A sign on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Photo: Paige Henderson

Hopi Tribe seeks support for long-overdue land transfer

The Hopi Tribe is looking to federal government to fulfill a long-overdue promise that's connected to a seemingly endless land dispute.

Under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996, the tribe was supposed to be able to acquire certain lands in Arizona and have them placed in trust. Two decades later, little has happened on that front.

“We'd like to start moving forward and finding some solace and some peace of mind in getting this done,” Chairman Tim Nuvangyaoma told the board of supervisors in Coconino County at a public meeting on Tuesday, The Arizona Daily Star reported.

Nuvangyaoma, who took office last December, asked the board for support with the transfer, the paper reported. Under the 1996 law, the tribe needs the Arizona State Land Department to condemn certain lands and pay for those lands before having them placed in trust.

Talks with the state, though, have hit an impasse, an attorney for the tribe told county supervisors. Some of that stems a potential transfer of federal lands to the state, with a March story in The Daily Star highlighting local opposition to such a transfer.

According to the paper, the tribe has been promised 150,000 acres of condemned state lands, some of which are located along a busy interstate. The tribe plans to use them for economic development purposes in hopes of addressing a power plant that is due to shut down next year.

“The single most effective thing the government can do to help the Hopi Tribe weather this storm is to live up to the promises made in 1996 and allow us to obtain our settlement lands,” Nuvangyaoma said at a different public meeting hosted by the city council in Flagstaff, the paper reported in March.

The 1996 law represented another chapter in a long dispute involving the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation and the federal government. The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, a federal agency, was tasked with implementing a settlement between the tribes and the government way back in 1974.

Congress intended to complete certain portions of the settlement by 1986 yet many issues, such as housing, remain unresolved. Others, such as land acquisitions, are also on the table as some lawmakers have looked for ways to shut down the office.

The Navajo Nation Council enacted a resolution last week opposing such a closure, citing unresolved issues affecting Navajo citizens who were supposed to be relocated from lands designated for use by the Hopi Tribe.

Read More on the Story:
Hopi Tribe asks Flagstaff, Coconino County for land transfer support (The Arizona Daily Star May 17, 2018)
Reboot: Swap involving Flagstaff-area lands takes heat, suspended (The Arizona Daily Star March 13, 2018)

Government Accountability Office Report:
OFFICE OF NAVAJO AND HOPI INDIAN RELOCATION: Executive Branch and Legislative Action Needed for Closure and Transfer of Activities (April 24, 2018)

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