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Leave It in the Ground

Big Mountain.

As snow covers the land on Black Mesa, Louise Benally, Navajo resisting relocation on Big Mountain, sends a message to Indigenous Peoples and world leaders gathered at the Climate Change Summit 2009 in Copenhagen. Speaking to global leaders, Benally urged world leaders to reconsider fossil fuel and coal mining. Pointing to the destruction by Peabody Coal on Black Mesa, Benally said the said the coal mining has depleted the groundwater and continues to result in suffering and disease for the people.

“Right now this whole planet is being contaminated by fossil fuel development,” Benally said, urging alternative energy. “Reverse the greed for natural resources that are fossil fuels and apply pressure toward renewable energy,” Benally said in her message to Copenhagen, broadcast live on Censored News Blog Radio. Peabody’s coal mining continues to pollute the air, land and water, especially in cold weather when respiratory problems increase.

Benally said there is no such as clean energy from coal or uranium. There is no safe place to put nuclear waste and uranium mining has caused generations of death and disease for Navajos. “Leave it in the ground.”

Benally described how global warming is obvious on Big Mountain. Last summer’s squash were unable to cross pollinate and the corn popped inside its husk. “This indicates to me there is a big imbalance in nature and the heat is extreme.” On Big Mountain, vegetation is now burnt by the sun.

While Navajos resisting relocation on Black Mesa continue to be abandoned by their own Navajo Nation government, Benally thanked Clan Dyken and friends for the Thanksgiving food boxes they brought to the people.

Benally described the ongoing harassment by Hopi BIA Rangers. Livestock are being confiscated and Navajos resisting relocation have to buy back their sheep, goats, cattle and horses. The suffering continues for the people who depend on their livestock for survival on Black Mesa, where it is a 130-mile drive to a grocery store.

Benally described her recent visit to the Arctic Circle. At Point Hope, the people were very concerned about the melting ice and the vanishing resources for survival.

With the Arctic facing more mining and drilling, Benally said corporations target Indian territories. “These people have no mercy and these people will not fix problems they create,” she said of mining corporations.

Benally remembered the animals in the Arctic who will have no place to survive if their ice homeland melts.

Benally recently testified in Washington DC before the UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik. Benally described the desperate need for housing on Black Mesa, where people are unable to repair their homes under federal law. Apartheid has continued on Black Mesa since 1974, she said, referring to when Peabody Coal orchestrated a so-called land dispute in order to seize Black Mesa for coal mining. Benally encouraged Indigenous Peoples gathered in Copenhagen, the Indigenous Environmental Network, AIM West and other Native peoples, to continue to advocate for the people back home and a green future.

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.