Kayenta Township Business Site Leasing Committee Holds First Meeting

KAYENTA, AZ - The Kayenta Township Business Site Leasing Committee recently held its first meeting to choose Committee officers and set up its first meeting dates on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm.  Economic Development Director Ed Whitewater briefed the new committee on at least 30 new businesses that are currently interested in coming to set up shop in Kayenta, AZ.

In an effort to provide detailed reports monthly to the Kayenta Township Commission, the Business Site Leasing Committee decided they will hold their monthly meeting on the first Tuesday of each month.  The Kayenta Township Commission holds it’s monthly townhall on the second Monday each month.

The BSL Committee agreed that their work from this point on creates windows of opportunity.  “This is a chance for us as a community to help provide some direction.  Our interest here is the same as the Navajo Nation’s interest,” said Committee Chair Ken Whitehair, “when it comes to collecting taxes and increasing our tax base, we are developing the Navajo Nation economy.  So, this is a win-win situation,” he said.    

The Commission elected it’s first officers for the Kayenta Township Business Site Leasing Committee:  Ken Whitehair, President; Frank Donalds, Jr., Vice-President, and Malcolm Benally, Secretary, Gabriel Yazzie, BSL Member. 

“There are already four businesses that are pushing to start establishing their Business SIte Leases,” said Ed Whitewater, Director of Economic Development.  It will be Mr. Whitewater’s department that packages the Business Site Lease applications for review.  Of those businesses he’s currently working with, the L & L NAPA Auto Parts is already in operation and is negotiating its Business SIte Lease to include the addition of two-bay garages so that the NAPA Auto Parts store will include a Tire Shop. 

The second group of interested people who are actively negotiating their business site lease is Blue Sage, Inc., which is planning to open an ALCO store just directly east of 7-2-11 off U.S. Highway 160.  ALCO is currently getting ready to bring in a survey crew to look at the scope of work for a 33,000 square feet store and a parking lot, he explained. 

DCM Developers from Tucson, AZ are doing a study to open a Dollar Store or a General Store.  A Good Sam’s RV Park and an Office Complex have all established communication with the Township Economic Development Department.  These developments among others will be a part of the new Business Site Leasing Committee’s report when they go before the Navajo Nation Economic Development Committee in Window Rock, AZ on January 06, 2010. 

The Kayenta Township is required to provide a progress report within six months as of the date of approval of these plans, and then the Business Site Leasing Committee will provide an annual report to the Economic Development Committee of the Navajo Nation thereafter.

Navajo voters reduce Navajo Nation Council to 24 delegates, give line item veto to President to rein in excessive spending

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo voters went to the polls in a historic election Tuesday to overwhelmingly support reducing the Navajo Nation Council to 24 members and giving the President of the Navajo Nation line item veto authority.
The unofficial results from 110 chapters showed 25,206 yes votes to 16,166 no votes to reduce the council, and 24,489 yes votes to 16,893 no votes to approve the line item veto.
By percentage, the tally was 61 to 39 percent to reduce the council, and 59 to 41 percent for line item veto.
“It really makes my heart glad,” Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., told the Associated Press by phone from the Navajo Sports Center where vote tallies were being phoned in from chapter voting precincts. “I don’t think there’s going to be any challenges. They could try. But, you know, when the people speak, that is it.”President Shirley, First Lady Vikki Shirley and their children arrived at the sports center at about 9 p.m. with about 90 chapters having reported in, and after having attended their son’s basketball game in Chinle. The President was greeted with cheers from about 250 people there.
As the tallies came in after polls closed at 7 p.m., the cumulative results appeared on large computer monitors and paper tallies were taped to the walls and organized by agencies. President and Mrs. Shirley walked around the room to look at each agency and chapter result.
“This is history in the making,” he told the AP. “I feel like I have helped to write the Navajo Nation history at this juncture, and that makes me very glad, very happy, not so much for myself. Certainly I’m a part of it, but more for my people. I feel like we’ve gone where we should have been a long time ago.”

The President said the election results have shown the Nation’s leadership that the people do believe it is their government.

