indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
McCain prods tribes, government on tribal land dispute
Friday, July 22, 2005

Indianz.Com Listening Lounge, Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Navajo-Hopi land settlement. July 21, 2005
Note: All files in MP3 format.
Introduction - 7:22 - 1.26MB
Panel I - 17:45 - 3.04MB
Panel II - 31:07 - 5.34MB | Q&A - 16:15 - 2.79MB
After spending $483 million over the last 30 years, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) on Thursday called on the relocation of Navajo and Hopi families to come to an end.

McCain said the program was only supposed to cost $40 million and take several years. Instead, the process has dragged on for decades with no apparent end in sight, he said.

"It's gonna be over, it's gonna to be over, it's gonna be over," the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee said at the onset of a hearing in Washington. "It's time it ended. It's time that we brought to a conclusion this tragedy that has afflicted human beings on the Navajo and Hopi reservations for too long."

Representatives of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe agreed that relocation has caused suffering and numerous problems. They said hundreds of families have been uprooted from their homes as a result of a long-running dispute over the ownership of lands within the two reservations.

Disagreements, however, came on whether the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission should be given more time to complete its duties and whether the tribes should be allowed to work out any remaining differences. These concerns were closely linked to the separate but related issue of the "Bennett Freeze," a Bureau of Indian Affairs policy from 1966 that limits Navajo Nation development on disputed lands.

Joe Shirley Jr., the president of the Navajo Nation, charged that his tribe has shouldered the brunt of the dispute. He said the Navajos opposed the legislation that created the program and actively sought its repeal.

"Had the Navajo Nation been successful [in those efforts], the Navajo people would have been spared tremendous harm and the federal government would have been spared a great expense," he testified. "That said, now that the Navajo people have had to live through the nightmare of relocation, we do not think federal budgetary issues alone should be a basis to limiting the program." Two other Navajo witnesses provided testimony along similar lines.

Wayne Taylor Jr., the chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said that ending the program before the relocation is completed would hurt his tribe, which has a much smaller land base than the Navajo Nation. Although fewer Hopi families have been moved, he said the tribe has lost 40 percent of its original reservation.

"Hopi people years ago moved off disputed Navajo lands," he told the committee. "However, more than 30 years [later] we are still waiting for the Navajo to move off Hopi land."

Ending the relocation would "reward" those Navajos who have refused to move or recognize the Hopi's rights, he added. Taylor was the only Hopi on the witness list.

Two federal witnesses said they wanted to see the relocation end. They had some concerns about specific provisions in the bill McCain introduced, and urged him to give the tribes more breathing room, particularly in their efforts to resolve the Bennett Freeze.

Christopher Bavasi, the executive director of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, was confident the program could be completed by September 30, 2008, the date specified in the bill.

Pat Ragsdale, the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the agency supports the legislation if it forces the government to complete its job.

Before, after and during the testimony, McCain was adamant about ending the matter. "Maybe the lesson is you shouldn't try to settle land dispute through legislation," he said of the 1974 bill that led to the current situation.

"There is a limited amount of taxpayer dollars that could be devoted to worthy causes on both the Navajo and Hopi reservations -- educational facilities, health care facilities, housing, many others," he added.

McCain said he would introduce a separate bill to address the Bennett Freeze. He appeared to be encouraged that the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation have reached a compact to end the Bennett Freeze. The Hopi Tribe's council has already ratified the deal while the Navajo Nation Council still has to consider it.

While the 1974 legislation was at issue yesterday, the dispute dates back to the late 1800s, when the federal government established reservations for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.

The Navajo Reservation covers 18 million in three states. It was established after Navajo leaders and the U.S. signed the Treaty of 1868.

The Hopi Reservation was established by executive order in 1882. The original size was 2.4 million acres but the land base now stands at 1.6 million acres and is completely surrounded on all sides by the Navajo Reservation.

The Hopis lost land because the courts later ruled that the executive order allowed "other Indians" to live on the Hopi Reservation. By that time, the Hopis had been confined to 600,000 acres of the original reservation. The remaining areas were deemed "joint use" by the tribes.

