders, if you are going to take us to jail for that, do it. They took 120 sheep from our homestead.”–Milayia Yoe, arrestee.

The U.S government has always used “scorched earth policies” against Indigenous people–attempts to cut them off from their food supplies, decimate economies, or destroy infrastructure–as a precursor to forced relocations including the Long Walk of the Dineh. Livestock impoundments come under this category. There is increased surveillance on the families and livestock of the so-called “HPL” including the use of drones.

“We are in a battleground, the endless battleground of the Partitioned Lands. This is the front of the line and when it comes your family there is no yes or no, you have to stand up for your family and your relatives. This is what I was taught. The past was never really forgotten of the way the U.S. Government treated my people. It is still going on, it is still alive. We will fight- not with violence or armor, but with the old ways.  This is a stand for people to know who we are and how we live as Dineh.”–Gerald Blackrock  10/23/14

“The U.S. government is using the Hopi Tribe. We are Native People, we don’t work like this.”–Beulah Blackrock 10/ 28/14

Caroline Tohannie, the elder who had her herd impounded last week, has a court date coming up where she will be facing trespassing charges for being at her homestead.

These impoundments are stressful for the entire community, particularly the elderly:

“Our life is connected to the life of the sheep.  We are alive and strong because of them, and being close to them, being with them everyday, keeps us strong. Especially now in our old age the sheep are important to us. If we are too far from our sheep, we can become frail. “ Clarence and Mary Lou Blackrock, Cactus Valley Elders10/25/14

“I disapprove of the impoundments. They really affect the elderly. Ever since I was a baby I was carried on a horse to herd sheep. I have herded all my life and I am in my eighties.  You have the livestock in your heart, and they want to take that away.”–Jack Woody, Black Mesa Elder 10/25/14

“They way that the rangers are treating the people goes against the Dineh way; it is very taboo to point a gun at somebody. They are traumatizing an already traumatized community. If overgrazing was actually the issue they could just educate people. But it’s not. This is uncalled for.”–Marie Gladue Big Mountain Resident 10/28/14

Calls to Action:

  • Lawyers needed! If you are a lawyer or have connections to lawyers, residents are requesting legal assistance.
  • Call protests at your local Department of Interior or Bureau of Indian Affairs offices, donate funds here, come to the land as a human rights observer (email blackmesais@gmail.com for more information),
  • “Call the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Hopi Rangers, and the Department of Interior. Ask they stop impounding sheep on the HPL. This is current day colonialism, our food sovereignty is being attacked and ask that they stop the unjust impoundments.”–Louise Benally

Call:

  • The BIA superintendent Wendel Honanie at (928-738-2228),

  • Hopi Chairman Herman G. Honanie,  Email: hehonanie@hopi.nsn.us, Phone: (928) 734-3102

  • The Hopi Rangers Clayton Honyumptewa at (928-734-3601),

  • The Department of Interior at  (602-379-6600)

From Black Mesa Indigenous Support: http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bb9ecfdb5d711f67f04ee3551&id=b4bf977851

Altar Valley ranchers believe gas pipeline will destroy way of life

Originally posted on Deep Green Resistance Sonoran:

Richard Schultz points to land-clearing work across the border from Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, which he co-owns.

Richard Schultz points to land-clearing work across the border from Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, which he co-owns.

Original article by Joe Ferguson, Arizona Daily Star

Sasabe residents in the Altar Valley are nervously watching as construction crews bulldoze land just across the Mexican border.

They believe, or more accurately fear, the corridor the size of a football field being carved into the Mexican desert is evidence that approval of a proposed 59-mile Kinder-Morgan pipeline through their area is little more than a formality. With a decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the actual route of the pipeline not expected until next year, Altar Valley residents are left to wonder how the 36-inch natural-gas-pipeline extension expected to cut through a path through their ranches and sensitive wildlife corridors will affect their lives.

The sound of heavy equipment clearing desert can easily be heard from the historic guest…

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Diné plan to block access for uranium transport

Originally posted on Southwest Earth First!:

Protect Mt. Taylor: No Uranium Mining On Sacred Lands!

From the Albuquerque Journal:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A uranium mining company seeking a mineral lease on state land in northwestern Arizona could have a hard time transporting the ore off-site because of the Navajo Nation’s objections to an industry that left a legacy of death and disease among tribal members.

The section of land in Coconino County is surrounded by the Navajo Nation’s Big Boquillas Ranch. The tribe has said it will not grant Wate Mining Company LLC permission to drive commercial trucks filled with chunks of uranium ore across its land to be processed at a milling site in Blanding, Utah.

The Navajo Nation was the site of extensive uranium mining for weapons during the Cold War. Although most of the physical hazards, including open mine shafts, have been fixed at hundreds of sites, concerns of radiation hazards remain.

The tribe banned uranium mining on its lands…

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