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Capital Briefs: 2021 Navajo Nation Fair canceled

WINDOW ROCK

Ending a 73-year tradition, the Navajo Nation Fair was canceled on Monday due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its variants.

A statement was released signed by Fair Manager Leonard Francisco Jr., Department of Agriculture Manager Leo Watchman Jr., and Rudy Shebala, director of the Division of Natural Resources.

With guidance from the president’s office, the statement said, “It is important to understand an event of this magnitude attracts people from across the world and could impact the health and safety of our beloved children, parents and grandparents. We need to stay vigilant as a Nation and continue to listen to our health care professionals.”

The statement noted that the fair has been a time-honored tradition for families to come together and showcase Diné pride.

“We came together,” the statement said, “Ntsidigo’í in hand, at the song and dance, powwow, Miss Navajo Nation competitions, food/farmers market, carnival, parade, PRCA rodeo, Native rodeo and many more fun events to reunite and reconnect with family, friends and culture.”

The fair office and Division of Natural Resources will continue to work on improvements to fair facilities in preparation for the 2022 event.

Harris meets with tribal reps on voting rights

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a discussion in the White House to engage with leaders of Native American and Alaska Native communities about voting rights.
She was joined by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo.

Harris thanked the participants for their work to protect voting rights, and they discussed ways to make voting more accessible.

The vice president said, “And then we look at the new law in 18 states. Those legislative bodies have passed 30 new laws, which target ballot collection, which target out-of-precinct voting, and this directly impacts our tribal communities.

“So, there are solutions,” she said. “We must pass the For the People Act and we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We must ensure that all people’s rights to access to the poll is protected and encouraged.”

Tribal representatives in attendance included Allie Young from the Navajo Nation, Oglala Lakota Nation President Kevin Killer, Chairwoman Shelly Fyant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and Prairie Rose Seminole, with the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.

We need more stores, committee chairman says

WINDOW ROCK – On Tuesday, the Resources and Development Committee received a report from the Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Inc. on economic development opportunities across the Navajo Nation, according to the speaker’s office.

The report stressed the need for more attractions and retail businesses on the Nation, such as sit-down restaurants, family entertainment, clothing stores and commercial retailers such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowes.

Committee Chairman Rick Nez said, “There needs to be more infrastructure on the Navajo Nation, refining the tax codes and amending current laws of our business entities. We go to border towns to spend our monies, and we do not reinvest back into the Nation.

“We need to look at our economic situation on the Nation,” he said, “so people can have jobs, and be able to know we are putting monies back into our economy.”

Infrastructure and economic development face many challenges when implementing dual taxation and rural addressing in areas of high growth potential.

Another challenge is the lack of broadband services. With the increased use of phones for sales and merchandise, businesses need fast and reliable internet in order to increase revenue streams.

In collaboration with the Division of Economic Development, the shopping centers office plans to conduct public outreach and consult with the five agencies of the Nation.

Nez testifies to U.S. Senate committee

WINDOW ROCK – On July 20 President Jonathan Nez gave virtual testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in support of the Indian Health Service Sanitation Facilities Construction Enhancement Act, introduced by New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján.

The bill would provide over $3 billion to the Indian Health Service to complete thousands of water and sewer projects on IHS’s Sanitation Deficiency System list.

Nez stressed that the lack of running water in Navajo homes poses many challenges with the pandemic because many people, including elders and disabled, could not wash their hands as recommended by health experts.

He said the Navajo Nation had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections last year but, through the resilience and determination of the Navajo people and frontline workers, the rates have decreased.

Nez said, “The improvement in the quality of life that many U.S. citizens take for granted is simply turning on the faucet in their home. The pandemic elevated the problem of having no running water in most Navajo Nation households to number one.”

Nez checks in on housing program

WINDOW ROCK – On Saturday, President Jonathan Nez checked the progress of a project to build hogan-style homes for the Navajo people. He and staff helped with building the first prototype of the home in Tse Bonito, N.M.

James Zwierlein, director of the Navajo Veterans Administration, is working with housing organizations to establish manufacturing facilities in the region to build homes for the Navajo people.

Nez said, “We know that the cost of building materials and transportation is at an all-time high due to the pandemic and other factors. By having regionalized housing manufacturing facilities that use our resources and by employing our Navajo people in the construction process, we can lower those costs and build more homes.”

The prototype is 1,200 square feet and includes two bedrooms, one bathroom, a laundry room, and an open floor plan for the kitchen and living room. Other plans also include three, four and five bedrooms.

On Friday, the Navajo Nation Council unanimously approved a bill that amends the Navajo Nation Veterans Trust Fund to increase the Navajo VA’s capacity to run the housing program.

On the last day of the summer session, the Council voted 18-0 to allow the Veterans Trust Fund to establish infrastructure budgets for the completion of homes for Navajo veterans.

“We’re not talking about ARPA money,” said Delegate Raymond Smith Jr. “It’s about the Veteran’s Trust Fund to build houses and implement it as soon as possible. Please accept the legislation as is with no amendments due to the high demands and needs of our people.”


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