Navajo Code Talker Day brings in the politicians
Navajo Code Talker Day event presents backdrop for Navajo officials to discuss the toxic river spill
Published August 15, 2015
WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA – Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez met with visiting dignitaries Sen. John McCain and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
The Arizona leaders were visiting the Navajo Nation for the Navajo Code Talkers Day festivities at the Window Rock Veterans Park. They had a private meeting with President Begaye and Vice President Nez in the afternoon.
President Begaye stressed the importance of executing a Congressional appropriation to construct the Navajo Code Talkers Museum to honor the beloved Marines that ended World War II.
Most of the discussions focused on the Gold King Mine spill and the toxic sludge that contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers.
“I keep saying when are we going to hear from the White House? Not a word. When somebody wins the Super Bowl or an NBA Championship, they get a call, right? And when something like this happens and people are suffering, nothing,” President Begaye said.
He told Sen. McCain that the Navajo Nation must create a reservoir of water in the affected region with enough to supply residents for 90 days, similar to the border towns.
President Begaye requested assistance with drilling more wells and possibly even piping in water to the region from the Colorado River because that is “healthy water.”
“We need to have the President of the United States declare that river as a disaster,” said President Begaye, adding that funding from FEMA would then be available for the cleanup.
Grabbing a plastic bottle of water, President Begaye said Navajo EPA collected water from the river and that after an hour of no movement, the water cleared. He then shook the bottle and said the yellow color returned when they shook the water sample.
“That’s what our people are fearful of,” he said.
Vice President Nez said the Navajo people naturally have a distrust of the government and noted the agency never formally apologized to the Navajo Nation for contaminating the tribal water source known as the “lifeline of the Navajo people.”
“This is just one mine out of hundreds and there’s no Superfund designation,” Vice President Nez said. “Right now, we don’t trust the U.S. EPA’s data and their collection.
“And one of the things we’re still suffering from are the uranium mines, they need cleanup as well,” he added.
He said a repeat event was in the horizon again with other mines in the same condition, filled to capacity with water poisoned with the dangerous chemicals resulting from mining activities.
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Begaye and Vice President Nez spoke with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on conference call and shared their concerns about the health of the San Juan River.
They echoed their concerns about EPA water sample testing and the need to provide water to Navajo farmers, ranchers and communities that drew water from the river for use as potable water.
President Begaye raised the issue of Standard Form 95, which the EPA was distributing to Navajos affected by the water contamination. The form begins the process for residents to receive reimbursement for damages incurred from the event, but it ultimately waives their rights for future reimbursement from the long-term effects of the contamination.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) stopped by Office of the President and Vice President to extend his support and offer assistance in dealing with the EPA disaster.
President Begaye and Vice President Nez demanded action from the EPA for the immediate cleanup from the river contamination.