Tribal conference logo

Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva will be the keynote speaker and present the the environmental award at the 22nd Annual Region 9 Tribal EPA Conference October 15th-17th, 2014 Sacramento California.

For more information and to download the agenda visit:

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April 2014 Meeting with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
The Citizens Coal Council & Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva

Coal Council

Coal Council-Black Mesa Trust

with Bo Webb, Rob Goodwin, Jon Joshevama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
BMT Executive Director Vernon Masayesva, Beky Masayesva and Ann League.

Black Mesa Trust Coal Council meeting Vernon Masayesva

Coal Council and Black Mesa Trust

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A group of coal field advocates met with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell yesterday to express concerns about coal mining regulation nationwide, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Participants — including Citizens Coal Council Executive Director Aimee Erickson, who organized the meeting, and Western Organization of Resource Councils Director Patrick Sweeney — urged Jewell to boost coal mining oversight under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and press states for stronger enforcement.

Louise Dunlap, who helped push for SMCRA in 1977, said that “in the 36 years since the law passed, Secretary Jewell is the first Interior secretary to meet with citizen leaders who had come together from every region in America and hear their evidence about how the coal industry is breaking the law.”

West Virginia advocates are pressing Interior’s Office of Surface Mining to crack down on West Virginia’s regulatory program under SMCRA, and the agency is investigating. A similar move is afoot in Illinois.

Lawmakers in Tennessee, which doesn’t have its own coal-mining regulatory program under SMCRA, are considering implementing their own. In response, advocates asked Jewell and OSM Director Joseph Pizarchik to be wary of such a move.

Ohio farmer and advocate Nick Popovich told Jewell, “Like many areas across the country subject to mining, the permit review and approval process in Ohio appears to be heavily biased to benefit coal operators at the expense of landowner rights and the environment.”

Advocates have also been pressing for tougher action against damage from longwall underground coal mining. The process is more efficient and technologically advanced but can cause greater immediate land subsidence and stream impacts.

“Longwall mining causes damage to streams and other water resources, and in many cases, this damage is irreparable,” said John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.

Regarding Western mining in states like Montana and Wyoming, Sweeney expressed concern about bonding and mine cleanups. “There’s some long-term reclamation issues that are substantive and important for us to address,” he said in an interview.

Then there’s the issue of coal ash. OSM is reviewing Pennsylvania’s program for reusing the coal combustion waste in mine reclamation. The agency is also mulling rulemaking on the issue.

Although Jewell made no promises, the advocates praised her for spending roughly an hour with them, asking questions and taking notes about their issues.

“Everyone was encouraged that Secretary Jewell welcomed well-documented information from coal field citizens showing coal industry violations and lax enforcement of SMCRA by state agencies, and how it’s affecting coal field communities and our natural resources,” Erickson said.

Coal companies have touted their reclamation efforts and say their activities are well-regulated. If anything, there is too much oversight, they say.

And although advocates want OSM to be more assertive and spend more money on enforcement, states have been complaining about what many call a regulatory heavy hand by the Obama administration.

The administration, for example, has increased its involvement in project-level disputes rather than overseeing state programs generally. And the White House fiscal 2015 budget blueprint includes $3.8 million to boost SMCRA implementation.

Greg Conrad, executive director of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, a union of states, chafed at the budget request in documents submitted to congressional appropriators this week.

He said that “without more to justify the need for more oversight and the concomitant increase in funding for federal operations related thereto, Congress should reject this request.”

Conrad wrote, “The overall performance of the states as detailed in OSM’s annual state program evaluation reports demonstrates that the states are implementing their programs effectively and in accordance with the purposes and objectives of SMCRA.”

OSM is also working on its forthcoming stream protection rule, which may address some environmental group concerns but is deeply worrying the mining industry over potential job losses.

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) recently subpoenaed the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General asking for an unredacted copy of its investigation into the rulemaking (E&ENews PM, March 25).

Separately, several groups today filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal to Interior’s Office of the Solicitor for a private version of a recent investigation into the Bureau of Land Management’s coal leasing program.


