Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good news from Big Mountain

Some rare good news for the planet: a much under-reported story surfaced in the New York Times this past Tuesday about suspended operations at the horrific Black Mesa coal mining pit near Big Mountain in Arizona. Those of you with long memories will recall what a travesty that Peabody Coal site created for Hopi and Navajo families through forced relocations, depletion of the aquifer, and pollution of sacred lands.

The late Hopi elder and spiritual messenger, Thomas Banyacya made this statement to President Nixon in a 1971 letter about the travesty going on at Black Mesa:

"The white man, through his insensitivity to the way of Nature, has desecrated the face of Mother Earth. The white man's advanced technological capacity has occurred as a result of his lack of regard for the spiritual path and for the way of all living things. The white man's desire for material possessions and power has blinded him to the pain he has caused the Mother Earth by his quest for what he calls natural resources. And the path of the Great Spirit has become difficult to see by almost all men, even by many Indians who have chosen instead to follow the path of the white man ..."

aho! here's the good news excerpted from the New York Times:

>>For 35 years, the Black Mesa Mine has produced coal for a power plant in southern Nevada. But it suspended operations at the end of December....The mine is ceasing work indefinitely because the sole power plant it supplies, the Mohave Generating Station 273 miles away in Laughlin, Nev., is shutting down under a legal agreement with environmental groups that sued because of repeated pollution violations.
The power plant is owned by four utilities that have balked at paying the estimated $1 billion in upgrades to comply with the court order and keep the plant operating.

"Peabody has done us a favor by putting us in this situation," said Vernon Masayesva, 66, former Hopi chairman and longtime mine opponent. He said he sympathized with the workers, but added, "It's time for us to cut the umbilical cord to the company store."

Mr. Masayesva said that as a young man in the 1960's he listened to Hopi elders discussing the proposed mining of the coal beneath the Black Mesa, which gets its name from the low-slung pinyon trees that from a distance make the top of the 6,000-foot mesa look black. He said the elders believed that the coal could be of lasting value to the tribe, if mined at the right time, in the right way and for the right purpose.

But Mr. Masayesva said the agreements the Hopi and the Navajo struck with Peabody and the federal government were poor. "We should have waited until we were educated, until we had our own hydrologists, our own engineers, our own lawyers and economists," he said.

He said the mining had been destructive and wasteful, to the land and to the water. "Wasting water is criminal in our culture," he said. "It is the tribe's covenant with the earth, and we broke it."

Last, he said, the coal has been used for the wrong purpose. Rather than enriching the lives of all tribal members and contributing to a sustainable way of life, it is used to light the casinos of Las Vegas and heat the hot tubs of Los Angeles, he said."<<

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