SANTA FE, NM-During a tribal leadership meeting with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday, May 20, President Russell Begaye said Colorado River water rights are a top priority with the Navajo Nation.
“Water rights need to be given to Indian tribes, especially the Navajo Nation,” he said. “The Colorado River is a huge river that crosses the Nation and we need water rights to it.”
President Begaye said that uranium mine cleanup is another critical issue, as is the need for the Nation to have control over its natural resources.
“There has been no proper clean up and it’s impacted the health of our people across generations,” he said. “The Nation also needs control over its natural resources.”
President Begaye said the Navajo Nation has a 300-acre solar farm that produces 27.5 megawatts of the electricity. Tax incentives help keep this solar farm cost effective and the president said there needs to be more.
In many cases, Sen. Sanders said the Federal Government doesn’t have an accurate portrayal of Native American communities. Having rallied on many Native American nations, the senator said he saw high rates of unemployment and poverty and also failing education and healthcare systems.
During the meeting, Senator Sanders advocated for the establishment of a new relationship between the Federal Government and Native Americans. Sanders asked for Native Americans to support his candidacy.
“We appreciate the attention that presidential candidates are giving to the needs of Native American nations, particularly the Navajo Nation. We want to make sure that any candidate that might assume office has a clear understanding of Native American issues and will embrace the government-to-government relationship that exists,” President Begaye said.
“Our people wait too long to get services. We have many youth but need more resources to support them. There are many ongoing issues that Native American nations face with the Federal Government,” he added.
President Begaye has extended an open invitation for all presidential candidates to visit the Navajo Nation. He would like to hear platforms that affect Native American issues from all candidates.