Capital Briefs: Office created to oversee $2B in ARPA funds
Preparing for a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” President Jonathan Nez on Monday signed an executive order that creates the Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Fund Office, which will oversee and implement the spending of $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act.
On Sept. 23, Nez and Chief of Staff Paulson Chaco presented the plan of operation for the office to Navajo Nation Council delegates, who voted 17-3 to allow the president’s office to move forward.
The office will be located at the Navajo Division of Transportation’s Emergency Operation Center.
Regarding projects that may be funded, Nez said, “We do hear the concerns of our people and we understand the need to expedite the internal processes to expend the funds as quickly as possible, while providing accountability and ensuring compliance with federal requirements each step of the way.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the quality of life for our people now and future generations,” Nez said.
The office will be a clearinghouse for ARPA activities including educating the public, collaborating with departments and divisions, reviewing, approving and overseeing projects and ensuring compliance with provisions of ARPA and Navajo Nation laws.
The controller’s office is developing a website to inform the public at navajonationarpa.org
Nez said, “The funds will be used over a five-year period to fully implement the American Rescue Plan Act.”
All Navajo gov workers must be vaccinated
WINDOW ROCK – All employees working at any Navajo government office, department, program or chapter now are required to be fully vaccinated or show proof they are not infected with COVID-19.
An executive order and Navajo Nation Council resolution mandate all tribal employees must be vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The executive order was issued on Aug. 20 and the resolution was certified on Aug. 31. President Jonathan Nez did not approve or veto the resolution during his 10-day review period.
The resolution affects legislative, executive and judicial branch employees, as well as those working with chapters.
Nez pushes for asst.-sec level official at Treasury
WINDOW ROCK – Following the recommendation by tribes across the U.S., President Jonathan Nez on Tuesday urged the U.S. Department of the Treasury to establish an Office of Tribal Affairs with an appointed officer at the assistant secretary level to advise the treasury secretary on issues related to tribal governments and the citizens of tribes.
The U.S. Treasury plays an important role and often finds itself trying to determine how funds set aside for tribes by Congress should be distributed and managed.
Most recently, Treasury managed funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act.
Nez said, “Tribal nations are in great need of a treasury departmental office committed to resolving financial and tax issues impacting tribal nations, especially in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.”
On Sept. 29, five U.S. senators sent a letter to Treasury asking that it be more responsive to the needs of tribal governments by establishing an Office of Tribal Affairs, a recommendation that tribes around the country support.
On March 17, The Department of the Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee had recommended the creation of a deputy assistant secretary for tribal governments.
Most federal agencies have either a tribal affairs office or a designated official who regularly engages with tribes.
Diné Action Plan revitalized
WINDOW ROCK – Last week, the Navajo Nation Council unanimously approved a bill that revitalizes the Diné Action Plan, which is aimed at the needs of social service and public safety programs across the Nation.
Sponsored by Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, the bill creates an advisory group to help implement goals and objectives.
Crotty said, “The Diné Action Plan brings together our Diné teachings sourced from our creation stories, allowing the Navajo people to realign themselves back to a state of hozhó and prosperity.
She added, “The advisory council now has a roadmap to properly address the social ills that affect our families.”
The three branches of the Navajo government in July adopted the updated plan aimed at violence, substance abuse, suicide and missing or murdered relatives.
Seth Damon, speaker of the Council, said, “The Diné Action Plan allows us to address modern day monsters impacting our families so we prevent suicides, domestic violence, and substance abuse disorders.”
The advisory group will set up a network of tribal and non-tribal advocates and will reevaluate and amend the plan when necessary or at least every five years.
Groundbreaking held for glove factory expansion
WINDOW ROCK – On Friday, Navajo Nation leaders and Mark Lee of Rhino Health Inc. broke ground for the expansion of the nitrile glove manufacturing plant in Church Rock, New Mexico.
The expansion will add 100,000 square-feet for the growth of current operations. The project will increase jobs from 54 to as many as 350.
Indigenous Design Studio + Architecture, a 100-percent Native woman-owned firm, led by Tamara Begay, will oversee the design of the project.
