12/14/2011 11:15:00 AM Indigenous elders and supporters occupy America Legislative Summit at Salt River Project's headquarters
A lot of people showed up at the Salt River Project headquarters last week to voice their concerns about the effect the project may have on the surrounding area.
TEMPE, Ariz. - Indigenous Dine' (Navajo) and O'odham elders and supporters took direct action by occupying Salt River Project (SRP) headquarters last week. This action occurred while the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) holds their "States and Nation Policy Summit" in Scottsdale, Ariz. SRP is on ALEC's corporate board.
Louise Benally, a resident of Black Mesa impacted by SRP's operations, delivered a letter to SRP that outlines critical concerns of her community. She said, "My community is heavily impacted by Salt River Project's coal and water extraction activities. SRP has extensive ties to Peabody Energy's massive mining operations and the Navajo Generating Station, which they co-own. Coal mining has destroyed thousands of archeological sites and our only water source has been seriously compromised. Their operations are causing widespread respiratory problems, lung diseases, and other health impacts on humans, the environment, and all living things."
"...We demand that SRP and Peabody meaningfully involve the indigenous communities they are impacting, and that they convert to non-fossil fuel based energy sources and address the health impacts on our communities.
"...ALEC, acting in the corporate interests of SRP and Peabody Energy, continues policies and operations that are not only devastating whole communities and ecosystems, but greatly de-stabilizing our planet's climate for the profit of a few, the so-called 1 percent," stated Benally.
Ofelia Rivas, an elder and activist of the O'odham, Indigenous Peoples on the border of Arizona and Mexico, said, "As indigenous people we understand that the balance of the land is actually the balance of our people and any disturbance of that is very devastating not only to our spiritual health but our overall physical health, as well as all living things. As indigenous people we are not separated from our environment. We're deeply connected to everything in the universe: the land, the mountains, water, air, and all plant and animal life.
"...The proposed loop 202 freeway extension that threatens South Mountain and the continuing construction of the US and Mexico border and its militarization. Trade policies such as NAFTA and CANAMEX alter our way of life and threatens our Him'dag. We will no longer accept the violence the state attempts to enforce on us along their border. Especially the aggressive legislation of ALEC. We demand you recognize the declaration of universal indigenous rights as well as the rights of our mother earth. Enough is enough, it ends now."
The massive canals constructed before colonial invasion of O'odham lands are now being utilized by Salt River Project. O'odham culture is deeply rooted throughout this area, which is as far north as the Phoenix Valley, as far west as the coast of Mexico in what is now Rocky Point, east as the San Pedro river and as far south as Hermosillo and the Sierra Madres Mountains.
Ray Aguilar stated that "the air conditioning and power we enjoy and water we drink comes at the suffering caused by SRP and Peabody's exploitation of the land and people. When will we realize that our privileges our based on this? We must take further action. I just spent one week doing direct, on-land support with Black Mesa residents assisting with basic essential human needs. That's why I'm here today. This critical situation would not exist if not for these greedy corporations."
Peabody Energy, also an ALEC member, is the world's largest private-sector coal company. With 2010 sales of 246 million tons and nearly $7 billion in revenues, Peabody creates 10 percent of U.S. power and 2 percent of worldwide electricity.
Since 1974 more than 14,000 Dine' families have been forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands.