State of the Navajo Nation Address: Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., highlights resumption of BIA consultation regarding Desert Rock Energy Project

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – In his quarterly state of the Navajo Nation address today, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., told the Navajo Nation Council that the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed him Friday that it would resume consultation regarding the Desert Rock Energy Project.
Last November, the BIA informed the Nation that it would withdraw the biological assessment it submitted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Now, the BIA will update the assessment and resubmit it, President Shirley said.
 
The President said BIA Acting Director Mike Black noted the Bureau’s intent to work with the Nation to meet the regulatory guidelines and resolve issues related to the project.
 
“Desert Rock remains our Nation’s best chance to begin to rebuild our economy over the long term, generate significant resources for our government and jobs for our people, help us bring our children home, and return us to the pride and independence we once knew as a people,” he said.
 
The President reported that on March 18 the Nation received a BIA gaming determination notice that 432.5 acres of land had been secured under a land purchase option by the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. He said the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Gaming Director Paula Hart informed the Nation that the land qualifies for gaming purposes, in partnership with the Navajo Hopi Land Commission, once it is taken into trust.

“The acquisition of the Twin Arrows Parcel fits squarely with the purpose of the Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act to benefit those members of the Navajo Nation affected by relocation,” President Shirley said. “This project, which includes the casino, hotel, conference center and spa, is projected to generate, before debt service and after operating expenses, approximately $50.7 million in 2012, the first year of operation, with subsequent years increasing to $61.2 million, $64.7 million, and $66.5 million.”

He said the Nation is now negotiating terms of a memorandum of agreement between the Navajo Nation and the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation for the proposed Twin Arrows development.

The project will provide the Nation with a steady revenue stream it needs to fill in gaps in the tribal budget, he said.

He said another important step in the process is for the Nation’s Investment Committee to facilitate full development of the project. He said in order for the Nation to reap the entire benefit of the Twin Arrows project, it needs full funding for the casino, hotel, conference center and spa.

The President also reported that the Navajo Nation had received $31 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to widen and improve U.S. Highway 491 between Shiprock and Gallup, N.M., and $32.2 million for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Broadband Technology Opportunity Program.

“Over many years, far too many lives have been lost because of dangerous driving conditions along U.S. 491,” he said. “These funds, referred to as a TIGER grant, were awarded after a highly competitive application process. Only 50 applications were funded, and the Navajo Nation’s application was 16th on the list and the only one granted for the State of New Mexico.”
 
He said the grant award would improve the road to make it safer for thousands of drivers, and provide a major boost to the Navajo economy by putting people to work.
 
The President said on March 25, the Nation was informed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of an ARRA grant award to enable NTUA to install 96 strands of aerial fiber optic cable and 33 new microwave tower sites to provide broadband access to 15,120 square miles within the Navajo Nation.  
 
“This will greatly improve access to Internet technology for the benefit of our schools, hospitals, businesses, chapters and the central government,” President Shirley said. “This award marks a significantly successful effort led by the Navajo Nation Broadband Work Group, the Navajo Nation Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Office, and the Department of Information Technology. This coordinated effort between the Nation and NTUA will bring broadband infrastructure and 4G mobile wireless technology to the Navajo Nation.”
 
Testing of the network has already begun in Fort Defiance, and construction is expected to be finished within three years, he said. The award ensures that the Navajo Nation will own vital telecommunication infrastructure, he said.
 
President Shirley said that after a 10-year effort, on March 23 President Barack Obama permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act when he signed the Health Care Reform Bill into law.
 
The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is the key legal authority of the federal government’s trust responsibility to provide health care to nearly two million Native Americans and Alaska Natives, he said. Originally passed in 1976 and reauthorized several times, the Act expired on September 30, 2000.
 
Since then, he said, the Navajo Nation consistently advocated for its reauthorization. Now, five existing Navajo health care facility construction projects are protected from any changes in the construction priority system, he said. The projects include health care centers for Kayenta, Dilkon, Pueblo Pintado, Bodaway-Gap, and the replacement of the Gallup Indian Medical Center.
 
