Flagstaff leaders met with tribal, county, state and federal officials Monday to discuss how to resolve a long-standing land commitment to the Hopi Tribe.
In 1996 Congress approved an agreement to resolve a decades-old land dispute with the Hopi and Navajo tribes. Hopi Chairman Tim Nuvangyaoma said the tribe is now looking to the land promised in that settlement to solve its economic problems.
“It is more important now because of the potential closure of the Navajo Generating Station,” Nuvangyaoma said. “Revenues from NGS and the Kayenta Mine account for 85 percent of the tribe’s general fund. Unemployment is already high and economic development is almost impossible because of how remote we are and the fact we are landlocked by the Navajo Nation.”
Arizona Senator John McCain has proposed transferring thousands of acres of National Forest land near Flagstaff to the state. In lieu of the federal land, the state would provide large tracts of land elsewhere in northern Arizona to the Hopi Tribe.
Many Flagstaff residents said the Hopi deserve what’s owed to them but they’re concerned about preserving their drinking water, open space and trail access. Nick Matiella from McCain’s office said no lands have been designated yet.
“The attempt was to informally throw spaghetti at the wall,” Matiella said. “And I think we’ve learned rather quickly the lands in question are not suitable.”
The State Land Department Commissioner said there are other land options outside of northern Arizona that could be considered. The federal and state land agencies plan to sit down with local officials and come up with another proposal, so Congress can introduce legislation to provide land to the Hopi.