Don't rush to approve the Utah Water Settlement

Chili Yazzie
Shiprock, Navajo Nation
Letters to the Editor

I am a 65 year old grandpa eight times and great Chei once. I dearly love my children, I pray they do not come into harm and that they will be okay in their later years. This letter is written on their behalf, all of our children and grandchildren of the future. With the swirling myriad troubles over the world, the exponentially increasing population, the inevitable shortages of food and water and the unrelenting assault on our lands and resources; to think on the future times of our children is worrisome.

The Navajo Nation Council approved the proposed Utah Water Settlement. I do not fully understand the intricacies and impacts of the settlement, I do know that it is complex, serious and extremely important. I cannot say conclusively why the proposed settlement is wrong, I defer to my sisters and brothers who declare unequivocally that something is wrong. Should we decide on this settlement if something might be wrong with it, if it could deny water to our children someday?

I believe it is wrong that the Council is proceeding with a federal/state process where the Council and the Speaker are the only authority to decide on the proposed language. The president will not have his say on the agreement until after it has been approved by Utah and the U.S. Congress, thus the president did not concur on the proposed language or did he? As a Sovereign nation, do we not have the capacity and authority to assert what process we will subscribe to, instead of being dutifully compliant with a foreign imposed process?

It is wrong that an agreement of this tremendous import and implication is fast-tracked through the review and legislative process over the objection of reasonable argument. This ‘railroading’ denies us the responsibility to protect and preserve our waters for our future generations and it violates our right to "Free, Prior and Informed Consent."

It is wrong that President Begay as the principal Navajo leader has been silent on this issue, he is obligated to insure that our future children have the water they will need. He is supposed to be the front line in repelling the intrusion and imposition of foreign processes, protecting our Sovereignty.

It is wrong for President Begay to allow a non-Diné who has long worn out his welcome to set the agenda and dictate to us how we should use our waters. With all the high-powered technicians and legal minds that are on the tribal payroll now, why is there silence? Is the water issue so complex that only this visitor bilagaana can comprehend it? Silence is complicity.

There are two things why this course of action is in clear violation of the Diné Fundamental Law and the Navajo Nation Code, One, the president is the official and legally designated Navajo representative when dealing with other sovereigns, this has been subverted by the Council and the Speaker, and two, our laws state the president is to sign or veto all legislation, this did not happen. It appears the balance of power has been upset.

At our chapter meeting today starting at high noon, we will have a report on the Utah water settlement from our Utah relatives. The Shiprock Chapter should decide what our position should be on this crisis.