New homes planned in Bennett Freeze

By John Christian Hopkins, Diné Bureau
Gallup Independent, July 10, 2007

WINDOW ROCK The 1934 Reservation Subcommittee, of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, adopted a plan of operations and a work plan Monday.

The resolution now moves to the full NHLC for ratification.

One aspect for the work plan was to construct 50 homes in the Bennett Freeze area, but Evelyn Acothley, vice chairman of the subcommittee, thought it might be better in the long run not to limit the number of homes.

"Everyone needs homes, so let's leave the number blank," Acothley said. "Housing is a great need."

Finding funding for new houses will be difficult, Chairman Leslie Dele said. The Navajo Nation needs to look for housing funds from other sources, he added.

The Navajo Housing Authority frowns on building new homes from the ground up, agreed Larry Nez from the NHLC.

Dele suggested deleting NHA from the wording of the resolution and just say "housing."

Jim Store, from President Joe Shirley Jr.'s office, said he has meet with NHA officials and they are willing to cooperate in this situation.

"We were surprised, but they really want to help," Store said.

Something has to be done to assist the people living in the Bennett Freeze area, subcommittee member Harry Williams said.

"We need to seek funding from the federal government, they were the ones who froze that land for 40 years," Acothley said. "Those people need something. A lot of people are without homes; you have four or five families living in one home."

Boundary disputes between the Navajo and Hopi led to the government placing a moratorium on construction of any type in the area known as Bennett Freeze. For four decades no construction including infrastructure like electricity and water was allowed in the area.

The dispute was settled last year, but the living standards of many Bennett area residents are behind the times.

Instead of relying on NHA funding, the tribe needs to explore other options such as the Robert Redford Rehabilitation Trust Fund, Department of Homeland Security or other federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Dele said.

A good first step would be to hire a professional grant writer, Williams said.

Although many people in that area might need waivers from federal regulations to build, that issue needs to be considered thoroughly, subcommittee member Sampson Begay said.

"If you do it for one, you have to do it for all," Begay said.

The president is ready to appoint seven members to the land commission task force, Nez said. Originally, the NHLC was hoping for 14 members, but Shirley wanted a more manageable number, he explained.

The seven members being recommended all have experience in a wide range of issues dealing with tribe-federal laws and housing issues, Nez said.




Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.