Freeze amendment opposed

McCain's legislation to on Navajo, Hopi Land Settlement resistedBy

Kathy Helms
Staff Writer
Diné Bureau

WINDOW ROCK The Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Navajo Nation Council backed legislation Monday sponsored by Delegate Hope MacDonald-LoneTree opposing the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 sponsored by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The Navajo Nation is urging Congress to establish a blue ribbon panel to study and review the negative effects of relocation and the Bennett Freeze upon the Navajo people, the long-term costs of the relocation policy, and to provide the resources necessary to properly resettle the Navajo people and address the negative impacts of the Bennett Freeze.

The Nation also is asking Congress to allow relocatees and other affected Navajos to testify regarding "failure of the relocation law" and specific problems which would be encountered by the Navajo Nation and its people as a result of passage of McCain's legislation, Senate Bill 1003.

MacDonald-LoneTree (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi chapters) told IGR members that Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission have already taken a position of opposition against Sen. McCain's bill.

"That has already gone through the Senate, it has been heard before the House, and this document will be the official position of Navajo that we oppose that bill," she said.

"Sen. McCain's trying to close the office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation (in Flagstaff) and seize the funding that would be allowed to benefit those people who were affected by the relocation act," MacDonald-LoneTree said.

Chilchinbeto/Kayenta Delegate Roy Laughter responded, "I know this is a very controversial issue. I wish there was some specifics on Senate Bill 1003. I know for people this has been long, drawn-out, and the government, Sen. McCain and other senators say they have spent millions of dollars and it's not going forth.

"What areas of that Senate bill are we totally in opposition to? Is there something we can work with? Are there areas that we can mediate on and say, 'this is what is in our best interest to our people'?"

Laughter said he was concerned about saying the Navajo Nation is in opposition to the entire bill.

"I know from working with the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office some years back, a lot of our people are saying, 'No, we're not going to settle.' But every time we have proposals before us, nobody wants to settle. It seems they just want to draw it out,"he said.

"I think in 1975 or 1980, the settlement agreement only had 15 families. Now those families have multiplied, and now one of the things is they want all of the offspring to be compensated and get new housing.

"So, I just want to know why and how we settle this and maybe one day end this land dispute," Laughter said.

MacDonald-Lonetree told him, "Sen. McCain's bill, S. 1003, is proposing to close the office of relocation and shut down the benefits. That includes all of the funding that was available to that office.

"Sen. McCain is complaining that millions of dollars have been spent on this. Yet the families and the residents of those areas know that that money was not spent on them, but it was spent on the bureaucracy of much of the office and the law.

"That's why the Navajo Nation, through the land commission and the president, are opposing Senate Bill 1003, because all of those benefits have not yet been afforded to the people who are remaining or need those benefits out in the communities.

"That's why the president testified before the House Resource Committee opposing it, as well as the land commission," MacDonald-LoneTree told him.

Laughter said the topic could lead to further discussion. "I guess Navajo, we've been dragging this out long enough. I don't think our families, no one will be satisfied with closing the office. So specifically, what areas are we totally in opposition to and what areas can we live with?

"That was my question, but other than that, I can probably study more on it," he said.

IGR approved the policy statement opposing McCain's bill, 7-0.

Hopi Tribal Chairman Ivan Sidney has said the Hopi Tribe would like to see an end to the land dispute and that the tribe is in favor of McCain's legislation.


originally found at the Gallup Independent July 26. 2006


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.