• Testimony Of Duane H. Yazzie Before The US Human Rights Network

    JULY 29, 2014

    Gallup, NM

    We are thankful to have this US Human Rights Network hearing here in Gallup, NM. My name is Duane Yazzie, I am currently the President of the Shiprock Chapter; the Shiprock community is 90 minutes north of Gallup. I am the former Chairman of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

    The point of concern I will address today is the horrendous fracking (hydraulic fracturing) activity that is occurring in the northeast part of our Navajo Nation. I am of the contention that there has been flagrant violation of the right to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent article of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    I am sure that the consent by the Navajo landusers in the Lybrook, Nageezi areas was freely given, as they were presented a contract and pen in one hand and a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the other hand. And I am sure there was prior consent given before the fracking activity commenced.

    However it is apparent that the consent was not given on an informed basis. Families who are financially destitute will not ask sufficient and appropriate questions when the aggressive company representative is waving a check in their faces. This is coercion of the highest order.

    The Navajo Nation, the State of New Mexico and the Federal government through the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Land Management and other agencies were also coerced by the company with the prospect of revenues and jobs. There was a mad scramble by these governments and agencies to get “those contracts signed”. Apparently there were/are hundreds of contracts to be signed. With the very timely cooperation (complicity) between the State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and the federal agencies, there is now a special program in the Business School at San Juan College that is in place solely to expedient the consummation of the contracts. It was a strange sight to have the Governor and the Navajo President scurrying around to make sure this happened expeditiously.

    I believe these entities were irresponsible and failed to protect the interest of the directly impacted families by not assuring that the families had sufficient comprehension of what would be happening to their lands and their families. Some families who got amounts of money beyond their imagination are now broke and destitute again. There are families who are seriously fractured with enmity that may be beyond reconciliation because of disagreements over money.

    We are beginning to see the irreparable damage that is being caused to the land on the surface, it is incomprehensible the damage that has been and is being inflicted deep within the earth. With the scarcity of our underground water resources we are greatly disturbed that untold damage is being done to these waters. There are numerous huge trucks carrying toxic and dangerous chemicals recklessly rumbling over our dirt roads day and night. Uncouth oil and gas workers who are imported from who knows where, are preying on our young women. The damage is clear, irreparable and unconscionable.

    As a Diné citizen, I hold the State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and the participant federal agencies responsible for this damage to our earth and the families. I believe unequivocally that it is and was their collective responsibility to assure that the families were fully informed and comprehending the nature of destruction that would be exacted by this so-called development. Thus there is violation of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent provision of the UNDRIP.

    I recommend a moratorium on any further fracking until there is an assessment of damage inflicted thus far and that there be no additional contract signing until adequate education is provided the families.