Demanding Water Rights, Indigenous Protesters Tell McCain 'Get Off Our Land'

When Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited the Navajo Nation’s capital in Window Rock on Friday, he was met with angry protests over the violation of Indigenous communities’ water rights and, according to some accounts, chased off the land.

McCain made the visit, along with Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, for a public meeting with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez about the creation of a museum for Navajo Code Talkers, who used their language during World War II to help allies communicate in unbreakable code.

When he arrived, McCain was confronted with anger over the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent spill of three million gallons of mine waste in Colorado, which contaminated rivers that run through the Navajo Nation.

According to Native News, Begaye expressed frustration about the lack of federal response to the crisis: “I keep saying when are we going to hear from the White House? Not a word. When somebody wins the Super Bowl or an NBA Championship, they get a call, right? And when something like this happens and people are suffering, nothing.”

Protesters also demanded tribal sovereignty over Apache land in southeastern Arizona, which they say is threatened by mining company control.


McCain was greeted with chants of “Water is Life” in Navajo language and banners that said “McCain = Indian Killer.”

“People were protesting McCain’s intentions as an Arizona Senator,” Theresa Nosie, an Apache-Stronghold member in San Carlos, Arizona, told Common Dreams. “His intentions are for corporations, not the people. The protests had to do with water and McCain’s misuse of his position.”

Navajo woman Deidra Peaches told Phoenix New Times, “The activists were from all over [the West] and came to show inter-tribal solidarity.”

At one point, protesters chanted “Get off our land” while running after a van transporting the senator. While McCain vigorously denied being chased off of the reservation, the following video appears to contradict his claim:

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