Delegates question timing of release of details about
Bennett Freeze settlement
— News of a settlement agreement on the Bennett Freeze
approved by the Hopi Tribe in 2004 apparently has been
kept from the Navajo people for nearly two years.
Land Commission member Amos Johnson (Black Mesa/Forrest
Lake) said, "If that is the case, the Navajo people
in the Bennett Freeze area have been held hostage by
the president and the attorney general for election-year
Attorney General Louis Denetsosie worked on the agreement,
along with former Navajo attorney Britt Clapham, according
to George Arthur, chairman of the Resources Committee.
Any such agreement would have to come before Resources.
Arthur he was unaware of a settlement and looked forward
President Joe Shirley Jr. sent a letter Tuesday to Navajo
Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan urging a special
session so that council could give its approval.
an agreement has been reached and needs to be presented
to the Navajo Nation Council for their acquiescence,"
Shirley said. "I believe the Hopi Tribal Council
is doing the same."
Chairman Ivan Sidney said the agreement is being presented
to the Navajo Council two years after it was proposed.
agreement now scheduled for presentation to the Navajo
Council was delivered to Navajo for their consideration
in 2004. It is not the Hopi who is holding back the
been no comment from Shirley's office.
Sidney said this is the agreement President Shirley
refers to in his letter to the Navajo Nation Speaker;
however, he said, it is more appropriate to say that
Hopi and Navajo have reached an agreement resolving
the 1934 Act reservation litigation and that as part
of the settlement, the freeze will be lifted once the
Navajo Council approves the compact and upon approval
of the compact by the Department of Interior and District
modification to the agreement by Navajo will result
in a reconsideration of the agreement by the Hopi Tribal
Council," he said.
Hopi Tribe looks forward to the day when we finally
close the door on the land dispute litigation that has
taken far too much of our time and resources."
In a letter
to the editor dated June 23 and received by The Independent
on June 29, Navajo Nation council delegate and Navajo-Hopi
Land Commission member Raymond Maxx wrote that he and
Shirley "made it clear that the Navajo Nations
is not interested in revisiting decisions of the past.
The Nation's goal is to find a way to address the needs
of those Navajo families who have suffered because of
the Federal relocation program and the Bennett Freeze."
continued, "We believe that it is the Federal government's
responsiblity to provide rehabilitation to all who have
been adversely affected by these Federal actions, not
just the Navajo, although our burden has been the greatest."
In 1974, Congress authorized the Hopi and Navajo to
litigate the question of their respective rights in
the 1882 and 1934 reservations. The Bennett Freeze area
was administratively imposed in 1966 within the 1934
Act Reservation by the BIA Commissioner, according to
Bertha Parker, public information officer for the Hopi
Freeze was intended to remove any unfair advantage during
the pendency of the 1934 reservation litigation aimed
at partitioning the land between the tribes.
is intended to prevent one tribe from gaining an unfair
advantage in the litigation by pursuing a strategy of
developing the land with housing and infrastructure
improvements and thereby entrenching itself, Parker
a solidified position, the tribe could appeal to federal
court to award it the developed land based on the self-created
inequities of requiring the new occupants to give up
their property and move, she said.
protective goal of the freeze is important in light
of the District Court's approach which, so far, has
been to give the Navajo all disputed land having any
Navajo residences, even if those residences were built
in violation of the freeze," Parker said.
Freeze was confirmed by Congress in the 1974 Act, mandating
that neither tribe could build on lands subject to the
1934 litigation without the other tribe's permission.
In 2002, the Hopi and Navajo tribes agreed to mediate
and settle the balance of the 1934 Act reservation litigation.
reached a tentative agreement, or intergovernmental
compact, in 2004, subject to approval by the Hopi and
Navajo tribal councils, the Department of Interior and
U.S. District Court.
and religious leaders met in August 2004 and approved
the compact. Once the agreement is approved by all parties,
the litigation will be dismissed and the freeze will
"Prior to March 31, 1997, the total area affected
by the freeze was approximately 1.5 million acres,"
Chairman Sidney said.
the narrowing of the dispute to the religious use issue
by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and its remand
to the District Court, the Hopi Tribe specified the
areas where it claims religious occupancy, releasing
from the Bennett Freeze area approximately 800,000 acres,
more than one-half of the total area involved,"
a result of the Hopi Tribe's agreement to release (unfreeze)
lands no longer in litigation, the remaining 800,000
acres has been made fully available to the Navajo Nation
the Hopi Tribe has addressed all construction issues
on lands subject to the continuing freeze on a case-by-case
basis and after deliberation and consultation, has approved
almost every Navajo Nation request for Bennett Freeze
development consent submitted since the Ninth Circuit's
Hopi Tribe has taken measures to alleviate the effect
of the freeze wherever it could do so without prejudicing
its legal rights."
Sidney said it also should be remembered that the Hopis
who live at Moenkopi have lived for the last 67 years
in an "intolerable situation."
land has been treated as part of the Navajo Reservation
and their rights are frequently ignored by the United
States and the Navajo Nation.
addition, in other parts of the reservation, Hopis have
been harassed and even arrested by the Navajo Nation
as they attempted to engage in traditional religious
hardships in this dispute have fallen on the Hopi,"