The reauthorization authorizes a feasibility study of treating the Navajo Nation as a single state Medicaid Agency. It also authorizes a comprehensive behavioral health, prevention, and treatment program, hospice care, assisted living, long-term care, home-based and community-based care that will be provided by IHS.
 
The President paid special tribute to the late Dr. Taylor McKenzie, the first Navajo surgeon and former Navajo Nation Vice President, whom he said worked single-mindedly to seek reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
 
The President also paid tribute to the leadership of the late Navajo Nation Vice President Marshall Plummer and the late Council Delegate Herman Daniels.
 
“To his family,” the President said of Vice President Plummer, “he will always be remembered as the patriarch and advisor to the Plummer youth who never made an important decision without consulting him; as a devoted rancher and rodeo competitor who loved his cattle and horses and his many friends also involved with them; and as a deeply spiritual man of Christian faith and the Navajo way of life.”
 
The President reported that after two years, the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and former Assistant Attorney General Ms. Dana Bobroff re-negotiated the Department of Interior’s Indirect Cost reimbursement rate to Navajo Nation from 9.78 percent to 18.05 percent. He said the new rate, to be applied back to FY 2007, is worth nearly $11 million.
 
“Soon we’ll begin the process of executing agreements for the FY 2008 and 2009 reimbursements for substantially the same percentage rate,” he said. “This important negotiation is worth nearly $30 million to the Nation, and I cannot overstate the significance of this important effort.”

Speaker Morgan, Council Delegates meet with New Mexico Gov. Richardson, cabinet members

ISELTA PUEBLO, N.M. – Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan led a Navajo delegation to the New Mexico State-Tribal Summit on April 14. The summit was held at the Isleta Resort and Casino near Albuquerque, N.M.

Council Delegates Leonard Anthony (Shiprock) and Norman John II (Twin Lakes) attended the summit along with Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly. The state’s 22 tribes met with Gov. Richardson to discuss several issue affecting tribes across the state.

Gov. Richardson explained the purpose of the summit was to leave benchmarks for the future of Native Americans in the state.

“Today’s Summit reflects the high priority my Administration has placed upon strengthening state-tribal relations,” Gov. Richardson said. “Coming together with the leadership of the 22 nations, tribes and pueblos of the state, in a forum that promotes open communication and cooperation, embodies true government-to-government relationships. I am confident that we have set a strong precedent that will carry the dialogue into future administrations.”

The summit, mandatory under the Tribal Collaboration Act, which the governor signed into law last year included discussion on Indian education, tribal infrastructure, anti-DWI initiatives between the state and tribes, and tribal economic development.

In regards to infrastructure, the tribes agreed and recommended the state draft a uniform application for capital outlay projects, which could help streamline the delay of monies for projects. Discussion on economic development resulted in an agreement to create an economic tribal advisory council under the state’s economic development department.

Speaker Morgan spoke about the importance of tribal infrastructure in Indian Country, particularly in New Mexico. He thanked the governor for his work to create a permanent tribal infrastructure fund among other effective initiatives to empower state-tribal relations.

“Senate Bill 196 is at work here – the Collaboration Act, which has opened the door and paved a way for native nations to develop ideas and work on various things with the state,” Speaker Morgan said. “I commend the governor and state legislators for Senate Bill 196, House Bill 162, the Tribal Infrastructure Fund, and other bills very important to us. We need to capitalize and use this working tool to work with our state.”

In regards to DWI, Vice President Shelly said the recent Navajo Nation Council amendments to Diné Fundamental Law could help public safety on the Navajo Nation.

“One thing that is good is that the Navajo Nation lawmakers passed legislation on Diné Fundamental Law,” Shelly explained. “Now with the amendments, public safety can enforce alcohol regulation, which will benefit the Navajo Nation in the area of DWI.”

In regards to education, Anthony said, “The Navajo Nation appreciates the state efforts on language and culturally appropriate education. The need for more coordinated efforts to ensure education in the classroom is conducive to learning styles of Native Americans.”

