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Letter to Albright

November 6, 2000 by  
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Judith Nies letter to Madeline Albright requesting an official response to the European Parliaments’ resolution

Judith Nies authorized me to publish her letter to M. Albright requesting an official response to the European Parliaments’ resolution of February 17, 2000 concerning the Dineh. Judith Nies is well known to Dineh supporters by her book “Native American History” and her article “The Black Mesa Syndrome”. . Judith Nies was told by Senator Kennedy’s office that the secretary of state does not plan to send a response.

Harald Ihmig Beim Rauhen Hause 30 22111 Hamburg T. 040-6518393; Fax
040-65901168 e-mail

July 4, 2000

Dr. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C.

Dear Madame Secretary,

I am writing to request the official response of the U.S. government to the resolution passed by the European Parliament on February 17, 2000, titled “Native Americans in the U.S. – Dineh.”

I write as a historian, an author, and a former speechwriter in the U.S. Congress when the act to partition these Navajo (Dineh) lands was passed. Since 1989 I have been working on a book on the human rights and
environmental questions raised by U.S. government’s inability to monitor and review a highly flawed policy. A reference book I wrote, Native American History (Ballantine 1997, winner of the Phi Alpha Theta history
award), deals with the broad themes of the historical pattern of America’s land and resource acquisition from Native peoples. My recent article on the contemporary Indian land/mining issues on Black Mesa in
Orion magazine was a finalist for the John Oaks Award in Distinguished Environmental Journalism. My research on indigenous peoples and transnational corporations has been supported by the Rockefeller
Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Corporation, and the Fund for Investigative Journalism, among others. I congratulate you on your exemplary speech to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on March 23, 2000, particularly your emphasis that those in democracies should lead the way in empowering people to control their own destinies. As you so eloquently said: “First… democracy is the single surest path to the preservation and promotion of human rights. Second, no nation should
feel threatened by[the work of] this Commission … for our task is to support the right of people everywhere to control their own destinies.” It is in the spirit of actualizing these sentiments that I write.

The European Parliament adopted this Urgency Resolution in regard to the Dineh (Navajo) in northern Arizona based on the religious, cultural and human rights provisions for indigenous peoples contained in the Vienna Declaration of Human Rights. The Resolution calls upon the U.S. government to monitor ongoing acts of harassment against Navajo resisters and requests Congress to open formal hearings on how the
stripmining in the area has impacted the lives and rights of the Dineh.

The European Parliament’s Resolution — Clauses A through G – sets out the context of the ongoing removal of the Navajo: the air and water hazards from coal stripmining on these same lands; the draining of their
groundwater supply to run a coal slurry pipeline; the destruction of thousands of surrounding historic archaeological sites; the nuclear  contamination of the lands to which some of them have been relocated;
and the elimination of their means to economic livelihood because of impoundment of their livestock. As you are undoubtedly aware, the problems of transnational corporations operating on indigenous lands with the collusion of host governments is an international issue of considerable concern. Over the past six months demonstrations on behalf of the Navajo human rights have been held at U. S. embassies in England, France, Germany and Japan. On February 1, 2000, representatives from the Swedish and German governments traveled to Black Mesa to make sure the human rights of the Navajo were observed. Over 250 non-governmental organizations have signed the report of a UN Special Observer, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, stating that the human and religious rights of the traditional Navajo people are being violated.

However, although this conflict has received international attention, State Department officials abroad seem to be poorly informed. A human rights group in Germany sent me a copy of a letter they received from
the U.S. consul in Hamburg. This letter stated that although the U. S. had been remiss in its dealings with American Indians during the l9th century, that was all a thing of the past; present policy was progressive. Unfortunately, as the recent history of the Navajo and Hopi shows, unenlightened U.S. policy against Native Americans continues. Whenever valuable mineral resources are concerned, indigenous peoples in
America have faint political voice and few human rights.

My personal knowledge of this subject began when I was a legislative
aide in Congress in 1971 and the first Hopi Navajo Land Settlement bill
was introduced. It was well known within congressional staffs that those
same lands held the richest coal deposit in the United States. It was
also known that some of the most sophisticated energy infrastructure in
the country was being developed on those lands by giant corporations and
utilities based on that coal. Furthermore, the single largest user of
the coal-fired energy would be the U.S. government’s department of
interior ( bureau of reclamation).

Let me point out a number of salient issues in the matter of the Navajo
relocation as they relate to the contemporary framework and norms of
international human rights:

* This removal of over 12,000 Navajos from land situated over the Black
Mesa Coal Field marks the first instance in American history where a
boundary dispute between two Native American tribes was settled by
physical removal of one tribe. In all other similar native land cases,
settlement has been made by means of financial award and transfer of
other government land. A similar claim by Maine’s Pasamaquoddy Indians
at the same period offers a different precedent, in which the Indians
received a large financial settlement and forest service land.

