residents file lawsuit, seek to void compact
August 3, 2006
WINDOW ROCK – Residents of the Bennett
Freeze area have files a lawsuit in Tuba City District
Court to get the intergovernmental agreement between
the Hopis and the Navajos voided because parts of it
are to remain secret.
agreement, which will lift the Bennett Freeze, still
needs approval of the federal courts and the Interior
lawsuit lists Bobby Bennett Sr., Max Goldtooth Sr. and
Robert Begay Sr. as plaintiffs as well as any resident
of the Bennett Freeze area affected by the agreement.
basis of the lawsuit stems from provisions in the agreement
that allow certain parts to remain secret and under
provision in question states: "The parties shall
make reasonable efforts to advise their members of the
terms of this compact, to encourage their members to
respect the privacy of the religious activities of others
on their land and to urge their members to deal courteously
and respectfully with area residents when they enter
upon the other party’s land for religious purposes;
provided, however, that the Exhibits A, B, C. and D
to this compact may not be shown to members of the parties
other than elected leaders and those employees of the
party having responsibility for performance and/or enforcement
of this compact or to any other person."
portions in question deal with areas that the Hopi tribal
members may visit to gather eaglets for their ceremonies.
gathering of eaglets has long been a bone of contention
between the two tribes.
Navajo traditions call for the eaglets to be respected
and protected, the Hopis annually conduct a ceremony
where eaglets are gathered, kept in captivity and then
killed as part of the ceremony.
in the western portion of the reservation have argued
against allowing the Hopis onto Navajo lands but the
practice is protected by federal law.
year the Hopi traditional leaders receive a permit from
the federal government allowing them to gather a certain
number of eaglets.
of the exhibits lists areas that the two tribes have
agreed to be sacred and the Navajo Nation agreed not
to allow any improvements to be built within 900 meters
of these sites.
agreement also provides that the two tribes will, if
requested, provide an escort, either private of law
enforcement, to any member of either tribe who wants
to go onto the land of either tribe to visit a sacred
The lawsuit requests the court to void the agreement
because Navajo officials have kept Bennett Freeze area
residents in the dark about the negotiations with the
Hopis, including not revealing the existence of the
compact until just before the chapter houses were asked
to approve it.
Nation officials were able to get chapter approval,
according to the lawsuit, only by manipulating and misleading
Nation officials said, 'If you support this, you will
get a house, waterline, electricity and roads,'"
petitioners want to require tribal officials to go back
to the chapters and get approval all over again, making
all parts of the agreement public and explaining it
"sentence by sentence."