The Navajo Nation recommended the state craft legislation to increase authority for the Indian Education Advisory Council and legislation to withhold approval of a school district’s annual budget until districts demonstrate its compliance with the Indian Education Act.

“For the long term, the Navajo Nation is seeking to establish a state education agency and asked New Mexico for support,” said Anthony.

“The issues and solutions discussed today will help achieve goals important to all New Mexicans: improved regional and local economies; greater public safety; sufficient community infrastructure and enhanced educational opportunity for all of New Mexico’s children,” said Alvin Warren, Secretary of Indian Affairs in New Mexico. “My department looks forward to building stronger collaboration between state agencies and tribal governments as we work to implement the solutions agreed upon today.”

Speaker Morgan announces 2010 Spring Session agenda

Full copy of agenda available online at www.navajonationcouncil.org

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Honorable Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan has announced the agenda for the 2010 Spring Session of the Navajo Nation Council. The week-long session begins April 19 at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber.

The session will begin with the State of the Navajo Nation address from Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., followed by the Speaker’s Report to the Council from Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan. The Council will also hear reports from Controller Mark Grant on carryover funds from Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010; Robert T. Winter, CEO of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise will give an update on the enterprise; the Navajo Nation Investment Committee will report on financing options for casino development; the board of directors for the Navajo Nation Shopping Centers will report on its operations, activities, and on its fiscal and audit status; the Navajo Nation Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee on State Affairs will also report on Proposition 100 regarding the Arizona state special election on May 18.

In addition, if time permits, oral reports will be given by J.D. Hayworth, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate; Barry Hess, Arizona gubernatorial candidate; and Sylvia Laughter, candidate for the Arizona State Senate.

Written reports will also be submitted to the Council by its various standing committees, its boards and commissions, from the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation, the regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and from the area director of the Indian Health Services.

Day one is reserved for reports to the Council, and action items begin on day two.

There is one item in old business. Legislation No. 0751-09, sponsored by Roy Laughter (Chilchinbeto/Kayenta) seeks approval for amendments to the administrative agreement, scope of work, contract budget and term of Contract No. MOA043 between the Navajo Nation and the Health Management Associates Inc. for the purpose of providing third party administration services to the Navajo Nation Employee Benefits Program. If approved, the term will be extended for three years with a new ending date of December 31, 2014.

There are 15 items in new business. Some highlights include Legislation No. 0769-09, sponsored by Leonard Teller (Lukachukai/Tsaile/Wheatfields). This legislation seeks approval for an extension of a Limited Waiver of Sovereign Immunity to allow the Navajo Nation to be sued in Federal District Court regarding compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act in carrying out HUD grants. The legislation, if approved, will authorize the Navajo Nation President the ability to execute Form 7015.15 for fiscal year 2009 through FY 2013.

Legislation No. 0016-10, sponsored by Orlanda Smith-Hodge (Cornfields/Greasewood Springs/Klagetoh/Wide Ruins), seeks the enactment of the Special Prosecutor Amendments Act of 2010. If approved, the Chief
Legislative Counsel will be provided additional authority to apply for the appointment of a special prosecutor and to be otherwise involved in the operation of the special prosecutor in a manner similar to the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation. The appointment of judges to the Special Division of the Window Rock District Court will also require confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council if approved.

Legislation No. 0161-10, sponsored by LoRenzo C. Bates (Upper Fruitland), seeks amendments to Resolution CJA-04-10 to approve the terms and conditions of a Senior Unsecured General Obligation Tax-Exempt or Taxable Term Loan from Key Bank in the maximum principal amount of $60 million. If approved, the loan would be utilized for the design and construction of public safety and judicial complexes on the Navajo Nation.

Legislation No. 0758-09, sponsored by Hope MacDonald Lone Tree (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi), seeks the enactment of the Navajo Nation Internet Sex Offenses Act of 2009. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the safety of children while online and to protect children from sexual predators who anonymously prey upon them using the internet or other electronic means of communication with the intent to harm children. If approved, the law will close a gap where offenders may use intrastate means to carry out predatory communications and avoid prosecution. Convicted offenders will be subject to the Navajo Nation Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act as amended. Electronic communication device means computer, video recorder, digital camera, fax machine, telephone, wireless mobile telephone, pager, audio equipment or any other device that produces an electronically-generated image, message or signal.

