Mishongnovi Village may temporarily lose its tribal allocation, depending on the result of an Action Item put before the Hopi Tribal Council.
Tribal allocations to the villages have been in effect since 1988, giving the villages the ability to meet the specific needs of their communities. Tim Keevama, Community Developer for Mishongnovi, says that funding is critical to making progress in the villages, which can be a complicated task.
Keevama came to Mishongnovi in 1985, after 15 years of experience working in Native government in San Juan Pueblo, where his father, a Hopi, was governor. It was difficult for him to understand why villagers were living in third-world country conditions. "How could we allow this when the Tribe receives so much money from Peabody Coal? I wasn't seeing where this money was impacting First and Second Mesa communities," Keevama explained.
"Knowing that conditions should be better, this became a personal cause for me. I began working with villages, urging them to recognize their status ó that they are a sovereign entity within a sovereign tribe." Keevama was therefore encouraged when, in 1988, the villages were put at the top of the organizational chart of the Hopi Tribe.
"In 1988, we saw no further funding from the federal government for development, and we were asking ourselves how we would continue to provide funding. The villages submitted proposals to the Hopi Tribal Council and we were allocated $50,000."
This amount has increased through the years until the village allocation reached a plateau of $500,000. Last year the allocation was reduced to $300,000, which was frustrating to Keevama. "The Tribe has seen a lot of development taking place in the villages, and so it just doesn't make sense to reduce that amount."
Indeed, looking around the community center, one sees an impressive hub of activity which filters throughout the village of Mishongnovi. Kivas have been remodeled and restored, homes sport new roofs, religious sites have been shored up and improved, electricity, water and composting toilets have been installed. Within the community center, classes are conducted, language immersion programs take place, employment has been created. "We've been quiet, but we've accomplished a lot," Keevama said.
But not everyone feels that Mishongnovi’s allocation has been used to its best advantage, leaving some people out of the loop. In the Action Item to be heard later this month, some village members state that “Mishongnovi’s allocation has not been uniformly and fairly utilized to the benefit of Mishongnovi Village as a whole....and there has simply been no accountability of the expenditures of Village funds.”
Keevama pointed out however that the community center does keep books and receipts ,and they are required to do audits every year.
As for the claim in the Action Item that village members have no voice in how the funds will be used, since village meetings are no longer held, that is true.
Keevama said that the Mishongnovi’s village leader, Vernon Seiweyumptewa, decided to stop holding village meetings because he felt they were ineffective. Instead, he said, Seiweyumptewa asked that community information be distributed through a newsletter.
According to the Action Item, that decision has resulted in village members lacking confidence with the present Cultural Preservation Board (which serves as the governing board of the village) and its administration,” a board which does not represent the Mishongnovi people as they have been unilaterally appointed ... without Village membership sanctioning and are presently seated ... as “lifetime members.”
Said Keevama, there is an underlying problem; the conflict between traditional and modern government. While the Hopi are traditionally socialist, they are now asked to participate in a democratic society. This division can be unsettling. With the traditional government in effect in Mishongnovi, the administration must follow Seiweyumptewa’s instructions.
But the biggest problem the village is facing, says Keevama, is need. Although the community center now has 19 employees, 11 of whom are full-time, the only other jobs around are in the Tribal offices, the BIA and IHS. “Most of the jobs are for women. The men are at home; there are low self-esteem problems. We've been able to provide some jobs here at Mishongnovi, but it's been project by project. “We want to do more.
We place regular job announcements in the Tutuveni and the Village Weekly , but we get very little response,” said Keevama.
"We are so isolated. We have so many people here. It's like a boiling pot of stew where all the beans are bumping into each other. And one day you may be pushing a broom down at the local store, the next day you are down at the government making multi-million dollar decisions." And people who have left the reservation to obtain an education have returned to face yet another situation.
"We are all told to go out and get a college education, and then return to help our people. When you do that, you can be viewed as trying to attack the government."
But the key to a successful village, Keevama believes, is supporting one another. Several years ago, he had the opportunity to get water and sewer lines to the middle village, but needed community support. He told those who live in the upper village that if they supported this water and sewer line, he would work to get them electricity. By February of 1994, he had done just that.
As for the criticism against Keevama and his position, he lets this roll off his back. "I have a vested interest in this community. I may not be a genius, but my efforts cannot be duplicated, because it comes from my heart."
Hearings on the matter will take place November 21 in Mishongnovi. If passed, the “allocation and future funding to the Village of Mishongnovi be ceased and deposited into an interest-bearing account, until the petitioners are satisfied and have documented a plan for the overall operation of the community office in the utilization of funds appropriated to the Village of Mishongnovi”