Navajo delegation urges Congress to meet treaty obligations

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For Immediate Release

Navajo delegation urges Congress to meet treaty obligations

WASHINGTON—On behalf of President Russell Begaye, Jackson Brossy, Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Chairman Walter Phelps, and Department of Dine Education Superintendent Dr. Tommy Lewis Jr., provided testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and called on Congress to support additional funding on top of President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget request on March 18, 2016.

Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Chairman and Council Delegate Walter Phelps provided testimony, offering solutions to bring about the end of the relocation era in an efficient, effective and compassionate manner.

Chairman Phelps requested $450,000 in legal service funding for legal representation of Indian appellants by Navajo-Hopi Legal Services. Additionally, Chairman Phelps requested the subcommittee allocate $20 million for housing and related improvements in the former Bennett Freeze Area.

Department of Dine Education Superintendent Dr. Tommy Lewis Jr., provided testimony for increased funding for school facilities construction, student transportation funding in the amount of $57.3 million and full funding for tribal grant support costs. He expressed concern highlighted by a recent GAO report that points to student safety and health that is currently being neglected by the BIA. “We support the request for $138.3 million, but it is obvious that more funding is needed to address these problems,” said Dr. Lewis.

Navajo Nation Washington Office director Jackson Brossy, speaking on behalf of President Begaye, started by thanking acting Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Ranking Member Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and members of the House Committee on Appropriations who visited Navajo and Hopi sites affected by a federal relocation program in January 2015.

“The Navajo Nation would like to see the federal trust brought into the 21st century,” said Brossy.

Brossy then highlighted the significant delay in receiving funds after a continuing resolution is approved before those funds are transferred to Navajo programs. This results in scholarships not being awarded to Navajo students in time for them to enroll in classes and end up dropping out of college.

For the remainder of his testimony, Brossy highlighted the need for increased funding under Navajo’s priority areas of Natural Resources, Public Safety, Human Services, Health as well as concern for reimbursement of cost from the EPA for the Gold King Mine spill. “More than half a year has passed and the local families and farmers impacted by the EPA’s Gold King Mine spill have not been made whole – they cannot wait any longer,” said Brossy.

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