Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West

Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West

Judith Nies

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1568587481

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

An epic struggle over land, water, and power is erupting in the American West and the halls of Washington, DC. It began when a 4,000-square-mile area of Arizona desert called Black Mesa was divided between the Hopi and Navajo tribes. To the outside world, it was a land struggle between two fractious Indian tribes; to political insiders and energy corporations, it was a divide-and-conquer play for the 21 billion tons of coal beneath Black Mesa. Today, that coal powers cheap electricity for Los Angeles, a new water aqueduct into Phoenix, and the neon dazzle of Las Vegas.

Journalist and historian Judith Nies has been tracking this story for nearly four decades. She follows the money and tells us the true story of wealth and water, mendacity, and corruption at the highest levels of business and government. Amid the backdrop of the breathtaking desert landscape, Unreal City shows five cultures colliding—Hopi, Navajo, global energy corporations, Mormons, and US government agencies—resulting in a battle over resources and the future of the West.

Las Vegas may attract 39 million visitors a year, but the tourists mesmerized by the dancing water fountains at the Bellagio don’t ask where the water comes from. They don’t see a city with the nation’s highest rates of foreclosure, unemployment, and suicide. They don’t see the astonishing drop in the water level of Lake Mead—where Sin City gets 90 percent of its water supply.

Nies shows how the struggle over Black Mesa lands is an example of a global phenomenon in which giant transnational corporations have the power to separate indigenous people from their energy-rich lands with the help of host governments. Unreal City explores how and why resources have been taken from native lands, what it means in an era of climate change, and why, in this city divorced from nature, the only thing more powerful than money is water.

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traders, 21–22 Lamanites as predecessors of, 104 land grabs, 63–66 Longest Walk demonstration, 28 mounds, 101–104 Navajo-Hopi reservation boundary issue, 27–29, 82, 87–91, 125, 224 pre-European population in North America, 101 as servant class in Arizona, 22, 123 termination policy for tribes, 88–89, 222 tribal government, 33 voting by, 21, 22–23, 30–31 Wounded Knee Massacre, 121 Nauvoo Expositor (newspaper), 106 Navajo average income on reservation, 54 code talker, 226 conflict

traditional priests that appeared in a local Gallup newspaper and was forwarded to Senator Goldwater said that Boyden simply wrote up a contract and had the assembled people agree to it by voice vote. “We have explained plainly,” wrote Dan Katchongva for the traditional priests, “how the so-called tribal council approved the resolution which attorney John S. Boyden drew up on the spot. . . . This was done without consulting the Hopi people. The majority of the Hopis are against him as a lawyer.”

support facilities, and energy depots throughout Southeast Asia. In a postwar audit of expenditures, the Congressional Budget Office said that the two firms had billed the government for so much concrete that they could have put a concrete skin eight feet deep over the entire country of Vietnam. Thirty years later during America’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two prime military contractors for the US government were once again Bechtel and Brown and Root, although Brown and Root had a

estimated. The issue of disposal of spent nuclear fuel was still unresolved. And finally, reassuring the public about the safety of nuclear energy—even before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl—was becoming increasingly difficult. Permitting hearings grew more complex as public groups educated themselves about nuclear power and raised more sophisticated objections to nuclear plants. The public distrusted government reassurances and raised the issue of failed accountability in the 1960s over

gravel-voiced forty-one-year-old president, Baron Goldwater Jr., known as Barry, was on hand for the hotel’s festive opening. In fact, he would be on hand for many other evenings. Opening-night guests included Bob Goldwater, Barry’s brother; Del Webb, the Phoenix contractor who built both the Flamingo and the Desert Inn; Nevada’s governor, Key Pittman; and assorted Hollywood movie stars, local politicians, and big-time gamblers last seen in Havana. Wilbur Clark personally handed out a corsage to

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