The Tour or The Fracking Reality Tour
by Merimée Moffitt written 3/12/17
We headed south at Counselors, NM, 17 miles west of Cuba
the quiet red rock, pastoral beauty,
known as Sisnataal, “wide belt mountain”
Rains have turned Navajo land green, but
off the highway, fracking for oil is everywhere, even in
the velvet, hut-like hills Georgia O’Keefe dubbed The Black Place.
Coal in the soil colors the mounds that look like
whales or hundreds of igloos in grey rock.
Red soils layer yellow, dappled with green on the cliffs.
The elder named Daniel sits in the back with me
to tell stories of fracking and drilling in the land where
the horse spirit was created, as told in stories, he says,
through the generations. He told us how his mama spanked
him or his siblings if they ran on the shifting sand hills.
I think of O’Keefe, and her Stieglitz in NY
making his fortune on these hills,
wild flowers and cow bones, her craggy face.
The piled up “blue pipes in the ditch run domestic water,”
Daniel says, to the parched lands of Dinétah.
More, perhaps, “in case, the aquifer in use is ruined.
This project is federally funded.” Fracking water awaits
re-injection into the land in ominous metal bins at each site.
Each site painted an earth tone to match as closely as possible,
the surrounding colors. Each site just one of thousands,
unmanned and likely to leak. The initial fracking cocktail
infuses a mile into the earth
then a mile horizontally in two directions, releasing wasted
methane to burn off, seeking crude oil, creating poisoned water.
The methane lost in this last year could have heated 350,000
New Mexican homes all winter long.
Oil trucks like wooly mammoths rampage
soft dirt roads, destroy tarmac on highways,
create traffic on the dusty paths used by families,
farmers, and school kids in busses. Many passed us that day.
The royalties and taxes from selling, not wasting the methane
might have gone to schools. All 42 million of it.
Each landowner or allottee gets a royalty check when
the oil hits the well head. It’s not enough for the ruination of sacred land,
a people, their history and future, but it is a huge
amount of money in hand. Our neighboring states
capture and use their methane. Our Gov* wants
our methane burning up into the methane clouds.
Exhausted from the bumpy ride and the sorrow, heading back
I ask Daniel questions about the sixties, the seventies
in Navajo Land. Two elders can talk like that. He tells me about
his brother hanging out with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Taos.
I ask him if LSD hit the Rez. He smiles. We remember the days.
I won’t forget, the fracking stations,
the squat, toad-like silos of oil, gas,
and the misleading term “produced water,”
the euphemism for poison, awaiting injection back into the Rez.
There is a creek that will burn if you put a match to it,
a woman from Di-né Cares said on Gene Grants’ news show.
*S. Martinez was the governor at the time of this initial tour.
Daniel Tso is a Navajo National Council delegate and serves as Chair on the council’s Health, Education, and Human Services Committee. He is a community leader, an elder, and activist who is unparalleled in his work to highlight the myriad impacts that Navajo communities living in the Greater Chaco region experience. He is a staunch advocate for the protection of public health, indigenous cultural lifeways, and environmental justice for communities impacted by oil and gas development in northern New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region.
Daniel’s ‘Fracking Reality’ tours of the region have increased the public’s awareness of the environmental injustices that rural communities experience through the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) federal oil and gas leasing program. His tours have been instrumental in educating congressional delegates, state representatives, and state agency officials resulting in a series of advancements aimed at addressing on-going oil and gas development in this culturally sensitive region.