The Case of the People of Sovereign Dineh Nation
Submitted to Women,s Environment Development Organization (WEDO) for a joint
United Nations/WEDO publication that will be disseminated to governments and
Non Governmental Organizations during the United Nations'
Commission on Sustainable Development (UN-CSD).
This case will be one of a few examined at a workshop on
Industrial HotSpots on the Day of Women,
during UN-CSD, April 28, 1998, United Nations, New York
What was your involvement in the industrial hot spot?
Sovereign Dineh Nation (SDN) has been accredited as an NGO through
Women,s Environment Development Organization (WEDO) and the General
Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. Marsha
Monestersky, is the SDN Liaison to the United Nations, Consultant
to Sovereign Dineh Nation and the focal person for the New York effort.
She is active conducting outreach to gain support and visibility for the
traditional Dineh (Navajo) people. Since her arrival in New York, she has
been elected to serve as Co-Chair of the NGO Human Rights and Poverty
Eradication Caucus at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable
Development and serves as a member of the Organizing Committee of the
International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and the Environment,
at which the Dineh case was one of twelve cases presented in June 1997.
What were your strategies to mobilize women to respond to the crisis and
influence the decision-making process?
Traditional Dineh matriarchs and spokespeople are reaching out to the international community in their struggle for survival and for the protection of the earth. Their lives, their culture, and their human rights are being sacrificed in order to provide short-term profits for a non-sustainable industry that also threatens the regional and global environment.
In April 1997, when all efforts to obtain justice in the US judicial system failed, and in order to get the relocation laws repealed, they filed a formal request for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to conduct an investigation of human rights violations against them by the US government. Several visits to New York by Dineh helped create an Inter-faith coalition of faith-based Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). When a visit by a UN Special Rapporteur was confirmed, a delegation of NGOs traveled to Black Mesa to witness the historic meeting between the traditional Dineh and Hopi people and Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Mr. Amor traveled to Black Mesa in early February, 1998 to investigate charges of human rights violations by the US government. This is the first time the US is being formally investigated by the United Nations for violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief. It is the hope of the Dineh people that the UN will cite the US for violations of International Human Rights law.
Dineh matriarchs have been active, traveling to Washington, DC, New York,
California and Geneva, Switzerland. They have submitted hundreds of
testimonies to the US Congress but still they are denied access to water,
the right to fix their homes, and protection of their land and livelihood.
Over 100 Citizens Complaints have been submitted to the US Department of
the Interior,s Office of Surface Mining. This has resulted in federal
regulatory inspections that were conducted, resulting in numerous violations
cited against Peabody Coal Company. Solar operated seismograph machines
are now visible next to some traditional hogans. Nighttime blasting
and some other practices have ceased. The Black Mesa issue is the
first case of environmental justice brought by Native people to the executive
branch of the US government since President Clinton signed Executive Order
12898 on Environmental Justice, February, 1994.