In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Hopi environmental leader to speak at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration

Posted by smeddum on May 2, 2009

By Staff reports
Story Published: Apr 30, 2009

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. – Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva will be on stage at Madison Square Garden on May 3 to help celebrate folk singer Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday. But he won’t be singing along with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, John Mellencamp and Emmylou Harris.

Masayesva will address the audience at the celebration, dubbed the Clearwater Concert: Creating the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders, to talk about Black Mesa Trust’s struggle to save the N-aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for Hopi and Navajo people on Black Mesa, from Peabody Coal.

For decades, Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, had pumped the N-aquifer for water to slurry coal from a mine on Black Mesa to the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada. On Dec. 31, 2005, Mohave owners, which include Southern California Edison, shut down the coal-fired power plant, in part because they were unwilling to install the pollution control equipment mandated by a 1999 consent decree and in part because negotiations with the tribes had bogged down because of the water issue.

Three-and-a-half years later, however, the N-aquifer is still in danger. The federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement recently authorized combining the two coal mines on Black Mesa (both on Indian lands). Under the terms of this reauthorization, Peabody can continue mining on sacred lands until 2026, and during that period, there is no limit to the amount of N-aquifer water they can pump, use and discard.

This is not just about water; it is about cultural survival. A land-based culture whose people are forced off their land for lack of potable water cannot survive intact.

That is what Masayesva will say at the concert, and he will ask for the support of everyone there to help stop this betrayal of the federal government’s trust responsibility to the Native peoples of our country.

For more information, contact Vernon Masayesva, P.O. Box 33, Kykotsmovi, Ariz. 86039, by calling (928)255-2356 or by e-mail at

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