Photo by Loretta Yerian.
POLACCA, Ariz. — Hopi chairman frontrunner David Talayumptewa focused on his experience while Tim Nuvangyaoma emphasized community involvement during the first chairman/vice chairman debate since the primary election.
The debate was held Oct. 11 at Hopi Jr/Sr High School (HJSHS) with about 45 people in attendance. The event was also streamed live on Facebook.
The forum was sponsored by Future of the Hopi Forum, a grassroots group. Bruce Talaswaima and Jennifer Himel served as moderators.
Talayumptewa, who garnered the most votes for chairman in the primary election, said he has been meeting with Hopis in Phoenix, Tucson and Albuquerque as well as those on the Hopi Reservation about their concerns. He said it is time to make a decision for somebody with experience, not somebody who will learn on the job.
“It’s a critical time for jobs, education and employment,” he said.
The candidates were asked a question from the fourth grade students at First Mesa Elementary School about what can be done to get more Hopi teachers.
Talayumptewa said this should begin when students are in high school to prepare them as teachers. He said an agreement can be reached between HJSHS and colleges to prepare students to become teachers.
“The quality of teachers is important,” he said. “The tribe needs to fund revenue to pay for scholarships so we can develop our own people.”
Talayumptewa said this is important so the students know what it is to be Hopi.
Nuvangyaoma said he was encouraged to see fourth graders involved in the process. He said it is good that they are addressing what they want in the community. He said there is strength through knowledge, but there is a teacher shortage in the community. He said teacher aides have their foot in the door to become teachers. He said grants and scholarships should help with this mission.
Both chairman candidates support a unified curriculum for the Hopi schools. Nuvangyaoma said present educators, along with retired educators and other professionals, could help with this mission.
“It would help if we reach out to them. We can’t do it alone. It will take community involvement of everybody out there. We all want to improve for our children,” he said.
Nuvangyaoma questioned why Talayumptewa sits on the tribal council’s Health and Education Committee, but has not done anything about the lack of a unified curriculum at the Hopi schools.
Talayumptewa responded that he has held that position just since April. He said the tribe’s education code, Ordinance 36, needs to be rewritten because it is outdated and lacks consistency.
Nuvangyaoma agreed that the schools need consistency.
Regarding economics, Nuvangyaoma and Talayumptewa both said they oppose Hopi having a coal based economy. Nuvangyaoma said the coal has caused damage to the Hopi aquifer and environment. He said mining is not sustainable and Hopi needs a sustainable economy.
Talayumptewa said Peabody has been paying 6.9 percent tax to the state every year. He said this has amounted to $15-$20 million per year. He said if he becomes chairman that he would negotiate with the state to recover these funds for Hopi. He said Hopi should put a severance tax on Peabody.
“They are taking our resources and damaging our land,” he said.
Talayumptewa pointed to Nuvangyaoma’s plan for economic development along the I-40 corridor. He questioned how Nuvangyaoma planned to pay for that. Nuvangyaoma responded that so far it was only an idea with enormous opportunity since the route is well traveled and Twin Arrows Casino is already there. Nuvangyaoma said this will take community involvement.
Regarding problems with drugs and alcohol on the Hopi Reservation, Talayumptewa said the police are not enforcing the law. He said they know who the bootleggers are, but they need help enforcing the law.
Nuvangyaoma said solving the drug and alcohol problem will take a community effort.
“We can do this together to bring focus to the problems out here,” he said. “When the community speaks in numbers, that gets attention.”
Talayumptewa said the Hopi Law and Order Code allows the Hopi police to prosecute non-Hopis for domestic violence. He said there are tougher laws, but they need to be strengthened. He recently attended a conference in Scottsdale where he heard sad stories about domestic violence on Hopi.
“Nobody deserves to be abused, especially our women who bear our children,” Talayumptewa said.
Nuvangyaoma said locking people up for drugs and alcohol isn’t the answer. He said he has been open about being a recovering alcoholic and said those having problems with drugs or alcohol need counseling.
“We need to show other people that they can come out of it,” he said.
Nuvangyaoma said problems with drugs and alcohol begins at home. He said the lifestyle on Hopi has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. He said Hopis used to be able to leave their homes and vehicles unlocked, but can no longer do so.
“It’s up to you. Nobody else can make that change for you,” he said.
Nuvangyaoma said students are now safer at school than they are at home.
“We talk about being Hopi, but where are our values?” he asked. “There is hope that we want this to work.”
Holding a political office
Nuvangyaoma said his background in finance and his ability to overcome alcoholism are his strengths.
Talayumptewa said his 29 years with the Bureau of Indian Education and overseeing a $1 billion budget gives him the crucial experience to lead the Hopi Tribe.
In his closing comments, Nuvangyaoma said the next chairman needs to come in with an open mind while listening to the community and staff
In Talayumptewa’s closing comments he said the Hopi have accepted the Hopi Constitution on how they govern themselves. He said sometimes this doesn’t work. He said they need to look at changes in the Hopi Constitution.
Editors note: see next week’s edition of the NHO for the vice chairman’s debate session.