Tag Archives: Colorado

Navajo Nation On Toxic Spill In Rivers: ‘Our Soul Is Hurting’

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Kalyn Green of Durango, Colo. stands on the edge of the Animas River, Aug. 6, 2015.

By Avianne Tan

Navajo Nation Mourning, Pleading for Help After Toxic Mine Spill Contaminates Rivers

The Navajo Nation is mourning and pleading for help as clean storage water is depleting, after toxic spill from a mine has contaminated water flowing down the Animas River in Colorado into the San Juan River through Utah and New Mexico.

The spill happened Friday when a team of Environmental Protection Agency workers accidentally released 3 million gallons of wastewater containing heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, from the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado, the agency said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health said Tuesday evening that the concentration of contaminants “continues to decrease” and the “department does not anticipate adverse health effects from incidental or limited exposure to metals detected in the water.

Though EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said at a news conference today that the agency’s slow response was out of caution, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the slow response is frustrating the Navajo people, who are “weeping every day” and in “dire need of clean water,” not only for drinking, but also to sustain their organic farms and ranches.

“Our soul is hurting,” Begaye told ABC News today. “I meet people daily that weep when they see me, asking me, ‘How do I know the water will be safe?’ The Animas River and the San Juan rivers are our lifelines. Water is sacred to us. The spirit of our people is being impacted.”

PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

He explained that “basic drinking water” is becoming scarce as clean storage water is depleting more rapidly than expected.

“Bottled water is becoming scarce, and my people want to know what we can drink after the clean supply runs out,” Begaye said. “We’re hauling water from wells outside the disaster area and using our own Navajo Nation funds to run these trunks back and forth. We desperately need help from outside to get good quality, safe drinking water.”

PHOTO: People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill.

Additionally, farmers and ranchers will be losing thousands of dollars in revenue if they can’t find a way to irrigate their crops and provide drinking water to their cattle and livestock, Begaye said.

“We are in the middle of farming season, which is only four to five months of the whole year, and farmers are baking me to help them save their crops, many of which are not fully ripe yet,” he said. “The revenue from these crops is what our farmers need to live off for the rest of the year, so without irrigation water, they are doomed.

“Our ranchers, which have cattle, sheep, horses, goats and different livestock also graze and drink along the river,” Begaye added. “But right now, all the cattle are penned up, and these ranchers have to haul their water in, which they’re not prepared to do.”

PHOTO: The Animas River flows through the center of Durango, Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

Begaye explained that the Navajo are well known for their organic crops and meat, but now with the river contamination, farmers and ranchers are scared they can’t guarantee their consumers that their produce and products are going to be 100 percent organic.

Navajo tourism is also being affected because business owners of resorts and boating companies by the rivers now cannot fully operate until the water is cleared, the Navajo president added.

Begaye said the EPA sent two personnel — one who could help with any health issues and another who could help with water testing — but he said the Navajo Nation has yet to receive help from the EPA to get drinking water and more specific answers about what’s exactly in the orange-yellow waters now flowing in their sacred rivers.

PHOTO: Officials from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and a retired aquatic biologist check on cages with Rainbow trout fingerlings on Friday Aug. 7, 2015, on the Animas River in Durango, Colo.

Administrator McCarthy said today she understands the “frustration” but that the EPA has “researchers and scientists working around the clock” and is hustling to provide “alternative water supplies.”

She added there have not been any reported cases of “anyone’s health being compromised” and that the “EPA is taking full responsibility to ensure that the spill is cleaned up.”

McCarthy also mentioned that she expected there to be lawsuits against the EPA, and Begaye said in a news release Sunday that he planned to take legal action against the agency.

PHOTO: As the Animas River begins to recede it reveals a sludge left behind by the Gold King Mine spillage just north of Durango Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

“To recover from this from this will take a while,” Begaye told ABC News. “For our river to recover, it may take decades. But our people have faced disaster before, and as a nation, we’ll work together and do the best we can. As a nation of prayer, we are asking for prayers for our people right now, and I’d also just like to thank anyone who has reached out to us to volunteer help.”

ABC News, Posted: Aug 11, 2015

Source: http://abcn.ws/1TsHO0i

Land Defenders Strike Back Against Mining Industry After Colorado River Poisoning

Sand Creek Massacre: Without Any Declaration Of War

Sandcreek

By Black Powder | Red Power Media, Staff

The beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the organization of military forces in Colorado Territory. In March 1862, the Coloradans defeated the Texas Confederate Army in the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. Following the battle, the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers returned to Colorado Territory under the command of Colonel John Chivington.

Chivington and Colorado territorial governor John Evans adopted a hard line against “Indians”, whom white settlers accused of stealing livestock.

Without any declaration of war, in April 1864 soldiers started attacking and destroying a number of Cheyenne camps, the largest of which included about 70 lodges, about 10% of the housing capacity of the entire Cheyenne nation.

Tensions peaked that summer, following the murder of a white family near Denver Colorado, a crime attributed at the time to raiding Cheyenne or Arapaho. Governor Evans, called on citizens to “kill and destroy” hostile natives and raised a new regiment, led by Chivington. Evans also ordered “friendly Indians” to seek out “places of safety,” such as U.S. forts.

