(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author addressed thefollowing questions and issues to the Navajo Nation Council.)
1. How many days can a human being go without water?
Human beings can live without food for several weeks, but they can live without water for only about one week.
We can still live if we lose all our coal, oil, gas, and even some of our land, but if we lose our water, none of us will live for more than a week.
Think and think hard. Don’t just think about NIIP, Upper Fruitland, Hogback, and Shiprock. There are others of us across the great Navajo Nation.
Before deciding how much water you are going to give away, calculate how much water each of the 110 chapters will need for now and into the next 200 years for domestic, agricultural and industrial use.
Include all of the eastern Navajo chapters. Whatever the amount, fight to preserve, protect, and defend it with all your might.
2. What happened to the fighting spirit of the Navajo Nation?
Our leaders of the past, without fear, took on the United States government for what they believe is rightfully theirs by birth and creation.
Our leaders of the past, without fear, took on the states for what they believe is rightfully theirs to keep and receive.
Our leaders of the past, without fear, took on the Bureau of Indian Affairs for what they believe is rightfully theirs to administer.
Our leaders of the past, without fear, took on the giant corporations for what they believe is rightfully theirs to enact and collect.
They fought because they knew who they were and where they came from. There wasn’t any question in their mind about what rightly belonged to them. There was no need for a deal.
3. Why are we so afraid now?
Why must we jump with fear and call for a special session before New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission has its meeting? Do they jump when we schedule our meetings?
Why must we fear what the city of Farmington will think? Farmington has been taking care of itself for years.
Why must we fear Gallup? Gallup has done well with Indian money.
Why must we fear Congress? Congress has taken up Indian issues before and will take up many more Indian issues in the future regardless of what we do.
Why are our lawyers and our professionals urging us to act now or forever lose a good deal? How do they know this is the best deal for the tribe, when there is no other deal(s) on the table for all of us to review or compare?
4. Something is terribly wrong.
Has the BIA really clipped our fingernails and took the fighting spirit out of our hearts?
Did Americanism really change our value system to where we now value money more than life? Water is life and $800 million is what U.S. spends in one day on Iraq.
Have our lawyers really put us on the path of Anglo legal mumbo-jumbo that we no longer feel safe and secure in the ownership of what rightly belongs to us by birth, history and treaty?
Have we given up on our treaty rights? Have we given up on our sovereignty? Have welfare and government handouts took the will to fight out of us?
If you don’t believe in the Treaty of 1868 or sovereignty status of the Navajo Nation, why take an oath that states, “…to uphold and abide by the laws of the Navajo Nation and Treaty of 1868…I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the laws and government of the Navajo Nation….”
Have we forgotten who we are, where we came from, who created us and placed us here within the four sacred mountains?
Remember, Colorado River Compact didn’t give us our treaty; New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission didn’t give us our water rights. Congress didn’t give us our sovereignty. Farmington didn’t give us the land we lived on for centuries. Gallup didn’t give us the water we have been drinking since time immemorial.
Remember, great civilizations have risen where water supplies were plentiful and they have fallen when water supplies failed. Our Navajo legends are full of such stories and to this very day we still revere rain gods and constantly pray for rain.
Yes, water is precious and water is life; and we shouldn’t sell out for a measly $800 million promise. How can you trust a trustee that can’t be trusted? We shouldn’t waive Winters Doctrine nor settle without knowing how much water the nation is going to need now and into the far future.
Despite all the fears, reject the so-called settlement and go for our full share of water (life) using our aboriginal rights under treaty of 1868 and Winters Doctrine. Any good lawyer will tell you—you don’t need to waive Winters Doctrine to make water available to Gallup and certain chapters.
Remember the words of one President, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fight with all the talents God had blessed you with and believe in yourself; believe in the government you represent; NOT in the lawyers.
Lawyers are mules; put that well-worn harness on them and hitch them to the plow. Make them walk where you want to plow—don’t let them lead you around. And don’t ever let loose of the plow and the reins or you’ll end up plowing in a circle and irregular rows. Keep a fir grip on the plow handle and your eyes on the far fencepost—whip those mules to walk a straight line. If they don’t or kick and buck, turn them loose and sell them to the glue factory!
(Peter June Corbell, a graduate of Northern Arizona University, resides in Flagstaff.)