settlement in sight
Navajo, Hopi negotiating teams reach agreement on language
in the proposed compact
Kathy Helms and John Cristian Hopkins
ROCK — Since 1958, the Navajo and Hopi tribes have been
involved in litigation over various aspects of the Navajo-Hopi
land dispute. A proposed intergovernmental compact would
settle a lawsuit authorized by Congress in 1974.
the lawsuit known as "the 1934 Reservation Litigation,"
the Hopi Tribe asserts that millions of acres of Navajo
land are Hopi shrines or religious use areas and should
be awarded to the Hopi. It also argues that Navajo families
living in those areas should be relocated.
the last four years, Navajo and Hopi negotiating teams
working through a mediator have reached agreement on
language in the proposed compact which would put an
end to the 1934 litigation. The compact must be approved
by both tribal councils and then signed off on by U.S.
District Court Judge Earl Carroll and the Secretary
of the Interior.
to a Legislative Summary Sheet presented to Public Safety
Committee by Delegate Duane Tsiniginie (Bodaway-Gap/Cameron/Coppermine),
the compact would put "an immediate end" to
the 1934 litigation and the Bennett Freeze.
Raymond Maxx, a member of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,
asked the Transportation and Community Development Committee
to approve the proposed pact. All sides have "a
perfect desire to resolve the Navajo-Hopi land dispute,"
Navajos will be relocated when the Bennett Freeze is
lifted, said Navajo Attorney General Louis Denetsosie.
all, 20 of the 110 Navajo chapters are at least partially
affected by the freeze; they range from Mexican Hat
to Leupp, Denetsosie said.
the compact there will be no fences and no Navajos are
moved," Maxx said. "We will get together as
member Edward V. Jim Sr. wasn't sure if the council
should be talking about this pact.
Hopi are stubborn people," Jim said. Instead of
the Navajo agreeing to Hopi settlement, it should be
the reverse, he said.
the pros of the compact highlighted in the summary:
Cons of the proposed compact:
Hopi Tribe would not receive any Navajo land other
than the area in and around Moenkopi already awarded
by the courts, and any risk that Navajo families might
be forced to relocate from 1934 Reservation lands
would be eliminated;
would not be any additional lawsuit about money claims
relating to the 1934 Reservation;
people will be free to go onto Hopi land (District
6, Hopi Partitioned Land, and the Moenkopi area) without
a permit for traditional Navajo religious practices,
including the taking of materials needed for traditional
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will conduct an ongoing
study of golden eagles on and around Navajo and Hopi
land, and the number of eaglets the Hopis may take
from Navajo land and elsewhere will be controlled
by the federal government based upon the results of
that scientific study. Presently, there is no scientific
evidence to govern Hopi gathering practices.
Hopi people will be allowed to come onto Navajoland
without a permit for traditional Hopi religious practices,
including the taking of eaglets for religious purposes;
Navajo Nation may not allow new construction near
certain specific active eagle nests on Navajoland,
none of which are located near current Navajo structures.
The compact also makes provisions for a joint committee
of Navajo and Hopi biologists to investigate ways
to protect the golden eagle population on lands controlled
by both tribes for the benefit of future generations.
disputes under the compact will be resolved by communication
between Navajo and Hopi leaders, or by arbitration if
necessary, but such disputes will not be decided by
federal or state courts.
to Article 7 of the compact, all funds held by the Department
of Interior and/or the Bureau of Indian Affairs as payment
by third parties for easements, rights-of-way, or other
interests within the area known as the Bennett Freeze,
from July 8, 1966, to the effective date, will be distributed
in equal shares to the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.
compact also states in Article 7 that restrictions on
development contained in 25 USC, Sections 640d-9(f),
commonly known as the Bennett Freeze, "are of no
further force and effect," and directs that confidential
exhibits A, C and D are to be filed under seal.