Judge ruling means Urban Outfitters could pay Navajo Nation millions
Philadelphia-based retailer Urban Outfitters could potentially have to pay millions of dollars for using the word “Navajo” in its products.
A federal judge in Arizona ruled last week that the Navajo Nation did not delay the filing of its trademark infringement lawsuit against Urban Outfitters – a tactic the retail giant claimed had occurred since the tribe first took legal action in 2012, or about 11 years after the company began using “Navajo” to describe its products, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The tribe has not named a specific dollar amount that it seeks in damages, however it could soar into the millions if a court rules in their favor.
On some claims, the tribe wants all the profits generated from the Navajo-themed sales. On others, it wants $1,000 per day per item, or three times the profit generated by marketing and retail of products using the name. Lindsay DeMoss, one of a handful of attorneys listed for Urban Outfitters, declined to comment. The company had said in court documents that granting the tribe a monetary windfall for a situation it created with unexplained silence “would be inequitable and unjust.”
The Navajo Nation has spent nearly four years in a legal battle with Urban Outfitters for alleged trademark infringement, violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and other allegations.
The news out of Flint, Michigan brought the issue of contaminated drinking water into sharp focus, as it was revealed that officials at every level—local, state and federal—knew about lead-poisoned water for months but did nothing to address the problem.
Under state-run systems like utilities and roads, poorer communities are the last to receive attention from government plagued by inefficiencies and corrupt politicians. Perhaps no group knows this better than Native Americans, who have been victimized by government for centuries.
In the western U.S., water contamination has been a way of life for many tribes. The advocacy group Clean Up The Mines! describes the situation in Navajo country, which is far worse than in Flint, Michigan.
Since the 1950s, their water has been poisoned by uranium mining to fuel the nuclear industry and the making of atomic bombs for the U.S. military. Coal mining and coal-fired power plants have added to the mix. The latest assault on Navajo water was carried out by the massive toxic spills into the Animas and San Juan rivers when the EPA recklessly attempted to address the abandoned Gold King mine.
“In 2015 the Gold King Mine spill was a wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines, but there are currently more than 15,000 toxic uranium mines that remain abandoned throughout the US,” said Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota based organization Defenders of the Black Hills. “For more than 50 years, many of these hazardous sites have been contaminating the land, air, water, and national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Each one of these thousands of abandoned uranium mines is a potential Gold King mine disaster with the greater added threat of radioactive pollution. For the sake of our health, air, land, and water, we can’t let that happen.”
There is no comprehensive law requiring cleanup of abandoned uranium mines, meaning corporations and government can walk away from them after exploiting their resources. 75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and Tribal lands.
Leona Morgan of Diné No Nukes points out one example: “The United Nuclear Corporation mill tailings spill of 1979, north of Churchrock, New Mexico left an immense amount of radioactive contamination that down-streamers, today, are currently receiving in their drinking water. A mostly-Navajo community in Sanders, Arizona has been exposed to twice the legal limit allowable for uranium through their tap.”
Last week, Diné No Nukes participated in protests in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of past and ongoing contamination of water supplies in the west, which disproportionately affects Indian country.
“These uranium mines cause radioactive contamination, and as a result all the residents in their vicinity are becoming nuclear radiation victims,” said Petuuche Gilbert of the Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and Indigenous World Association. “New Mexico and the federal government have provided little funding for widespread clean up and only occasionally are old mines remediated. The governments of New Mexico and the United States have a duty to clean up these radioactive mines and mills and, furthermore, to perform health studies to determine the effects of radioactive poisoning. The MASE and LACSE organizations oppose new uranium mining and demand legacy uranium mines to be cleaned up,” said Mr. Gilbert.
Politicians continue to take advantage of Native Americans, making deals with mining companies that would continue polluting their water supplies. Senator John McCain sneaked a resolution into the last defense bill which gave land to Resolution Copper. Their planned copper mining would poison waters that Apaches rely on and would desecrate the ceremonial grounds at Oak Flat.
While EPA and local officials have been forced to address the poisoned water in Flint, the contamination of Indian country water supplies continues. A bill called the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act, introduced by Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, has languished in Congress for two years.
“There is this huge disconnect between the cultural teachings and our bodies as women. [I want] to advocate for taking back our teachings about our bodies that our ancestors knew before the boarding schools or Indian Health Services came,” says Gonzales. “I’ve worked at Indian Health Services. I was not happy with the care that the Native women were receiving there. I needed to do something to step up and support Native women.”
Like many Native American tribes, the Navajo face a wide range of societal ills. The tribe traditionally bred sheep and horses, a way of existence that had been passed down within families for generations. But owning and raising horses and livestock is much costlier now than it was 150 years ago, as is the land to do it on. Border disputes and unsafe Uranium mining projects have further diminished their lands, leaving many unskilled Navajo in employment limbo.
