Letter: Shirley's statement on environmentalists is appalling

To the editor:

President Shirley released a statement on Sept. 30 stating that he strongly supports the Hopi Tribe's resolution "to declare local and national environmental groups unwelcome on Hopi land and [that] environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and our quest for independence."

This statement stems from the Hopi Council's and [President] Shirley's belief that environmental groups helped the closure of the Mohave Generating Station, the demise of Navajo logging and the closure of a sawmill at Navajo, N.M., shutdown of the Black Mesa Mine and now Desert Rock Energy Project.

This statement is appalling and misleading because as elected leaders, we are supposed to protect our people and Mother Earth from harmful containments that cause numerous health diseases, destroy sacred sites and deplete and contaminate precious water resources attributed [to] mining and power plants (coal).

Providing information that Desert Rock Energy Project is [the] cleanest coal plant is also misleading. I want to [reiterate] that the best machines in the world cannot remove 100 percent of the sulfur, mercury and other pollutants from coal and burn it free of emissions. This "Clean Coal" is nonexistent.  If there was such a thing as "clean coal," our people would be embracing Desert Rock happily.

Shirley also states that most often [the environmental groups] do not try to work with us but against us, giving aid and comfort to those opposed to the sovereign decision-making of tribes.

This statement is also misrepresented because most environmental groups are made up by impacted grassroots indigenous individuals (youth, elders and future generations) [who] want their concerns and voices to be heard instead of meetings ... that are held with Peabody, Sithe Global, Mohave Generating Station and the Gaming Commission (Twin Arrows Casino) behind closed doors.

Over the past few decades, impacted residents have been brushed aside and forgotten about because all we focus on [now are] the dollars being promised.  That is why [grassroots organizations] seek help from other environmentalists [who] have a goal to help protect the health of the people.

Shirley states that our people die as a result of poverty, which manifests as social problems like alcoholism, drunk driving, drug abuse, child neglect, child abuse, etc. This could [easily] be reduced by investing millions into small local businesses across the reservation such as grocery stores, auto shops, feed stores, restaurants, shopping centers, laundromats, hotels, farming, ranching, [and] in partnerships with local vendors, which would create thousands of jobs, generate taxes and revenues which would fund education, police departments, and health agencies. The money generated would stay on the Navajo Nation. This can be accomplished by involving and including impacted grassroots [groups] from the very beginning to the end.

Creating power plants and casinos and blaming and disrespecting our own grassroots people is not the answer to these problems.

Calvin Johnson

Leupp, Ariz.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions officially of my employer and the Leupp Schools Inc., its employees, staff and/or the board.

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