After more litigation and battles, the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement of 1974 authorized the partitioning of the joint use area. The Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation were each restored lands, and the relocation program was created to move Navajo families off Hopi lands and vice versa.

Since then, an estimated 11,000 Navajo and Hopi tribal members have been moved. Hundreds more families -- mostly Navajos -- haven't relocated, either due to lack of money, failure to seek relocation or outright resistance.

No family is forced to move under the program or under a subsequent agreement involving Navajo families who still live on the northern part of the Hopi Reservation. However, some Navajo families refuse to recognize the Hopi Tribe's jurisdiction and won't sign leases that allow them to stay for 75 years.

McCain introduced his settlement bill on May 21. A companion bill has not been introduced in the House.

Get the Bill:
Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 (S.1003)

Relevant Documents:
Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on S. 1003, Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 (July 20, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Hopi Tribe - http://www.hopi.nsn.us
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Navajo family support site - http://www.blackmesais.org

Related Stories:
Senate hearing on Navajo-Hopi land settlement bill (7/21)
Navajos oppose McCain bill on Navajo-Hopi settlement (7/15)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Activists take annual swim to Alcatraz Island (10/21)
Chelsey Luger & Gyasi Ross: From slow suicide to slow healing (10/21)
Column: Billy Mills still inspires 50 years after Olympic victory (10/21)
Suquamish Tribe shares fish from hatchery at annual giveaway (10/21)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe considers casino on ancestral Ohio site (10/21)
Town meeting for Lac Vieux Desert Band off-reservation casino (10/21)
Tohono O'odham Nation was looking for off-reservation casino (10/21)
Tim Giago: Deaths of Native men in Rapid City remain unsolved (10/20)
Charles 'Chuck' Trimble: Let Crazy Horse's spirit rest in peace (10/20)
Mark Trahant: Races come down to turnout in three key states (10/20)
Native Sun News: Billy Mills wows youth at Black Hills Powwow (10/20)
Cedric Sunray: Tribes abandon traditional aspects of inclusion (10/20)
Dustina Gill: Vote for Rick Weiland to protect our sacred waters (10/20)
Ousted Project Runway contestant reaffirms Puyallup heritage (10/20)
White House Tribal Nations Conference takes place December 3 (10/20)
Bryan Brewer: Park helps Oglala Sioux Tribe protect its culture (10/20)
Robert Porter: Don't let tribal issues fall prey to partisan politics (10/20)
Gabe Galanda: Abramoff's playbook still used in Indian Country (10/20)
Jay Daniels: Let BIA make changes to rights-of-way regulation (10/20)
Mike McBride: Sovereign goodwill at a low in tribal tax dispute (10/20)
Top Navajo Nation court holds hearing in presidential dispute (10/20)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to open resort at ancestral site in Ohio (10/20)
Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas selects Lester Randall as new leader (10/20)
Editorial: Address safety concerns about tribal hunts at night (10/20)
Chukchansi Tribe sends layoff notices to most casino workers (10/20)
Rivals raise nearly $16M to block North Fork Rancheria casino (10/20)
Judge won't let BIA proceed with compact for Pojoaque Pueblo (10/20)
Candidates discuss Menominee Nation's off-reservation casino (10/20)
Opinion: Suckers help Chumash Tribe finance casino expansion (10/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe buckles to pressure on park (10/17)
Mark Trahant: Native vote could tip races in Idaho and Colorado (10/17)
Crystal Willcuts: Remembering the beauty that was my mother (10/17)
Blackfeet actress Misty Upham found dead after going missing (10/17)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation sues city over detachment petition (10/17)
Opinion: Politicians relying on Native voters in a close election (10/17)
Poarch Creeks donate another $500K to Democratic candidate (10/17)
Montana to transfer bison from Yellowstone to Fort Peck Tribes (10/17)
Opinion: Listen to Native Americans who oppose racist mascots (10/17)
Charges possible in dispute at Chukchansi Tribe's closed casino (10/17)
Oglala Sioux Tribe might open third casino under new compact (10/17)
Women dominate workforce at Northern Arapaho Tribe's casino (10/17)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.