Tag Archives: James W. Zion

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: NEW HAVEN, Conn.: Forget every stereotype you ever had about Yale University. Especially the “Yale man.” “Tall, white, muscular, and wearing a cardigan vest,” grinned Christian Brown, ticking off the attributes he associated with Yale students – before he became one. Actually, aside from being a different color, Brown is not too far off the mark. He is medium height and broad-shouldered, and last Saturday, he happened to be wearing a sweater vest. But it was a special occasion. He and the other Diné students at Yale were assigned to take the visiting Navajo Nation Supreme Court justices out to dinner at one of the best restaurants in New Haven – on the university’s tab.

“Not something that would happen at your typical state university,” declared the dapper freshman, who is Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan), born for bilagaana.

Dinée Dorame, Tabaaha (Edge Water Clan), born for Naakaii Diné’e (Mexican People Clan), was sporting a Yale T-shirt and shorts. She had just come from working out at one of the campus’s many gyms, having blown off a club basketball game in favor of meeting the justices.

“Yeah, I’m a jock,” she confessed. “You can be a jock at Yale, too.”

Right at home

Far from their hometowns of Phoenix and Albuquerque, and two of only six Navajo students at Yale, you might expect the two freshmen to be at least a little freaked out. But they seem right at home. And they are interrupting each other in their zeal to sing the praises of their new alma mater.

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Rehab fund spending report released

Rehab fund spending report released Report details how money intended for victims of the Bennett Freeze, in the Navajo-Hopi land dispute, was spent. 9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Rehab fund spending report release By Noel Lyn Smith: WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice has finally produced a draft summary of the accounting record for the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund. Nine months after being ordered to do so, DOJ submitted the document during a Sept. 21 hearing for the lawsuit filed by the Forgotten People and 12 other individuals who are suing the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission to learn how money has been spent from the fund, which was established by Congress to benefit residents of the former Bennett Freeze and Hopi Partitioned Land.

As their name suggests, the Forgotten People contend that the assistance their region was promised in the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute settlement has failed to materialize, and they suspect the money may have been misspent.

Henry Howe, a DOJ attorney representing the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, submitted an eight-page report that shows trust fund expenditures from 1990 to 2009 that went toward projects on the former Bennett Freeze area, New Lands, Navajo Partitioned Land and Hopi Partitioned Land.

The report also shows amounts Congress appropriated for land purchases and federal appropriation amounts from 1990 to 1995.

“This information provided to plaintiffs demonstrates good faith on behalf of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office,” Howe said, speaking before a courtroom packed with spectators.

When plaintiffs filed their civil complaint in 2010, they asked for a full account of all income, expenses, profits, losses, assets and other financial matters for which the tribe, the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office have responsibility.

Window Rock District Court Judge T.J. Holgate asked Howe why it took months to produce the report after the court issued an order in January.

Howe explained that it took time to locate accounting documents and it was especially difficult for the office to locate the first five years of records.

Sitting with Howe were Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Chair Lorenzo Curley (Houck/Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Tsé si’án’/Wide Ruins) and Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office Director Raymond Maxx and Deputy Director Thomas Benally.

James Zion, attorney for the Forgotten People, asked Holgate for time to examine the record since it was handed to him shortly before the hearing started.

Holgate granted Zion 30 days to review the document and to submit any written responses or questions.

The judge also ordered both parties to continue discussing the issue before the next hearing date in January.

In an impromptu meeting at Veterans Memorial Park after the hearing, Zion told the group that this was just a start.

“Today we had a victory for the Forgotten People,” Zion said to the group of about 30 people.

This document is a start in addressing the issue of when the money was received, how much was received and how it was spent, he said.

Forgotten People member Grace Smith Yellowhammer said it took a long time to obtain this financial record but the group will continue fighting until the issue is completely resolved.

“I want to see these elders win,” she said.