JT Willie, director of the Division of Economic Development, recognized Sharlene Begay-Platero, an industrial development specialist with the Project Development Department, for her continued efforts to help move this project forward.
President Jonathan Nez said, “The Navajo Nation’s investment and partnership with Rhino Health in 2019 has led to the creation of jobs for Navajo people. The gloves produced by the factory also helped many of our people to protect themselves and our frontline warriors during the COVID-19 outbreak and to this day.”
October is ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’
WINDOW ROCK – President Jonathan Nez signed a proclamation on Friday recognizing the month of October 2021 as “Navajo Nation Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
The proclamation is to raise awareness, honor survivors and offer support to those battling the disease.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Navajo women at a rate of 60 per 100,000. The Navajo Nation Department of Health encourages people to get regular cancer screenings.
Nez said, “We encourage all women to find out if they are at increased risk and to learn more about recommended screening at their local health center. Awareness, early detection, and treatment can save many lives.”
The Navajo Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program will provide mobile mammograms at the following dates and locations:
• Oct. 13 at 14 at Winslow Indian Health Care Center, Winslow, Arizona.
• Oct. 19 at Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Center, Chinle.
• Oct. 26 at Piñon Health Center, Piñon, Arizona.
• Oct. 27 at Tsaile Health Center, Tsaile, Arizona.
Mammogram screening is recommended for women over 40 every one to two years to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
The president’s office encourages all Navajo citizens to wear the color pink during the month of October.
Nez supports changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day
WINDOW ROCK – Last week, President Jonathan Nez sent letters to members of Congress supporting a new bill introduced by New Mexico congressmen Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a federally recognized holiday on the second Monday of October.
Nez said, “Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day will help our future generations revel in their identities and promote the survival of our cultures, languages, and indigeneity.
“Transforming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day will encourage young Navajos to have pride in the place and people they come from and the beauty they hold within,” he said.
In 2019, the New Mexico Legislature voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and it was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
A total of 13 states and more than 100 cities have recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
DED honors 5 retirees
ST. MICHEALS, Ariz.– The Navajo Nation’s Division of Economic Development held a drive-thru retirement luncheon on Sept. 30 to celebrate five employees who have retired.
The retirees include Bertha Aguirre, Dolly Lane, Albert Lee, Anthony Little and Ernest Pahe.
The division also issued congratulations to Shammie Begay, who dedicated many years of service to the Office of Legislative Services as legislative advisor for the Resources and Development Committee.
Despite the rainy weather, President Jonathan Nez and Miss Navajo Nation Niagara Rockbridge joined the celebration to wish the retirees well.
JT Willie, director of the division, said, “The contributions of their work will forever have an impact on our division and the progress towards economic development. We are thankful for their years of dedication and will continue the efforts on their behalf.”
2020 election showed power of Native vote, Nez says
CROWNPOINT – In the 2020 U.S. elections, “the power of the Native vote was put on full display,” said President Jonathan Nez on Sept. 29 to the New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee.
The committee held a public meeting at Navajo Technical University.
The state CRC is an independent group that is developing and proposing voting maps for state elections, a process that is done every 10 years following the Census.
The proposed maps face an Oct. 30 deadline. The final version of voting districts will be approved by the New Mexico Legislature.
“New Mexico tribal nations play a significant role in national, state, and local elections,” Nez said. “Therefore, when it comes time to put forth plans for redistricting, we call on the committee to comply with all applicable federal laws.”
He added that redistricting should preserve communities of interest, including political subdivisions of tribes.
Native Americans were given right to vote in New Mexico in 1948, long after the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act. However, Natives still face challenges voting, from traveling long distances to get to polls to language barriers.
Nez said, “Overall, the Navajo Nation requests a fair redistricting process that will give Navajo citizens an equal opportunity to elect leaders and interests of their choice.”
Nez was joined by delegates Mark Freeland and Daniel Tso.
Natives are 12% of New Mexico’s total population and the Nation has 48 chapters in McKinley, San Juan, Cibola, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Bernalillo, and Socorro counties.
Nez has also attended public hearings with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Committee. He works closely with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.