I was in the audience at the Shiprock Chapter last Sunday, August 25th at an informational meeting provided by Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Diné C.A.R.E.) and an executive group from BHP Billiton regarding issues on the pending purchase of BHP-Navajo Mine to the Navajo Nation.
Without notice, our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly arrived and was given some time to speak. In his brief, he referenced BHP Mine as a move "forward" and aspiration for a "clean coal" production when Navajo takes ownership. Ironically, he commented he was against the Environmental Protection Agency and their stringent requirements for mine cleanup and he was planning to meet with them, "District 9 in San Diego." Mr. President, District 9 office is located in San Francisco, not in San Diego.
Besides the Shiprock Council Delegate, Russell Begaye, there were a few other Council Delegates who were present, acknowledged, and provided some time to speak.
As Russell Begaye spoke, he challenged the people of Shiprock Chapter to initiate movement toward sustainable change. He has witnessed our partnering with BHP and the coal industry, which have not been profitable for the Shiprock community, as they are still struggling to
survive. He is grieved by our Diné people who are using storage sheds as their homes. Revenue from BHP in the last 40 years has clearly not improved the economy in Shiprock. Maintaining more of the same is not the answer.
As I sat there, I thought back to 40 years ago, when life was prosperous in Shiprock and surrounding communities were self-sufficient. There were two hotels, Natani Nez Lodge and another one on the east side of town, each included a restaurant. The third eatery was Bonds, a retro (today's term) burger/soda counter with a jukebox. Located along the San Juan river, Shiprock was thriving with farmland and farmers had the opportunity to show their prized produce at the fair. There were rows of pitched tents with produce piled outside advertising sale to fair attendees. The environment was cleaner, the ground was fertile with grass, and there were plenty of trees providing shade and respite for weary travelers.
If you come to Shiprock today, all of what I recalled is gone. Where Natani Nez Lodge was located is now a flea market.
Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.