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Reader View: ‘Idle No More’ poster has indigenous roots

Dr. Joe Neidhardt holds the ‘Idle No More’ sign during a protest of PNM’s energy plan earlier this month. Clyde Mueller/New Mexican file photo

Posted: Saturday, January 24, 2015 9:00 pm

By Joe Neidhardt

It was wonderful to see the “Idle No More — Clean Energy Now” poster featured so prominently on the front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 6. The poster was created by Hope Neidhardt, a 16-year-old Navajo/Taos Pueblo student at St. Michael’s High School and proudly, my daughter. Hope got the design from a Canadian First Nations artist, Andy Everson, from the Comox Band. Andy gave permission to use his design while Hope attended school in Courtenay, British Columbia, in 2013.

The movement, Idle No More, “began with four ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean, who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters. — These four women from Saskatchewan (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) decided that they would no longer stay silent,” according to the website,

The movement spread quickly through First Nations people in Canada and then to Natives in the United States. The focus of Idle No More has evolved to include environmental issues, climate change and human rights.

As a physician/psychiatrist practicing in Shiprock in the 1990s, I saw men with lung cancer and obstructive lung disease from uranium mining and children with a high incidence of asthma. Family members were dealing with depression as they watched the suffering of their loved ones. The Four Corners situation raises moral and ethical questions that demand attention.

u Why does Los Alamos enjoy the highest per capita income in the state while Shiprock has the lowest income and highest unemployment?

u Why is the Four Corners area one of the most polluted areas in the state with high incidence of pulmonary problems from burning coal?

u Why do we create more pollution per person than any other country in the world?

We in New Mexico can take the lead. The coal plants need to be shut down. We need to compensate those having devoted their lives to the industry by treating their illnesses and retraining them to work in the solar industry with clean, well-paying jobs. Los Alamos and the labs can develop energy storage and fuel cells, as they have been doing, that can augment the solar industry and support the Navajo and Four Corners workers to develop a world-leader energy facility. We can distribute wealth through the energy industry so that the people in the Four Corners enjoy an equivalent standard of living as the people of Los Alamos. We have the ability; we have the technology and vision to make it happen.

The woman from Saskatchewan and the Idle No More group from the Navajo Nation have given us moral direction. Mariel Nanasi of New Energy Economy has done a tremendous job in developing a viable alternative to the weak, dirty and misdirected Public Service Company of New Mexico plan for energy. It is time for all of us to be Idle No More and take political and personal action to insure a healthy environment and a world for our children. Say No to PNM and demand they take the moral and ethical path available to all of us.

Dr. Joe Neidhardt is a psychiatrist with a specialty in holistic medicine practicing in Santa Fe. His wife, Dr. Mary Roessel, practices at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital while his daughter, Hope, attends St. Michael’s High School.


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