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‘Precautionary principle’

The “precautionary principle” means caring for the future generation of our children. This principle is fundamental to Hopi and is expressed in the Hopi maxims, “Never waste water because it is our lifeblood,” and “Always keep three years worth of corn in reserve.”

The most important duty of the federal government as it relates to public health and safety is to act before a threat becomes real. It is what the federal Food and Drug Administration does when it demands new drugs be tested before they are sold to the public. It is what the Federal Aviation Administration does when it grounds airplanes due to a threat, removes passengers believed to be acting suspiciously, and forbids passengers to take a bottle of shampoo on board an aircraft. The FDA, the FAA and innumerable other federal agencies take precautions to prevent disaster. This same principle applies to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

It is very clear that the federal government has a fiduciary and legal duty of the highest order to make sure the safety of Hopi and Tewa people are protected in the midst of escalating crisis.

The volatility of crisis was recently demonstrated at the Hopi Tribal Council session when a duly elected and certified council representative from Sipaulovi Village was physically dragged from the chambers on orders from Acting Chairman Phillip Quochytewa, causing a near riot.

The liability issues impacting BIA, the Hopi Tribal Council, and the former and present Hopi Court can and should order a settlement of all pending lawsuits. The BIA can hire and pay for a professional mediator to try to reach a settlement among all parties. The mediator must be given the authority to issue a final decision. These are reasonable steps that can be taken to restore due process, reinstate Appellate Court judges and eliminate all the costly lawsuits that have piled up.

Unusual times require unusual, but legally justifiable actions. Hopi people are living in a state of turmoil, which has torn families apart.

The BIA can no longer justify its “hands off” policy, saying the agency cannot get involved because of the law, respecting Native American government sovereign immunity status by not acting.

– Vernon Masayesva
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

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