Statement of Sam Ahkeah, chairman, Navaho Tribal Council, accompanied by Norman M. Littell, general counsel, Navaho tribe
Mr. Ahkeah. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am Sam Ahkeah, chairman of the Navaho Tribal Council, now living in Window Rock, Ariz., and my home is at Shiprock, N. Mex., on the San Juan River. I make this statement on behalf of about 75,000 Navaho's who live on some of the most arid lands in the North American Continent, embracing the Navaho Reservation having within its boundaries about 24,000 square miles or roughly 16 million acres of land.
The San Juan River flows along our northern boundary. In fact, until the United States acquired this territory from Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, we owned land on both sides of the river. When the white settlers and military expeditions came to New Mexico in the 1810's and 1850's, they found our ancestors growing wheat, corn, beans, and other crops. They had well developed peach orchards, and on one occasion carried blankets of peaches to a friendly military expedition.
We knew what the use of water would do to our land and in a primitive way used it. Kit Carson tells how our fields, crops, and orchards were destroyed in 1863 in order to starve us out so that our people could not fight.
After captivity at Fort Sumner from 1861 to 1868, our people were restored to a portion of their former lands on the present reservation with a promise of 160 acres of agricultural lands for every head of a family who wished to select it, and half of that for a single person. As a matter of fact, this is still the law of the land under the treaty of 1868. Of course, it was impossible of fulfillment by the United States when the treaty was signed. At an early date, Army officers pointed out the possibility of irrigating large areas through use of the San Juan River, and the Navaho's in limited areas demonstrated, as on my own farm at Shiprock, that they could be successful farmers where water was applied to the land. We became self-supporting citizens wherever there was a fair opportunity.
For about 100 years we have waited for a project which could irrigate a very large area of the reservation--about 122,000 acres at the Shiprock project and about 29,000 more adjacent to it embracing Indian-allotted lands. There are now about 100 Navaho families living on the lands which will be irrigated, all of whom make for themselves only a substandard living because the land cannot support them. When the land is irrigated, it will make about 1,500 farms of a size sufficient to support a Navaho family. This means 1,500 families supporting themselves directly from the project; or as near as we can figure, it will be about 7,800 people. These people will become self-sufficient and can live with dignity. They will become taxpayers, because even though we do not now pay taxes on our lands, when we make money we pay income tax, and whenever we buy things with the money we have earned, we pay the taxes on these things. Thus, you can see some of the money it costs will come back to the Government, even indirectly. It will not all be going out.
In addition to the people who live on the farms, there will be many other Navaho's who will indirectly make their living out of the project. It will create villages with stores, filling stations, and all kinds of service businesses. We are told that at least 7,800 people not living on the project will be supported indirectly by the project. This means a total of about 15,600 of our people will be taken care of.
The proposed project area is now being used by approximately 128 Navaho families for grazing purposes. The area, when provided with the necessary irrigation facilities, is expected to provide 1,500 farms, each averaging about 70-80 acres in size. It is estimated that these farms will provide a standard of living for 7,800 people comparable to that enjoyed by the white water users within the basin. In addition to those people engaged in farming, about 7,000 people will receive the major portion of their livelihood from other enterprises directly supported by the farm activity. These lands, if facilities were available at present, would provide a living for about one-fifth of the Navaho people.
At first, the land should be planted to pasture grasses and forage for raising livestock and a small area used to grow garden produce and row crops. This use of the land is the most desirable initially, because the majority of the Navaho settlers will not be proficient in irrigation of their lands. They are successful in the livestock industry, provided the necessary feed and forage are readily available. The combining of irrigated pastures with livestock raising will result in a more rapid adaptation to irrigation practices, a maximum farm income in a minimum period of development, and will provide the means of protecting the lands from initial poor irrigation practices. As the land user becomes more adept in irrigating, the use to which he puts his land and the crops grown should be such as to maintain a maximum annual return comparable to the white water user.
The present use of the area to be occupied by the Shiprock division as range land has a total carrying capacity of about 6,400 sheep units or 1 sheep unit for each 19 acres of land. This averages about 50 sheep units per family. Based on income of $20 per sheep unit, a total annual income of $1,000 per family unit is provided. Under irrigation the same land will have a total carrying capacity of about 500,000 sheep units, or 4.1 sheep units per acre. This averages about 328 sheep units per family. Based on above income per sheep unit, a total annual income of $6,600 per family unit could be anticipated.
The resettlement of the Navaho people, now grazing their sheep over the reservation, to the Shiprock division area would release their present grazing area for others not having grazing rights at present or be used to enlarge the grazing area of those who remain.
