Today I received one of the most important documents that I've ever received as a journalist in Indian country. It details the loss of Navajo water rights, the role of non-Indian attorneys and how uninformed non-Indian journalists come to Indian country and follow the mandates of those they believe to be the "good guys." Too often, the "good guys" are actually driven by politics and personal motives.
The document is "Navajo Water Rights: Truths and Betrayals," written in response to an article published in High Country News and Navajo Times, written by Matt Jenkins.
Among the authors of "Navajo Water Rights: Truths and Betrayals," is Former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald.Many years ago, in the 1990s, I was a stringer for Associated Press and covered federal courts. During the federal trial of Former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald, I realized that the US government would stop at nothing to remove him from office and put him in prison.
"Why?" I asked a Navajo businessman, during a court recess in Prescott, Arizona. "Was it about oil and gas, or coal?" No, the Navajo businessman said. "It is about the water."
Now, a decade and a half later, I read and understand the importance of Navajo water to the United States, in this document. Navajo water and the electric power made with it, light up the Southwest cities. While the people of the Southwest light up, water their lawns and golf courses and turn on their water faucets, many Navajos haul their water and read by lantern light.
It is a long and corrupt history of US colonialism and deceit, a history with truths now being revealed like maggots on a rotting corpse. From the formation of the Navajo Tribal Council, as it was called then, to sign energy leases in the early Twentieth Century, to the current day machinations to usurp Navajo water rights and resources, the ploys of the United States government and its agents is a long and nauseating history of deceit, which includes the murderous legacy of the Long Walk.
Read for yourself, "Navajo Water Rights: Truths and Betrayals." Water attorneys will gain a great deal from the analysis of Indian water rights.
Hopefully, journalists and editors will discover red flags and avoid condescending and inaccurate articles in the future.
As George Orwell said, "In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
Thanks to all of you out there devoted to this revolutionary act of truth-telling.
Read "Navajo Water Rights: Truths and Betrayals"
Double click on image to enlarge. Original image by Norman Rockwell.