Three receive award for role in banning uranium mining on Navajo Nation

SANTA FE, N.M. -- The New Mexico Environmental Law Center awarded Council delegate and Resources Committee Chairperson George Arthur (Burnham/Nenahnezad/San Juan) with its Karl Souder Water Protection Award during an awards ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 7 in Santa Fe, N.M.

Arthur received the award for his crucial role in the banning of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation Council approved the DinŽ Natural Resources Protection Act sponsored by Arthur, which bans the mining of uranium, during its 2005 spring session in April.

Also receiving awards for the same purpose were Lynnea K. Smith of the Eastern Navajo DinŽ Against Uranium Mining and Esther Yazzie-Lewis, the president of Southwest Research Center board. Yazzie-Lewis accepted the award on behalf of the late Harris Arthur. Presenting the award was Emily Souder, the 13-year old daughter of the late Karl Souder for whom the award is named.

Douglas Meiklejohn, the director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said that the enactment of the DinŽ Natural Resources Protection Act by the Council was one of the most significant developments in the state pertaining to protection of water and the environment.

Meiklejohn commended Arthur for having the dedication and perseverance to see that the law was passed, especially in the face of powerful opposition.

"He consistently told us that he would get this done, and he did," Meiklejohn said.

In accepting the award, Arthur said, "I'm very honored and humbled to be in your presence, especially to be given recognition that is to be shared by many, not the least of which are my colleagues on the Resources Committee and the Navajo Nation Council.

"We feel it is wrong to threaten either an individual or a society so that one may gain for one's self. I believe in economic development and that there is a place for it. However, there is a choice to be made -- whether we make a dollar or survive for generations to come. We decided it was more important to have generations and generations after us," Arthur continued.

Speaking about the Eastern Navajo DinŽ Against Uranium Mining, he said, "They stood up for what they believed in when strong forces were opposing them."

Arthur thanked Eric Jantz from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Frank Seanez from the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel for providing guidance in the drafting of the legislation.

Also in attendance from the Navajo Nation Council at the awards ceremony were Resources Committee members Norman John II (Twin Lakes) and Harry Goldtooth (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi).

Meiklejohn said that the center has been involved in the 10-year struggle to prevent uranium mining around the Navajo community of Crownpoint, N.M., with the Eastern Navajo DinŽ Against Uranium Mining and the Navajo Nation. Jantz, a lawyer with the center, was one of two agents that presented the DinŽ Natural Resources Protection Act to the Council along with Arthur.

The other agent chosen by Arthur was then 21-year old Lynnea Smith, also one of the three recipients of the award. Meiklejohn noted that Smith has been involved in the effort to prevent uranium mining at Crownpoint since she was a junior in high school.

Smith acknowledged that the struggle to prevent uranium mining is ongoing.

"We are still committed to fight on a daily basis. Just because you pass a piece of legislation does not mean the battle is over," she said.

Esther Yazzie-Lewis paid tribute to Harris Arthur, the late brother of George Arthur, in accepting the award on his behalf.

"There are a lot of unsung heroes and I think Harris received this award in a very special way. I believe there is a time and a place for everything and time presented to us Harris Arthur. He stepped forward to tell us to be patient and to fight one more fight and he made it happen," Yazzie-Lewis said.

Don Hancock, the recipient of the center's Griff Salisbury Environmental Protection Award, also acknowledged the tremendous job done by the Navajo Nation when he accepted his award.

"It takes many people to make the kind of accomplishment happen that the DinŽ have done. We have a lot of resources in this state that many people want to use or exploit," Hancock said.

Hancock further remembered the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, which happened on Aug. 6, 1945.

"You realize the central role that New Mexico has played in the world and will continue to play in the future," he said.

(Karen Francis is Public Information Officer for the Navajo Nation office of the Speaker.)


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