signs historic legislation
By John Christian Hopkins
September 30, 2006
WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr.
signed to historic pieces of legislation Friday one
to close the book on the past and the other to begin
a new chapter in Navajo history.
First Lady Vikki Shirley and Delegate Nelson Begay (Lukachukai/Tsaile/Wheatfields),
the president signed into law the Hopi-Navajo land agreement
and the creation of a tribal gaming enterprise.
the council who passed this, and it went through the
chapters, too," Shirley said. "The councilors
who passed this had the people at heart."
8 marked the 40th anniversary of the Bennett Freeze,
which prohibited any new construction or improvements
on existing buildings on the land claimed by both the
Navajo and Hopi tribes.
been too long, the people have suffered," Shirley
noted. The present lamented the fact that so many of
the elders have gone on and couldn't share this special
day. He spoke of the medicine people, and, mostly, the
people who lived in the area, and said they all had
the land freeze played a role in so many of the young
people leaving the reservation. Unable to build homes
in the area, maybe they moved off to a city, Shirley
was a dark, bygone time. The president saw a new beginning.
Soon, Shirley said, the once-disputed freeze area will
shine with new homes, gas stations and stores.
a historic day," Begay agreed.
lady also hailed the special day.
excited for the people," she said. "I've heard
some of the elders talking about it."
She and the
president feel for the people who suffered through the
freeze, Vikki Shirley said.
of them have no water, no electricity," Vikki Shirley
said. "There was a time when the president and
I lived with no water. We lived in a hogan. I had to
haul water; I know how difficult it is for the people."
said she hopes the Hopi council also approves this agreement.
sides have agreed, the pact goes to the secretary of
the Interior for a review and he has already said he
supports it, the president added and then back before
the judge overseeing the case.
that's it, the land is thawed. It's over." Joe
Shirley said. "Then people can move back on the
agreement, the Navajo retain ownership of the land,
but the Hopi and Navajo agree to recognize each other's
traditional, religious rights.
enterprise is another albeit, important step forward
for the Nation, Shirley said.
should have had this 20 years ago," the president
enterprise in place, Shirley said the next step is to
select a developer.
before the Navajo Nation opens a casino?
this side of six months," Shirley said. The present
said the Nation was looking to open a temporary casino,
while construction on a permanent facility continues.
Hopkins can be reached at email@example.com or
by calling 505-371-5443.