“The leadership is going to know that the people mean business,” he said. “It is their government.”

“The government belonged to the people all along,” he continued. “It is their government and we need to respect it. The resources that are there belong to the people, and now the people have spoken to us. We need to respect it.”

President Shirley said this election and these initiatives are just a start toward reforming the Navajo government. Next to come, he said, could be a more comprehensive government reform, and perhaps more elective offices such as attorney general and Navajo Nation treasurer, both whom could not be threatened with firing by the council.

Now that the people have approved reducing the council, the next step in the process is to develop a reapportionment plan for 24 delegates, he said. That will be done by the Navajo Election Administration, approved by the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and forwarded to the current council to debate and approve.

“This is a long time coming, and now they’ve proven it,” the President said. “The people wanted government reform. They started it. I think there’s going to be comprehensive government reform in some fashion.”

The President told the Navajo Times that there wasn’t one single factor that swayed voters to support the initiatives but said he believed they were persuaded of the need for it over time with news reports of the mismanagement of council delegates’ discretionary funding, council committee trips to Las Vegas, motorcycle trips to Washington, D.C. that produced little results, gold rings for delegates, and, most recently, placing the President on leave without giving any reasons.

“I think that pushed a lot of people to the 24,” he said. “So it’s just a lot of things coming together, and this is the result.”



Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., returned to authority by permanent injunction issued by Window Rock District Court

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., was returned to authority at 6:34 p.m. Monday after a Window Rock District Court judge issued a permanent injunction against the Navajo Nation Council that placed him on administrative leave Oct. 26 – essentially declaring the law the council used null and void for all time.

Following a four-hour evidentiary hearing, District Judge Geraldine Benally ruled that the Navajo Nation Council and Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan acted beyond the scope of their authority when they attempted to place President Shirley on administrative leave, robbed Navajo voters of their chosen leader, and silenced their voice by silencing his.

“Because they acted outside the scope of their authority,” said Benjamin C. Runkle, one of the President’s attorneys, “the resolution placing the President on administrative leave was declared by the court to be null and void, and therefore unenforceable as a matter of law.”

As news of the court decision spread, the President gathered with about 25 supporters, members of staff and reporters at 8:30 p.m. at the President’s office.

“It comes from the heart when I say it’s good to see you,” President Shirley told them. “Thank you for having been there for me, my wife and my children, and certainly for the office of the people. We’ve gone through some very trying and challenging times but as far as public office goes, politics, sometimes you have to go through some of these things to get at that which is good. And I believe we’ll be getting at that which is good tomorrow.”

He was referring to Navajo voters deciding on two government reform initiative questions: whether to reduce the Navajo Nation Council from 88 to 24 delegates, and whether to give the President of the Navajo Nation line item veto authority.

“I have confidence we’re going to put two legislations on the books,” President Shirley said. “What’s unique about this legislation is this legislation is coming from the people, something in the history of the Navajo Nation government that’s never been done before. Never.”

Sen. Albert Hale, the President’s lawyer in legal challenges the two initiatives faced, said all of these weeks of controversy and even the government reform election could have been prevented had Speaker Morgan and the council abided by the Aug. 13, 2008, memorandum of agreement he signed with President Shirley.

“If the Speaker and the council kept their words when they reached an agreement with the President, all of these could have been avoided as well as the litigation that has been very costly to both sides,” he said.

Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who represents Pueblo Pintado, Torreon and Whitehorse Lake, said the court decision shows that the Navajo people’s laws worked.

“We have a structure that is set up and stable,” he said. “It just took a while but it’s the Navajo concept of harmony. It got pushed but it’s resilient and started pushing back to its position.”

Mr. Runkle said that after hearing from the President’s attorneys and the Office of Legislative Counsel, the court permanently prohibited all of the parties – meaning the Speaker and the council – from attempting to enforce the resolution that placed the President on leave.

It is possible the council could appeal the decision but Mr. Runkle said he did not believe the court’s decision will be reversed.

“I feel confident in an appeal that the result will be the same,” he said. “By the evidence, the council acted outside its authority and it can’t cloak itself in sovereign immunity where it takes action in violation of the law and the dignity of the executive office.”