Let me point out some additional results. One of the things we are promised in the 1868 treaty was schools and education for all our children. This promise, too, has never been kept. It is a difficult promise to keep in some ways, and expensive because of the large area of our reservation and because our children are so widely scattered. It is very difficult to build day schools because enough children cannot get there, and boarding schools are very expensive and are not satisfactory to us. We want our small children to live at home and have a family life just as you do. With this irrigation project a great many of our children will be living in a concentrated area and it will be much easier to provide schools and much less expensive to the taxpayers. The more our children are educated, the better they will be able to compete in society and in general, the better citizens they will make, and you will no longer hear of a Navaho Indian situation.
Nowhere in the Colorado Basin is there a more desperate need for water than on the Navaho Reservation, as you would all realize if you could see the Navaho families, including children, carrying water great distances to their sheep, going without adequate water themselves. We have waited patiently and worked patiently with our neighbors, realizing that others, too, need the water resources of the upper Colorado Basin, and we have been perfectly willing that our neighbors to the east even divert some of the water to relieve their own striking need.
It was, therefore, with great bitterness that we noted the striking out of the Navaho Dam and the Shiprock San Juan project in the bill reported out of the House committee. I have listened with astonishment to the statement of Under Secretary Tudor explaining away this omission on the grounds that they do not now have sufficient information, and that at some indefinite future time when they do have such information the project may be considered.
This is not satisfactory. The trustee for the Navaho people, the United States Government, is not doing its duty when it neglects the tragic plight of the Navahos in favor of the far less crucial situations in areas favored by the Department of the Interior report.
I consider it essential to have the foregoing facts in the record before this committee, but it is now a great relief and a source of great pleasure to know that a decision has been made to include the Navaho Dam as an initial project in this bill. We have had that assurance from Senator Millikin in his statement on Tuesday,June 29, during these hearings.
Mr. Littell. I am practically suspending the privilege which you very kindly gave, Mr. Chairman, to make a statement, by this statement: I long ago learned as a young lawyer never to argue a case with the judge after you have won, even though you might have a very good argument which he ought to hear.
From reading the record yesterday and from what I hear about it, it was conceded here yesterday by Senator Millikin, and I think in a very fine statement by you, Mr. Chairman, that the Navaho Dam would remain in as one of the initial projects. If that is the situation, there certainly would seem to be no need for me to take further time of the committee to argue the case. That is all we are here for, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Littell. I am following that policy. I was in hopes that perhaps the chairman would add a few more remarks about the situation of the Navaho Dam. It is, I think, settled, is it not, on the record of yesterday?
Senator Watkins. The Navaho Dam is the one that I had in mind when I spoke about it. I said it was in the bill when introduced. I was in favor of it then, I was in favor of it for a long time before that, and I am still in favor of it. I can only commit myself, and that is all Senator Millikin can do.
Senator Watkins. I would say also, in another capacity I am the chairman of the Indian Subcommittee, and we have been considering the problems of various Indian tribes. I know the absolute necessity of those Navaho people having some help down there with respect to water and any other thing we can give them to help them maintain life in that area. In fact, we have so many people to be sustained there now that unless we do something, we will have to begin a program of relocating many of them elsewhere.
Senator Anderson. I think the record should show also that Senator Watkins is chairman of the Navaho-Hopi Rehabilitation Committee, and suggested the Navaho-Hopi Rehabilitation Act. I have had the pleasure of serving with him on the committee from the day it was established. He has been very sympathetic, as Mr. Ahkeah knows and as you know, Mr. Littell, of the needs of the Navahos. What has been done is a sample of his interest in trying to bring education to the Navahos.
Therefore, I want you to know, Mr. Ahkeah, that when you read that part of your statement which showed how you wanted to bring the children together for education so they would cease to be a special Indian problem, the chairman of the committee was very much pleased about that, as I was. Both of us want to see that happen. It was a fine statement.
Mr. Littell. We Navahos are deeply grateful for the interest and understanding of both of the Senators before us now. I wish that some who aren't before us could feel the impact of that statement of Mr. Ahkeah's about the desperate plight on this reservation as you two well know it from personal experience, because there is absolutely no area in this whole project, which remotely compares to that in the destitution of its needs for water.
Mr. N. R. Petry (president, Denver Water Board). I am N. R. Petry, president of the Denver Water Board. I would like to introduce the witnesses respecting the relationship of the Blue River to the project. They are all witnesses to be classified as favoring the Colorado River storage project, and urging special deliberation by the Senate committee to guarantee a rounding out of the project so that it will attain the greatest national benefit.
First I would like to introduce Mayor Quigg Newton, of Denver, a native of Denver, who during the 7 years that he has occupied that office has brought national recognition to Denver in a number of fields.