officials discuss Bennett Freeze agreement on KTNN radio
Special to the Observer
ROCK — The Navajo Nation's attorney general and the
director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission told radio
listeners Aug. 17 that the proposed Intergovernmental
Compact between the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe will
result in no land exchanges, relocation, loss of Navajo
land or livestock or loss of sites sacred to either
the Navajo or Hopi people.
Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie said
the compact will end lawsuits between the tribes involving
land as in areas as diverse as LeChee and St. Michaels,
and lift a freeze on development within the 40-year-old
Bennett Freeze Area in the western portion of the Navajo
and Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Director Roman Bitsuie
spent two hours on KTNN's Forum program explaining the
long and complicated history of the land issues going
back to 1882, 1868 and what led to lawsuits of the 1934
said that six chapters and eight Navajo Nation Council
standing committees have approved the compact so far.
Intergovernmental Compact he said, provides, among other
No more land to be partitioned to the Hopi Tribe.
of the Bennett Freeze to allow for home repairs, road
improvements and electric lines.
Protection of eagle gathering areas and sacred springs
for both Navajo and Hopi people.
An end to legal actions regarding land disputes.
1957, 11 Navajo chairmen and presidents have addressed
land dispute issues, Bitsuie said.
issue is different from what became known as the Navajo-Hopi
Land Dispute which resulted in the 1974 Navajo-Hopi
Relocation Act,relocation of 15,000 Navajos and partitioning
of land to the Hopi Tribe, he said.
relocation issue is a separate issue and should not
be mixed with this settlement today" he said.
said the compact resolves litigation over Hopi claims
to land within as many as 31 chapters, including, for
instance, Lechee, Shonto, Kayenta, Blue Gap, Rock Point,
Many Farms, Ganado, Steamboat, Wide Ruins, Klagetoh,
Leupp, St. Micheals, Window Rock and Fort Defiance.
these communities are in the 1934 Boundary act,"
he said. "The issue is not just over the western
are not just talking about the land around Tuba City,"
Bitsuie said. "The agreement addresses all the
land in Arizona except for the 1868 treaty and 1882
executive order lands. Seven million acres of land is
addressed in this agreement."
said the issue has been litigated in court, has been
negotiated by the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, and
the final result has been a positive agreement for the
Navajo people that will end lawsuits and result in the
development people have asked for so long.
Hopis will get the land they got before this agreement
by way of litigation so there is no land exchange or
relocation in this agreement," he said.
said Navajo medicine men and Hopi religious leaders
have met regarding sacred sites, identified them, and
have reached agreements and support the compact.
had medicine men tell us stories about these places,"
he said. "Alvin Clinton, a medicine man, lives
near one of these places and goes to places on Hopi
but supports this agreement.
said once the Navajo Nation Council, the Hopi Tribal
Council and authorized tribal officials approve the
compact, it moves to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne
for his signature and then on to U.S. District Court
Judge Earl H. Carroll. The Compact will take effect
once the final judgment is entered by Judge
and the Bennett Freeze will be lifted immediately. Denetsosie
told callers that unsubstantiated reports that residents
will lose land or sheep are untrue and invited them
to visit with him if they have doubts or questions.
he and Bitsuie dispelled the accusation that the agreement
was negotiated in secret.
are rumors in the communities out there," Mr. Bitsuie
said. "We want to tell you about the agreement.
We will see how the council votes and how it affects
a number of chapters."
revealed that the Navajo Nation Privacy and Access to
Information Act in Title II makes it illegal for Navajo
Nation employees and offices to disclose protected information
such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial
documents of individuals, contracts containing proprietary
information and information protected by confidentiality
is the reason that certain maps generated during negotiations
have not been released to the public, as the two tribes
have agreed that the maps contain proprietary information
and are covered by a confidentiality agreement.
a matter of public policy," he said, "courts
protect communications and information that is exchanged
in a negotiation, to promote the settlement of cases.
This case is like that. This matter is in court and
this is a negotiation. We don't want make some of the
information public because releasing such information
can be prejudicial."
said his office has provided necessary information to
the public about the agreement for two months, so an
accusation that it is secret from the people affected
by it is baseless.
people, including myself, have worked on resolving this
land dispute for a long time and I am aware that we
are motivated by kindness to end the suffering of our
people," Denetsosie said. "Thank you for thanking
us, caller. We are not thanked much, so thank you. I
agree with you that we should leave the past behind
and move on by approving this agreement. I urge the
Dine to receive the compact favorably and support approval
of the compact by the Navajo Nation Council."
Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)