President Shirley’s attorneys – Paul K. Charlton, Mr. Runkle and Kiersten Murphy of the Gallagher & Kennedy Law Offices, and Michelle Dotson of the Office of the President and Vice President – argued that the council did not have the authority to place the President on administrative leave because the statute that it used conflicts with the separation of powers inherent to the three-branch form of government.

They said that the council also did not follow procedures under the law in order to enact the resolution. Because of that when it enacted this legislation, it falsely tried to call it “an emergency.”

Further, it twice tried to punish the President for his government reform initiatives through legislation. The first attempt was when it tried to legislatively abolish the Office of the First Lady. When the legislation was brought before the Government Services Committee, the committee killed the legislation. The second attempt was when it tried to abolish the President’s Executive Protection Detail but failed to submit it to the Government Services Committee as required by law.

“You can here see a clear intent of the Speaker’s office to punish the President with legislation for his policies, to retaliate against him,” Mr. Runkle said. “When a legislature tries to punish somebody outside the court system, they’re acting outside the scope of their authority.”

The attorneys also argued that under Navajo traditional and fundamental law, there is a due process right to have allegations against you and the charge be heard. The President should at least have had the opportunity to hear the allegations against him, but did not.

“In this case, by using these secret procedures, they effectively robbed the people of their chosen leader when they put him on administrative leave,” Mr. Runkle said. “They silenced his voice and he could no longer speak for those who elected him into office.”

President Shirley expressed his appreciation to the law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy, and to his friend Paul K. Charlton for stepping forward to take the case on his behalf.

He said from the moment 48 council delegates acted to place him on leave, he believed they should not have done it, and that they did not do right.

“It should never have happened in the way that it has…because there’s really nothing there to base it on,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said he has been working throughout the six weeks of leave by visiting chapters to educate the public about the two government reform initiatives.

“We hung in there with the issue,” he said. “Now I can continue as President of the Navajo Nation. We’ve been very diligent despite that which has been going on, in trying to put a couple of legislations from the people on the books. And I sincerely believe it’s because we were working on that we’ve been put through what we’ve been put through.”

An Epidemic and a Pandemic in the Navajo past by Richard Mike

People off the reservation are paranoid these days and many Navajos still aren’t aware of the changes brought about by the swine flu (H1N1). Oh yes, the fear is there, everywhere in the border towns, the cry of big stores like Home Depot, COSTCO, and Sam’s Club have hand sanitizers waiting for you at the front door. Off-the reservation schools have scuttled away “perfect attendance” award programs, co-workers are snitching on each other if a co-worker shows up at work with flu symptoms.


On October 23, 2009, renowned Hopi artist Michael Kabotie died at the Flagstaff Medical Center from H1N1.  He was 67 years old.  He died off the reservation.  The reservation is unaware of his passing. The Navajo Nation is so disconnected from other happenings in the rest of the world.


The Navajo reservation has “National Health Care” that began in 1955 through Indian Health Services (IHS).  Now Congress is in negotiations to unveil legislation to provide insurance to 36 million Americans who otherwise won’t have it. Naturally, this creates a long-term effect on federal deficits. The problem for the Navajo is that the IHS is funded entirely by the U.S. government. In the last decade, attempts have been made to collect from Navajos with personal insurance.  In any case, the federal government literally passes the buck.  Navajos who work for the IHS, BIA, NTUA, and Public Schools get medical services then the IHS simply charges another branch of government.


Medicine has learned quite a bit about the flu, as millions of people have died from it the world over since 1918.  The Kayenta Health Service Unit recently handed out pamphlets about the “human flu”, the “bird flu”, and the “pandemic flu.” Now we’re extra cautious of a new strain called the “swine flu.”  An average 18,000 people countrywide fall into a high risk category for death or serious complications from swine flu.  The priority group to receive the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine are Pregnant women, children 6 months to 4 years old, children between ages 5 to 18 with underlying health conditions such as neuromuscular disease diabetes, underlying heart or lung conditions, or a suppressed immune system.  Anyone who lives with or cares for children less than 6 months, healthcare workers with direct patient contact are also at risk.


