Navajo Hopi Land Commission Chairman Walter Phelps urges lawmakers to act on land status bill

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
Navajo Nation Washington Office
(202) 200-0625

For Immediate Release

Navajo Hopi Land Commission Chairman Walter Phelps urges lawmakers to act on land status bill

WASHINGTON—On Sept. 17, Navajo Hopi Land Commission Chairman Walter Phelps testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources regarding the Navajo Nation's support for HR 5176, a bill that would allow holders of preference right lease applications to exchange the applications for bidding rights on other federal lands. The Navajo Nation would then receive full and clear title to selected lands in New Mexico. 

On July 23, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., introduced the bill with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., as an original co-sponsor.

"The legislation would help solve a four decade-old federal obligation to the Navajo Nation that was authorized in the Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974," said Chairman Phelps.

The act settled the disputed boundaries between the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe, and resulted in the forced relocation of over 10,000 Navajo citizens from what is now Hopi land. In return for lost acreage, the Navajo Nation was permitted to select federal lands for conveyance into trust for the Navajo Nation.

In the early 1980s, the Navajo Nation selected parcels of federal land known as Paragon Ranch in northwest New Mexico. The secretary of the Interior has conveyed some of these parcels. However, a number of the parcels selected within the Paragon Ranch were encumbered by Preference Right Lease Applications (PRLAs) held by private entities and cannot be taken into trust for the Navajo Nation until the PRLAs are resolved.

"The Navajo Nation supports this legislation with the ability to deselect and reselect land of equal value at the Navajo Nation's discretion," added Phelps.

Chairman Phelps thanked Reps. Lujan and Lummis for introducing the bill and urged the committee to act on the legislation before the end the 113th Congress.

"Passage of this legislation would resolve one aspect of the harsh effects experienced by the Navajo people due to the 1974 Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act. Further it fulfills a promise made by the federal government to the Navajo Nation 40 years ago," said Phelps.