The Cheyenne chief Black Kettle heeded this call. Known as a peacemaker, he and allied chiefs initiated talks with white authorities, the last of whom was a fort commander who told the Indians to remain in their camp at Sand Creek until the commander received further orders.

But Evans was intent on the “chastisement” of all the region’s Indians and he had a willing participant in Chivington, who hoped further military glory would vault him into Congress. For months, his new regiment had seen no action and become mockingly known as the “Bloodless Third.” Then, shortly before the unit’s 100-day enlistment ran out, Chivington led about 700 men on a night ride to Sand Creek.

At sunrise on Nov. 29th, while almost all of their warriors were elsewhere hunting bison, the 3rd Colorado regiment attacked an encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne people at a bend of the river Sand Creek.

As a Cheyenne chief raised the Stars and Stripes above his lodge, others in the village waved white flags. The troops replied by opening fire, killing some 200 Native Americans, most of them women, children and the elderly. Before departing, the troops burned the village and mutilated the dead, carrying off body parts as trophies, according to historical accounts.

Colonel John Chivington

Colonel John Chivington

“At daylight this morning attacked Cheyenne village of 130 lodges, from 900 to 1,000 warriors strong,” Chivington wrote his superior late on November 29th.

His men, he said, waged a furious battle against well-armed and entrenched foes, ending in a great victory: the deaths of several chiefs, “between 400 and 500 other Indians” and “almost an annihilation of the entire tribe.” 

This news was greeted with acclaim, as were Chivington’s troops, who returned to Denver displaying scalps they’d cut from Indians (some of which became props in celebratory local plays). But this gruesome revelry was interrupted by the emergence of a very different storyline.

Its primary author was Capt. Silas Soule, a militant and abolitionist, like Chivington. Soule, however, was appalled by the attack on Sand Creek, which he saw as a betrayal of peaceful Indians. He refused to fire a shot or order his men into action, instead bearing witness to the massacre and recording it in chilling detail.

“Hundreds of women and children were coming towards us, and getting on their knees for mercy,” he wrote, only to be shot and “have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized.” Indians didn’t fight from trenches, as Chivington claimed; they fled up the creek and desperately dug into its sand banks for protection. From there, some young men “defended themselves as well as they could,” with a few rifles and bows, until overwhelmed by carbines and howitzers. Others were chased down and killed as they fled across the Plains.

Soule estimated the Indian dead at 200, all but 60 of them women and children. “There was no organization among our troops, they were a perfect mob every man on his own hook.” Given this chaos, some of the dozen or so soldiers killed at Sand Creek were likely hit by friendly fire.

Soule sent his dispatch to a sympathetic major. A lieutenant at the scene sent a similar report. When these accounts reached Washington in early 1865, Congress and the military launched investigations. Chivington testified that it was impossible to tell peaceful from hostile natives, and insisted he’d battled warriors rather than slaughtering civilians. But a Congressional committee ruled that the colonel had “deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre” and “surprised and murdered, in cold blood” Indians who “had every reason to believe that they were under U.S. protection.”

That authorities in Washington paid attention to distant Sand Creek was striking, particularly at a time when civil war still raged back East. Federal condemnation of a military atrocity against Indians was likewise extraordinary. In a treaty later that year, the U.S. government also promised reparations for “the gross and wanton outrages” perpetrated at Sand Creek.

Chivington escaped court-martial because he had already resigned from the military. But his once-promising career was over. He became a nomad and failed entrepreneur rather than a Congressman. Soule, his principal accuser, also paid for his role in the affair. Soon after testifying, he was shot dead on a Denver street by assailants believed to have been associates of Chivington.

Another casualty of Sand Creek was any remaining hope of peace on the Plains. Black Kettle, the Cheyenne chief who had raised a U.S. flag in a futile gesture of fellowship, survived the massacre, carrying his badly wounded wife from the field and straggling east across the wintry plains. The next year, in his continuing effort to make peace, he signed a treaty and resettled his band on reservation land in Oklahoma.

Black Kettle and his wife were killed Nov. 27, 1868, in yet another massacre, this one led by George Armstrong Custer, at a Cheyenne camp on the Washita River which was part of a major winter encampment of numerous tribal bands.

Many other Indians, meanwhile, had taken the Sand Creek massacre as final proof that peace with whites was impossible and promises of protection meant nothing.

Young Cheyenne warriors, called Dog Soldiers, joined other Plains tribesmen in launching raids that killed scores of settlers and paralyzed transport. As a result, the massacre at Sand Creek accomplished the opposite of what Chivington and his allies had sought. Rather than speed the removal of Indians and the opening of the Plains to whites, it united formerly divided tribes into a formidable obstacle to expansion.

Sand Creek and its aftermath also kept the nation at war long after the South’s surrender. Union soldiers, and generals such as Sherman and Sheridan, were redeployed west to subdue Plains Indians. This campaign took five times as long as the Civil War, until the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee, in 1890.

The Sand Creek Massacre will be remembered as one of the most deadly incidents in all of the American Indian Wars.

The American flag and the white flag flown by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle at the time of Col. Chivington’s attack were intended to show the peaceful nature of the encampment. Soldiers ignored these symbols.

The American flag and the white flag flown by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle at the time of Col. Chivington’s attack were intended to show the peaceful nature of the encampment. U.S. soldiers ignored these symbols.