Editor:

I would like to congratulate the winners of the recent Farmington People's Choice art exhibit in Farmington. As a participant I was delighted to show my work with other artists, but more importantly to share an important message with the community via the arts.

As a Navajo/Hopi artist, I would like to speak on half of many indigenous artists who create art with social content. For the People's Choice show I created an art piece specifically on the topic of uranium mining on the Navajo reservation, or as my people refer to the land of our ancestors - Dinétah. My Navajo tribe has endured many atrocities and triumphs since our forced exodus and return from Fort Sumner, in 1868. Yet, I believe the most terrible has been the disastrous effects of uranium mining on ancestral Navajo lands.

My painting which is titled ée't'só: Roaming Monsters in Dinétah and Sodizin as Our Weapon, concerns the history of uranium mining in the 20th century, which shows that from 1944 to 1986 about four million tons of uranium ore was extracted throughout the reservation. Today, the Navajo reservation is riddled with 521 abandoned uranium mines, in the state of New Mexico alone there are 450. The disheartening fact is that most of these abandoned mines on the Navajo reservation have been declared contaminated sites and are no longer inhabitable. This fact alone is the reality that human rights to clean air, water and a healthy environment have been taken away. My hope is that this knowledge will not only bring awareness to the community, but also to the world that uranium mining should not be permitted.

As an indigenous Southwest desert dweller I am passionate about my work as an artist, therefore I require that my work maintains vital content concerning issues critical to the maintenance of ancestral lands. This work was done in a prayer-state, and so the process of its creation humbled me as a Diné/Hopi artist. I do not take the acts of an artist lightly and believe art with content is vital in the 21st century, for it is created for the purpose of educating and establishing consciousness to the world, and our communities. This work is my offering to the world. In many ways I believe it was made to inspire the warriors who detest the pollution of our Mother, Nahaszáán níhímá: those who still believe in the act of compassion.


VENAYA YAZZIE

Shiprock