homes planned in Bennett Freeze
By John Christian Hopkins,
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,
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.