Navajo President Ben Shelly Calls for Greater Tribal Control over Natural Resources from the Obama Administration

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

For Immediate Release

Navajo President Ben Shelly Calls for Greater Tribal Control over Natural Resources from the Obama Administration

WASHINGTON—Speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said tribal nations are heading into a new era of energy development where control over assets and resources on tribal lands will be a sovereign responsibility alone. 

“Today is a new day,” said President Shelly. “We are assuming control over our own natural resources by removing federal red tape, we can do more in meeting the energy needs of the country while establishing our own greater self-sufficiency.”

President Shelly also called for investment of technology for energy development on tribal lands.

“We have created a new energy policy, we are purchasing a coal mine, building a rail spur in New Mexico to transport our resources and will develop clean coal technology for Navajo projects,” said President Shelly.

Created by an executive order by President Obama, the White House Native American Affairs Council was established this year and is comprised of cabinet secretaries from each of the federal agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, serves as chair.

“We understand President Obama’s desire to reduce deficit spending,” said President Shelly. “Giving us control over our resources and removing federal restrictions will make us more independent. More independence for us means less federal spending. Let us get on our own feet.”

While the conference was the main focus of the week, President Shelly attended other meetings with federal agencies, members of Congress, and tribal organizations.

President Shelly last month signed the Navajo Energy Policy, creating the way for more energy development. As the president assumed office in January 2011, he called for a new policy.

“With our fossil fuel resources, and capacity for renewable energy, we will become an energy-producing nation again,” outlined the president on Jan. 11, 2011. “We will create a new, comprehensive energy policy. We call upon Congress to make new laws that will move us quickly to independence.”

On Nov. 12, in a meeting with the Bureau of Indian Education, President Shelly signed a historic memorandum of agreement between the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Indian Education that will allow the nation access to its students’ data and will help the nation understand the needs of its children.

The MOA designates the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education as an authorized representative able to receive student data consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). FERPA generally prohibits disclosure of certain kinds of student data without consent.

Addressing a recent U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General audit citing the Navajo Nation Workforce Development program for not spending its funds, President Shelly and agency officials pledged to work together toward administrative review of the nation’s current DOL grant.

Regarding job training, the president emphasized to the Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, at another separate listening session Tuesday, the need to continue to train Native people for jobs and to continue to partner with the Department of Labor. “We need to work in partnership to bring these job training opportunities to the unemployed people. Our people need jobs.”

The president returns to the Navajo Nation Friday following additional meetings with Congress and federal agency officials.

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