A Dirty New Low for Peabody Coal

Former chairmen of the Hopi Nation have revealed that the Hopi Tribal Council has been taken over by a pro-Peabody Coal faction. Further, Hopi reveal that the tribe’s attorney and the media are being used to carry out Peabody Coal’s agenda.

Peabody Coal used the same tactic originally to seize Black Mesa for coal mining and bring about Navajo relocation for coal mining, by way of attorney John Boyden, who worked for Peabody and the Hopi Tribe. The media was also coopted in the original seizure of Black Mesa by Peabody Coal, with the media cheerleading and proclaiming the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute.

When the Hopi Tribal Council banned “environmentalists,” and Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., agreed last week, Navajos and Hopis defending the land were shocked and appalled.

Vernon Masayesva, executive director of Black Mesa Trust and former Hopi Chairman, points out that Hopi are true stewards and the Hopi Tribal Council has been taken over by a pro-Peabody Coal faction. Masayesva, in a letter to Arizona Republic, also points out that the newspaper is printing only one-side of the story at Hopi, press releases written by a former employee of the newspaper.

Tina May, former senior editor of Arizona Republic, is now the Hopi Tribal Council’s press officer. Masayesva said the Arizona Republic’s coverage is biased.

“Arizona Republic has been carrying news releases by Tina May, public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council. She is reporting only one side of the story. We understand she is a former employee of the Arizona Republic,” he said.

“The real story on Hopiland, that is yet to be revealed, is the take-over of the government by pro-Peabody legislators with the support of their legal counsel, Scott Canty, and the ensuing corruption and abuse of power by an illegally constituted Council,” Masayesva said.

Referring to the ban, Masayesva said, “To be a Hopi is to be a conservationist, a caretaker and a steward of planet earth. So, by implication, the Council has banned all Hopi people from their land.”

Masayesva said the Grand Canyon Trust came to Hopiland to install photovoltaic panels on homes that have no electricity. “It is likely the project will now be suspended, thanks to our Hopi Tribal Council.”

Further, Masayesva said forty individual Hopis have filed a challenge to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s decision to issue a Life-of-Mine permit to Peabody. The permit would allow Peabody to continue the destructive surface mining for an additional 15 years after 2011.

“Of special concern to the Hopi is the continuing drawdown of N-aquifer groundwater and the accidental and deliberate destruction of archaeological sites, burial sites, petroglyphs and other cultural resources.”

Klee Benally, Navajo, points out that the US puppet tribal governments are continuing to appease the United States and corporations. Benally responded to Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr.’s comments, stating that environmentalists are not welcome on Navajoland.

Benally said, “I would expect this type of declaration from totalitarian government dictators, not those who are democratically elected leaders of Tribal Nations. Considering the history of colonization and BIA established puppet governments on Native American lands, Shirley’s statement is not surprising.

“Attempting to silence the voice and limit the rights of Dine’ people to protect their life, land and liberty is not sovereignty, it is in the direction of totalitarianism.”

Benally points out that Shirley uses the catch word “sovereignty” to defend his stance against anything Shirley disagrees with. Benally said, “Does sovereignty really mean being dependent on non-renewable energy that destroys Mother Earth, pollutes drinking water and air and compromises our holy covenant with nature? Does it mean being dependent on casinos and outside corporate interests?’

Benally also reminds Shirley of Benally’s grandmother, the late Roberta Blackgoat resisting relocation, who defended the land until her end on this earth.

“My grandmother Roberta Blackgoat once said, ‘I know each tree, each plant that grows right there. And they know me. The children, grandchildren, great grandchildren need to be right there. We need them to get back to the land and live on our ancestors’ land.’ She said that the ‘relocatees’ die of ‘worriness,’ ‘missing their traditional food and not knowing where to go to pray.’ Blackgoat said, ‘As long as I live, I’m not going to sign’ and continued to demand ‘(Peabody) stop destroying the Mother Earth’s liver and blood; the coal and the water.'”

“Until her passing she resisted relocation, still abandoned by the Navajo Nation government, ‘unwelcome’ by the Hopi Tribal government, and as a testimony to the injustices of US law.

“Would she still be unwelcome in her homeland Mr. Shirley — as an environmentalist, that is a woman who loved her Earth?”

In response to the Hopi Tribal Council ban, Alph Secakuku, Hopi council representative of Sipaulovi (Second Mesa), spoke of the sacred foundation and destiny of the Hopi people.

“We made a sacred covenant with Maasaw, our Supreme Being, to be good stewards of the Fourth World we live in today. We, as people, all have the responsibility of being Caretakers of Mother Earth. You care for it and take from it only what you need, and it will provide for you.

