Crow, Cheyenne, and Navajo Terrain
Diné Bii Kaya, combined with the Crow Nation, Northern Cheyenne and Powder River Basin is home to one-third of all western coal reserves. This land has been exploited for over fifty years for coal mining, and has been termed a “national sacrifice area” by the National Academy of Sciences in l973. (The exception has remained Northern Cheyenne, which continues to oppose coal mining, but it is, once again, on the ballot as a referendum in that nation.) This designation remains, and is exacerbated by the extraction of coal, uranium mining, and contamination, and now a new form of extreme energy exploitation -- hydro fracking for natural gas. In the present realm of climate change and mitigation, Crow and Navajo coal resources are critical elements of the equation, which essentially need to be left in the ground. To use the vernacular of the 350.org movement of the Do the Math Tour, if we are to have a reasonable chance of ecological and human survival, we can only combust 565 gigatons of carbon. Of that, some 240 gigatons is in the Tar Sands, and one-third of the coal within the United States is within these first nations.
The coal has been exploited for fifty years under a set of unequal leases. Both tribes, the Crow and Navajo, are now poised to negotiate new leases and agreements on their mining operations and power plants. The Navajo Nation has just announced the proposed purchase of the Billiton Navajo Mine and the Crow Nation has redoubled it’s efforts to ship coal to the west coast, and a Chinese market, as the coal generation in this country moves toward natural gas. The Crow Nation is also revamping it’s proposal for innovative coal liquefication, under the guise of “clean coal”. We intend to join with grassroots groups and oppose these projects.
Native American reservations hold about one-third of all western low sulphur coal reserves. This is open-pit mining, and while a number of tribal communities are becoming increasingly fossil fuel dependent for royalties and revenues, the two largest are the Crow Nation and the Navajo Nation. The Crow Nation itself has 24% of the known coal reserves in the United States. Moving forward, we will focus organizing and support work on these two communities, as we develop collaborative projects with grassroots Indigenous organizers.