WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. joined Navajo Area BIA Director Omar Bradley last Thursday as he signed final documents to take 405 acres of land into trust for the Navajo Nation.
Bradley's signature, on behalf of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk, clears the way for construction of the $120 million Twin Arrows Casino, the Navajo Nation's fourth casino - its first in Arizona, 20 miles east of Flagstaff.
This was the first time in 25 years that land has been taken into trust for the Nation.
President Shirley said land acquisition for economic development means jobs of Navajos and revenues for the Nation to meet the needs of the people.
"We're moving forward as a nation, a government and as a people," he said. "About 1,000 families are going to be in a position to put food on the table, to put shoes on little feet, gas in the old jalopy out there, able to pay for the utilities, that's what it means to my people," he said.
The land acquisition was made possible through the Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act and will help remedy the detrimental effects caused by the relocation of thousands of Navajo families.
By 2012, he said, the Nation can expect to see another 768 news jobs created through casino development - 549 in the Twin Arrows casino and 219 in the accompanying hotel.
The Twin Arrows development will include a gaming facility, a golf course and a hotel.
The land acquisition will serve to connect the Leupp Chapter to Interstate 40 and provide access and infrastructure to many Navajos that currently have no electricity or water in the area.
President Shirley credited the speedy acquisition of the land to Echohawk, his chief of staff Paul Tsosie, the Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo Department of Justice, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, the Navajo Hopi Land Commission, the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation, and to Stephen Hart and Kerry Patterson of the Lewis and Roca Law Firm.
But he had special praise for Bradley, whom he called a driving force behind the project.
"Without your push, I don't know where we'd be today," he said. "Working together, praying together, singing together, it makes things happen. I think this is how this is happening today."
The Navajo Nation's gaming compacts with New Mexico and Arizona allow it to build six casinos. In addition, the Nation has agreements with three Arizona tribes that will bring it another $130 million over 17 years.
In all, the Nation expects to earn about $150 million a year from gaming and an additional $20 million in repayment of the Nation's loan to the Gaming Enterprise.