The Navajo also struggle with internal division. Traditionalists represent thousands of years of tribal medicine, pastoralist practices, and deeply held Navajo religious beliefs. On the other side are modernists, who embrace Christianity and a move to the future. As they struggle to reconcile modernity with tradition, a new wave of young, educated Navajo are actively working for the recovery and defense of the customs and core values of their tribe.
“Finding Nemo” began playing in theaters 13 years ago. In a couple of days, it will play again for free — in Navajo.
Navajo seems to be a dying language, something many Navajo elders are worried about. So when big-name movies, like “Star Wars,” and now, “Finding Nemo,” are released in Navajo, it’s about trying to keep the language alive.
“For Navajo land, for Navajo people, this is something that is epic,” said Mylo Fowler, who is the Navajo voice of “Crush” in the film.
As a Navajo, Fowler, who lives in Sandy, says it’s an honor.
“When I saw the film for the first time, I was just shocked and blown away,” said Fowler. “It was so amazing the talent that was there. This wild idea of translating one of the greatest kid movies of all time into what I certainly believe is one of the greatest languages of all time.”
Beyond just how cool it is, it’s also important.
The language was used during World War II, when Navajo “Code Talkers” helped encrypt communications, keeping enemy forces from translating vital messages. But, with every generation since, the language is slowly dying.
With “Star Wars: A New Hope” translated to Navajo in 2003 and now “Finding Nemo,” the second big-name movie translated in their language, Navajos are hoping it will excite younger generations to learn about their past and keep their language alive.
“It’s a very critical part of our identity,” said Fowler. “Who we are as an individual and how we can communicate with our elders, who we’ve learned these wonderful stories from.”
“Finding Nemo” is playing in several theaters starting Friday in and around the Navajo Nation, as well as the Megaplex Theater at the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City. Tickets are free at the ticket counter.
here in arizona on one of the apache reservations i live on there is an epidemic of basically genocide of native american peoples. we are dying slowly one by one from agent orange poisoning in our water supply. we are developing illnesses that we have never had before until thirty or more years ago. we are suffering from cancers, alzhiemer’s, diabetes and other serious conditions that is destroying our health and no one is doing a damn thing. modern day feminists are crying about man spreading, man splaining, man whatever the fuck. but they aren’t screeching about our issues as native peoples. my family members are dying from sickness that was developed from agent orange. if you could reblog this and get the word out there! maybe white fucking feminists will talk about this instead of men spreading their legs on a fucking bus.
My name is Robert Seals. I have been following the Flint, Michigan water crisis story and wish to shine a light on another water contamination story that is much older and just as horrific as Flint’s.
The Navajo Black Mesa water supply has, for decades, been destroyed by Peabody Mining Company. The wells have been drained to make slurry in order to pipeline coal and the remaining water supply is contaminated with uranium which is now leaching into the Colorado river. This is the short version of the little known story that desperately needs to be told. There has been no potable water on the reservation for decades. When a city like Flint is in crisis, everyone gets agitated/involved. However, there is no one talking about the tragic situation that has been taking place on the Navajo Black Mesa and no one is being held accountable for this travesty. The spokesperson for Black Mesa is Louise Benally. She will give you the complete story.
Here is a brief statement from Louise: “Our water has been impacted since the 1950’s on to today. When different minerals were discovered on the Navajo Reservation in the 1940s-1950- through to this day (now 2016), ground water has been used to extract uranium. The ground and surface waters have been used and released back into holding ponds and/or released into the surface waters. Coal Mining on Black Mesa used water to transport coal for 276 miles and continued pumping ground water for pushing Black Mesa Coal to Laughlin, Nevada. Today there are holding ponds that are not monitored at Black Mesa which seep into the run offs/into the surface waterways- headwaters.
There is a lot of contamination on our reservation, in most of the regions- New Lands- Sanders, Arizona. There is no water that is safe for people to drink. In the western agency area, there has been no safe drinking water since the 1950’s, after the uranium companies have moved on. Black Mesa water is being pumped for Peabody Coal Company’s mining operation. The contamination is currently seeping into the Colorado River”
Sanders spoke to several thousand supporters gathered outside of Flagstaff, in the heart of Navajo Country. According to the Associated Press, Sanders deviated from his traditional stump speech — in which he normally calls for tuition-free college, universal health care as a human right, and a $15 an hour minimum wage — to specifically address centuries of injustices the U.S. government has perpetrated upon Native Americans.
“From the first day that settlers came to this country, the Native American people have been lied to, they have been cheated, and negotiated treaties have been broken,” Sanders said. “We owe the Native American people so, so much.”
Sanders thanked Native American populations for preserving their culture and heritage, and outlined the oppressive policies and broken promises indigenous communities have endured for hundreds of years.
“All too often, Native Americans have not been heard on issues that impact their communities. They have been told what to do. They have not been involved in the process,” Sanders said to cheers.
“The United States has the duty to guarantee equal opportunity and justice for all citizens, including our first Native Americans. And let us be honest and acknowledge that we are not doing that today,” he continued.