Full steam ahead for freshmen Council
The 25th Navajo Nation Council already has a full plate and has not yet officially approved who will serve on which committee.
Speaker of the 25th Navajo Nation Council Crystalyne Curley made her selection on which Council delegates will be on which committee last Friday. The selection still has to be approved by the Council, but already the new Council has several challenges it has begun tackling.
On Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, Curley, along with several members of the 25th Council, were in Salt Lake City to show their support for a state bill modeled after the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, which is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The bill, H.B. 40, was held up by a 7-5 vote in the Utah House Judiciary Committee last Thursday. The bill is supported by the Navajo Nation and several other Utah state tribes, as well as Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
Members of the 25th Council, Shaandiin Parrish, Eugenia Charles-Newton, Germaine Simonson, Carl Slater, and Rickie Nez, accompanied Nygren and Curley.
The Utah Navajo Commission identified nine other Utah state legislations that could threaten the tribe’s sovereignty, including Native American voter rights and the Bears Ears National Monument. The Navajo tribal delegation also showed its support for the extension of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force Sunset and a revision made to the law that protects students intending to graduate in their traditional attire.
Council Delegate Herman M. Daniels sponsored a bill supporting the Utah Navajo Commission’s request for tribal backing, unanimously approved during the Council’s winter session Jan. 25.
Daniels’ colleague, Vince James, also introduced legislation that would reacquire a $2.65 million Síhasin funding approved in November 2021 for purchasing emergency vehicles and equipment for the Ganado Fire Department. The funds were reverted. The Síhasin Fund provides financial support for economic and community development.
The Ganado Fire Department serves the communities of Ganado, Steamboat, Kin?ichíi, Klagetoh, Cornfields, Wood Springs, Cross Canyon, Béésh Bitó’, and Toyei. If the request to reacquire the money is passed, it would be used to purchase fire apparatus and fire equipment, rescue and medical transport emergency vehicles.
The communities and the fire department that provides emergency services were impacted by snowstorms that made rural roads impassable for several days. The Apache County Emergency Management and Preparedness, including the Ganado Fire Department and the Navajo Nation Emergency Management, went into action and began clearing the roads of snow that were as deep as 4 feet. They also provided emergency care for community members needing medical attention or prescription medicine and could not get it when they became trapped. Water, wood, and hay for livestock were also provided.
During the winter session, legislation CJA-03-23 approved $3 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance, or UUFB, for emergency purposes, allowing all 110 chapters to provide protective measures and remedies. The most significant funding would go to the Navajo Eastern Agency, and the least would go to the Chinle Agency. As of Jan. 12, the UUFB balance is $21,809,586.
On Wednesday, the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee held a work session and discussed how to expedite the spending of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, and fiscal recovery funds. The more than $1.86 billion in ARPA funding was allocated by the U.S. Department of Treasury in May 2021. In August of that same year, the Treasury Department gave an additional $218 million to the tribe, increasing the fiscal recovery fund to more than $2 billion.
The ARPA funds will help foster the development of housing, water line projects, electricity connections, bathroom additions, public safety, and broadband infrastructures. According to the ARPA requirements, the tribe has until the end of 2024 to create a spending plan on how to use the money, which then has to spend by the end of 2026.
In 2020, the tribe received $714 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. It provided funding for broadband, electricity, and water projects. Ultimately, the money was used as hardship assistance and given up to $1,500 to enrolled members over 18 and up to $500 to enrolled members under 18.
The Naabik’íyáti’ Committee heard from the Office of Management & Budget, the controller’s office, the Department of Justice, and the Fiscal Recovery Funds Office to determine how quickly the ARPA monies would be spent on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Curley selected delegates serving in the Budget and Finance Committee, the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, the Resources and Development Committee, and the Law and Order Committee.
Curley selected Norman M. Begay, Lomardo Aseret, Carl Slater, Shaandiin Parrish, Seth Damon, and Amber Kanazbah Crotty to be on B&F; George Tolth, Andy Nez, Vince R. James, Germaine Simonson, Helena Nez Begay, and Curtis Yanito to be on HEHSC; Danny Simpson, Brenda Jesus, Shawna Ann Claw, Otto Tso, Casey Allen Johnson, and Rickie Nez to be on RDC; Steven R. Arviso, Cherilyn Yazzie, Nathan Notah, Herman M. Daniels, and Eugenia Charles-Newton to be on LOC. The committees aren’t official until confirmed by the Council. In addition, changes to Curley’s selection could still be made before becoming official.
Legislations on who would chair and vice chair each of the committees were also introduced. Each bill was on a five-day hold, ending on Friday.
On Friday, members of the Council and President Nygren are expected to attend the 2023 American Indian Day at the Legislature, which will be held at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe.
The tribe attended the 28th Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day on Jan. 11, where water rights and tribal sovereignty took the forefront.