Outreach Core PI, Dr. Karletta Chief and community partners Duane “Chili” Yazzie and Janene Yazzie of To’ Bei Nihi Dziil testified before the New Mexico Legislature on Impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill on New Mexico Communities. This Joint Meeting of the Indian Affairs Committee and the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee was held on August 21, 2017 at the Navajo Nation Chapter of Nenahnezad. Dr. Chief testified on the work she has been doing to help communities define the unique impacts of the spill as well as their concerns and visions for the future.
Janene Yazzie testified: “Our ties to this body of water are not merely physical, it is also mental, spiritual, emotional, and ancient. Yet, despite this, and despite the depth of the trauma of seeing our river run yellow—and subsequently learning about the gross threats of contamination present upstream of this vital watershed—it was only because of the leadership and pro-active action of Dr. Karletta Chief and Shiprock Chapter President Duane Chili Yazzie that the voices of the impacted Navajo residents and their concerns regarding the spill were given any consideration. One of the most important lessons highlighted by the Gold King Mine Spill is the shared investment and dependency we have on this sacred river. As such, issues such as the on-going leakages at un-reclaimed mine sites draining into the animas, the increased risk of toxic exposure during high flood events, and the need for long-term monitoring and remediation of the river are all things we have a shared investment in. We can begin to improve this relationship in particular in how it relates to reporting back to the impacted communities. The reporting needs to be consistent, regular and in the Diné language. We have been able to do this though our teach-ins, three of which are scheduled to take place starting today through Thursday in the communities of Shiprock, Aneth and Upper Fruitland. We are grateful that Mr. Dennis McQuillan, New Mexico Department of Environmental Quality chief scientist, has presented at two of our teach-ins already and we hope to continue this collaboration into the future. We especially look forward to discussions that can better coordinate and facilitate partnerships among all entities, throughout our research into the impacts of the spill from now into the future.”