Because Navajo people would rather listen to KTNN radio, they are basically uninformed about this new strain of the swine flu. Public Schools and Boarding Schools are left with the task of immunizing their students. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is left with the task of getting enough H1N1 vaccine for Indian students which is in very short supply. Off the reservation, parents are responsible for the immunization of their children. Seasonal flu vaccinations for children aged 18 and under costs about $15.00.  No one is denied service for inability to pay.  In fact, people should bring their insurance cards.  There is no out-of-pocket cost for the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine. It’s the IHS that administers the H1N1 (swine) flu intranasal mist vaccine for healthy children age 2 to 4 years old while supplies last.


Navajo people who don’t know their history don’t realize how calamitous certain strains of the flu can be.  The flu is a seasonal flu. The Navajo people were rocked and devastated once already by a deadly strain of flu almost 90 years ago. One does not hear any stories of this horrific deadly disease that visited the Navajo people in 1918.  No tales know the exact numbers.  It is likely two diseases in combination killed thousands of Navajo people:  smallpox in 1917 followed immediately by the pandemic flu of 1918. 


I decided to bring up some voices from the past, more specifically, voices from 1917 and voices from the winter of 1918 who can describe the pandemics that devastated the Navajo people ninety-six years ago.


The Dictionary defines “Pandemic” as:  “Of a disease prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area”. The Smallpox epidemic of 1917 I believe was confined either to the southwest or at least to several states, but a smallpox vaccine was available at that time.  I’m not certain the smallpox epidemic of 1917 qualifies as a pandemic.  It was an epidemic. The second one, the flu pandemic of 1918 was worldwide.  Over one hundred million people died.  The Navajo Tribe, we’ll never know the number of Navajo people who died from this devastating flu pandemic.


The Smallpox Epidemic of 1917


The first account is from the book, Bread Upon The Sands, by Billie Williams Yost. Ms. Yost was the youngest daughter of William and Gertrude Williams, Indian traders of the Red Lake Trading Post at Tonalea, AZ from 1914 to 1929. During the fifteen years of Ms. Yost’s stay, the road to civilization was across the Little Colorado River at Benta Mesa and on to Winslow. The road to Tuba City in those days went through Blue Canyon, which eventually turned into Coal Mine Canyon. A flood wiped out the original Red Lake Trading Post in October 1929 near the bottom of a hill in Coal Mine Canyon.  It was inundated by a flood and wiped out.  Since then, the new Red Lake Trading Post was constructed near the top of a red sandy hillside ridge where it sits now along U.S. Highway 160 road from Tuba City to Kayenta, AZ  She writes:


In December (1917) a dreadful plague of smallpox spread with lighting-like rapidity over all the reservation. The chance of keeping such an epidemic under control, with living conditions as they were, was impossible. A family of eight or more would eat, sleep, and breed in one room no larger than twelve by fifteen feet. The ground was hard and cold. No ventilation relieved the smoky atmosphere, and germs ran rampant amid this perfect setting. …Every day, two or three Navajos would arrive at the post and beg Father to come help them in their misery. Father wanted desperately to aid them, but he knew it was hopeless. One man can’t fight a raging epidemic alone. …When his friend, Little Gambler, came and pleaded for assistance, he could not refuse. He went to the plague-infested Hogan of Lame Back. She was dead and so was White One’s little daughter who lay by her side. In the next Hogan, Big Ears, his squaw, and two sons were dead. Only Little Gambler and Tall Girl had survived (Pg 194)…As the only lumber available was two pine Arbuckle coffee boxes, (Father) used these. Mother lined the finished burial case with pale blue calico”. (Pg. 214).  The Indian Trader, Mr. Williams and his two sons eventually got smallpox and fortunately, they all survived.


