September 30, 2009

Navajo vs. environmentalists

Environmentalists rile tribes

Navajo, Hopi say they are not welcome

by Felicia Fonseca
The leader of the country's largest Indian reservation threw his support behind the neighboring Hopi Tribe, whose lawmakers declared environmental groups unwelcome on the reservation.

Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. and Hopi lawmakers say environmentalists' efforts could hurt the tribes' struggling economies by slowing or stopping coal mining.

Shirley said Wednesday that he will stand in solidarity with the Hopi Tribe, and joined Hopi lawmakers in encouraging other tribes to re-evaluate their relationships with environmentalists.

"Environmentalists are good at identifying problems but poor at identifying feasible solutions," Shirley said in a news release. "Most often they don't try to work with us but against us, giving aid and comfort to those opposed to the sovereign decision-making of tribes."

Environmentalists and tribes have forged partnerships on a number of issues, including opposition to uranium mining and the protection of mountains that American Indians consider sacred.

But coal is another story.

Environmentalists have waged a campaign against coal as an energy source, in favor of renewable energy such as wind and solar. But the Navajo and Hopi long have depended on coal revenues to fund their governments and pay the salaries of tribal employees on reservations where half the work force is unemployed.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The News No One's Reporting and Energy First, Indians Last.

Below:  A coal mine on the Navajo reservation.

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