Roadrunner here and I’m a bit hangry this weekend because it's too cold for lizards to bask, which means I didn’t get a good lunch today or yesterday. So rather than mope about the lack of fence lizards on my fence, I thought I’d instead highlight the importance of supporting the right US House candidate to represent this varied and diverse Northern and Central Arizona landscape, including the hamlet of Holbrook where I moonlight as a sports mascot when I’m not “meep meeping” down Route 66. Enough about me...on to the important stuff...
While there are many defining races and issues on the Electoral landscape, few are more revealing of where we want to be as a nation than how we respond to the question of preserving pristine landscapes and honoring indigenous cultures, versus continuing to bulldoze sacred spaces of native peoples and poisoning ground, air, and water in the name of profit, progress, and power, let the consequences be damned. Arizona’s 2nd congressional district is ground zero as a battleground to determine the soul of our nation, and whether our generation will turn a new page or continue the politics of settler colonialism and conquest. That battle is being fought on many fronts.
From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo Nation lands. Today there remain 523 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, exposing residents for decades to increased incidences of bone cancer, lung cancer, and kidney failure.
Despite the toxic legacy of uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, and the government’s belated and “half-hearted at best” attempt to remediate 94 of the 523 abandoned mine sites, Congressman Eli Crane (and his colleague to the West, Paul Gosar) wants to strip sacred tribal sites and a National Monument bordering the Grand Canyon from any protections against future uranium mining.
Eli Crane’s (R) opponent, Jonathan Nez (D), former President of the Navajo Nation, testified before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2022, and recognizes the critical need to clean up all the abandoned uranium sites on Navajo land, and the need not to open new claims in the region that will lead to further poisoning of the ground, the water, and the people.
A portion of Nez’s testimony is excerpted here:
The Navajo Nation as a whole over the past 70 some years, as is now recognized, the Navajo Nation and its people have suffered disproportionately from the legacy of uranium mining and processing on Navajo lands. Navajo uranium workers and their families became ill and many died from diseases associated both with the uranium work itself and with living near uranium mines, hills, and waste dumps, as you heard today.
The Navajo Birth Cohort study has revealed that uranium and toxic metals remain in the Navajo environment and continues to be a significant concern to the tribe. Generational trauma expresses not just in the body, but in the heart and mind as well. The solution to the northeast Church Rock mine set must be commensurate, appropriate and proportionate to the historic injury to the health and well-being of our Navajo people, young and old, and to our sacred Navajo lands from which we draw physical sustenance and spiritual strength.
In Arizona’s 2nd congressional district voters have a choice between continuing the pattern of mineral and ore “Manifest Destiny”, environmental exploitation, and sacrificing sacred lands to degradation and cultural annihilation, or they can choose a path that halts the injustice and respects the beauty of the land and the cultures of its Native peoples.
in New Mexico, outside Eli Crane’s Arizona Congressional District, the Congressman is charging forward, outside his jurisdiction, in trying to reverse Deb Haaland’s Interior Department decision to protect 4700 significant archaeological sites within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Again, working in concert with his best buddy Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Crane introduced the euphemistically titled “Energy Opportunities for All Act", which could've just as well have been called the "Screw Sacred Tribal Sites, Mine Baby Mine and Drill Baby Drill” Act, as it prioritizes extraction over preservation on these special lands.
Another controversial project pitting private extraction interests against cultural tribal heritage is the proposed Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper mine at Oak Flat, land sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe. In the kind of exchange that hearkens back to lopsided 19th century deals, Resolution Copper exchanged land independently appraised at 7 million dollars value to access land appraised at over 112 billion dollars, of course demonstrating their commitment to be “fair to the tribes” as they seek to desecrate their sacred cultural site, including potentially impacting “Apache leap”, where many Apache warriors are said to have jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the US Calvary in 1872.
Wendsler Nosie Sr., with Apache Stronghold, has tied the mining of Oak Flat to an ongoing pattern of cultural genocide. San Carlos Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler has eloquently outlined some of the problems with the mine in this Op-ed piece, which ran in the LA Times.
Where is Congressman Crane on the issue?
Surprise, surprise (this is Roadrunner sarcasm)...Mr. Crane is firmly on the side of mining the culturally sacred ground and leaving an 8600 acre liquified waste dump in the center of it. And of course, in typical GOP congressional gaslighting fashion, he refers to efforts to prevent the mine there as “economic sabotage” and “kneecapping the nation’s economy”.
Jonathan Nez supports the preservation of Oak Flat and has been endorsed by San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler and the entire San Carlos Tribal Council.
The Contrast is as Clear as Day
Even in the hyper-polarized climate of today, few House races offer a greater contrast between right and wrong than the race for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. On one side you have ultra-MAGA Republican incumbent Eli Crane, who aligns himself with Donald Trump, Paul Gosar, and the ongoing pattern of tribal cultural exploitation and conquest in the name of “progress”. On the other side, you have Jonathan Nez, a tribal leader who wants to preserve and protect the land, the water, and the rich cultures of the region, and who will lead thoughtfully and with care for justice, rather than selling out to the highest bidder, and turning Native sites into cultural sacrifice zones, to be ravaged, pillaged, and left desecrated by multinational corporations looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the land, the water, and the people.
How you can Help
First, Roadrunner recognizes that a single contribution to a political campaign can’t erase centuries of injustice, and that some battles will need to be fought outside the conventional electoral political structure with direct action and other forms of protest. However, it is also critical that in races where the contrasting visions are so extreme and the moral imperative so clear, that donors, voters, and activists stand on the side of justice with their voices, and when possible, their dollars.
Arizona’s 2nd District is a competitive district (Trump only carried it by single digits in 2020 [7.9 points]) where the challenger Jonathan Nez has an opportunity to defeat one of the most extreme right-wing members of Congress who supports the cultural negation of tribal sacred sites. Sending Crane into early retirement and replacing him with an indigenous leader is exactly the kind of message the electorate needs to send about which direction they want their nation to take moving forward.
To defeat Eli Crane and elect Jonathan Nez instead, please consider contributing at this link here:
If you can spare $500 wonderful. If $100 is more in your budget, we understand. If all you have is $5, any amount helps build the grassroots movement needed to turn MAGA upside down and restore some sanity, compassion, and dignity back to Arizona’s 2nd district in the US House.
Or consider these more esoteric amounts (Roadrunners aren’t great at math but have some cleverness from dodging coyotes and that odd old dude still driving the Chrysler LeBaron with the faded Barry Goldwater for President bumper sticker):
2 dollars to take back AZ-2
8 dollars to defeat “Crazy 8” Eli Crane and to make up the 7.9 points it takes to swing the district.
$20.24 to win in 2024
48 dollars to turn Arizona’s (the 48th state) US House delegation blue.
218 dollars to flip the US House and give Dems at least 218 seats
3300 dollars because you want to give the max!
Any amount helps, and early dollars have a multiplier effect as they attract more outside investment in 2024.