POOR correspondent - Posted on 30 June 2010

Black Mesa Water Coalition
Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Black Mesa (AZ) - Residents from Black Mesa communities will saddle up on Thursday morning, April 18th in Pinon, AZ for a 100-mile, five-day horseback ride to the Navajo Nation capital in Window Rock, AZ. The ride is intended to send a message to the Navajo Nation spring Council session, which is meeting on April 19th, that the voice of all tribal members and the future of Black Mesa should be fully considered in current coal royalty negotiations with Peabody Coal.

Many residents have expressed increased concerns over the exclusion of community input regarding current coal royalty negotiations (aka "The lease Re-Opener")between the Navajo Nation and Peabody Coal Company. In the past month Black Mesa residents have hosted a series of community meetings to discuss the health of Black Mesa and the need to address the leadership of the Navajo Nation.

The scheduled horse ride is the next step to bring those concerns to the Council.

"This horse back ride reflects a long tradition of how leaders use to travel to carry important messages from the communities that they represent to gatherings like the Navajo Nation Council meetings", said Marshall Johnson of Tonizhoni Ani, "If the leaders who are negotiating on behalf of our water and homelands cannot come to our communities to explain to us what they are deciding, then we will come to them."

According to the lease agreement, "the 1987 Amendments provide for a Re-Opener to negotiate increased royalty rates and royalty-tax caps for each successive ten-year period after 1987." The Navajo Nation coal royalty rate is currently 12.5% under the 8580 Lease (which covers a portion of Peabody's Kayenta Mine Operation on the Navajo Nation), and 6.25% under the 9910 Lease (which covers both a portion of Peabody's Kayenta Mine and the now-closed Black Mesa Mining Operation with shared ownership of coal reserves between Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe ).

In 1993, the Navajo Nation initiated a lawsuit against the Federal Government for $600 million in damages from decades of below-market royalty rates. In April 2009, after years of conflicting decisions and appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo Nation.

"For 14 years, the official position of the Navajo Nation was that it deserved at least a 20.5% royalty rate. Now, Navajo Nation leaders are trying to ram through another 10-year agreement with Peabody at the 12.5% rates. If the Navajo Nation is really concerned about economic prosperity, why are they negotiating at rock bottom rates?" said Nicole Horseherder of Tonizhoni Ani.

On April 1st the Navajo Nation Council held a work session on the Peabody coal lease Re-Opener, presenters included; Peabody Coal Company, United Mine Workers, Division of Natural Resources and Black Mesa United.

"It's unfortunate that the Re-Opener work session only had one group representing the views of some Black Mesa residents but excluded hundreds of voices of community members who are concerned about Peabody's coal mining operations and how it has impacted them,” said Marie Gladue of Voices of the People. “We need to be at the table because we are the ones who have to live with these consequences."

Horse riders will arrive in St. Michaels, AZ on Saturday evening, and will host an Environmental Education Forum at St. Michaels Catholic Church grounds all day on Sunday, April 18th. The Environmental Education Forum aims to educate Navajo citizens and tribal leaders about the Peabody Re-Opener and hear testimonies from community members who are from Black Mesa region and other parts of the Navajo Nation stuggling with environmental issues.

Protect Black Mesa Horse Ride Schedule:

• Day 1: 4/15 Pinon, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ (Cottonwood Chapter)

• Day 2: 4/16 Cottonwood, AZ to Ganado, AZ (Ganado rodeo grounds)

• Day 3: 4/17 Ganado, AZ to St. Michaels, AZ (St. Michaels Catholic church)

• Day 4: 4/18 Environmental Education Forum, St. Michaels Catholic Church grounds 10:00am-5:00pm

• Day 5: 4/19 St. Michaels, AZ to Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, AZ

*For a map and route of the horse ride please download flyer at:

April 14, 2010

Contact: Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition

(928) 637-5281 /


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