WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr.,
in testimony this
week before the U.S. House Resources Committee, requested
an independent, "unbiased" non-federal consultant
conduct a one-year study to examine the impacts of relocation
on the Navajo and Hopi people.
Shirley said the study would examine the effects
of relocation, needs,
community impact, range management and livestock reduction,
eligibility benefits for affected Navajo and Hopi
The proposed study asks that the two tribes to be
allowed to contract with
the relocation office for mitigation activities. Once
mitigation between the
two tribes is complete, the relocation program would
end, as well as federal
government involvement, according to the Navajo Nation
President Shirley testified before a packed House,
denouncing the proposed
Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005, which
is favored by the Hopi Tribe. Shirley said the legislation
sponsored by U.S. Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., would bring an abrupt end to federal relocation
efforts and would shut down the Office of Navajo Hopi
"I urge this committee to reject Senate Bill
1003 and its unintentional
disregard for the lives of the Navajo relocatees,"
Shirley said. He asked the
committee to adopt a rational and reasonable policy
that closes the program
after a thorough study is done.
The Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005
passed by the Senate calls for a shutdown of the relocation
office on Sept. 30, 2008. Remaining responsibilities
would be transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"The Navajo Nation does not want the relocation
program to go on
indefinitely," Shirley said. "In fact, we
would like nothing more than to be able to stand on
our own as a sovereign nation without the intrusion
of the federal government ... to stand side-by-side
with you rather than have policy dictated to us."
President Shirley said the act does not settle the
outstanding claims and
appeals of individuals whose benefits have been denied.
"The act merely cuts off the funding that would
be necessary to help people receive job training,
and rebuild shattered communities," he said.
"The Navajo Nation is not here to lay blame
and has no interest in refighting the long history
of the land dispute between the Navajo Nation and
the Hopi Tribe," President Shirley said.
Hopi Tribal Chairman Ivan Sidney made a similar observation;
said, the Hopi Tribe is in favor of the Senate bill.
Shirley also told the House committee that the Navajo
Nation has no interest
in securing rights and benefits for its people to
the exclusion of the Hopi
"While it is true that many more Navajos and
Navajo communities were
impacted by the relocation than Hopis, the truth is
there were many people from both sides who were forcibly
moved. We have both suffered and both experienced
impacts that the original act intended to mitigate.
"To a great extent, that mitigation has not
happened for either of our
people," Shirley said, adding that any benefits
for which the Navajo Nation is
eligible "should be in proportion to the level
of harm the Navajo people have
The President said he concurs with others who say
the relocation program has gone on too long and cost
too much. "I agree, but the Navajo Nation never
wanted the program to begin at all. Should the Navajo
be punished because the federal government adopted
a policy without understanding the issues involved?
"Is it the Navajo's fault that there were more
than 10 times the number of
Navajos to relocate than the government expected?
Is it the fault of the
Navajo relocatees that the promise of a new house
and a new life has cost so much?
"I say that it is not. Yet, S. 1003 ignores
the needs of thousands of Navajos who have had their
lives disrupted," Shirley said, urging the committee
to reject McCain's bill.
He also asked the committee to "take the time
to understand what relocation has wrought and instead
of allowing the federal government to commit another
grave error, to create a humane, planned resolution
to the plight of these Americans."
"Is a study really unreasonable after years
of misery? A study that would
simply evaluate what has happened, what needs to occur
to make the people as whole as is reasonably possible,
how to implement a mitigation plan, and how to shut
down the program so that the Navajo, the Hopi, and
the federal government can put this painful period
behind us," the president said.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed by Congress
provided for a one-year
study of Indian energy rights-of-way, which is due
to Congress Aug. 7. The study looks at historical
figures paid to Indian nations for energy rights-of-way
and ultimately could challenge tribal sovereignty
by giving the Department of Interior final say on
how much the tribes can charge for rights-of-way.
The study was included after El Paso Natural Gas
and the Navajo Nation
reached an impasse on renewal of a lease agreement
for El Paso's 900-mile energy corridor within the
boundaries of the Navajo Nation.
Shirley said a one-year relocation study "would
let the facts on the ground
dictate the policy that will guide the federal government,
the Navajo Nation,
and the Hopi Tribe, instead of the federal government
"The study will also allow us to determine how
much more money the program needs, and how long it
will take to address the outstanding issues. It is
impossible to answer these questions without data,"