The 10 Most Asked Questions
Answer. The history of the dispute spans more than 100 years and involves numerous pieces of Congressional legislation and court cases. In essence, it the 1880's the federal government set aside 2.2 million acres, or roughly 3,450 square miles of an area larger than the State of Delaware, for the Hopi Indians and such other Indians as the government might settle thereon. At that time, the Navajo Reservation was many miles to the east. Over the years, Navajos moved westward and the Navajo Reservation was enlarged several time until it surrounded the Hopi Reservation and encompassed more than 15 million acres, or 23,500 square miles or and area the size of West Virginia or Ireland. (The Navajo Reservation is larger than many European countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark.) The Navajos began to use the Hopi Reservation almost to the total exclusion of the Hopi Tribe. Beginning in 1958, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Hopi Tribe to adjudicate its rights in the land in the federal courts. Ultimately, the courts determined both tribes had rights in the land and that the best solution to the competing claims was to "partition" or divide the land between the two tribes. The land was divided into the Hopi Partitioned Land (HPL) and the Navajo Partitioned Land (NPL). Thus, the dispute over ownership to the land has been resolved. The remaining dispute is how to move the Navajos living on the HPL onto Navajo lands. (Few Hopis lived on the NPL and those that did voluntarily move to the HPL after the land was partitioned.)
Question: I have heard that there really is no dispute, that the Navajos and Hopis get along just fine with each other. Is this true?
Answer. There are individual Navajos and Hopis that get along with each other just as there are Irish Catholics and Protestants and Palestinians and Israelis that get along. Such isolated personal relationships, however, don not mean that there is no dispute in Northern Ireland or that there is no Arab/Israeli dispute or that this is no dispute between the Navajo and the Hopis. The tribes have profound religious, political and legal differences.
Question: Isn't this merely another attempt by the government to take land from the Indians?
Answer. The United States was not a party to the litigation to partition the land. The litigation was brought by the Hopi Tribe against the Navajo Nation and the land was divided between the two tribes. The federal government gained no land from the litigation. In fact, the federal government has given the Navajo Nation 250,000 acres of "new land" and provided funding to the Hopi Tribe to acquire up to 150,000 additional acres of land.
Question: If the Navajos have to move off Hopi lands, where are they supposed to go and what provisions have been made to assist them?
Answer. The Navajo Nation is more than 15 million acres and the federal government has provided an additional 250,000 acres specifically for relocation purposes. Many Navajos have chosen to relocate to the main Navajo Reservation and many have moved to the "new lands." Some Navajos has chosen not to move to the "new land" and have been relocated to communities in the surrounding area or out of state. Before any Navajo moves, the federal government provides them with water, electricity and a new home. Thus, far, the federal government has spent over One-half billion dollars to assist Navajos in relocating.
Question: What happens to those Navajos that don't want to relocate?
Answer. The Hopi and Navajo residents of the HPL have spent years in federal court ordered mediation negotiating "Accommodation Agreements," whereby the Hopi Tribe has agreed to accommodate the continued residence by Navajos on the HPL. In essence, these Accommodation Agreements are long term leases (75 years) with an option to renew at the end of the 75 years.
Question: How many Navajos are involved in the accommodation process and have any declined to sign an Accommodation Agreement?
Answer. There are, approximately 162 Navajo families currently residing on the HPL, Only about two dozen families have not signed Accommodation Agreements or signed an agreement to relocate on other Navajo lands.
Question: I have heard that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is stealing or impounding Navajo sheep. Why is the BIA doing this?
Answer. As part of the litigation in the Navajo-Hopi dispute, the BIA was ordered by the courts to maintain the range and ensure that it is not being over grazed. Many Navajos had historically over grazed the range and severely damaged it. Several years ago, the BIA initiated a purchase program whereby it purchased excess Navajo animals. Thereafter, on an annual basis, the BIA has issued grazing permits to the Navajo HPL residents. These permits specify how many animals each Navajo family can graze on the HPL. If a family is grazing animals in excess of their permit they are notified of this fact and asked to remove the excess animals. If they are not removed with a reasonable time, the BIA must impound excess animals in order to ensure that the range is not over grazed and to comply with the orders of the court.
Question: Are Navajos allowed to graze animals if they have signed an Accommodation Agreement?
Answer. Yes. After years of negotiations the Hopi Tribe and the HPL Navajos agreed that the HPL Navajos were entitled to graze 2,800 sheep units on the HPL, which is approximately 2 ½ times the number previously permitted. (Sheep units are a way to measure use of the range. For example, a cow eats approximately 5 times as much as a sheep. Thus, one cow equals five sheep units. Navajos can graze a variety of animals as long as the total does not exceed 2,800 sheep units.) The HPL Navajos decide among themselves how to allocate their grazing rights.
Question: If the Navajos have signed Accommodation Agreements why is the BIA presently impounding Navajo animals?
Answer. The Accommodation Agreements authorize the HPL Navajos to graze 2,800 sheep units. They were, however, at the beginning of the year grazing in excess of 3,600 sheep units. In addition, the HPL is an arid area and is currently experiencing a dryer than normal year. As a consequence the carrying capacity of the range has been reduced to 2,300 sheep units. In dry times, prudent range management requires a reduction in the number of livestock grazed. In this case, there has been a pro rata reduction in the number of animals that both the HPL Navajos and members of the Hopi Tribe can graze on the HPL.
Question: Is it true the Navajos have been threatened and assaulted in order to try and make them sign an Accommodation Agreement or move from the HPL?
Answer. There are no documented instances of Navajos having been threatened or assaulted. Some non-Indian supports of the HPL Navajos allege that explaining the law to the HPL Navajos constitutes threats and intimidation. In recognition of the sensitive nature of relocation, as part of the mediation process leading to the Accommodation Agreement process Navajo tribal members agreed to make contact with the HPL Navajos to explain the terms of the Accommodation Agreements and to answer questions. The process has been very successful as the majority of the HPL Navajos have signed the Accommodation Agreement. The only people that have, in fact, been assaulted and injured have been BIA and Hopi tribal employees.
HERE To Read
All Graphics on this page were created by Awohaliunega.
© 1999. Awohaliunega. Cleveland, TN: White Eagle
|The Author is a member of|