Red Truth, White Cover-Up: How the Udalls, Sierra Club and White Environmentalists Sold out Navajos and Hopis on Black Mesa

By John Redhouse, Navajo, writing for Censored News.

As a Navajo and Indian rights activist since 1969 and an active member of the Navajo and Indian environmental movement since 1970, I can say that Rob’s (Rob Smith of Sierra Club) version of the Udall-Brower compromise is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of what really happened back then.

Stewart and Morris Udall’s roles in the compromise are well documented in my 1980 “The Navajo Hopi Land Dispute: Its Energy Aspects and Implications”, 1980 “Who Is Behind the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute”, and 1985 “Geopolitics of the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute.” Sierra Club guru David Brower’s role was a big part of the compromise.

Behind closed doors, they (Udall brothers and Brower) met with energy and water industry captains to come up with the infamous Plan B Alternative to the proposed Grand Canyon hydroelectric dams. In 1969-70, I was a member and field representative of the National Indian Youth Council and worked with many Navajo and Indian rights organizations, including the Chinle-based Committee to Save Black Mesa and the Los Angeles Chapter of the United Native Americans.

The Committee to Save Black Mesa (Mitch Fowler, Robert Salabye, Verna Harvey, Annie Kahn, Alice Luna, Elvira Burnside, Ben Barney, Miriam Crawford, Leroy Keams, Kee Shelton’s Mother, and others) was organized in the summer of 1970 to work and fight against the opening of the Black Mesa Mine and later the Kayenta Mine. The LA Chapter of UNA (Stella Montoya, Felix Montoya, and others) also worked with the Committee and Hopi traditionalists (Mina Lansa, John Lansa, Thomas Banyacya, David Monongye, and others) who were also opposing and resisting the coal mining which began in 1970.

Later, when the Black Mesa strip-mining issue became “sexy”, white environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Central Clearing House, Black Mesa Defense Fund of Santa Fe (which attracted anti-Navajo, anti-Indian environmentalists like Edward Abbey and David Foreman), and other Johnny-come-lately enviros got involved in the issue.

Like today, those off-reservation, non-Indian groups raised a lot of money off our plight to “save” Black Mesa while CSBM, UNA LA chapter, and the Hopi traditionalists had a hard time raising funds because the major foundations and rich environmental philanthropists like Harvey Mudd were already funding the white groups. So in terms of resource allocation and equity, it was the same old shit then as it is now.

Historically, it was also like the livestock reduction era (the Second Navajo Holocaust). Pseudo liberals like John Collier used their bullshit white environmental science to determine that we had too many sheep and that soil erosion from alleged overgrazing (I have several research publications addressing this fallacy) was going to flood Boulder Dam with rez silt. So they slaughtered over half of our subsistence livestock herds just like they brutally slaughtered the buffalo in the Great Plains. The forced livestock reduction campaign was brutally carried out like Kit Carson’s scorched earth policy which led to the First Navajo Holocaust (Long Walk to Fort Sumner–America’s First Concentration Camp which reportedly inspired Hitler).

The aforementioned Plan B Alternative was based on the same of kind of racist conservation thinking behind the stock reduction. The alternative is the lesser of two evils and Indians–like livestock–are sacrific-able anyway. So for us always the sacrificial lambs in the Grand Plan, the power and water industry AND elite environmentalists like Dave Brower are the right and left hands of the same Euro-American beast.

And so Black Mesa, our sacred female mountain and physical and spiritual embodiment of our most beloved Mother Earth, and the sweet female ground waters of the holy Navajo Aquifer were brutally mined and depleted. And the Black Mesa and Kayenta Mines, Black Mesa Pipeline, Black Mesa-Lake Powell Railroad, Navajo Generating Station, Central Arizona Project, and other mega urban-industrial monstrosities were all erected on that sacrifice.

The resulting genocide (from forced mass relocation) and ecocide are part of Stewart Udall’s legacy, Morris Udall’s legacy, Dave Brower’s legacy.

They may be the white environmentalists’ heroes but they aren’t our heroes just like Kit Carson and John Collier are not our heroes. What Rob is not saying is that the Sierra Club did not act to prevent but instead deliberately allowed the Dave Brower co-brokered compromise to happen. SC did not oppose the Plan B Alternative or its implementation until it was too late.

And the only reason they opposed it later than sooner was that the “Rape of Black Mesa” issue had unexpectedly become vogue and trendy in the national white environmental movement in the early 1970s.

Also during the late 1960s and early 70s, the very progressive Sierra Club was actively opposing the Havasupai Tribe’s campaign to reclaim their ancestral homeland in sacred Grandmother Canyon and on the Coconino Plateau. During that time, SC was also lobbying hard against Taos Pueblo’s long but eventually successful legislative campaign (much to the chagrin of the white boys club) for the return of sacred Blue Lake. Even President Nixon supported the pueblo nation and signed the historic legislation in the presence of Taos Pueblo leaders and elders in a special White House ceremony.

I’m on a roll and I’m tempted to say some unkind things about Andy’s so-called Tribal Partnership Program and Bill’s $50 million-a-year-plus Beyond Coal Campaign but I will hold those thoughts–for now. I usually don’t get this worked up and come forward like this but what Rob said on the Udall/Brower compromise was not accurate.

And I know that many of our beautiful young people (especially the dedicated Black Mesa youth of BMWC and TNA) were not even born during the time of the compromise (actually it was a white environmental movement sell-out) but yet had to grow up with its environmentally devastating consequences and are now doing their very best to undo the damage and to challenge the continuing coal and water mining threats to Mother Big Mountain and her sisters from Navajo Mountain to the Navajo Buttes and from the Navajo Aquifer to her sister aquifer to the south.

The young people, the next generation, those faces who were not yet on the earth but who we were working and fighting for in the 1960s and 1970s deserve to know the truth today by a native activist who was around then. And their continued environmental work on the mesa is a dream come true for this old-timer. Speaking of which, time for this grouchy elder to have another cup of coffee and pour it in my saucer as usual…

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Posted on April 3, 2012, in Ecological Struggles, Indigenous Struggles, White Leftism & Neocolonialism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Red Truth, White Cover-Up: How the Udalls, Sierra Club and White Environmentalists Sold out Navajos and Hopis on Black Mesa.

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