A full copy of the agenda is available online at www.navajonationcouncil.org, click on “Documents.”

Speaker Morgan, Navajo Council send condolences to family of the late Nelson Tsosie

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and the 21st Navajo Nation Council send their sincere condolences to the family of the late Nelson Tsosie, who was the Navajo Nation’s first and very own Toughest Cowboy Champion, two-time Indian National Finals Rodeo bareback world champion, and International Indian Finals Rodeo world champion.

“I was saddened when I received news about the sudden passing of Nelson Tsosie,” said Speaker Morgan. “He was a nationally known young man who left a legacy for all young people to follow, and achieve more with his example. He accomplished many goals in his short time with us.”

Nelson was the first Navajo and Native American to participate in the Professional Bull Riding’s Toughest Cowboy televised tour, where 12 bronc and bull riders compete to be named the Toughest Cowboy Champion. Tsosie competed for three years.

At the age of 19, he won his first world title as the International Indian Finals Rodeo bareback champion. In 2007 he won the Toughest Cowboy title and also his first bareback championship in the Indian National Finals Rodeo. In 2008, he won the INFR title for the second year in a row.

Nelson grew up in Burnham, N.M. He was 23 years old.

“The Navajo Nation will always be proud of Nelson Tsosie and will remember what he accomplished. He was our first and very own Toughest Cowboy Champion, and he will be missed,” said Speaker Morgan. “Our prayers will continue to be with the Tsosie family during this difficult time.”
For more information, contact the Administrative Office of the Courts at 928-871-7017.

Judiciary Committee votes to reschedule public hearing to May 25

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Judiciary Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council voted to postpone today’s public hearing of Navajo Nation Chief Justice Herb Yazzie’s work performance evaluation to May 25 with his consent.

The Office of Legislative Council recommended the continuance of the scheduled hearing, despite the absence of Judge T.J. Holgate and Justin Jones, a commissioner with the Navajo Nation Bar Association. The attendance of the two performance review members was not required, but the committee felt it was important to include the two members.

The public hearing is rescheduled for 10:00 am on May 25 at the Budget and Finance Committee Conference Room within the Legislative Branch complex.

The evaluation covers the period from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009.

The public is strongly encouraged to express their written comment, their concerns or their recommendations of Yazzie’s qualifications, character and his work performance. The committee has also opened the hearing to the public to voice their concerns in person.

Written statements should be addressed to: The Judiciary Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council, P.O. Box 3390, Window Rock, AZ 86515. Anonymous statements will not be accepted or considered. You may also fax statements to 928-871-6761.

For more information, contact the Administrative Office of the Courts at 928-871-7017.

Speaker Morgan, IGR taskforce discuss Navajo Nation gaming plans with Gov. Bill Richardson

SANTA FE, N.M. — Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and the Intergovernmental Relations Committee taskforce on gaming met with Gov. Bill Richardson and his gaming negotiation party today to discuss the Navajo Nation’s gaming plans and negotiation contracts with New Mexico.

Topics of discussion included the number of gaming facilities the Navajo Nation would like to be granted, revenue sharing and the possible duration of a thirty year Class III gaming contract between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico.

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee taskforce on gaming recommended Richardson’s gaming negotiation team to consider accepting the Navajo Nation’s request for the same compact duration as the rest of the tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.

The Navajo Nation also questioned whether the 2007 New Mexico Amendments are a fair balance between the Navajo Nation and the state because the amendments allow two gaming sites per tribe despite differences in Navajo population compared to other tribes and pueblos.

As for revenue sharing, the Navajo Nation recommended a change to reflect the ultimate signing date of the amendments between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico.

“The amendment is geared toward the mutual understanding and is mutually beneficial to the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation,” Morgan said. “It is very important that we talk about the duration, the number of facilities and the revenue that is very important to both government-to-government negotiations teams.”

