Accord reached for sacred Hopi sites on Navajo land
Nov. 04, 2006
PHOENIX (AP) -- After a bitter 40-year dispute, leaders
of the Navajo and Hopi tribes sat together Friday and
signed an agreement that allowed development on 700,000
acres of land that both claim as their own.
Hopis and Navajos have not always seen eye to eye,"
Hopi Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma said at the signing
ceremony. "But we are neighbors, and neighbors
need to be friends."
The two tribes,
which about each other in Arizona's northeastern corner,
have fought over land most of the last century. In 1966,
the federal government imposed a ban on any development
on the so-called Bennett Freeze Area as the tribes worked
out their differences.
As a result,
thousands of Navajos were without running water, electricity
or modern appliances for decades.
day we wait, our people suffer," said Navajo Nation
President Joe Shirley Jr. "I'd like to see hospitals,
schools, paved roads. It's about time."
A crowd of
more than 100 Hopis and Navajos crowded the Heard Museum
as tribal leaders and Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne
signed the land agreement.
In a corner
of the room, 93-year-old Lena Goldtooth-Canyon sat in
a wheelchair, dressed in red print dress and turquoise,
and clapped with her family. She'd driven down from
Tuba City to see the historic ceremony.
too long we've lived in poverty," Goldtooth-Canyon
said in her native Navajo.
who spoke through an interpreter, said she'd like to
see more economic development in the area "so we
can have electricity."
in the disputed area, Goldtooth-Canyon wasn't able to
fix her hogan. She was once cited for throwing dirt
on the roof after a monsoon storm.
Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., and Clayton Honyumptewa, director
of the Hopis' land office, said the settlement calls
for an arbitration board to be set up to resolve disputes,
a $50 million escrow account to be divided by the two
tribes, creation of designated buffers where no Navajo
development would be permitted and a five-year study
of eagles in the area.
an especially sensitive matter for Hopi religious leaders
and their highly secretive ceremonial societies. They
gather the birds for ceremonies over a wide swathe,
primarily between Flagstaff and the tribe's three mesas.
said the arbitration board will deal with problems that
arise if Hopis are denied access to their religious
sites. It will be made up of equal numbers of members
from the two tribes and will be overseen by an arbitrator
with no affiliation with either tribe.
reside on the nation's largest reservation, the majority
of which is in northeastern Arizona. It surrounds Hopi
land is just as spiritual to us as the mesa tops where
we live," said former Hopi Chairman Ferrell Secakuku.
"It's a milestone to negotiate this to an end in
a peaceful manner. We both have to co-exist here, and
this shows that one tribe can't dominate anymore."
Tribal Council had approved the settlement measure in
September 2004, but it took the Navajo Nation Council
two years to finally sign off on it because of intense
opposition in the western part of the Navajo Reservation
over questions about development.
Nation Council voted 75-3 to approve the agreement in