10/5/2011 Hopi, Navajo discuss water contamination By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: KYKOTSMOVI – Navajos living on Hopi Partitioned Land who signed the 75-year Accommodation Agreement met recently with Hopi tribal officials, members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to discuss contaminated water issues and the need for windmill repairs on HPL. In response to water contamination, the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management capped several water wells and fenced off windmills as a public safety measure, including some used by trespassing Navajos who have not signed the agreements to reside on HPL, Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for the Hopi Tribe, said.
“The safety of anyone on Hopi land, not just Navajo and Hopi people, is of utmost importance to us,” Clayton Honyumptewa, director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources, said. “The capping of water wells on the HPL was due to the fact that they were contaminated with uranium and arsenic, an obvious threat to anyone who was to drink it.”
Honyumptewa said Hopi’s windmill crew will actively work to repair broken or malfunctioning windmills on HPL. “We continue to work in keeping the lands, water wells and windmills as originally intended and urge those whose lands are being infringed upon to notify us of any wrongdoings and repairs needed.”
Navajo families who signed the Accommodation Agreement legally reside on HPL with grazing permits recognized by the Hopi Tribe.
“Many of the issues they’re having on not only HPL, but the Navajo Partitioned Lands, are because Navajos who have not signed the Accommodation Agreement are illegally trespassing, cutting fences and bringing in their own livestock in the middle of the night,” Hopi Tribal Councilman Cedric Kuwaninvaya said.
“One would expect this to be a problem of Navajos against the Hopi, but it’s not; it’s Navajos against Navajos,” he said.
Kuwaninvaya of Sipaulovi, chairman of the Hopi Land Team, attended the HPL meeting and asked whether there were any delegates from the Navajo Nation present. There were none.
“Only one representative from the Navajo grazing committee from the area was present and no one representing the Navajo Nation Council. I would have liked to have seen one of their representatives, as we have issues on both the HPL and NPL sides that we need to address as tribal governments,” he said.
Raymond Maxx, executive director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, was a participant in the HPL meeting.
“A lot of these issues have been ongoing for decades. It’s probably going to take some federal action to resolve them. It’s just a matter of getting the two tribes to find a solution and then getting that addressed at the national level,” he said.
Navajos who did not sign the Accommodation Agreement are regarded as resisters and are not recognized by Hopi as officials residents, Maxx said.
“Even if the resisters wanted to come back now and sign an Accommodation Agreement, “according to the law and the cutoff date, it’s too late for them,” he said. “That’s one example of going back to Congress to get language amended to where they are allowed to get those signed. But some people, just out of principal, they don’t want to sign the document.”
The U.S. Congress partitioned the disputed 1882 Executive Order Hopi Reservation in a 1974 Congressional Act and gave parcels to both tribes, which resulting in the forced relocation of both Hopi and Navajo families.
According to Hopi, initially there were 128 Navajo families who signed the Accommodation Agreement leases in March 1997. Since then, a majority have voluntarily relocated. Upon final approval by the federal government, 80 leases officially were approved.
The Accommodation Agreement gave the families three years after March 31, 1997, to decide whether to take their relocation benefits and move off HPL. At the end of March 31, 2000, there were 103 Navajo individuals who had accepted their relocation benefits, relinquished their leases and voluntarily relocated. There are now 49 leases in place and seven resister home sites with 22 Navajo individuals residing at those.
Maxx said the group wants to continue discussion of the issues that were brought up. After holding several work sessions to bring new members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission up to date, they would like to sit down with members of the Hopi Tribal Council and representatives from both tribes present, he said.
“We’re starting to have good relationships, and a lot of these hard feelings are starting to taper off. It’s good for the people. They get caught up between political and governmental politics,” he said.