Power Paths Screening and Panel at The Autry Museum


On May 1st 2011 The Gene Autry Museum hosted an event in coordination with the Sierra Club to screen the film Power Paths and followed up with a panel discussion featuring the film’s creator Bo Boudart and a panel of Hopi and Navajo experts who spoke on the plight of the Black Mesa.

POWER PATHS offers a unique glimpse into the global energy crisis from the perspective of a culture pledged to protect the planet, historically exploited by corporate interests and neglected by public policy makers.

The film follows an intertribal coalition as they fight to transform their local economies by replacing coal mines and smog-belching power plants with renewable energy technologies. This transition would honor their heritage and support future generations by protecting their sacred land, providing electricity to their homes and creating jobs for their communities.

Their story is a parable for our time, when the planet as a whole hungers for alternatives to fossil fuels. For environmental trailblazers, it’s proof that going green is not only possible—it’s the only choice we have.


The POWER PATHS story begins in the 1960s, when two massive coal mines open on Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona. Between them, they produce enough coal to satisfy the unquenchable energy thirsts of Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They also comprise the single largest strip-mining complex in the world. For more than 30 years, the mines—and the Mohave Generating Station they supply—scar sacred native land, drain the natural aquifers and pollute the Southwestern skies.


actor and activist Daryl Hannah was in attendance

learn more about the film here:

Hopi environmental leader Vernon Masayesva opens events at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration in Madison Square Garden

Pete Seegar honoring life

Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva was invited to speak at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2009 to help celebrate folk singer Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday.

Masayesva addressed the audience at the celebration, dubbed the Clearwater Concert: Creating the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders, to talk about Black Mesa Trust’s struggle to save the N-aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for Hopi and Navajo people on Black Mesa, from Peabody Coal.


We give thanks for Pete’s contribution to the world and uniting all people through music.

Black Mesa Trust Hosts Water Braiding Conference


by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer
Navajo-Hopi Observer –
21 April 2009 
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Bridging contemporary western science and indigenous wisdom was the topic of a conference that was sponsored by Black Mesa Trust, The Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon Trust and the Museum of Northern Arizona this past week at the Woodlands Radisson Hotel and Conference Center.

A number of internationally acclaimed scientists, teachers and artists including water science pioneer Dr. Masaru Emoto, painter/environmental space artist Lowry Burgess of Carnegie Mellon University and artist Michael Kabotie of the Hopi Tribe gathered with Black Mesa Trust Board members, over 200 adult participants and 20 young Hopi and Navajo student interns during a four day conference that began at the Hopi Reservation and ended at Lake Mary.

Braiding ceremony

The focus of the conference was to deepen each participant’s appreciation of both traditional western science and their own tribal cultural science knowledge and blend both of these into a more purposeful learning and problem-solving experience.Looking to the future, Black Mesa Trust intentionally included the 20 young students in this science dialogue in the hopes that this conference could start them on a more focused path of future leadership and water issue problem resolve for generations to come.

The idea of “braiding” is to allow dialogue and explorations on the two systems of knowing and their unique approaches to nature, actions and teachings of water. Like a black and white Hopi weaving, its own character and endurance, the weaver braids two strands into one, which yields a stronger, more beautiful and responsive solution to today’s challenges.

With Black Mesa Trust’s mission of safeguarding, preserving and honoring the land and waters of the Black Mesa region, the “braiding” conference taught each of its attendees a new way of seeing and doing, of describing, understanding and most importantly of acting with global responsibility to protect Mother Earth.

jeryy honowa-emoto-vernonSandy Fox and Jerry Honowa-Hopi Water Conference

Hopi Water Braiding Conference and Ceremony at Lake Mary, Flagstaff Arizona
with Hopi Pipekeeper Jerry Honowa, Dr. Masaru Emoto from Japan, BMT Founder Vernon Masayesva,  BMT Advisor and Council member Sandy Fox.

read more here:

H2Opi Run Celebrates Sacred Water


H2opi Run started on the Hopi Reservation in Mungapi, Ariz. on March 2, 2006 with 27 runners who made the trip all the way to Mexico City to the Fourth World Water Forum ending on March 16. More than 5,000 attended this global water conference in the world’s largest city of 24 million people.