Another voice from the past is that of Hilda Faunce (Wetherill), her book is entitled Desert Wife.  In her book, she recalls both the smallpox epidemic of 1917 and the flu pandemic of 1918. Ms. Faunce and her husband, whom she refers too as Ken in the book, is actually – Winslow Wetherill, the youngest of the five Wetherill brothers, she writes:


Ken purchased a decrepit two-room shack, an abandoned trading post near Black Mountain in 1914. Black Mountain Trading Post has been abandoned for years now, but was located twenty miles west of Chinle and fifteen miles northeast of the Salina Springs Trading Post. Mr. and Mrs. Ken Faunce re-establish the Trading Post in 1914 and three years later were hit with the smallpox epidemic.


I never should have supposed I could be calm in a smallpox epidemic. It came upon us suddenly and almost immediately dozens of our friends and customers were dead. The Indians came to the post with their bodies covered with sores; they lay down on the floor besides the stove, sick as could be, unable to climb on their ponies again and go home.


…“After our floor, the camp Hogan was the next resting place. From there some relative would help the sick person into a wagon or onto his pony and get him home to die. It was not the least use for Ken and me to be careful; the disease was everywhere. Of course when a medicine man treated anyone, a crowd came to the ceremony and the disease was spread more effectually. Such things were of daily occurrence. Vaccination had been explained to the Indians years ago by government agents and the outbreaks of smallpox among the Mexicans had spread to the reservation before. Many of the Navajos hurried to the agencies to be vaccinated, but the sickness spread so quickly that hundreds did not have time to get there before they or their families were down” (Pgs 242 – 243). ….Ken sent word to the Utcity (Etcitty) “Hogan’s, urging them to bring every one, in wagons if necessary, for vaccination, and in a few days they came in wagons, in buggy and on horseback.  My apparatus and technique for vaccination consisted of soap and water to wash a clean spot on the arm, then the scraping of a small area and the rubbing in of a small drop of vaccine.” (pg 245). “Gradually the plague passed and we heard of no more deaths or new cases. It was like waking from a nightmare to find that the worst of it had really happened.  Ken was tired and more than ever silent; he stayed at the post more and rode less. We were grateful for the work that kept us too busy to think always of those who no longer came to the store”. (pg 250).


Back in the years 1917 and 1918, the Navajo reservation was completely different than it is today. The Trading Post was the hub of all community activity, news, announcements, and the US mail. Basically there were no clusters of homes or houses like today. There was only a Trading Post and a visitor’s Hogan for customers who planned to stay overnight. The Navajos lived miles away from the Trading Post and miles away from each other. Just as the Navajos were very important to the Trader as customers, so too, was the Trader important to the Navajos. The Navajos fully expected white people (Traders and missionaries) to bury their dead. 


The Traders also left other influences. Ms. Mildred Heflin for example, introduced me to books and told me stories and happenings as she saw them many years before I was even born. Although she was only five years old during the great flu pandemic of 1918, she remembered the stories her father (Stokes Carson) and mother (Jessie Carson) told her of burying bodies and seeing so much death at Huerfano, New Mexico. Presently we have Navajo children “trick or treating” at various stores and home clusters; the Missionaries introduced Christmas presents; and, Navajo children are hunting easter eggs laid by Easter Bunnies on Easter morning. Navajo people and white people now pay an under-taker to bury their loved-ones in a cemetery; from a simple pine box to a luxury copper or tin casket depending upon how much love or money you have.


Cheryl Alcott holding a small and large wooden Arbuckle Coffee box.


Since the Indian Traders were called upon to bury some of the Indian dead, they did not want to get involved in having to make coffins. There were simply too many dead. For an adult burial, two large Arbuckle Coffee boxes were fastened together. One box could be used to bury a child. When whole families were found dead in their Hogan’s, it was simpler to burn down the entire Hogan with the bodies left inside.



