Statement of the Honorable Ben Shelly, President of the Navajo Nation at the 18th Session of the United Nations' Human Rights Council

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Statement of the Honorable Ben Shelly

President of the Navajo Nation

Geneva, Switzerland

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thank you for granting us the opportunity to speak here today.  We return to the United Nations for protection of our sacred sites, and the preservation of our beliefs.

Professor James Anaya recently submitted a report to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. It details the assault on the sacred San Francisco Peaks and the permitted use of recycled wastewater to produce artificial snow for recreation.

The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to the Navajo people. Our culture, religion, and history are rooted in the sacred peaks. It represents the western guardian of our homeland.  For years we have fought to protect them.  The American legal system has failed the Navajo Nation in our attempts to preserve the peaks from continued abuse.

In May 2011, construction began to install a water pipeline for the manufacturing of artificial snow from recycled wastewater.  The Navajo Nation opposes this action because the wastewater will contaminate the soil and vegetation and interfere with our ceremonies and prayers.  Such a contamination will prevent our traditional medicine-men and -women from effectively treating their patients.

Our spiritual leaders jointly requested the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to file a formal complaint to Professor Anaya regarding this injustice.  It is a violation of Navajo Human Rights.

Professor Anaya determined that the Navajos’ human rights were violated because the United States failed to comply with International law.

The Navajo Nation asks the United Nations Human Rights Council to recommend to the United States and President Obama to:

  1. Engage in a comprehensive review of its policies and actions to ensure that they are in compliance with international standards in relation to the peaks and other Native American sacred sites, and that appropriate action is taken.


  1. Revoke or suspend the permit issued by the U.S. Forest service which authorizes the use of recycled wastewater to produce artificial snow for recreational purpose until an agreement can be achieved between the Navajo Nation and the United States.

As Navajo people we live in harmony with the animals, birds, and all living creatures.  The United States must respect international law regarding the treatment of indigenous people, especially when concerning the basic human rights of the original inhabitants of its own country.  Thank you.