- By Lenny Foster
Guest Opinion. Praying with water this morning, thanking her for quenching the thirst of Mother Earth, five finger nation, plant nation, mineral nation, four-legged nation, winged nation and for quenching the thirst of the spirit for truth, peace and love. When you pray with the water, she responds if you listen, she speaks up!
I contemplated the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling against my Diné people. It is an abomination, and a supreme insult, and long-term mistake.
For five hundred years we have fought the scourge of colonial forces acting against the people, our Earth, ravaging resources with avarice and malice. The court’s decision is evidence that the United States is not considering reconciliation and healing–rather a desperate and aggressive continuous bid for control and profit.
When we consider the alternative–a decision that respectfully recognizes the legacy of brutality and destruction of water herself- a decision to restore the water to Navajo Nation control and honoring the broken treaties. With such a decision, they would have created an opportunity whereby reconciliation and repatriation would have genuine and significant possibilities.
Instead, their decision of 5-4–against the Navajo Nation–they will continue contaminating our rivers with toxic waste from mining and other extraction practices that devastate our communities with cancer and other pollution created diseases. And force the “begging bowl” model, of our past, empowering the corporations, to control what is already legally and rightfully ours, the natural resources, the water, they already squander and destroy.
The decision is in flagrant violation of our treaties, all broken, yet still relevant. The United States government reinforces offenses in perpetuity: they have now violated their fiduciary responsibilities to the tribe.
Treaties ensured the land and water into trust within our sovereign nation, and they ignored their responsibility going forward: to hold more sacred the honor and legacy of our people, and our cultural inheritance, despite the sins of their conquering past.
They told us to “lay our weapons down, and become an agrarian society, and culture of farmers.” That requires land, and water. That requires land and water resources to be managed, stewarded, and protected, within the jurisdiction of the Diné nation. The ones who decided against that on the SCOTUS, are being careless and short-sighted, as well as disingenuous.
The final answer lies with water herself, who knows her caretakers and protectors. Her spirit is nourished and nurtured by those who continue to respect her, thank her and pray with her. Her strength and longevity should not be disregarded or underestimated. Tó éí iiná! Mní W’Coní!
Lenny Foster (Diné) is a veteran of the Alcatraz Occupation (1969) and Wounded Knee (1973). He served as the director of the Navajo Nation Correctons program until his retirement in 2017. Foster is a board member of the International Indian Treaty Council.
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