Navajo Vice President Ben Shelly testifies against bill that misplaces administration of Utah Navajo Trust Fund

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., today against a bill that would place administration of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund into the hands of a non-government, non-profit organization with little oversight by the Navajo Nation.
The Vice President testified that the Navajo Nation rightfully should be the trust fund trustee. He said the Navajo Nation is adamantly opposed to Senate Bill 1690.  
Senate Bill 1690 introduced by Utah Senator Robert Bennett and would give control of the trust fund to the Utah Dineh Corporation, an entity that was not in existence when the bill was introduced.
“This bill would give control over approximately $30 million in trust funds to a corporation with zero experience with absolutely no outside capital,” Vice President Shelly told the committee. “Every year an additional $6 to $8 million dollars is added to the trust fund. In the event of any breach of trust by the corporation, the beneficiaries would have no remedy against the corporation.
Vice President Shelly told the committee that the Navajo Nation would be an accountable, responsible, and transparent trustee in the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. He said that in the 30 years of administrating the current Utah Navajo Trust Fund, the Navajo Nation has never breached its fiduciary responsibility to the trust fund.
“The Navajo Nation has had a successful record of managing, investing and increasing the value of multiple trust accounts,” the Vice President said. “The Office of the Utah Navajo Commission already administers and leverages money from the Utah Navajo Revitalization Fund, the UNTF, Navajo Nation funs and federal funds for projects on Navajo lands in San Juan County, Utah.”
The Vice President raised the issue of a lack of tribal government consultation by Senator Bennett, and said that was inconsistent with established U.S. policy to recognize the sovereignty of Native Nations and the right of tribal governments to exercise self-determination in matters concerning native lands, resources and citizens.   

“Senate Bill 1690 was introduced by the Honorable Senator Bennett without a single consultation by the Senator or his staff with the Navajo Nation government,” the Vice President said.   
Senator Bennett suggested that the problem was a Utah problem and should be solved by their parties.

The Utah Navajo Trust Fund is capitalized completely by royalties from Navajo Nation mineral leases on Navajo Nation lands in Utah, these were added to the Navajo Nation in 1933.
Since the 1970s, the Navajo Nation has been the fiscal agent for all Utah Navajo Trust Fund royalties. It has distributed money every year to the State of Utah from the Nation’s general funds for investment in the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. The beneficiaries of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund are Navajo citizens residing in San Juan County, Utah. Only members of the Navajo Nation are eligible beneficiaries of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund.
“Senate Bill 1690 fails to ensure any accountability or transparency in the use of trust fund money and fails to ensure that the trust will exist into perpetuity for the benefit of future generations of Navajo beneficiaries,” Vice President Shelly said. “Senate Bill 1690 broadly expands the original purposes of the trust and would lead to misuse and misappropriation of trust funds. Senate Bill 1690 would violate the common law of trusts by designating a handful of beneficiaries as the trustee and causing countless conflicts of interest. Frankly, Senators, Senate Bill 1690 is a recipe for disaster.”
“The Navajo Nation needs to be the Trustee of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund,” Vice President Shelly said. “We want to work with Congress, this Committee and the Utah Delegation to make the Navajo Nation a strong, accountable, and transparent Trustee.”


PHOENIX  – Faron Brown, 27, of Chinle, Ariz., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone to 48 months in federal prison.  Brown pleaded guilty on August 26, 2009 to Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. He assaulted a woman in April 2009, causing serious injury for which she required surgery.

        The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Navajo Department of Law Enforcement.  The prosecution was handled by Dyanne C. Greer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


CASE NUMBER:    CR-09-8050-PCT-FJM     

RELEASE NUMBER: 2009-381(Brown)


 PHOENIX  – Brandon Max Fischer, 22, of McNary, Ariz. was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt to 34 months in federal prison followed by a six month placement in an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program while on three years supervised release.

        Fischer pleaded guilty on August 18, 2009, to involuntary manslaughter.  He had been driving a van while intoxicated on Ariz. State Route 73 on the Fort Apache (White Mountain) Indian Reservation on May 30, 2007.  A number of his friends were riding without seatbelts in the van when it was involved in a one car, roll-over crash. One of the occupants of the van was critically injured and later died after being airlifted to a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. Fischer was also seriously injured requiring hospitalization in Phoenix. 

        The investigation in this case was conducted by the White Mountain Police Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  The prosecution was handled by Roger Dokken, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


CASE NUMBER:    CR-09-8029-PCT-PGR     

RELEASE NUMBER: 2009-380(Fischer)