* The boundary dispute between the Hopi and Navajo was manipulated by
the Hopi lawyer in the 1950’s in order to resolve “clouded title” to the
mineral estate of Black Mesa. The subsequent Hopi Navajo “range war” was
manufactured to dramatize theissue for Congress. The Hopi and Navajo have,
in fact, coexisted
peaceably for many generations and have intermarried, traded, and
socialized. * The Hopi’s lawyer from 1950 to 1980 was John Boyden, a white Mormon
from Salt Lake City who was also on retainer to the Peabody Coal Company
at the same time he represented the Hopi. Not only was this a clear
violation of legal ethics — which the department of interior as trustee
should have investigated but did not — but his law offices were in the
Kennecott building at a time that Kennecott was the parent company of
Peabody Coal.

* When the bill to physically remove the Navajo from their lands was
introduced in Congress, the government’s expert witness was the
assistant secretary of interior Harrison Loesch. Ignoring that Navajo
culture is entertwined with land, Loesch testified that “relocation” was
similar to an eminent domain proceeding, and that at most 800 Navajo
families would have to be moved. ( To date over 12,000 Navajo have been
moved making it more than the entire Hopi tribe of 8,000.) As soon as
the bill passed secretary Loesch became a vice president of Peabody

* The single largest user of Black Mesa coal is the U.S. government
through its ownership of 26% of the ironically-named Navajo Generating
Station. The energy runs the pumps of the department of interior’s
Central Arizona Project. The interesting question here is who
investigates the government when the government has a conflict of
interest? At present both the Hopi and Navajo are suing the U.S.
government for manipulation of the royalty rates on their cool leases.

* The Navajo residents, whose religion and culture is intimately
attached to these lands, were not provided with “comparable lands.” For
the first ten years they were moved to tract housing in border towns.
The government’s subsequent effort to remove them to a similar
environment where they could raise sheep, has been seriously tarnished
by a nuclear-contaminated water supply. This contamination of the
so-called “New Lands,” was caused by seepage of uranium waste water from
the breakage of a United Nuclear tailings dam that leeched into the Rio
Puerco alluviam underlying the New Lands and has been ongoing since

* The coal technology in operation on Black Mesa is highly
sophisticated. It includes the country’s first coal slurry pipeline and
a plant designed to run off of coal slurry (liquified coal), both
developed with government research grants. The Bechtel Corporation
developed the 275-mile slurry pipeline (the only operating slurryline in
the U.S. because hydrologists testify that slurrylines have a
permanently detrimental effect on groundwater levels), built the two
power plants on Black Mesa, and constructed the government-owned Central
Arizona Project. Bechtel was also, from 1974 to 1991, part-owner of the
Peabody Coal Company.

* The U.S. government has consistently maintained that at issue is
justice for the Hopi arising from an inter-tribal boundary conflict of
centuries. The deciding legal factor was the executive order reservation
drawn by Chester Arthur in 1882 for the Hopi.

However, a contextual historical analysis of federal Indian land policy
of the era shows no comparable 4,000 square mile reservation “given” to
1200 Indians. The real purpose was to set aside the mineral resources of
the region – coal and copper and timber already mapped by government
surveyors – from white settlement.

* The Hopi themselves are disturbed by the government’s failure to
monitor environmental effects from mining. Former Hopi tribal chairman,
Vernon Masayesva, wrote in the Hopi Navajo Observer of June 10, 2000: “.
. . The facts paint a picture of deceit, violations of federal and
tribal laws, conflict of interest, sloppy science, blatant exploitation
of indigenous peoples, and deliberate failure of the United States
government to honor its legal and moral obligation to protect our land
and water. ”

* The relocation of the Navajo is a matter of U.S. policy at the highest
levels. For years, the appropriation for the Navajo Relocation
Commission has been a line item in the White House budget.

Madam Secretary, in 1962-63 you and I were students together at Johns
Hopkins SAIS and participated in a course called, by students only, Wide
Wide World. This is a case of the world looking at us with a wide lens.
The U.S. has shown it is unafraid to take a position in judging the
human right violations of other nations, but we do not seem capable of
taking the big view when it comes to human rights violations at home.

Is it possible for us to expect a standard for human rights behavior
abroad that we cannot meet at home? I believe this is an instance of a
poorly conceived plan set in motion over fifty years ago that has
extended into the age of the Internet and an entirely new set of norms
about human rights and a new consciousness about indigenous peoples.

I look forward to your response and a copy of your reply to the
Resolution of the European Parliament in the matter of the Navajo
Relocation and Removal. I plan to include your letter in the appendices
of my book. Please feel free to call me if you or your staff have
questions or need additional information.

cc: President William J. Clinton, The White House Lynn Cutler,
Deputy Assistant to the President, The White House George Frampton,
Acting Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality Liesel Loy, Deputy
Staff Secretary to the President Senator Ted Kennedy Senator John Kerry
Hon. Michael Capaano

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