Wet Weather Spurs Potential Rockslide on Southbound I-17

Engineers monitoring slopes between Black Canyon City, Sunset Point


PRESCOTT – The Arizona Department of Transportation is monitoring two slopes adjacent to southbound Interstate 17 between Sunset Point and Black Canyon City. Heavy rains over the past month have saturated the slopes and increased the potential of rocks falling onto the roadway.


ADOT crews and equipment are on site and engineers are assessing the slopes to determine the steps needed to protect drivers who use this vital highway between Flagstaff and metro Phoenix. Should conditions warrant, ADOT crews are in position to immediately close the southbound lanes.


While no rocks have yet fallen onto the highway, the potential is there. A landslide could require closure of both southbound I-17 lanes and up to seven hours to clear. At this time, northbound I-17 is unaffected. 


Strategies to repair the slopes – in the short- and long-term – are being developed based on the on-site assessment that is under way.


Wet weather this winter has taken its toll on the highway system around the state. Eroded roadways caused by flooding, rock falls and landslides, snowfall measured in feet, sink holes, and other damage are still being addressed by ADOT crews.


ADOT’s primary concern is public safety. Storm damage is just one of the daily challenges ADOT crews confront to keep drivers safe, and traffic moving. Crashes, criminal damage, wildlife encounters, and ever-changing weather conditions are at the core of ADOT’s public safety responsibility, and often require highway workers to spend nights, holidays and weekends away from family to address critical safety issues.


Drivers are advised to visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at www.az511.gov or call 5-1-1 for the most current information about restrictions statewide.

Government Services Committee accepts two SUVs for Tohatchi Chapter, $5,000 for Navajo Nation Boys and Girls Club

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Government Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met today and passed legislation accepting two Chevrolet Suburbans from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be used at the Tohatchi Chapter and a $5,000 gift award was accepted from the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation for the Navajo Nation Boys and Girls Club.
Legislation No. 0046-10, sponsored by Council Delegate Herman R. Morris (Naschitti/Tohatchi), passed the committee with a 5-0 vote allowing the two vehicles to be operated by the Tohatchi Chapter. 
Morris explained the vehicles would serve and meet community transportation needs, such as transporting elderly to the local senior center and for other matters related to chapter business.
“We have local community members who will use the Suburbans,” Morris said. “The local oversight communities, the farm board, the senior center and veterans’ club will benefit from using the vehicles to help address our community needs.”
In other committee action, Legislation No. 0045-10, sponsored by Willie Tracey Jr. (Ganado/Kinlichee), passed the committee with a 5-0 vote accepting a $5,000 gift award from the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation for the Navajo Nation Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s an honor to come before the GSC to accept money to operate the Navajo Nation Boys and Girls Club,” Tracey said. “These monies come from the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation which is an organization of the National Indian Gaming Association.”
The Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation, like the parent National Indian Gaming Association, provides the opportunity to “advance the lives of Indian peoples – economically, socially and politically.” The gift will help purchase equipment and supplies for the Navajo Nation Boys and Girls Clubs.  

Navajo Nation Chapters supported amendments to Diné Fundamental Law

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Various Navajo Nation Chapters across the Navajo Nation, particularly in the Western Agency, passed resolutions long before the 21st Navajo Nation Council passed legislation amending the use of Diné Fundamental Law according to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Leonard Chee (Birdsprings/Leupp/Tolani Lake).


During the 2010 winter session, the Navajo Nation Council passed the Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009 amending the 2002 passage of Diné Fundament Law. The resolution was vetoed by President Joe Shirley Jr., and on Feb. 23, the Navajo Council overrode the veto by a vote of 69-11 making the amendments Navajo Nation law.


In 2003 and 2004, Navajo Nation Chapters passed resolutions recommending amendments or the possible repeal of the Diné Fundamental Law. The chapters included: LeChee Chapter, Inscription House Chapter, Kayenta Chapter, Coppermine Chapter, Chinle Chapter, as well as the Western Navajo Agency Council — which consists of all chapter officers, grazing committee members and Navajo Nation Council delegates located within that agency.


The chapter resolutions stated Diné Fundamental Law violates Subsection 4 of Title 1 of the Navajo Bill of Rights, which prohibits the Navajo Nation Council from passing law that establishes a religion. Further, the resolutions assert the implementation of these laws violate the principals of traditional Navajo religion, which should be learned, practiced and educated to a few chosen individuals.


