Published May 20, 2016
As a Diné resident of the Little Colorado River watershed, I am concerned that the Little Colorado River water rights negotiations must be as transparent as clear water, so that we all understand what is being given away, and what is ours forever.
Our Fundamental Law (1 NNC 205) teaches that:
The four sacred elements of life, air, light/fire, water and earth/pollen in all their forms must be respected, honored and protected for they sustain life; that all creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky to the animals, those who live in water, those who fly and plant life have their own laws, and have rights and freedom to exist; that we Diné have a sacred obligation and duty to respect, preserve and protect all that was provided for we were designated as the steward of these relatives through our use of the sacred gifts of language and thinking; and that it is our duty and responsibility of as Diné to protect and preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye declared in his State of the Navajo Nation Address, that the Navajo Nation has “an inherent, pre-constitutional and superior right to water;” and that guiding principles to negotiate a Little Colorado River water rights settlement are to protect our lifeways, support our populations, retain as much water as possible, and preserve our opportunities for economic development.
Good ideas. How do we make them real, to ensure our water and food security?
We must have a detailed Water Master Plan for every Navajo chapter, to protect all water supplies and water quality, and all water uses for all life in the future. Water for – (a) domestic needs; (b) municipal, schools, hospitals, government and community facilities; (c) commercial wholesale and retail businesses; (d) irrigated and rain-fed agriculture; (e) livestock drinking water and for rangelands and pastures; (f) wildlife drinking and habitats, including “in-stream” flows; (g) cultural purposes; and for (h) recreational purposes.
There should be no industrial use of our precious limited water until the N-Aquifer is fully recovered, at which time the Navajo and Hopi will decide on future industrial uses, if any.
Every Navajo chapter, and every Hopi village, must think about it, talk about it, pray about it – and develop their own detailed Water Master Plan to be included in the Lower Colorado River negotiations.
The new Lower Colorado River water settlement must also ensure that all Dine and Hopi rights to theLower Colorado River are quantified with real numbers, so that we know for certain how much water is ours forever.
And – all the Dine whose survival is being determined forever by the Lower Colorado River water settlement agreement must be fully informed of all aspects of the negotiations in advance, with time for reflection and discussion of all matters.
Who is benefited by rushing this? We must take the time to do it right this time. Our grandchildren’s children are watching.
Ed Becenti is a Diné/Navajo grassroots liaison, who utilizes social media to share information networking between the Navajo tribal government and the Navajo people almost on a daily basis. He resides in Window Rock, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation.