earful for the prez
Freeze residents demand a voice in settlement terms
Special to the Times
a meeting on the Bennett Freeze in Tuba City last Friday,
President Joe Shirley Jr. got an earful ... and not
from supporters chanting "Four more years!"
than 200 people, all Navajo residents of the Freeze
area, gathered on a slope behind the Tuba City flea
market to denounce the proposed compact hammered out
by Shirley and Hopi Tribe officials.
protesters called for a rewrite of the agreement, which
would end the freeze that has stopped development on
a swath of disputed land for the past 40 years. And
they want a voice in its approval.
the protesters was Joetta Goldtooth, a candidate for
Navajo Nation Council in the Tuba City/Coalmine area.
said the protesters' main problem with the proposed
compact is that the residents of the Bennett Freeze
area were never consulted, and even now parts of the
compact have not been revealed to them - or anybody
other than the leadership of both tribes.
parts describe areas the Hopis may visit to gather eaglets
for them ceremonies, a practice contrary to Navajo spiritual
sealed portions of the agreement also include an attachment
describing areas of religious importance to both tribes
where the Navajos agree not to build anything.
said the secrecy surrounding both the compact and its
negotiations are "inexcusable."
said even now residents of the Bennett Freeze wouldn't
know what was in the compact if Council Delegate Hope
MacDonald - LoneTree (Coalmine Canyon/Tóh Nanees
Dízí), who opposed it, hadn't leaked a
copy to them.
we want is a hold to be put on the contract," Goldtooth
said. "We want them to come back to the chapters
and explain it line by line, then have the people vote
on it again."
spokesman George Hardeen countered in an e-mail Monday
that "if the plaintiffs don't have information
about the Bennett Freeze, they have an issue with their
the negotiation process was "at the direction of,
and in accordance to, the council's direction."
attorney general has given reports to the council, and
the council is represented on the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,"
in the Bennett Freeze area have passed resolutions approving
the compact, but it has not been approved by either
the Hopi Tribal Council or then Navajo Nation Council,
and after that would need to be signed by the U.S. secretary
of the Interior.
protest came on the heels of a lawsuit filed in Navajo
tribal court last week by three Navajo residents of
the freeze area who are upset that parts of the agreement
will remain sealed from public view.
the plaintiffs seeing to void the compact never informed
the Navajo Nation they were filing suit, and "the
suit is without merit because it seems to prevent the
Navajo Nation from doing specifically what it was convened
to do on behalf of the Navajo people."
said the protesters' Hopi neighbors have already started
to ask the Navajos when they plan to leave,a nd she
has heard of at least one instance where Hopi rangers
impounded a Navajo family's livestock for supposedly
being on Hopi land.
are acting like it's a done deal, and it hasn't even
been approved by either tribe," she complained.
acting chief of the Hopi Resource Enforcement Office,
denied his office has changed its policy since the compact
they're saying we are going into the Bennett Freeze
area and impounding cattle, that is not true,"
he sated. "If cattle, Navajo or Hopi, wander outside
of their grazing jurisdiction onto Hopi land, they are
in violation of our Ordinance 43 and we will impound
them as we have in the past."
said in addition to the secrecy, the protesters don't
like a provision in the compact that would divide frozen
federal development funds between the two tribes.
money was put aside for Navajos," she said, "Not
one dollar of that should go to Hopis."
Freeze refers to a moratorium imposed by then Commissioner
of Indian Affairs Robert L. Bennett in 1966 to keep
both Navajos and Hopis from developing t he disputed
land until their reservation boundaries were settled.
It was formalized by Congress in 1986.
affecting 1.5 million acres and later reduced to 800,000,
the freeze has effectively kept thousands of Navajos
and a smaller number of Hopis in primitive and crowded
conditions, unable to build homes, start businesses,
or obtain electricity or running water.
said the protesters prefer to endure the freeze rather
than agree to a compact they don't support.
up their position.
more negotiations. No more pushing around. If the land
has to be frozen another 140 years, so be it. We will
never agree to leave on these terms."