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Newspaper of the Hopi Tribe

Vol.IX No.15
August 3, 1999

note: while this is reprinted from the TUTUVENI, it is only so to make it easier for the reader to find.
The original article will be at the above listed site for a couple of weeks, and is at the BOTTOM of the text file.
At present, the TUTUVENI does not have an accessable archive of back issues

Dear Editor:

In order to write a balanced story, journalist must try to understand the Hopi perspective regarding the current Accommodation process that allows Navajo families to remain on Hopi land. As a matter of history, and contrary to popular misconceptions that the so-called Land Dispute is driven by corporate interests, the land issue is a matter between two Indian Nations, the Hopi and Navajo. While U.S. Government intervention plays a significant role in resolving the matter, the bottom-line still remains that this is and always has been a dispute between two tribes over land and their efforts to resolve competing claims to it.

The Hopi people, an ancient people, presently live in northeastern Arizona on three mesas that are fingers of Black Mesa. The Hopi have occupied these villages, strongholds of Hopi territory and the center of an extensive North American migratory network for more than a thousand years. The Village of Oraibi is considered to be the oldest, continuously inhabited settlement in the Northern Hemisphere. An agrarian society, the Hopi farmed the valleys below the mesas and carried out their ceremonial obligations during each calendar year.

Their life was fairly peaceful until white settlers, government agents, and the Navajo began without invitation to move into Hopi territory. The life of the Hopi and their relationship to their land has thus become even more complicated over the past 100 years.

In 1882, in an effort to stop Navajo encroachment and following Hopi complaints of Navajo encroachment to the U.S. Government, U.S. President Chester A. Arthur issued an Executive Order establishing a reservation for the exclusive use, occupancy and possession of the Hopi. This did not stop the Navajo from moving onto Hopi land. They continued to settle on Hopi land despite presidential and Congressional actions enlarging the Navajo Reservation so that it now encompasses more than 17 million acres of land spanning parts of the States of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico...and still this is not enough. Most of these Federal land grants to the Navajo have included the majority of Hopi ancestral lands, leading to subsequent lawsuits between the two tribes.

With the muscle and political clout of a much larger tribal population, the Navajo lobbied Congress and special interest groups to support their suatters rights claim to the 1882 Reservation. As a result, the reservation that was meant for the Hopi was eventually divided by Congress and the courts with one-half of the land going to the Navajo via the 1974 Settlement Act.

The loss of these lands and resources for the Hopi was devastating in light of the fact that Hopi ancestral lands once covered over 18 million acres in northeastern Arizona. Hopi land has been diminished to a mere 1.6 million acres.

The 1974 Settlement Act did not bring an end to the Land Dispute for the Hopi. Just like a candy bar divided between two children which should have ended the dispute, the Navajo took their portion and today insist on taking another big bite from the Hopi portion. These are the 12 families who insist that they will not move from the Hopi Partitioned Lands to the Navajo side. This is the issue today.

Today, the Navajo Reservation completely surrounds the Hopi Reservation, creating a landlocked homeland for the Hopi. This circumstance further complicates modern challenges for the Hopi when we are required to obtain right-of-way approvals from the Navajo for essential services such as electricity and water. This creates an economic hostage situation for the Hopi Tribe.

The Hopi population is approximately 12,000. A growing population means increased needs for housing, infrastructure development, and economic development. The Hopi need what little lands are left of their homeland to build these important systems.

In 1996, the Hopi, at great sacrifice to their own interests, agreed to allow the Navajo families on the HPL to remain on the Hopi Partitioned Lands through a lease agreement. This lease arrangement provides for a homesite, grazing and farming for 75 years, allowing the Navajo to continue living on Hopi land. 300 Navajo families have already agreed to lease arrangements with the Hopi Tribe.

Unless you were present during the negotiations, you will have little appreciation as outsiders for the intense and difficult discussions between the Navajo families and the Hopi Tribe taking several years to complete. For example, the Hopi initially offered leases in perpetuity to the families. This was rejected by the Navajo families who said they were nothing more than death estates. 75 years was eventually agreed upon by the two parties.

The Hopi people want to live in peace on what remains of their land. They have been overly generous in their position and feel the accommodation agreement offered to the trespassing Navajo is more than what should be required of the Hopi. As far as the Hopi are concerned, the "Land Dispute" is over.

However, the handful of Navajo resistors using political activist, UN support, movie stars and the media, continue to voice their so-called right to the rest of the candy bar of a small tribe who placed its trust and faith in the most recent 1996 settlement and its accommodation agreements. This handful of Navajo resistors continue their attempts to deprive the Hopi of land.

The Hopi people are outnumbered and outgunned in the media, political and world forum. they insist in representing their own interests and have relied on the goodwill and honesty of outsiders to understand that this land was hard won in order to keep it for future generations of Hopi children.

What has baffled the Hopi is the outside perception that they are the villains and demons. The truth is that the silent victims in this entire pitiful episode are the Hopi people. A proud, rooted, and religious people who continue to fight to keep what is left of their land.

What the world does not know is that the Hopi have been removed from their ancestral lands and confined to small piece of their ancestral territory, completely landlocked (see map). They are stalked by outsiders, cursed at, and had their ceremonies disrespected. Outsiders, who have no desire to learn about the Hopi, come and speak of the Hopi in ill disregard and then leave. Outsiders who feel the Hopi have no human rights and advocate revisionist history.

The Sun Dance event was held against the Hopi people’s wishes. It is a clear example of how a few members of a larger tribe attempt to push around a smaller tribe. It is a clear example of the Navajo resistor’s blatant and unlawful disregard for the Hopi people. And, it is clearly an example of how 12 Navajo families are trying to unravel a settlement accepted by a majority of affected Navajo and Hopi families. The Hopi people remain a proud and ancient people whose ancestors once inhabited Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Spur Cross and villages throughout the Southwest too numerous to mention.

We hope you will take the time to learn of the Hopi and their fight to hold onto what little land remains of our ancestral territory. We hope you will take the time to understand the Hopi and their culture. And, we hope you will not help to derail a settlement between the Hopi and Navajo that took years to arrive at, and which if derailed, offers no other peaceful means of settling a longstanding complex and sensitive issue.

Most of all, we urge you to be fair and balanced in your reporting.


/s/ Lenora Lewis

Chairperson, Land Team

The Hopi Tribe

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