9/23/2011 Gallup Independent: Forgotten People gets first list of expenditures in accounting suit

Show me the money Glenna Begay (left), Leta O’Daniel and Lena Nez traveled to Window Rock Wednesday for a district court hearing on Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies. 9/23/2011 Gallup Independent: Forgotten People gets first list of expenditures in accounting suit By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The grassroots group Forgotten People took the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission to court Wednesday and compelled the disclosure of how federal trust fund monies were spent.

In response to an accounting lawsuit filed in August 2010 by their attorney, James W. Zion of Albuquerque, Navajo Nation Assistant Attorney General Henry Howe turned over eight pages of information pertaining to how the Land Commission spent Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies designed to help Navajos displaced by the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

The trust fund was established by Congress in 1974 for improvement of the economic, educational and social condition of families and Navajo communities affected by the division of the former Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area.

Approximately 30 members of the Forgotten People, most of them elderly, traveled three hours or more from Western Navajo Agency to Window Rock District Court for the hearing before Judge T.J. Holgate.

Howe said the case involved hundreds of projects between 1990 and 2009, and that record-keeping was not very good in the early years of 1990-95. A draft summary showed expenditures amounted to $16.8 million and included $14,500 to a Navajo Nation Council delegate whose home had burned.

“They bought him a new house, and I’m going to ask why did that Council delegate get that house,” Zion said. “Why did he get a house when people on waiting lists didn’t get houses?” Howe asked the judge about the confidentiality of that information, however, Holgate said that as long as they were within the bounds of the law, he didn’t mind the discussion.

The judge also was firm about setting some time parameters for the attorneys due to a previous lack of dialog on the part of the Navajo Nation. Howe said the parties had not met because he had just been given the information. “We have given a draft summary of receipts for Mr. Zion to share with his clients and we believe this demonstrates more than a good-faith effort on the part of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,” he said.

Howe also offered to have all documents together by November, and to make a presentation between December and April to all chapters impacted by the trust fund.

Holgate gave the attorneys from October to December to exchange information and said he will set another hearing for January. The attorneys are to present a joint report to the judge 10 days prior to the hearing outlining what they have done.

The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission was represented at the hearing by Raymond Maxx, executive director; Lorenzo Curley, chairman; and Thomas Benally.

“The people that were here, they’re the very reason why we’re here ourselves,” Maxx said. “We serve them and they need to be more comfortable on how we handle and do things.” It takes a lot of personnel time to account for numbers, he said, and having Administration Building 1, which houses the financial section, closed due to black mold, has not helped.

“We rely on the Division of Finance for some of our numbers. When we ask for information, it takes a long time and sometimes they’re not the same, depending on who you talk to; so I hope the Nation really takes a look at funding our Finance Department adequately to where we’re accountable.”

Curley said that when he became a commission member in 2005, they were already buying property for the purpose of commerce. Back in the early 1980s, the Navajo Nation was looking at Paragon Ranch as a source of coal, and a decision was made to go after that property using Relocation funds to acquire it. Subsequently, the Nation abandoned that plan.

“Now we have thousands of acres over there, we can’t really use it for anything. My view is we’ve got to salvage this situation in some way. One of the ways that we’re looking at is to use the property for solar. There has been some talk about coal gasification and some investors have been talking with the officials about that, but we haven’t seen anything develop from that yet,” he said.

At a meeting with the Forgotten People at Veterans Park following the hearing, Zion elaborated on the court’s action.

“When Congress told the Navajo Tribe that it could take out so much land in New Mexico and so much land in Arizona, there’s a thing in there that says that any time the Navajo Nation gets that land, it is to be used for the benefit of Navajos who have not yet been relocated. What that means is Rena Babbitt Lane (who lives on HPL) owns the Twin Arrows Casino!” Zion said.

Regarding Paragon Ranch near Farmington, he said some of the relocatees went to look at the land and talked about getting homes there, but “what really happened was the Navajo Nation picked that land because of the coal, and they were going to make a whole bunch of money selling coal to the power plant.”

