Tribe hopes land withdrawal will spur economic development

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 13, 2013

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N avajo Nation officials are hoping that the decision this week to withdraw 4.43 acres of land within the community for economic development will spur a growth in new businesses and jobs.

The approval of the land withdrawal came Tuesday when members of the Resources and Development Committee voted 3-0 to approve the withdrawal.

The withdrawal of the land, which is located about a half-mile south of the junctions of U.S. Highway 491 and Highway 64, will enable businesses to get set up without going through time-consuming requirements such as getting archaeological and environmental clearances.

Randy Sells, the program manager for the Shiprock Regional Business Development Office, said one of the possibilities that is being considered for the land is a mini-mall.

The RDBO, he said, is also working with two individuals who want to build hotels or motels in other areas of Shiprock.

The two motel or hotel developers, he said, are still in the process of getting funding for their projects.

The chapter's president, Duane "Chili" Yazzie, agrees that the chapter is on the move, pointing out that a $5 million youth center is on its way and the chapter continues to see interest from off-reservation businesses to set up shop in the area.

Another positive factor, he said, is that the Shiprock Chapter and tribal economic development officials are working hand in hand to promote the attractions of Shiprock for future business development.

That hasn't always been the case.




Yazzie said he remembers a time back in the mid-1970s when Shiprock officials felt they were being ignored by the tribal government, even though Shiprock was the largest community on the reservation and had a population base that desperately needed an influx of new jobs.

The situation was so bad that some in the community members, and Yazzie stressed that he was never a part of this group, wanted to separate itself from the tribe and create its own tribal government.

Today, there are those who want to see Shiprock reach its potential are looking at possibly converting the chapter organization into a township.

"Is Shiprock thinking of the idea of a township?" was a question that Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt/Casamero Lake/Counselor/Littlewater/Ojo Encino/ Pueblo Pintado/Torreon/Whitehorse Lake) asked during the committee meeting.

Council delegate Russell Begaye (Shiprock), who introduced the legislation to withdraw the land, said, "We (Shiprock Chapter) are currently bouncing ideas around for a township."

The only township on the reservation right now is Kayenta.

Yazzie agrees that there is no question that Shiprock will get some kind of new classification that will allow the Shiprock people more power in addressing their own needs.

"It's just a matter of time," he said.

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