2012-08-21 18:53:18

Navajo Look to New Leader on Water Rights

An alliance of Navajo grassroots organizations is recommending the appointment of Council Delegate Katherine Benally to head the effort to re-negotiate a water rights settlement to govern the Little Colorado River.

Speaker Johnny Naize is recommending that he, as speaker, handle that job. Naize was directed by the Council to set up a water rights task force when the delegates voted July 5 against the Navajo Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement proposed by President Ben Shelly.

Benally, who chairs the Council's Resources and Development Committee, has been a vocal critic of the agreement and the enabling legislation that would make it law.

The Diné Water Rights Committee is comprised of the Forgotten People Corp., Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhóní ání, Diné Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Hada'asidi, Next Indigenous Generation, Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto, and individual tribal members.

According to Naize's task force legislation, the task force would be a seven-member subcommittee of the Naa'bik'iyáti Committee.

Naize nominated delegates LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T'iistoh Sikaad/Tsé Daa Kaan/Upper Fruitland), Elmer P. Begay (Dilkon/Greasewood Springs/Indian Wells/Teesto/White Cone), Joshua Lavar Butler (Tó Nanees Dizí), Jonathan Nez (Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Shonto/Ts'ah bii Kin), Walter Phelps (Cameron/Coalmine Mesa/Leupp/Tolani Lake/Tsídii To'ii) and Dwight Witherspoon (Forest Lake/Hardrock/Kíts'íílí/Piñon/Whippoorwill) as task force members.

He stated that there also would be an advisory group to the task group made up of tribal members representing nongovernmental organizations, academic professionals, and Navajo traditional practitioner.

Naize recommended that the task force be authorized to involve all appropriate tribal entities, including but not limited to the Department of Justice and the Water Rights Commission, in its work.

The task force would exist until the Council approves a water rights settlement for the Little Colorado River.

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