Congress, when it authorized $10 million a year for six years to help the Navajos that were affected by the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, also stipulated that the Navajo Nation had to repay that money to the United States, Zion said.

“The Congress of the United States created these two trusts. The Secretary of the Interior is responsible to oversee the trust. Where is the oversight? You’ve got another situation exactly like the Cobell case, and I’m wondering if the United States is not looking over the Navajo Nation’s shoulder to make sure you folks are treated right in all this,” he said.

Vice President Rex Lee Jim joined the Forgotten People as they sat under the trees near the statue of the Navajo Code Talker and was immediately bombarded with questions and concerns. He extended an invitation to the people to be open and honest, and to meet with him so they can work together on issues such as health, housing and water.

Edith Holmes, a U.S. military veteran from Tuba City, told Jim, “We’ve made the sacrifices. The people need to have their needs addressed. Now we hear that a casino is being built and they’re going to get the necessary amenities – infrastructure like running water and things like that – and we don’t get nothing.” When her home burned she came to Window Rock for assistance, she said. “We just get the run-around.”

Leta O’Daniel, who lives on Hopi Partitioned Land at Big Mountain, asked for Jim’s help. “All the roads to the windmills where the waters are, are all washed out,” she said. “We can’t go get water, we can’t get things we need to keep our lives moving forward, so I’m here to plead on behalf of my people. There’s many needs that need to be addressed on HPL.”

Norris Nez, a medicine man whose family once had a farm plot in Sand Springs before they were fenced off from the water sources by Hopi, said there are many other issues besides the land dispute that are affecting the people. “Water is being given away … Why aren’t you protecting those resources that are vital for the life of the people?

“The people hear a recurring theme – ‘No money,’” he said. “Because of that and problems with leadership, it feels like the lights are dimming and going out on us on the west end.”

Grace Smith Yellowhammer of Teesto said many of the youth have been made homeless by Relocation, and have turned to drugs and alcohol while living in border towns. She pleaded with Jim to make a difference. “Please, take care of our youth. One day they’re going to be like us. We don’t want them to come over here and start begging.”

8/21/2011 Att'y letter to UN CERD & Right to Water and Free Assembly

James Zion Letter to Patrick Thorn Berry UN CERD Committee Member“>JAMES W. ZION, Attorney at Law, Admitted in the Navajo Nation, Connecticut and the United States Supreme Court, 3808 Ladera Drive N.W., Albuquerque, NM 87120, (505) 839-9549, August 21,2011 TO: Professor Patrick Thornberry CMG, Professor of International Law, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, UNITED KINGDOM ST5 5BG

Re: Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Issues and CERD: Dear Professor Thornberry: I was privileged to be in the audience on 22 February 2008 when you had a closing discussion with the United States Mission to the United Nations on the U.S. periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You specifically asked that the United States mention the status of Big Mountain and Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute issues in its next periodic report to CERD. It is due on 20 November of this year.

I am the attorney for The Forgotten People, a non-governmental organization that serves the Navajo survivors of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, including individuals who still live on Hopi lands on Black Mesa. One of the issues they face is getting potable water, and it must be hauled to homes by truck. The dirt roads in the area are poor and require frequent maintenance. The Forgotten People has projects with attempts to obtain funding and logistical support so it can get water carried to people in affected areas in the western part of the Navajo Nation. That includes those who live in areas where the ground water is contaminated with uranium waste from mining and remote communities of Navajos without water who are ignored by both the Navajo and the Hopi tribes.

The specific problem I write about is that The Forgotten People announced a meeting to be held at the residence of Pauline White singer at Big Mountain within the area partitioned to the Hopi Tribe on Monday, August 22, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. to “discuss a request for safe drinking water delivery and impassable dirt road repair.” The purpose of the meeting is to ask for assistance from the Navajo and Hopi tribes to get water hauled to homes at Big Mountain and to get the roads in and out of the area graded.

