WASHINGTON, D.C. - Navajo Nation Council Delegate Young Jeff Tom (Mariano Lake/Smith Lake) and Legislative Staff Assistant Jonathan Hale with the Office of the Speaker, recently attended the 2008 National Association of Counties (NACO) meeting on behalf of the 21st Navajo Nation Council.
Other Navajo Nation officials present at the meeting were Navajo Vice President Ben Shelly, Coconino County Supervisor Louise Yellowman, Jesse Thompson, and Ernest Becenti Jr.
The Navajo Council is committed to working collaboratively and respectfully along with their neighbors in a fashion that beholds just one of the many basic Navajo fundamental ideologies: "We help each other." That commitment of helping each other was evident in the gathering of various dignitaries from all 50 states.
The purpose of the NACO meeting was, in part, to improve and strengthen government-to-government relationships with other leaders, especially with the states of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, which border the Navajo reservation.
After being introduced to the assembly by Tom White Jr., Apache County Supervisor, Council Delegate Tom spoke of the three branch government and how the Navajo Nation functions under this type of government as well as how the Navajo Nation Council plays a crucial role in the policy making end. They also reiterated to the participants the concerns of the Navajo Nation and the strong belief held by Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale) that he, alongside his council delegates remain committed to "working together to address the common problems that our constituents face."
In January, Speaker Morgan was invited to speak at the opening day of the New Mexico State Legislature in Santa Fe, N.M. He spoke to members of the New Mexico Association of Counties (NMAC) on behalf of the 21st Navajo Nation Council, becoming the first Native American leader representing a tribal nation or Pueblo to address the NMAC.
At that assembly Morgan said, "As governments, it is our responsibility to bring stability, accountability, and service to our constituents. We are all working towards the same common goals - why not help each other? We should not think of regions, but be broader in our representation - our issues should not be bound by borders - this is essential for our advances as a nation."
Morgan emphasized that the Navajo Nation does not have the necessary resources to provide much-needed services to their people. It is partnerships with other governmental sectors that help in providing these critical services, he said.
Some of the concerns and issues shared by both Hale and Tom were the challenges such as transportation issues the Navajo people deal with, gaming initiatives, economic development and social issues that affect all of Native America.
Hale stated that despite the limited amount of time they had to share their concerns with those gathered, they felt "that the Navajo Nation was there to bring to the forefront the stance of the Navajo people and what Navajos would like to see in working with the counties that they are situated in."
There was some encouraging news in that better communication with government-to-government, meaning the Navajo Nation and surrounding counties and state officials, has opened the doors of understanding and many issues "are solved."
Other issues discussed were gaming and how this would affect the workforce on the Navajo Nation and what benefits would ultimately be gained by everyone.
"These funds would be utilized for needed social programs, services to veterans, education, health, the need for infrastructure development on the reservation to cater to big conferences and businesses," Hale said.
As the dialogue continued, it became evident that despite differences of opinion and the challenges of finding much needed funding for nationwide projects, "the Navajo Nation has a good working relationship with its counties," Hale added.
NACO is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States.
Founded in 1935, NACO provides essential services to the nation's 3,066 counties. NACO advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public's understanding of
county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research, and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.
NACO's membership totals more than 2,000 counties, representing over 80 percent of the nation's population.
For more information, access NACO's website at www.naco.org or contact Joshua Lavar Butler with the Office of the Speaker at (928) 871-6384.