Council Delegate Leonard Chee said the people forecasted the effects of Diné Fundamental Law when legislation was passed by the 19th Navajo Nation Council. 


“The people foresaw some issues and problems of implementing Diné Fundamental Law back in 2002,” Chee said. “Sure enough, these issues and concerns the people voiced have surfaced recently causing problems.” 


The Navajo public and tribal leaders witnessed the abuse of the Diné Fundamental Law by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, the courts of the Navajo Nation and by President Joe Shirley Jr. 


According to the Navajo Nation Code, Diné Fundamental Laws should only be used in the absence of written laws of the Navajo Nation — this was not the case on several matters the Nation faced with its misinterpretation and misuse.

Navajo Nation Council overrides vetoes by Navajo President

Foundation of Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009 becomes law


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The 21st Navajo Nation Council overrode two vetoes by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. today, making the Foundation of Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009 and the Office of Legislative Counsel Amendments Act of 2010 Navajo Nation law.


By a majority vote of 69-11, the Navajo Council easily overrode the veto of Resolution CJA-08-10, which enacted the Foundation of Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009. The vote far exceeded the two-thirds majority of the full Navajo Nation Council and it was a milestone in the development and implementation of the Diné Fundamental Law first adopted by the Council by a simple majority vote in November 2002.



The amendment clarifies the use of the Diné Fundamental Law as a general statement of guiding principles, which will assist the Diné in acknowledging, protecting, observing and becoming more educated in the values and principles inherent in the Diné Life Way. Further, the amendments maintain respect for the various spiritual beliefs, practices and contributions of all persons within the Navajo Nation and maintain the specific roles, responsibilities and authorities of the three branches of contemporary Navajo Nation Government.



The amendments to the law also maintain the principles set forth in the Diné Fundamental Law, while clarifying the proper of the law within the Navajo Nation government. The law will not be used to supersede or replace Navajo Nation statutory laws or policies adopted by leaders of the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch, and it provides for consensual resolution of the law through the peacemaking process.



In other Council action, Resolution CF-12-10 overrode a second veto by President Shirley by a vote of 66-14. This legislation pertains to the Office of Legislative Counsel Amendments Act of 2010. The vote clears the way for the Office of Legislative Counsel to provide additional legal services to the Legislative Branch of the Navajo Nation.



Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez explained, “The Office of Legislative Counsel has received additional tools with which to serve the Legislative Branch. The Office will use these tools in a responsible manner to help build a stronger Navajo Nation for the future of the Diné. I am humbled by the support of the Council in providing additional responsibilities to the Office of Legislative Counsel and dedicate myself to fulfilling the additional duties delegated to the Office.


The Navajo Nation Council also confirmed Donaldson A. June to the board of directors for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise for a three year term by a vote of 77-0.

Health and Social Services Committee pass bill to give funds to Senior Centers and hear report on Title V for ‘638 hospitals

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Health and Social Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met Feb. 22 and passed legislation regarding the renovation of three Navajo Chapter Senior Centers and heard and accepted a report from the Association of Indians for Self-Determination in Healthcare through Title V contracting.


Legislation No. 0657-09, sponsored by Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie (Thoreau), passed the Health and Social Services Committee (HSSC) with a 4-0 vote and it pertains to approving and accepting money in the amount of $20,000 for Thoreau Chapter Senior Center from the New Mexico State’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department.


Legislation Nos. 0067-10 and 0068-10, both sponsored by Council Delegate Harry Claw (Chinle), also relates to approving and accepting money in the amount of $4,500 for Nageezi Chapter Senior Center and $12,660 for Upper Fruitland Senior Center from the Aging and Long-Term Service Department.


Council Delegate Henry Claw said the funds will be used for the renovation of the senior centers as well as for equipment for the Nageezi and Upper Fruitland Senior Centers.


Council Delegate Yazzie affirmed Claw’s state on the importance of these monies and said, “What will be done is adding bigger space for the elderly such as providing more space for arts and crafts at the Thoreau Senior Center. It’s quite an honor to see our elders keeping a high-esteem in our area. I will let our senior citizens know of the legislation being passed.”


In other related efforts, the Association of Indians for Self-Determination in Healthcare provided a report to the HSSC on the exploratory efforts toward Title V compacting under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, Public Law 930in


Recently, Public 93-638 Title 1 hospitals on the Navajo Nation have considered proceeding to the upper echelon of self-determination and self-governance on the delivery of health care services. These PL 93-638 hospitals include the Tuba City Health Care Corporation in Tuba City, Ariz., the Winslow Indian Health Care Center Inc., in Winslow, Ariz., and the Utah Navajo Health Care System Inc. in Montezuma Creek, Utah.


