It is an honor to be here at this continuation of what began in Salzburg, Austria in 1992-a gathering that has brought people of different nationalities and backgrounds together for a common purpose-to say now and forever that we will no longer tolerate the poisoning of our people and our land through the mining and processing of uranium.
As Navajo people, we have always been guided by certain laws. In 2002, the Navajo Nation Council recognized these fundamental laws of the Diné people and made the Diné Fundamental Law the guiding principle of Navajo Nation law.
The Diné Fundamental Law is one of the most significant actions taken by the Navajo Nation Council with regard to sovereignty and protection of our sacred lands. This fundamental law maintains our sovereignty and the integrity of our culture.
The Diné Fundamental Law also acknowledges our purpose in life and the right to life, wherein each creation has its own design and laws, and has rights and the freedom to exist. We know that the integrity of such a holistic system is meaningful and must be upheld and protected. As individuals, our responsibilities are so prescribed. We must uphold our responsibilities.
Accordingly, we, the Diné people are the designated stewards to preserve and protect the foundation of our ceremonies and our Diné way of life.
On April 21, 2005, the Navajo Nation Council voted to enact the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act. The Act specifically states, "No person shall engage in uranium mining and uranium processing on any sites within Navajo Indian Country."
There are four aspects of the fundamental law - customary, traditional, natural and common law. In passing the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act, the traditional law and natural law components of the law were cited.
The traditional law provides "that it is the right and freedom of the people to be respected, honored and protected with a healthy physical and mental environment." (CAP-18-05, Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005)
The natural law "mandates respect for all natural resources within the four sacred mountains." (CAP-18-05)
The incorporation of the Diné Fundamental Law to our codified laws has been most significant in maintaining our unique identity as Diné people. Through the traditional and natural law components, it has given us the foundation to ban uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation.
I must point out here that we are a whole nation, which includes the significance of our environment. Our sacred environment makes us a whole person and a whole nation. We are never disconnected from our Mother Earth. We have a living bond to all of creation. It is a sacred bond. This is our true identity as Diné people. This is the reason that we must protect the integrity of our environment.
We must continue our discussions, make plans and carry out action so that we as Navajo people will have the ability to create a sustainable environment and to protect our natural resources. We have seen the devastating effects on our Navajo land and our people. There has been social, cultural and economic damage to our nation due to uranium mining and processing. We now know that this substance-uranium-is harmful to our people and should not be disturbed. The Navajo Nation Code now states, "its extraction should be avoided as traditional practice and prohibited by Navajo law."
As you can see, political issues continue to be raised, whether relevant or not, that challenge our social order. These issues are raised in the name of prosperity and development, while indigenous nations fight to defend cultural and territorial integrity. In this day and age, our anguish continues, while our unique identities remain strong.
In this respect, it is important that we continue to advocate for international recognition of our most basic human rights. As indigenous people, we must demand that our rights to cultural integrity and environmental justice be recognized and respected by all governments.
We were certainly delivered a blow when the Third Commission of the United Nations voted recently to delay consideration of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a vote of 82 nation-states in favor, 67 opposed and 25 abstaining.
While it took decades of work to come up with the Declaration, the majority felt that more discussions are necessary before consideration by the United Nations General Assembly. We must continue our advocacy at all levels to ensure that the Declaration is not weakened through any further discussions.
At Salzburg, a document was produced calling upon governments, organizations, communities and individuals to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and our right to determine and control the nuclear process as it affects our society and territory. I commend those of you who were involved in producing such a strong statement and continuing to carry out the goals that were outlined. These are the types of documentations that we need to make known to the rest of the world.
I think the most important message that we carry from this gathering is that we are not alone in our struggles. This is a powerful reminder even as we hear the disappointing news that there are countries that oppose recognizing our rights as indigenous peoples. We must take the knowledge that we have gained here and expand our message to the entire world together.
Thank you to each of you for your support, advocacy and participation during this Indigenous World Uranium Summit. Ahe´hee`.