Residents of the Utah Navajo Reservation in San Juan County are banding together to block a development agency of the Navajo nation from exploring for oil on McCracken Mesa.
If their efforts fail and Chuska Energy Co. proceeds, residents in the area will demand assistance in relocating their homes, according to a resolution approved at a recent public meeting.The resolution, presented by tribal delegate Andrew Tso, drew a favorable hand vote of 54 out of nearly 70 residents at a meeting two weeks ago on McCracken Mesa. The meeting was called by the Kaiyella band of the Navajo Tribe, who mainly reside in remote areas of the Utah reservation.
A second meeting to review the resolution drew about 300 people March 29, said Jean Melton, of the Utah Inter-tribal Coalition.
Melton has been researching plans for oil development on the Navajo Indian Reservation as an assistant to Mark Maryboy, a tribal delegate and San Juan County commissioner.
A meeting is yet to be scheduled at the Aneth Chapter meetinghouse for Chuska executives to report on their program of oil development, said Lorraine Thomas, supervisor for land administration for the Navajo Tribe in Aneth. Delegates Tso and Maryboy plan to take the resolution to the Navajo Tribal Council in Window Rock, Ariz., after the meeting.
The action is aimed at blocking Chuska's plans for extensive drilling on McCracken Mesa during 1991.
At the meeting of the Kaiyellas, Melton said McCracken Mesa currently has 29 active wells and 93 leases. Chuska Energy has plans to drill 133 new wells within 50,000 acres on the mesa top, she said.
McCracken Mesa, located within 15 miles of Hovenweep National Monument, is virtually untouched compared to the oil and gas fields of Aneth. Navajo "elders" James Jim, Fred Johnson, Harry Jones and others who spoke at the meetings said they want to keep the land habitable and expressed support for efforts to block further disturbance from oil activities.
"If they have to get the oil out, the Kaiyellas need someplace else to live," Melton said. Residents approved the resolution to block drilling along with six other measures aimed at establishing control over Kaiyella homelands. Many have complained about health and safety hazards created by oil rigs near their hogans and homes.
Melton said they are concerned that planned oil development will ravage grazing lands and use up water supplies. In addition, they want to know how Chuska would compensate their losses.
Melton said the Utah attorney general and Maryboy are investigating Chuska Energy because of its unique arrangement as a minerals exploration company for the Navajo Nation.