Navajo Nation– On December 29th, 2022, the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation 232-21 for helium development on Navajo land. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez had 10 days to approve or veto the helium development proposal, and has previously shared their opposition against more resource extraction on their reservation. On January 9, 2023, amidst community outcry, President Nez vetoed legislation 232-21 for helium development stating there is no consensus from the impacted communities who have strongly expressed that they do not want helium extraction in their communities. Nez stated that “community members have raised serious concerns regarding the effects on the environment and their health” and the “Navajo Nation Council raised issues over how the future profit sharing from the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company would be addressed.”
The Teec Nos Pos and Sanostee Chapters of the Navajo Nation both passed Dooda (No) Helium Chapter Resolutions earlier in 2022 raising serious concerns on the cumulative impacts to the environment and human health. The Red Valley, Arizona area is particularly rich in helium where it averages 4.9%. Helium comes from decayed minerals like uranium and thorium, and it is a component of natural gas which is extracted through fracking. Community concerns have been ignored for years including by Navajo Nation agencies.
Navajo land has long been exploited for its rich natural resources, including uranium, coal, oil, and gas and now helium, all which have contributed to long term environmental degradation and contamination. These industries regularly violate Treaty rights and challenge Indigenous sovereignty, restricting the relationship to the land and the health of Mother Earth. Helium extraction has adverse detrimental impacts on the environment, health, and the extraction of it desecrates sacred landscapes where medicine is gathered, prayers are spoken, and offerings are given.
The Indigenous Environmental Network expresses our solidarity with the Diné peoples confronting, halting, and shutting down helium and other extractive industries on their homelands. We acknowledge President Nez’s leadership in making this important decision, and for listening to grassroots Diné community members and honoring Natural Law, which helps ensure a healthy world for future generations. Thank you to the Diné peoples and organizations who have contributed to stopping helium extraction on Navajo land including T’iis Názbąs Collaborative Coalition, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Diné C.A.R.E. and Dooda Helium Extraction. We join the Diné in defending the sacred and keeping it in the ground!