Farming in Callao

Friday, September 29, 2006

Goshute press release

September 26, 2006 PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate release

Federal Government Betrays Tribes Again

The federal government again intentionally and maliciously violates its moral and legal responsibilities it has towards Indian tribes. “It is like we have traveled back in time to when the federal government would break our treaties and act like it was in our best interest. It is disgusting how the federal government continues to act without giving any thought towards its moral and legal responsibilities,” says Ed Naranjo, the Vice-Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (Goshutes).

The Goshutes live on a reservation, which straddles the Utah/Nevada border, an hour south of Wendover Nevada. They have a population of about 450 tribal members with 5 Business Council members. The reservation is isolated and as a result, the Goshutes must protect their natural resources to ensure that all tribal members and future generations will be able to live on and enjoy their homeland. Of course, water is their most valuable natural resource. For the past couple of years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has been making plans to steal water from Utah and Nevada, which definitely includes Goshute water, so that Las Vegas’ greed for more natural resources can be satisfied. In a typical move, the federal government is now actively supporting SNWA’s malicious plans.

The federal agencies that have intentionally violated their trust and legal responsibilities are the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other Bureaus under the Department of Interior (DOI) who signed the Stipulation Agreement with SNWA. The federal government entrusted the BIA and DOI with the responsibility to protect Native American water and land rights. However, on September 11, 2006, the BIA and DOI ambushed the tribes by entering into an agreement to cooperate with the SNWA attempts to steal water from Utah and Nevada.

The BIA and DOI like its predecessors of year’s past who actively participated in allowing reservation land to be unfairly purchased, squandered and stolen, stabbed the Goshutes in the back when it signed the cooperation agreement without consulting any tribe. The BIA offered a ridiculous apology for failing to consult with the tribes. This was not an apology, but a slap in the face. A letter received September 13, 2006 at Tribal Headquarters specifically said the “BIA apologizes for not being able to consult with the Tribe on the stipulated agreement … before it was approved. The timing of the hearing and the negotiations on the stipulated agreement limited BIA’s ability to do so.” “B.S. they were working on this agreement all the time. The BIA made this cheap excuse in the face of the fact that it has been public knowledge for years that this water grab would happen,” said Vice-Chairman Naranjo.

“By supporting SNWA, the federal government is, as usual, completely ignoring the trust responsibility that it has to protect Indian tribes and tribal resources,” said Naranjo. This trust responsibility has been described by the United States Supreme Court as a “moral obligation of the highest responsibility and trust.” However, there is nothing in the actions of the federal government in this water grab that complies with its trust responsibility.

“The federal government has also intentionally violated its legal responsibilities to consult with Indian tribes when taking any action that may affect Indian tribes”, Naranjo said.

Between 1994 and 2000, the President of the United States signed a memorandum and three executive orders reaffirming tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and self-government. The intent behind these executive orders was to strengthen the government-to-government relationship that the federal government has with Indian tribes. To carry out this intent, the President required all federal agencies to consult with Indian tribes before making decision on matters affecting Indian tribes.

“It is outrageous that the federal government has turned its back on its trust responsibility and the federal consultation policy,” said the Goshute Vice Chairman regarding the BIA’s failure to consult with the tribes. “How hard is it for the BIA to pick up the phone and call me to set a meeting, or to just tell me of the bad news?” Naranjo further asked. By waiting until the last minute, the BIA’s actions prove that it intentionally breached its responsibility by placing the tribes in a position where litigation is certain. “In the past, water litigation with Indian tribes has cost the federal government, state governments, local governments, and tribal governments billions upon billions of dollars, which could have been avoided with a simple phone call,” said Naranjo.

“Not only were Indian tribes sold out in the name of water, but every single resident of Utah and Nevada were sold out by the federal government. If you think about it, the federal government has a trust responsibility to every United States citizen, whether you are Indian or non-Indian, and it should consult with every person or entity when taking any adverse action,” stated Naranjo.

The federal government has a duty to taxpayers, and United States citizens and residents. By its actions, the federal government has made it more likely that the attorneys will get richer, water will be stolen, and our children will ultimately pay the price by having less water. The federal government needs to think about the future of everyone living in Western Utah and Eastern Nevada, not just Las Vegas. The federal government is not only selling out Indian tribes, but it will go to any lengths to sell out every single man, woman and child of Utah and Nevada.

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