These Hopi runners generated avid world interest for several reasons — the biggest and most important a spiritual and environmental one — that water is essential for all life and water is one of the things that bond every man, woman, child, animal and plant and insect in the world.The second is that this message should be delivered in a dignified and traditional American Indian manner.This special water message was carried on the 27 pairs of human feet who made this historical journey because to Hopi, running is a traditional and culturally appropriate activity featured at dances, clan activities and village competitions throughout time.


It was a grueling, inspiring and deeply spiritual two-week trip for the H2opi Runners who have completed the now historic run to Mexico City to deliver the Hopi message of water’s importance to the world.

read more here:


Hopi Activist and Founder of Black Mesa Trust Vernon Masayesvawwf2000_cover

Presentation at


World Water Forum 2000

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Since 1970 the Peabody Coal Company has been withdrawing an average of 4,000 acre feet of water annually from the Navajo or N aquifer in Northern Arizona for the purpose of operating a coal slurry line. The slurry line carries coal mined at the Black Mesa strip mine (the largest in the U.S.) 273 miles to the 1,580 megawatt coal-fired Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) the N aquifer is a pristine source of primarily ice age (10,000 to 35,000 year old) water that underlies Hopi and Navajo lands. For centuries, the aquifer has served as the primary drinking water source for both tribes and, until recently, has provided a steady, year-round flow of water to springs located on the reservations.

According to people who know the land, these springs are now drying up, possibily because the annual rate of aquifer withdrawal exceeds the rate of natural recharge. The USGS has estimated that the natural recharge rate for the confined N aquifer is 2,500-3,500 acre feet per year. Since Peabody began pumping water from the aquifer, water levels in wells that provide drinking water for the Hopi and Navajo communities have also dropped dramatically. Hopi hydrologists have warned that these wells could run dry within the next century. And for the Hopi and the Navajo, “water is the source of the life.”

The Peabody coal slurry line is the only one in existence in the U.S., as slurry lines are generally considered a non-economical means to transport coal. In fact, the slurry line was built in part as an experiment to test equipment intended to be used in other countries like China and Russia. The Peabody slurry line bases its economic viability on the ability of the company to obtain water at a price well below its true market value. When the original water lease was signed in 1966, the Hopi payment was only $1,67 per acre foot. No one at the time thought that water pumping for the purpose of supplying the slurry line would reach the present-day level of 4,000 acre feet per year.

In 1998, Peabody paid the Hopi and the Navajo tribes a total of $3.78 million in royalties for the use of 4,032 acre feet of water or 1.3 billion gallons. $ 3.78 million for 4,032 acre feet of water amounts to 3 mills ($0.003) per gallon or 30¢ per 100 gallons. Yet if sold into the marketplace at the current average Bottled Water Industry wholesale bottled water price of $1.30 per gallon (retail price is $5 per gallon), this same amount of water would be worth $1.7 billion.

According to Hopi hydrologists, the present rate of N aquifer withdrawals by industrial, municipal, and domestic users cannot sustain tribal communities in the Black Mesa region. A solution is urgently needed to help Navajo and Hopi People reduce the extraction of pristine waters below natural recharge levels without jeopardizing the economic benefits of the mining operations.

Vernon Masayesva was born in the Third Mesa village of Hotevilla, deep in the Hopi homeland. Born into the Coyote Clan, one of Masayesva’s responsibilities is to serve as a protector of Hopi land, water and people. Masayesva, 58, walks the Middle Ground between Hopi and Euro-American societies. Fluent in Hopi language and culture, Masayesva is also a consummate advocate for ecological and human rights. He studied political science for his Bachelors degree and received his Masters in education administration from Central Michigan University. Upon his return to Hopiland, he headed the first Hopi-run contract school. He was elected to the Hopi Tribal Council and served as Chairman and head of the Hopi Tribe from 1989-1993, becoming deeply involved with the defense of water and fossil aquifer. Masayesva was selected for Outside Magazine’s Environmental Honor Roll as a result of his defense of Black Mesa water and his legislative work to protect burial sites in Arizona, and was declared an “Environmental Hero” by the Grand Canyon Trust.

 for more info