“I never thought I would see the day when being ‘Hopi’ meant being anti-environment, pro-big corporate energy, and actually promoting pollution and global warming in favor of dollars/money.”

Secakuku said the ban was the result of the current political coup in the council.

“It is a sad day for Hopi/Tewa people, and I am disappointed. We, the Hopi/Tewa people, have worked closely for many years with our allies from the environmental community to protect sacred lands from development and to stop uranium mining from poisoning our water. Water is life, therefore, it is sacred. We will continue to work together – tribal communities and other clean energy jobs advocates – to bring green economic development to our lands that respects our air and water.”

Former Hopi Chairman Ben Nuvamsa also points out the illegality, absurdity and indignity of the Hopi Tribal Council’s ban.

“For the record, Indian tribes have no jurisdiction over non-Indians on reservation lands (see Oliphant v. Suquamish). On the Hopi Reservation, only the Tribal Chairman has the authority to sign an exclusion order under Tribal Ordinance 46. So without a Tribal Chairman, no one can sign such an order. Without meeting these requirements, the resolution passed by this group is nothing more than a mean-spirited statement.

“Our teachings as Hopi and Tewa people dictate that we should welcome everyone. It is not Hopi to exclude anyone. As Hopi and Tewa people, we are raised to be good stewards of our lands so we are all ‘environmentalists’ by our cultural teachings and practices.

“The ‘environmentalists’ have stood by the Hopi Tribe when we opposed the making of artificial snow on our sacred Nuvatukyaovi (San Francisco Peaks). They assisted in our opposition to the proposed uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. They assisted in securing protections for the American Bald Eagle. So why the opposition to ‘environmentalists’ now? Could it be financial and corporate greed? Absolutely,” he said in a statement.

Nuvamsa points out that it the elected tribal leaders compromising sovereignty.

“Some say the ‘environmentalists’ are compromising our tribal sovereignty. I disagree. It is our own ‘tribal leaders’ that are the worst violators of compromising our sovereignty.”

Navajos at Black Mesa Water Coalition, creating green jobs on Navajoland, also responded.

“We believe that President Shirley is misinformed as to the benefits of coal mining and coal-fired power plants and out of touch with the kind of economy the Navajo people want,” said Wahleah Johns, also a Navajo citizen and Co-Director of Black Mesa Water Coalition.

“Our organization has been working to support the traditional lifeways of weavers, ranchers, artisans and a new clean energy economy. After over 30 years of coal development on the Navajo reservation, most of our people still live below the national poverty line, and now there are increasing health problems due to fossil fuel development pollution and global warming.”

Black Mesa Water Coalition said that in July of 2009, the Navajo Nation 21st Council officially adopted the Navajo Green Economy Commission and Fund to begin a process of diversifying the Navajo economy and building thousands of well-paying Navajo jobs that do not pollute.

“The Black Mesa Water Coalition formed the Navajo Green Economy Coalition, consisting of both Native and non-native organizations and individuals. This Coalition’s partnership with the Navajo Nation’s Speaker of the Council, Lawrence T. Morgan, was a large contributor to the successful establishment of a Navajo Green Economy plan and is a model for how tribal governments and tribal citizen’s groups can work together.”

Calvin Johnson, Navajo in Leupp, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, fighting the poisoning of the water, air and land by coal mines and power plants, said he was appalled by Shirley’s statement. Johnson told Shirley that blaming and disrespecting traditional grassroots people is not the answer.

Johnson said, “We are suppose to protect our people and mother earth from harmful contaminants that cause numerous health diseases, destroy sacred sites and deplete and contaminate precious water resources.”

Johnson said the Navajo Nation has been providing misinformation about the proposed Desert Rock power plant. There is no such thing as a clean coal fired power plant. He said no machine can remove 100 percent of the sulfur, mercury and other pollutants from coal and burn it free of emissions.

The Sierra Club said it is an honor to work with Hopis and Navajos.

“The Sierra Club is honored to work with our tribal partners in transitioning to a clean energy future, including the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dooda Desert Rock, Hopis Organized for Political Initiatives (H.O.P.I.), the Navajo Green Economy Coalition, To’ Nizhoni Ani, C-Aquifer for the Diné, and other community organizations,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

While the mainstream media, including Associated Press, continues to distort and censor the voices of the Navajo and Hopi people, the full statements are online at Censored News:


BRENDA NORRELL has been a news reporter covering Indian country and Mexico for 27 years, serving as a staff reporter for Navajo Times, Lakota Journal and Indian Country Today. She served as a stringer for AP for five years and USA Today for seven years, covering the Navajo Nation and federal courts. She was censored and terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006 and created Censored News. She is a contributor to CounterPunch.