Navajo Nation president reaches out to United Nations regarding San Francisco Peaks


This past Tuesday, President Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about the concerns of his people regarding the treatment of Navajo ancestral lands — with a particular emphasis on the snowmaking operations on the San Francisco Peaks.

“I was happy to address them on the issue of sacred sites of indigenous peoples,” Shelly said. “I was hoping to relay a message that I’m having a problem with things [having] to do with our sacred sites.”

Shelly said he was satisfied with the outcome of his visit to the UN, which allowed him to voice the views of the Navajo Nation and draw national, and perhaps even international, attention to the reclaimed water fight on the San Francisco Peaks.

“I would be very disappointed if it doesn’t,” Shelly said. “The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations: I believe they are there for a purpose and I’m hoping to see that they will [listen to] my testimony and follow that to whatever needs to be done.”

President Shelly ended his comments to the United Nations with the following remark:

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

Shelly said he will not appeal personally to President Obama for intervention.

“No, what I am putting my faith [in] is the commissioners,” Shelly said. “I believe their role is to address indigenous human rights. I’m trusting them to carry my message and that’s what I’ll be looking for.

Addressing the people of Flagstaff and northern Arizona directly, Shelly said he asked for tolerance and understanding.

“I would tell them — plead with them — that America is a nation of many nationalities,” Shelly said. “[Navajo people are] a major population nationality. We have freedom of religion; we have our own religion. Every nationality has its own religious tradition[s] and culture. I would ask them to respect [ours] . . . and the beauty of the mountain, too.”


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