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“I don’t want it to be like before.”

 Counselor Chapter Community Coordinator
Former Counselor Chapter President

The early drilling seemed like it was at a smaller scale. There were no big companies that came out. It was pretty much the small operations, trucks and all that… I don’t think at that time they were fracking.”

“Then, in the late 1990s, our land board members told us about the early form of fracking. I guess they were using seismographs at the beginning, and then after that they were using some type of heavy equipment and that did a lot of damage. It made some of the rocks in various places fall, crash; which, as a result, also stopped some of the springs from letting water out. Then, they left big tracks in the land because of the heavy equipment.”

“The land board showed us at that time that the wells they developed… were all in a straight line. [They told us] that they were actually fracking the earth, but it was deep down enough that it just formed one crack, and all the oil, whatever, drained into so it was easy to get it.”

“He said that it didn’t produce as much as they thought it would at that time… Most of the time it was not as busy as it is now. We would just see BLM every now and then, we didn’t know – I didn’t know – that they were involved in leasing.”

“Dine CARE, a lady that used to work for them, Donna House, came and talked to us. [She said] “Are you guys aware that [Bureau of Land Management (BLM)] is doing a [Resource Management Plan]? From the draft we’ve heard they’ve written, it does not say anything about Counselor community residents living here, it says that this is all empty.’

“And that’s how we got involved. We started talking to BLM, [asking] ‘How come you didn’t let us know?’ At that time, [BLM’s] tribal consultation consisted of BLM directly talking to the Navajo Nation’s president’s office.

“At the beginning a lot of the people didn’t understand, so I tried to explain it to them. Some of the people understood and they were against [the proposed drilling]. So I got some support at the beginning, but then later for some reason it began to shift to where [people] were telling me that ‘It’s never going to happen here, all that stuff you’re talking about is happening up there in the north.’”

“[In 2013] the heavy development had crossed the highway and I didn’t even bother. I would just look over there and watch them and think, ‘They were right.’ I saw different flares. 2014 came, they were really moving along. People were complaining about traffic, noise, lights, the smell… The chapter official didn’t know what to do, didn’t know who to get ahold of. I was just walking around, doing my work, not being involved in it. And then 2015 came, still the same.”

“So then around November or October we held our first community meeting here. Oh this room got full in the evening. It was so full there were people outside and they were complaining about the traffic, the noise, the smell, the lights. But nobody had an answer.”

“And I just sat here too. People were talking and complaining about this and that… So finally I got up and I told them, I said, ‘Remember ten years ago? I told you this was going to happen. None of you people were around. Some of your parents were around here and they told me that is was never going to happen here, [that it was] only happening up north. They didn’t believe me. You guys didn’t believe me. What are you going to do?”

“I finally told [the community], I said, ‘I’ll get involved again, I’ll go ahead and take the lead and help but I need your help, I need you to stand behind me. I don’t want it to be like before… when I was alone when I was out there. I was saying I was working on behalf of the community but [you] weren’t behind me.’”

“After that I think we had one, two more community meetings. And one of the elderlies said, ‘This has gotten too big. We can’t handle it, we can’t do it by ourselves, and we definitely know that the Navajo Nation isn’t going to help us. Do what you can to get us some help.’ And that’s when we began meeting Maya [from Sierra Club].”

“I think what we’ve been trying to tell BLM is … we really need to educate the people. They took a step forward saying, ‘We’ll do as much as we can.’ We’re hoping their communication becomes a lot better and maybe together we can affect some changes.”

“We’ve seen small changes happen before when we talk directly to them. The [BLM] lady that agreed to delay [The January 2017 Lease Sale], they removed her. That parcel got delayed twice just by directly talking to them. I know we tried to tell them, sometimes I think they want to do it and for whatever reason they’re getting pulled and can’t.”

“We have no place to go except forward. We have to do as much as we can to protect the lands here… my homeland. I have no desire to go any other place. It’s where I grew up. I was born and raised here.

“I think some of the younger people are wrestling with everything going on. I think there are more young people who are beginning to be against a lot of development… I’ve talked to a few of them, they say, ‘I don’t agree with it, and I don’t like it. But I’m afraid to go to you guys’ meeting… my parents are going to get after me.'”

I don’t have a reason that’s not good enough to get up every morning. There’s always a reason. I think the biggest thing for me is my grandson. He’ll be five next month. He’s a city kid now. But he loves to run out here. Last time he was out here he was about 2-3 years old.

“I think about, how is it going to be when he is an adult? How are we going to be? Is he going to ask me, ‘Grandpa, way back when you had a chance to say something, did you do it?’ I want to be able to say ‘Yes.'”

Will you add your voice?

Demand cancellation of the March 2018 oil and gas lease sale, and all future sales, in Greater Chaco until proper protections for the people, environment, and cultural resources are put in place.