Wilfred Jones, Board president of the Association of Indians for Self-Determination in Healthcare, said the reason why the PL 93-638 hospitals are considering going Title V is to strengthen sovereignty and support services provided by the Navajo Nation ‘638 tribal organization.


Donna Singer, chief executive officer of the Utah Navajo Health Care System Inc., said this initiative to strengthen sovereignty is important to the Navajo Nation.


“We really support this effort. We can approve statistically that Navajo health care is improving,” Singer said. “If we can open this door and we can expand health care for the Navajo Nation, a real positive move.”


By declaring Title V status, ‘638 Navajo Nation hospitals and clinics will be able to increase flexibility in program design, reduced reporting and Indian Health Services oversight on programs and modified regulatory control. It will also increase the Navajo Nation’s participation in Office of Self Governance as an advocate in the compact negotiation and advocate and plan with other self governance tribes. 


Council Delegate Evelyn Acothley (Bodaway-Gap/Cameron/Coppermine) said there will be lots of questions involved in this process as a resolution is to be drafted by the Navajo Nation Council to grant this Title V process.


“The questions before the committee are that the 638 provider associations want to proceed to the next level of Title V,” Acothley said when mentioning her attendance to a Title V boot camp hosted by the Association of Indians for Self Determination in Healthcare. “Today, from the report, is more of an education to the committee on what Title V is about.”


“The Navajo Nation Council authorized PL 93-638 to 2015, so we need to make a request to the Navajo Nation Council to go to Title V,” added Acothley.


A few areas of concern were expressed by the committee, which will require further research, and will be discussed at the March 10 work session in Flagstaff, Ariz. 


Considering that consolidated healthcare of smaller tribes and urban have a greater degree of success in Title V compacting, “Will it work for Navajo” was a question raised by the HSSC.


Title V means direct dealing with the IHS Headquarters, and currently Navajo Area IHS has that role. Title V could bring significant changes to the Navajo Nation health care system by creating several contact points. Another concern is Navajo ‘638 contracting is still in its infancy stage since its inception in 2002 as a pilot project and was authorized by the Navajo Nation Council in 2005.

Hopi Appellate Court rules in favor of Village of Bacavi

Decision recognizes the power rests with the People


A recent decision by the newly constituted Hopi Court of Appeals shifts the balance of power away from the Hopi Tribal Council, and back to the independent Hopi and Tewa Villages that comprise the Hopi Tribe.  The unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals on February 11, 2010, confirms the traditional sovereign power of the Villages and helps to preserve the Hopi way for generations to come.


“This Court unanimously finds that, under both the Constitution and Hopi custom and tradition, the Hopi and Tewa Villages, regardless of their form of government, have authority to remove, recall or decertify their duly certified Tribal Council Representatives during their term of office by whatever process the Village selects and that Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution governs both selection and removal, recall, or decertification of Tribal Council Representatives,” states the final answer.


The issue was brought to the Court by the Village of Bacavi when they filed a Certified Question of Law in regards to the Village Authority to remove Tribal Council Representatives, Appellate Case No. 2008-AP-0001 on January 28, 2008.   The Village of Bacavi twice removed their Tribal Council Representatives for “neglect of duty”, only to have council reseat the representatives.  The village was told by council that only the Tribal Council could remove a council representative – notwithstanding the fact that the Villages had historically exercised this same power.   The sitting Hopi Court of Appeals initially scheduled oral argument on this question in November 2008.  During the argument, however, the Tribal Council suspended the Court of Appeals, in effect, insulating itself from any oversight of the Villages.


The Council recently appointed three new Justices to the Court of Appeals, including Chief Justice Anna Atencio, and Associate Justices Robert Clinton, an Indian Law professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, and Paul Berman, the Dean of the College of Law. These newly seated justices gave the final answer and opinion.


