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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Paiute Indians and for Other Purposes, September 14–15, 1972. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1973. US Congress, House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. Partition of Navajo and Hopi 1882 Reservation. 93rd Cong., May 14–15, 1973. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1974. US Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Environmental Impacts and Proposed Permit Application for the Black

the Mob Owned Cuba . . . and Then Lost It to the Revolution. 2007. Reprint, New York: HarperCollins, 2008. Ewen, Alexander, ed., for Native American Council of New York City. Voices of Indigenous Peoples: Native Peoples Address the United Nations. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light, 1994. Fallows, James. “Dirty Coal, Clean Future.” Atlantic, December 2010. Farrell, John Aloysius, and Jim Richardson. “The New Indian Wars.” Denver Post, eight-part series published November 20–27, 1983. Part 2, “Divided

Company. Webb, a member of the Valley National Bank’s board of directors, became a “quiet investor” in several Las Vegas casinos, including the Sahara, the Mint, and part of the Sands. His company’s large planned communities, like Sun City, became a key ingredient in the population shift known as the Sunbelt Boom and the accelerating growth of Phoenix and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas suburbs, the Del Webb Corporation built the Sun City Summerlin retirement community, Henderson’s Sun City Anthem, and a

Las Vegas.) Area 51 of Nellis Air Force Base became home to a lot of activity. The town of Rachel saw many mysterious sightings of unusual aircraft. NEVADA NIGHTS One moonless night in northern Nevada, writer John McPhee and his geologist friend Ken Deffeyes were returning from exploring a scavenger silver mine** when a white sphere of blinding light shot across the sky in front of them. As the light kept expanding in volume and brightness, they pulled their truck over to the side of the road

invitation to be a speaker at the convention was soon rescinded. Goldwater spread the story that the invitation was recalled because MacDonald announced he was going to tell the bloc of Navajo votes to support George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election rather than Richard Nixon. George McGovern, however, told me in a telephone interview, “I never met Peter MacDonald, and I have no idea of who he or the Navajo were supporting in the ’72 election.” Two days before the Christmas recess in

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