Navajo Leaders Testify before Congress on Land Division Bill

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
Navajo Nation Washington Office
202-200-0625
jking@nnwo.org

Navajo Leaders Testify before Congress on Land Division Bill

WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation Speaker Johnny Naize (Low Mountain, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tachee/Blue Gap, Tselani/Cottonwood) and Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie (Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau) testified today before the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs regarding HR 3822, the Fort Wingate Land Division Act of 2014

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., introduced the bill in January as an alternative to a bill introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., in the 112th Congress. The bill is a result of collaborative effort between the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo to resolve differences over a longstanding issue.

HR 3822 seeks to return tribal lands to the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo as previously agreed to by both tribes in a 1997 memorandum of agreement.

“Our land is everything to our people, to our culture and to our way of life. The bill reflects the beginning of a long awaited close to dividing land. This land represents an important historic and cultural legacy. It was at Fort Wingate where our Navajo Code Talkers were first inducted into the defense of the United States,” stated Speaker Naize.

Speaker Naize thanked Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska and Rep. Luján for their strong representation of the Navajo Nation, for help in resolving the land division and for introducing a better alternative to the Pearce legislation. HR 3822 reflects a plan that was mutually agreed upon by the Navajo Nation Fort Wingate Task Force and Zuni representatives. 

During his testimony, Delegate Yazzie underscored local chapter opposition to the bill.

Speaker Naize emphasized that the Navajo Nation Council has not opposed or supported the measure.

“Throughout the process the Navajo Nation advocated strongly for its interests and this end result, while not perfect, represents a good faith effort by both tribes,” said Speaker Naize.

Speaker Naize suggested several changes and corrections to the bill based on community input. Notably, both Speaker Naize and Delegate Yazzie emphasized the need to restrict gaming and address environmental concerns.

In closing, Chairman Young emphasized the need to bring this matter to an end to avoid the land returning to the public sphere.

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