Navajo Nation Opposes Fort Wingate Legislation

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Contact: Jared King
Navajo Nation Washington Office
T 202.682.7390
C 202.200.0625
www.nnwo.org

For Immediate Release

Navajo Nation Opposes Fort Wingate Legislation

WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation Speaker Johnny Naize, Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie, and the Navajo Nation Washington Office held a series of meetings April 9-11 in Washington with congressional staff to express their opposition to HR 4187.  The legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., would impose a settlement of the Fort Wingate Military District Lands on the Navajo Nation without Navajo Nation’s approval. 

Speaker Naize and Delegate Yazzie held meetings with members of the New Mexico Delegation and key congressional committee staff. On March 8, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. 

“While we understand that Congressman Pearce wants to bring this process to a close, both tribes must come to an agreement that is approved by the proper tribal governmental entity, in this case the Navajo Nation Council and the Zuni Tribal Council and that has not happened here. Any federal legislation that imposes a solution is premature,” Speaker Naize said.

The Navajo Nation and the Zuni Pueblo have been in negotiations concerning the distribution of the former Fort Wingate military base since 1997. “While these negotiations have been long, the tribes were getting close to an equitable agreement based upon historic usage until the introduction of the Pearce bill changed the nature of the negotiations, “Speaker Naize said.

The primary purpose of Speaker Naize and Council Delegate Yazzie’s visits was to assure the Navajo Nation’s New Mexico delegation that any assertions by other parties that the Navajo Nation has agreed to a distribution of the lands are false. 

“The tribes are in the middle of an active negotiation and any introduction of federal legislation that would impose a solution on the tribes that has not been approved by the Navajo Nation Council interferes with the negotiation process set up by both parties,” Speaker Naize said.

Council Delegate Yazzie said the Navajo Nation will continue to negotiate with the Zuni Pueblo to develop a fair and equitable solution to the distribution of the ancient and sacred lands. "We will keep Congressman Pearce informed of our discussions and progress,” Council Delegate Yazzie stated.

On Nov. 10, 2011 the 22nd Navajo Nation Council, through the Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee, established the Navajo Nation Fort Wingate Task Force to negotiate with the Zuni Delegation. The task force is comprised of council delegates, select divisions, and departments of the Navajo Nation. Once an equitable arrangement is finalized, the settlement will be voted on by the Council and presented to the Navajo Nation President for his approval. Only then will the Navajo Nation officially support an agreement.

The Fort Wingate Military District consists of more than approximately 21,000 acres of land. Of those lands, about 6,000 acres have been remediated and can be transferred to the Navajo and Zuni tribes. Both tribes hold aboriginal claims to these lands, and the Navajo Nation is committed to ensuring that the claims of both tribes are protected.

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