Tag Archives: Raymond Maxx

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times. WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission reports that it has nearly $4 million available to start helping Navajo families in the former Bennett Freeze area. “This is the latest funding for the recovery of the area,” the NHLC office stated in a recent report to the Navajo Nation Council. The money is from an escrow account. For 30 years, 1966 to 1996, Navajo families in the Bennett Freeze area were prohibited from making improvements to their homes because of federal restrictions put in place at the behest of the Hopi Tribe, which claimed prior rights to the land.

Meanwhile, land-use payments were held in escrow. In 2010, following a federal settlement lifting the Freeze, some $6.3 million was released to the Navajo Nation to benefit Navajos still residing there.

The land commission hasn’t yet approved the allocation of these funds, prompting the emergence of The Forgotten People, a grassroots group formed to demand an accounting of money spent and to push for needed improvements to the area.

The report to the Council said some $3.9 million of that $6 million has now been allocated to improve or replace dilapidated homes.

The commission also reported that lease fees from the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which is building the Twin Arrows Resort Casino on land acquired under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute agreement, are beginning to roll in.

Commission officials said the land had been purchased for about $7 million with the commission and the casino paying half of the cost. The land was then taken into ownership by the commission and the casino agreed to make annual payments to the commission for use of the land.

The first payment of $375,000 was made in June, said Raymond Maxx, director of the NHLC office.

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.”

9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues

Rose Chewing Lane from Boadaway/Gap drank water from eight of these 55-gallon barrels for several years9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Hopi Tribe will meet next week to discuss water issues brought up by Navajos residing on Hopi Partitioned Land who refused to leave their homes after Congress partitioned the disputed lands in 1974 and forced the relocation of Navajo and Hopi families. In April, after two years of efforts by the grassroots group Forgotten People, U.S. and Navajo agencies, the first load of safe drinking water was delivered to residents in the Black Falls/Box Springs/Grand Falls area near Leupp who were drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water. The group hopes to replicate that success for residents of HPL and the former Bennett Freeze.

On Aug. 22, Forgotten People planned to conduct a meeting of HPL residents at the Big Mountain home of elderly matriarch Pauline Whitesinger to discuss the possibility of implementing the water-hauling pilot project in their area.

Marsha Monestersky, Forgotten People program director, and Ed Becenti, Window Rock liaison, asked Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other Navajo officials to attend, as well as officials from the Hopi Tribe. But that meeting went belly-up after Hopi informed Navajo that a permit was required and that Monestersky has an exclusion order against her.

“At this time, the Hopi Tribe will not be supporting or attending the meeting,” according to a letter from Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa. “To begin, the issues being raised – water and transportation issues – are Government-to-Government issues. Thus, a request for this type of meeting must come from the Navajo Nation, not the ‘Forgotten People.’”

Shingoitewa said since no one had requested a permit to hold the event, 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,” he said.

Monestersky, a paralegal, first came to the area in 1975 to assist Navajo HPL residents with relocation issues and taking their case before the United Nations. Those efforts resulted in the first investigation against the United States by the United Nations for human rights violations. Monestersky said she was charged by Hopi with the unauthorized practice of law, accused of being present on HPL on several occasions without a permit, and for writing a $35 check that bounced, making her of “unfit moral character.”

She wrote the check off-reservation to buy an electric heater at Walmart in 1995 because she was “living in a cold, shabby trailer in Winslow” at the time. It was only after she moved to the reservation that she learned the check had bounced. Though she paid it off, she believes the check charge was used as an excuse by Hopi to get her banished forever from HPL.

“If they expel everyone who wrote a bad check, half the people here would be gone,” she said at the time. “What they really wanted to do was stop me from working with Navajo families here and helping them stick up for their rights.”

Pauline Whitesinger said the wells throughout HPL have been capped off, fenced or bulldozed, and the natural water near her home is contaminated. “When I drink the water it hurts my throat and I have a reaction when I swallow it and get sick.”

Raymond Maxx, executive director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, said Friday that they met recently with HPL residents who brought up the water issues. “We don’t know why the wells were capped off. We’re supposed to have a meeting with the Hopis this coming week regarding the issue.”

Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for Hopi, said the tribe is reviewing the issues and is moving cautiously with advice. Calls to Clayton Honyumptewa, director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources, were not returned.

Rena Babbitt Lane, whose husband passed away years ago after suffering a ruptured aneurysm while trying to open a cover from a dismantled well, attended the Aug. 26 meeting at Hardrock Chapter. Through her daughters Mary and Zena Lane, Rena said the number one priority everyone talked about is water.

“The Navajo Nation said the Hopi Tribe told them they capped off the wells because they did not want people to drink contaminated water. We need water for our livestock and we were never told anything by the Hopis. What is the water contaminated with? Why did they just destroy all the water resources without telling us why, even the Rocky Ridge well for Big Mountain residents?”

Lane, who is in her 80s, said they have to buy water from the chapter house and haul it 16 miles one way on a sandy road filled with potholes. Unlike in Window Rock, the monsoon season has not been kind. “The water ponds are filled with sand and the water when it does come does not last. We need tractors to dig out the water ponds and a water well near our home,” she said.

“We can’t really depend on our Council people and the Hopi and Navajo government. They are of no help to those of us that live on HPL. When we tell them something, both tribes point a finger at each other and no one helps us.”

Caroline Tohannie, an elder born and raised on Black Mesa, said they are suffering health problems and sickness because of the land dispute. “To this day there are a lot of arguments with both tribal councils. Why is it like that when they are supposed to work for the people to improve our lives? Can’t we work out our disagreements with the traditional people instead of the tribal councils? That is the way we want it.

“We need to reintroduce the greetings between the traditional Hopi and Navajos to straighten out our differences in that manner. In our language, k’e has to be regenerated. We have to reintroduce our greetings at the fireplace with the fire stick. Those are the laws of the traditional people and we need to follow the red road again.”