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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polygamy, 93, 94, 97–98, 106–107, 109–110 property ownership, 97, 100, 107 reform, 98, 107 settlement of the Meadows (las vegas), 140 in St. George, Nevada, 186 United Order, 97, 107 westward movement of, 95–96, 98–100, 107 Moroni (angel), 105 Morris, Roger (author), 16 Morrison, Harry (engineer), 144–145 Morton, Brian (scholar), 114 Mounds, Indian archaeological, 101–104 Mount Wheeler, 184–185 Mountain Meadow massacre, 107 Mulholland, William (engineer), 165 Mulroy, Pat (water

he commuted back and forth to his home in Cortez, Colorado, by means of the small plane tied down outside, anchored against the wind by four strong, taut wires. The Blair family had owned the trading-post license for years and had two other stores, one at Page, Arizona, near the Glen Canyon Dam, and another outside of Phoenix. In addition to selling dry goods and providing government services like the post office, Blair traded and sold Navajo rugs, chiefs’ blankets, saddle blankets, Hopi pottery,

in regard to labor issues, had a number of large copper mines and many labor troubles in Arizona. Wilkinson himself was well known in Washington because his firm specialized in land issues and hired former Interior Department attorneys (all Mormons) as staff. After success in the Ute case, Wilkinson’s firm went on to represent more Indian tribes than any other law firm. As Wilkinson’s partner, Boyden and his associates in Salt Lake City had traveled to the Ute reservations, taken depositions,

located in the Mohave Desert in a south-tilting bowl surrounded by mountains. The bowl held a natural water supply that was fed by mountain snowmelt and stored in a closed basin that did not run off into streams or rivers. Thousands of years of snowmelt poured down from the surrounding mountains and sank through sand, gravel, and rock to collect in underground aquifers, porous rock formations that stored water in the desert. In places where the water was trapped between layers of impermeable

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