Unlike many federally recognized tribes in the United States, the Hopi Tribe historically consisted of independent, sovereign villages that shared a common language and culture.  The Hopi Tribe itself and the Hopi Tribal Council were created in 1936 by the U.S. government, essentially, to make it easier for the federal government and other outside entities to deal with the Hopi/Tewa people.  As the Court acknowledged, “prior to the initial drafting and adoption of the Hopi Constitution in 1936 there was no central Hopi government.  Rather, the people comprising the Hopi Tribe lived in 12 self-governing Villages, each of which retained its own aboriginal sovereignty.  Each of which was an autonomous, sovereign city-state.”  The court went on to hold, in pertinent part, that “the Hopi and Tewa Villages, regardless of their form of government, retain the aboriginal sovereign power to remove, recall, or decertify their Tribal Council representatives.”


According to Karen Shupla, the Governor of the Village of Bacavi, “this decision is a great victory for all the Villages and the Hopi and Tewa people.  It preserves the Village authority to act as a check and counter balance to any potential abuses of Tribal Council authority. ”

Marlene Sekaquaptewa, the Governor of Bacavi at the time the case was filed, added that, “we cannot stress the importance of this decision enough.  We can now function, as a people and a tribe, in a way that is more in tune with our history and culture, and in a way that will ensure the accountability of our Tribal Council Representatives.”


Almost all of the other villages as well as the Office of the former Chairman of the Tribe filed Amicus, or friend of the court, briefs that supported Bacavi’s position.  According to Howard Shanker, attorney for the Village of Bacavi, who argued the case on its behalf, “this was certainly a concerted effort on the part of the Villages and their respective attorneys.”


Shanker also made sure to give credit to “the newly appointed Justices who had the courage and conviction to rule against the Tribal Council that appointed them.”  Shanker further reflected that Justice Clinton’s “wealth and breadth of experience in Native American law matters was certainly reflected in the Court’s opinion.”  Justice Clinton was the primary author of the opinion.   For the Village of Bacavi and the other Hopi and Tewa Villages that make up the Hopi Tribe, this decision could mark a new age of self governance and accountability.


For more information, you may contact the Village of Bacavi at 928-734-9360 or at bacavi_village@yahoo.com

Office of Legislative Counsel Amendment Act will strengthen Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Government Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met today during a special meeting and passed legislation to override President Joe Shirley Jr.’s vetoes on resolutions passed by the Navajo Nation Council limiting Diné Fundamental Law to the Peacemaking Court and increasing the authority of the Office of Legislative Counsel.
The Government Services Committee passed Legislation No. 0080-10, which limits Diné Fundamental Law, with a 5-1 vote and passed Legislation No. 0081-10 with a 6-0 vote to increase the authority of the Office of Legislative Counsel. A special session is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez said the Office of Legislative Counsel Amendments Act of 2010 will strengthen the Navajo Nation and its ability to address legal challenges.
“The Act will require that the Legislative Branch receive notice of all lawsuits brought against the Navajo Nation,” Seanez explained to the Government Services Committee
“The Office of Legislative Council will have the ability to advise the Navajo Nation Council, the standing committees, its boards, commissions and offices of all litigation brought against the Navajo Nation,” he said. “This will strengthen the ability of the Navajo Nation to address all such lawsuits.”
“The amendment would allow the Office of Legislative Counsel to immediately address any lawsuits against the Legislative Branch,” Seanez added. “This will prevent the recurrence of situations historically experienced wherein the lack of representation by the Office of Attorney General has led to negative consequences to the Navajo Nation.”
Seanez also said the act will allow for the Office of Legislative Counsel to provide legal opinions to the Legislative Branch entities addressing its operations. 
“This will cure the deficiencies currently encountered when Legislative Branch entities seek legal opinions from the Office of the Attorney General, which the Attorney General is unable to or reluctant to address,” Seanez explained. “Legislative Branch officials and employees will be able to rely upon the legal opinions of the Chief Legislative Counsel in taking action on behalf of the Navajo Nation.”
Another important feature of the act is allowing the Office of Legislative Counsel to contract with outside attorneys when the office has inadequate internal resources or during conflicts of interests when addressing legal matters.


“The act will address the current situation, wherein the Attorney General has been unable or reluctant to provide legal representation to Legislative Branch entities and it will strengthen the Navajo Nation to provide legal representation in conflict of interest matters,” Seanez explained. “The Office of Legislative Counsel will continue to coordinate its legal advice and legal representation with the Office of Attorney General. Historically, the Office of the Attorney General has been unable or unwilling to provide adequate legal advice and legal representation to the Legislative Branch.”
The act will strengthen the ability of the Navajo Nation to address legislative matters and provide more legal services to the Legislative Branch from the Office of Legislative Counsel.