Navajo lawmakers advocate for investments in infrastructure

WASHINGTON -Members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, Budget and Finance Committee, Resources and Development Committee, and Health, Education and Human Services Committee met last week with federal agency representatives and lawmakers to discuss issues ranging from the effects of federal budget cuts to much needed investment in infrastructure.

Council Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler (To' Nanees' Dizi) attended meetings with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona to voice the Navajo Nation position.

"We are deeply concerned with more talk of cuts and legislation that attack Arizona sacred sites," Butler said.

Butler also met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. to discuss the Navajo Nation's perspective on education and health priorities. Butler serves on the Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

Resource and Development Committee chairperson Katherine Benally (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta) met with Department of the Interior officials to discuss Navajo Nation needs for investment in road infrastructure.

Navajo-Hopi Land Commission members also met last week with members and staff on the hill to share their plans to rebuild the Former Bennett Freeze area. Chairperson Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Birdsprings, Leupp, Tolani Lake) testified in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 25.

Phelps urged Congress to support legislation that will help the Navajo Nation attract private sector development and streamline federal regulations on the reservation, as well as encourage the Bureau of Indian Affairs to assist the Navajo Nation in this effort.

Other members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission that advocated last week included: Dwight Witherspoon (Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Piñon, Black Mesa, Whippoorwill), Lorenzo Curley (Klagetoh, Wide Ruins, Houck, Lupton, and Nahata Dziil), and Commission executive director Raymond Maxx.

Council Delegate Mel Begay (Coyote Canyon, Mexican Springs, Naschitti, Tohatchi, Bahastl'a'a') met with the Navajo Nation congressional delegation, congressional appropriators, and members of the congressional Budget and Finance Committee to discuss the effects of budget cuts and the Navajo Nation fiscal 2014 request for funding.

"As a member of the budget and finance committee, I'm here to share not only what we need to continue providing critical services to the Navajo people but to also express to our members of Congress just how difficult it is for tribal governments to plan for fiscal cycles when we are put through non-transparent processes like sequesters and continuing resolutions," Begay said.

Last week marked the beginning of fiscal 2014 tribal budget hearings. Washington was rife with tribal leaders attending Tribal Interior Budget Council, congressional hearings, and briefings by the National Congress of American Indians, Coalition of Large Tribes, and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

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