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Yesterday we resumed Nihígaal bee Iiná, Our Jounery for Extistence, and celebrated the Diné new year by laying down prayers and offerings at Nihímá Dibé Ntsaa for the protection of our land and water, and for the resilience of our people and our way of life. We gave our offerings to Tó Asdzaa’ at the base of a waterfall that feeds into the La Plata River and felt incredibly blessed to be surrounded by the beauty of the mountain changing color with the seasons.
There are many old gold mines on Dibé Ntsaa, much like the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado, that contaminated the Animas and San Juan rivers on August 5. The gold mines in the canyon where we made our offerings have been acquired by the Wildcat Mining Corporation, which received a permit in 2011 to “clean up” the mines after illegally building new roads and establishing a new mill to process gold ore. These mines are reportedly leaking contaminated water into the La Plata River, which also feeds into the San Juan.
We were also informed of a last minute meeting held yesterday at the Aneth Chapter House to discuss the Utah Water Rights Settlement for the San Juan River that was not announced to the public; there are concerns that the Navajo Nation is being pressured to reduce our claims to the river after the Gold King Mine spill. From what we have learned on just this first day of our journey, our water crisis is clear.
Last night, the temperature dropped as we camped near the base of the mountain, and what also became clear is that some of our walkers do not have the adequate clothing and gear for the colder temperatures. Our support vehicles are also in need of some break and c.v. joint repair, so we are requesting for donations for jackets, cold weather hiking shoes, thermals, and funds. (Please contact us at 405-534-4620 for sizes and information.)
We are on the road today from Hesperus, Colorado to Red Mesa, Colorado on Highway 140, and we have about 275 miles to go. We also are looking for a place to stay in the region. If you see us on the road stop by and say, “hi.”
Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 29 years, serving as a writer for Navajo Times and a stringer for AP and USA Today during the 18 years she lived on the Navajo Nation. After being a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today, she was censored and terminated. She then created Censored News, focused on Indigenous Peoples and human rights, now in its fifth year.