By Kathy Helms
Diné Bureau, September 28, 2006
WINDOW ROCK — The three Navajo Nation Council delegates
who voted Tuesday against the proposed intergovernmental
compact between the Nation and the Hopi Tribe say they
are not happy with statements made Wednesday by President
Joe Shirley Jr. on KTNN Radio.
Delegates Leonard Chee, Amos Johnson and Hope MacDonald-Lone
Tree said in a joint press release that President Shirley
incorrectly told the Navajo people that they do not
support lifting the Bennett Freeze because of their
"President Shirley is wrong on his position on
the Bennett Freeze compact and he is wrong again on
Delegates Chee, Johnson, and MacDonald-Lone Tree's vote.
Delegates Chee, Johnson, and MacDonald-Lone Tree want
the freeze to be lifted, but not at the cost of individual
and human rights of our people," they said.
The delegates emphasized that they support lifting
the Bennett Freeze. "However, because President
Shirley did not consult with Navajo people impacted
by the Bennett Freeze when his administration drafted
the still secret settlement, and because the settlement
was not conducted in good faith, Delegates Chee, Johnson,
and MacDonald-Lone Tree cannot support the secret settlement
of the Bennett Freeze."
The delegates said the concerns they attempted to raise
before council were on several of the compact's provisions.
"The compact, as it is currently written, is restrictive
and greatly accommodates the Hopi claims as opposed
to what rightfully belongs to Navajo people," they
said, citing an amendment offered by Johnson regarding
Language in the compact states, "The Navajo Nation
and the Hopi tribe are federally recognized sovereign
nations that desire to live in harmony and mutual respect
for each other and further desire to resolve the 'Navajo-Hopi
land dispute' insofar as it relates to the freedom of
the Navajo and Hopi people to practice their traditional
religions, and related issues."
Johnson's amendment would have accommodated traditional
religions, "other religious beliefs," and
related issues. Attorneys for the Nation told Council
that the legislation needed to be approved without amendments,
otherwise it would have to go back to the Hopi Tribe
for its approval, after which council defeated the amendment.
Regardless of amendments, the compact still must go
back to the Hopi Tribe for its approval because the
compact language approved in January is different than
that approved by the Hopi Tribal Council in 2004.
"Wise amendments from the council could have easily
addressed the concerns of the people and would have
protected Navajo rights and the integrity of the Navajo
Nation," the delegates said.
During debate on Johnson's amendment, Delegate Tom
Lapahe said it doesn't matter whether it's written in
the compact or not, that there are people on the Hopi
Reservation who practice Native American Church and
Christianity. "So we shouldn't worry whether it's
written in either of these documents," he said.
The three delegates also said that new maps outlining
where the Hopi sacred sites and corridors are located
were not reviewed by council. "There may be several
sites and corridors located in areas that will restrict
Navajo people's human rights to the land," they
"Navajo people have yet to be informed on the
exact location of the sites and corridors, and the exact
impact those sites and corridors have on Navajo people
who may be negatively impacted by the secret settlement,"
During a press conference following the vote, Attorney
General Louis Denetsosie said that the Hopi people who
use the religious sites know where they are located,
and that per the agreement, in order to protect the
sacred sites and shrines, only those tribal officials
with a need to know were being given that information.
The three delegates said that as conveyed Tuesday during
MacDonald-Lone Tree's comments to council, the compact
legislation "has far reaching, precedent-setting
and irreversible affects on our Navajo people, our land,
and the integrity our Navajo Nation."
"Navajo community resolutions respectfully requested
that more time be devoted to informing Navajo people
on the compact before a vote was taken. Sadly, this
did not occur." Also, they said, it was not disclosed
the amount of Navajo land that is being conceded to
During an impassioned speech to council, MacDonald-Lone
Tree pleaded with delegates to vote "No" on
the legislation, saying the Navajo people deserve a
clear understanding of how it might affect the 1934
"If we are agreeing in this compact that we will
not make any improvements or build any structures within
the designated Hopi religious sites, then we are just
trading one freeze for another," she said.
"Even if there is no relocation, our Navajo people
are being restricted from using their land as they had
used it before it being designated Hopi religious sites
"As opposed to the original Bennett Freeze imposed
by the Secretary of Interior and Congress, this new
freeze will be imposed on our own people by their own
government the Navajo Nation," she said.
"At least the Bennett Freeze can be changed by
congressional action and litigation. But according to
the new freeze, it is forever. Our children, their children
and future generations cannot make changes to the compact
they are irrevocably bound to it and there is no recourse."
Nothing in the compact states that the Bennett Freeze
will be lifted, she said. "All that it states is
that the Hopi 'promises' not to object when Navajo asks
Congress to repeal the Bennett Freeze in Article 7.6."
She questioned what would happen if the Hopi did not
follow through, saying there is no language to protect
the Navajo Nation if the Hopis do not honor their promise.
According to the compact, the Navajo Nation is agreeing
to give the Hopi Tribe "50 percent of all royalties
income coal, powerlines, pipelines, natural gas lines,
and other rights-of-way derived from the Bennett Freeze
since 1966," she said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Bennett Freeze is not
a joint use area. By what right is Hopi entitled to
half of the Bennett Freeze area income?"
Waiver of claims
"Even more horrendous," she said, is the language
in Article 7. "We are waiving all claims and litigation
against the Hopi and agreeing that the Secretary of
Interior's approval of the compact does not create any
new claim against the United States for monetary damages."
"The Navajo Nation, essentially, has let the United
States off the hook for any legal claims that may arise
from the loss of land, resources, and Navajo rights,"
according to Chee, Johnson and MacDonald-Lone Tree.
"Don't we want to sue the feds and/or Hopi for
damages and harm done to our people? Why would we just
walk away and leave our people to suffer on their own?"
MacDonald-Lone Tree asked.
Delegates said their concern is that "this poorly
drafted provision will forever tie the Navajo Nation
hands behind its back," by not allowing them to
seek redress for the wrongs done to the Navajo people.
"Is this something we really want to forfeit?"
Also, they said, under the compact the Navajo Nation
agrees to waive the fair market value of property rights.
They questioned this waiver, saying, it was not explained
to council or the Navajo people why the Nation "would
agree to waive the fair market value of property rights
and possibly allow the Hopi Tribe or the federal government
to determine what they feel is the right price for our
land or property."
The Nation's leadership "should not threaten the
Navajo people with threats that 'The Bennett Freeze
will never be resolved if the compact is not approved,'
or with threats that 'Litigation is a loser,' delegates
said. "Those remarks are inappropriate and extort
approval from the people through fear."