KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. Two words were used repeatedly by the new chairman and vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe Dec. 1 to describe how their administration would be different from previous ones — transparency and communication.
“We talked about transparency with our people, to let them know what’s going on … we’re excited about bringing some positive change … that’s why we’re going transparent, so we can keep people informed of the progress we’re making,” Tim Nuvangyaoma said after he was sworn in as the new chairman of the tribe during a ceremony at the Hopi Tribal Complex in Kykotsmovi.
Nuvangyaoma said he and his staff have begun discussions with other departments within the tribe to establish working relationships.
“To have anything run efficiently you do need to have communication. Taking a good look at that, I think we can start solving a lot of our problems,” he said. “It’s exciting right now because we do have the same vision. What’s exciting and encouraging to know is that because of where we’re at in talking to these departments, a lot of these related organizations have taken it upon themselves to start talking with one another. Which I think is incredibly encouraging because I don’t know if that’s (ever) really happened.”
Clark Tenakhongva the new vice chairman of the tribe, said the offices of the chairman and vice chairhave committed to working together. Which he said has not happened in prior administrations.
“We want to cost share one individual who will be working between both offices — there’s not going to be a divide as there was in the past,” Tenakhongva said.
Additionally, Nuvangyaoma said he plans to meet collectively with his staff at least once a week.
“So we maintain that communication with one another,” he said. “I want our staff to be versed in everything that is happening in this office so at any point in time somebody can be asking, ‘hey what’s going on with that thing and respond with, ‘oh, hey it’s at this position right now.’ That’s why I made sure they (his staff members) knew our plates were going to be full. We’re going to be busy.The team is on board 120 percent.”
Nuvangyaoma’s team also launched a website over the weekend for the office of the chairman as well as a social media page for the public to follow.
During their first week in office the council will be in session.
Both said they plan to bring themselves up to speed for a smooth transition.
One of the first items under review will be the Tribal Gaming Compact, which was signed by former Chairman Herman Honanie as he left office. Honanie signed the compact with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Nov. 30.
Nuvangyaoma said this came as a surprise and said he would need to review the compact before he could determine what kind of implications this could mean for the tribe’s gaming future.
“We are kind of a little bit behind the gaming industry,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of location. That has a lot to do with business. You have to find a location that will generate the people to get involved with it.”
The compact allows the tribe to operate or lease up to 900 Class III gaming machines. Signing the agreement makes Hopi the 22nd and last Arizona tribe to sign a gaming compact with the state.
Previously, Hopi was the only tribe in Arizona unable to participate in or generate any revenue from tribal gaming. Currently, there are 23 tribal casinos statewide.
According to a recent report by the Arizona Department of Gaming, gross tribal gaming revenues totaled nearly $1.9 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017. Since original execution of tribal gaming compacts in 2003, tribes have provided over $1 billion to the State of Arizona.
“Because the Hopi Tribe faces such an uncertain financial future, I believe providing opportunities and a path to prosperity for our people is of the highest importance,” Former Chairman Honanie said in a statement. “Having a gaming compact gives our Tribe the opportunity to generate millions of dollars in much-needed revenue and a way to join our sister tribes in sharing the financial success gaming has meant all across Indian country.”
Under the compact, which will run for at least 20 years, the tribe has the right to own and operate as many as 900 gaming machines on Hopi tribal land, or the right to lease those machines to other tribes within the state. Currently, 16 Arizona tribes operate casinos. Five tribes benefit from gaming through lease agreements.
Nuvangyaoma said all options need to be considered as the tribe moves forward into an uncertain economic future.
The Navajo Generating Station (NGS) accounts for around 80 percent of the tribe’s revenue and is scheduled to close in 2019.
Nuvangyaoma plans to examine renewable energy and look into all tribal investments to help with the impending setback to the tribe’s revenue.
“We are still looking at renewable energy. That’s an option out there,” he said. “We do want to take another look at our investments now that we have arrived in the office I think we can get a little more information concerning some of the properties that we own and whether or not that’s feasible to keep us moving.”
Nuvangyaoma said he would like to hear from the Hopi people in finding solutions to stabilize the economy.
“We have a lot of knowledgeable people in our own community and professionals that will reach out,” he said. “You never know, that’s why I never like closing doors on any ideas that might come our way.”
Building inter-tribal relationships
Nuvangyaoma said he is looking forward to working with other tribes and building relationships with their leaders.
He plans to meet with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye in the future.
“I think we (chairmen) have a major role in building these relationships with other tribal governments and making it not only a working relationship but again, a coalition of native tribes coming together to build strength behind Native America,” he said. “We are excited to get with the Navajo Nation and talk more with them to build relationships.”
Vice chairman’s priorities
Tenakhongva said his first order of business will be to create a code of ethics for the tribe.
“Right now we don’t have one,” he said. “You see in the national media, so many celebrities, so many people who are in these key positions — people are coming out of the wood work with different accusations, especially sexual and although we should all be mature you never know and I want to cover my people, meaning that I care about my government, I care about my people. We’re their leaders and we need to be responsible for our actions, accountable for our actions.”
He said it is important for the council to examine how the tribe’s constitution is written and to look at the roles, responsibilities and resolutions of the council.
“We cannot deviate from the agenda once it’s been set in place. We don’t want to come in at the last minute and put in a bill thinking that it’s going to pass. It just sidesteps the whole issue of what we were supposed to be addressing,” he said.
The chairman and vice chairman took the oath of office Dec. 1, in time for the beginning of the first quarter for the Hopi Tribe’s new fiscal year.