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee taskforce on gaming is scheduled to meet on April 16 during an Intergovernmental Relations Committee special meeting to create a gaming negotiation party to renegotiate a gaming compact with the state.

Speaker Morgan extends an invitation to the Navajo Nation Attorney General and Office of the President and Vice-President or their designee for the selection of a Navajo gaming negotiation team.

Upcoming Navajo Nation Council Session, April 19

Speaker Morgan announces 2010 Spring Session agenda

Full copy of agenda available online at www.navajonationcouncil.org

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Honorable Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan has announced the agenda for the 2010 Spring Session of the Navajo Nation Council. The week-long session begins April 19 at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber.

The session will begin with the State of the Navajo Nation address from Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., followed by the Speaker’s Report to the Council from Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan. The Council will also hear reports from Controller Mark Grant on carryover funds from Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010; Robert T. Winter, CEO of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise will give an update on the enterprise; the Navajo Nation Investment Committee will report on financing options for casino development; the board of directors for the Navajo Nation Shopping Centers will report on its operations, activities, and on its fiscal and audit status; the Navajo Nation Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee on State Affairs will also report on Proposition 100 regarding the Arizona state special election on May 18.

In addition, if time permits, oral reports will be given by J.D. Hayworth, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate; Barry Hess, Arizona gubernatorial candidate; and Sylvia Laughter, candidate for the Arizona State Senate.

Written reports will also be submitted to the Council by its various standing committees, its boards and commissions, from the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation, the regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and from the area director of the Indian Health Services.

Day one is reserved for reports to the Council, and action items begin on day two.

There is one item in old business. Legislation No. 0751-09, sponsored by Roy Laughter (Chilchinbeto/Kayenta) seeks approval for amendments to the administrative agreement, scope of work, contract budget and term of Contract No. MOA043 between the Navajo Nation and the Health Management Associates Inc. for the purpose of providing third party administration services to the Navajo Nation Employee Benefits Program. If approved, the term will be extended for three years with a new ending date of December 31, 2014.

There are 15 items in new business. Some highlights include Legislation No. 0769-09, sponsored by Leonard Teller (Lukachukai/Tsaile/Wheatfields). This legislation seeks approval for an extension of a Limited Waiver of Sovereign Immunity to allow the Navajo Nation to be sued in Federal District Court regarding compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act in carrying out HUD grants. The legislation, if approved, will authorize the Navajo Nation President the ability to execute Form 7015.15 for fiscal year 2009 through FY 2013.

Legislation No. 0016-10, sponsored by Orlanda Smith-Hodge (Cornfields/Greasewood Springs/Klagetoh/Wide Ruins), seeks the enactment of the Special Prosecutor Amendments Act of 2010. If approved, the Chief
Legislative Counsel will be provided additional authority to apply for the appointment of a special prosecutor and to be otherwise involved in the operation of the special prosecutor in a manner similar to the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation. The appointment of judges to the Special Division of the Window Rock District Court will also require confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council if approved.

Legislation No. 0161-10, sponsored by LoRenzo C. Bates (Upper Fruitland), seeks amendments to Resolution CJA-04-10 to approve the terms and conditions of a Senior Unsecured General Obligation Tax-Exempt or Taxable Term Loan from Key Bank in the maximum principal amount of $60 million. If approved, the loan would be utilized for the design and construction of public safety and judicial complexes on the Navajo Nation.

Legislation No. 0758-09, sponsored by Hope MacDonald Lone Tree (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi), seeks the enactment of the Navajo Nation Internet Sex Offenses Act of 2009. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the safety of children while online and to protect children from sexual predators who anonymously prey upon them using the internet or other electronic means of communication with the intent to harm children. If approved, the law will close a gap where offenders may use intrastate means to carry out predatory communications and avoid prosecution. Convicted offenders will be subject to the Navajo Nation Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act as amended. Electronic communication device means computer, video recorder, digital camera, fax machine, telephone, wireless mobile telephone, pager, audio equipment or any other device that produces an electronically-generated image, message or signal.