Diné Confront John McCain in Action to Protect Water and Sacred Sites
(Video published with permission. Credit: Marley Shebala)
Window Rock, AZ — On August 14, 2015 dozens of Diné (Navajo) took action to resist U.S. Senator John McCain’s attempts to steal precious water and desecrate sacred lands. McCain had private meetings scheduled at the Navajo Nation capitol with Diné and state politicians which included discussion of the controversial Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River water rights settlement.
Nearly a dozen Diné youth took action by chanting and linking arms in a roving sit-in at the Nation Nation museum where the meeting was to be held. The group was supported by dozens of other Diné community advocates who held signs such as, “John McCain = Indian Killer” and “Save Oak Flat.”
“Walking through our homeland has given us a deeper understanding of protecting the sacred, defending our homeland.” stated Nihígaal bee Iiná participants who were a significant part of the action on Friday, “Even if that means disrupting secret meetings with crooked politicians. We will no longer sit back, we will protect our water, land and livelihood for children, our grandchildren and honor our ancestors by any means necessary! WATER IS LIFE!”
At one point state and Tribal police blocked demonstrators from leaving the museum building. An elder intervened opening the door allowing the group to pursue after McCain’s convoy yelling, “Get off our land!” Police blocked access to the airport where McCain quickly departed. Despite heavy law enforcement presence, no arrests were made.
McCain has long established himself as an enemy of Indigenous lifeways. From furthering forced relocation on Black Mesa for coal mining (S.1003), political support for ski area desecration of the Holy San Francisco Peaks, to his most recent attack against San Carlos Apache Holy lands at Oak Flat for copper mining, McCain has long placed corporate interests over Diné and other Indigenous Nation’s survival.
In the face of ecological and climate crises, McCain and a handful of Navajo political collaborators continue to further extreme pollution from fracking, coal mining, and Coal-Fired power plants operating on the Navajo Nation. These actions appears to contradict other ecologically responsible measures such as the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005, which banned uranium mining and processing on Navajo lands, the 5 Year plan to clean up abandoned uranium mines, and the recently declared a state of emergency due to the Gold King mine disaster which threatens sacred and vital water ways such as the San Juan and Colorado.
This statement was issued on the day of the action by Collective voice of those united in solidarity, “NO MORE ALLOWING state or federal politicians and the corporations they represent entrance into our homelands. Those who are responsible for our people being poisoned, starved, kept in poverty and removed from our sacred territories, are not welcomed here!! We will take back our power and restore our homelands, take care of our water, protect our people and our sacred sites, and mentor a new generation of youth that will change this paradigm of exploitation and greed!”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 14, 2015
Citizens Demand Transparency and Protection of Diné Water Security
Window Rock, Arizona- Friday August 14th, 2015 a group of intergenerational Diné Citizens concerned about the intention of John McCain’s visit to the Navajo Nation staged a peaceful protest. Utilizing the power of song and prayer, a small group staged a sit-in in the room where the congregation was supposed to take place. A second group took position outside of the museum to greet elected Navajo officials, requesting them to stand strong as leaders.
“We were there to let our voice and presence be known that our water will never be given away and our rights, gifted to us by Diné Diyiin and Nihima Nahasdzaan, will not be taken away.” – Indigenize
Navajo Nation Speaker Lorenzo Bates and Arizona Senator Carlyle Begaye invited Senator John McCain to the Navajo Nation to meet with several Navajo Nation Council delegates—a meeting that was closed to the public. Despite the stated purpose of McCain’s visit to attend the annual Navajo Code Talker’s Celebration as a speaker,
MaCain spent the majority his four hour Window Rock visit in the company of Speaker Lorenzo Bates and Senator Carlyle Begaye. Senator McCain and Senator Carlyle face ongoing criticism for their close affiliation with corporate entities, particularly in the area of energy and mineral development, which has predominately disadvantaged Native American tribes throughout the Southwest. Navajo citizen’s demands for protection of existing water claims are framed within larger assertions of sovereignty over land and resources and Speaker Lorenzo Bate’s actions are contrary to these goals. A primary message of today’s protest was the centrality of water for Diné existence—both physically and spiritually. The use of drum and prayer during the demonstration was especially effective in gathering public affirmation and support.
“We would really like to thank the Code Talkers and their Families for gifting us with food and water, and taking time to learn about why we were here. It was beautiful seeing the younger generations and their grandmothers supporting the code talkers and extending that support to us when we shared with them what we were there for.” – Diné Advocate
It is evident that “business as usual” politics are no longer accepted and that greater accountability of all elected officials is demanded by those who understand the sacredness of Water. Water connects all life, connects all communities and connects all struggles.