The news of the meeting came to the attention of Mr. LeRoy N. Shingoitewa, the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, and on August 19, 2011 he wrote to Marsha Monestersky and Ed Becenti of The Forgotten People to inform them, among other things, that “the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations.” He added that Ms. Monestersky is the subject of an order excluding her from the Hopi Reservation (because of her advocacy for Navajo rights). He also noted that one had requested a permit to hold a meeting, when permits are not required by Hopi law and are prohibited by the Indian Civil Rights Act.

We have a situation where the chief executive of the Hopi Tribe, on learning of a meeting to discuss access to water as a human right and to petition for road repairs, has prohibited the meeting in violation of freedom of speech and assembly and the right to petition government provisions of the federal Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

I have been asked to bring this situation to your attention and to additionally advise that there are recurring problems of violations of the rights of the refugees of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

They include a Navajo-Hopi compact that violates individual rights and a situation whereby monies and resources held in trust by the Navajo Nation for the benefit of survivors of the Navajo-Hopi land dispute are unaccounted for and likely wasted. I will bring those matters to your attention and that of CERD as the time for the filing of the next United States CERD periodic report approaches.

I therefore bring these facts to your attention so that you will know that your February 2008 request for new information was prescient in its assessment of emerging events.

Your attention to these matters and communication to the full Committee will be appreciated. A copy of the August 19, 2011 letter signed for Chairman Shingoitewa is enclosed.

Sincerely,
James W. Zion

TEXT OF HOPI TRIBE’S LETTER TO MS. MARSHA MONESTERSKY AND MR. ED BECENTI

LeRoy N. Shingoitewa
Chairman HOPI TRIBE
August 19, 2011
Herman G. Honanie
Vice Chairman

Ms. Marsha Monestersky, Program Director
Mr. Ed Becenti
The Forgotten People
Tuba City, Arizona 86045

Dear Ms. Monestersky & Mr. Ed Becenti:

It has come to my attention and the attention of the Hopi Tribal Council that you intend to hold a meeting for the HPL Navajo families on Monday, August 22, 2011, to “discuss a request for safe drinking water delivery and impassable dirt road repair,” as quoted directly from your press release. As we understand your press release, the meeting will take place on HPL, at Pauline Whitesinger’s residence in Big Mountain and will be led by Ms. Marsha Monestersky, Program Director of the Forgotten People. You have requested Hopi Tribal officials participation, as well as other directors and executive officers from the Navajo and Hopi Nations.

At this time, the Hopi Tribe will not be supporting or attending the meeting. To begin, the issues being raised – water and transportation issues – are Government-to-Government issues. Thus, a request for this type ofmeeting must come from the Navajo Nation, not the “Forgotten People.” Additionally, you should be advised that no one has requested a permit from the Hopi Nation to hold this event. As such, the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations. Finally, there is a valid and binding exclusion order for Ms. Monestersky. Thus, Ms. Monestersky is not welcome on Hopi land. Her attendance would clearly violate her exclusion order, which is currently in force.

I hope the above clarifies the Hopi Tribe’s position and we respectfully request that you abide by all Hopi rules, regulation and orders. If you have any questions regarding the Hopi Tribe’s response, please contact Mr. Clayton Honyumptewa, Director, Department of Natural Resources at (928) 734-3641 or my office at (928) 734-3100.

Sincerely,
LeRoy N. Shingoitewa, Chairman
The Hopi Tribe
P.O. BOX 123 KYKOTSMOVI. AZ.. 86039
(928) 734-3000

Ltr. to Monestersky & Becenti
RE: Hopi Tribal Resp.
08119/11

xc. Vice Chairman Honanie
Clayton Honyumptewa, DNR
Robert Lyttle, Interim Gen. Counsel
Norberto Cisneros, Asst. Gen. Counsel
Hon. President Ben Shelley NN
Raymond Maxx, NHLCO, NN