Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Sept. 26

Second Mesa Day School site still undecided

KYKOTSMOVI—The Second Mesa villages have not yet reached a consensus on a site for its new school.

The Highway 87 site, a thirty-acre site offered by the Village of Sipaulovi, is undergoing a lengthy mitigation process after cultural and religions objections were raised by the Shungopavi Village leaders who say the site is a gathering site for the Snake Society.

According to a cultural review conducted by the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, the site has been also identified as an area where construction could potentially impact tribal cultural properties. The CPO has also recommended the site for inclusion on the state’s registry of historic places in a report submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Placement of the Highway 87 site on the registry by SHPO would mean that significant cultural properties exist on that site that could potentially be impacted by construction.

According to the BIA, any time federal money is used for construction projects, relevant federal laws must be complied with— in this case the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The mitigation process is meant to balance modern needs with the protection of tribal cultural properties.

The challenge of securing a land site on the Hopi Reservation for new development is not uncommon. Hopi lands host a number of significant cultural sites important to the Hopi people. Development, such as new schools and medical facilities, is frequently pitted against the need to protect tribal cultural properties.

While Taylor said that constructing a new school and protecting cultural properties are both important to the Hopi people.

“I will sign the lease as an expression of my sincere support for the need to construct a new school for Second Mesa and because the Hopi Tribal Council has directed me to do so by formal resolution. However, because the Highway 87 site is contested by the Snake society, the BIA will not sign the lease until they have met their obligation under the NEPA and NHPA laws,” said Taylor. Taylor said that his signature would not alleviate the BIA’s responsibility to comply with Federal laws prior to their signature and approval of the lease.

Last year, the BIA gave the tribe until November 30, 2000 to secure an uncontested site. In order not to lose federal school construction funds to another Tribe, the BIA Office of Facilities Management and Construction proceeded with reprogramming the SMDS funds to Polacca Day School.

Second Mesa will remain number one on the priority list for school construction and will be placed on the list for new school funding for FY 2002 with a directive from the BIA that an uncontested land site be determined before then.

“While the process of determining an uncontested land site for Second Mesa can be frustrating for [everyone], I am determined that if we all work together, we can bring closure to this issue that has consumed our efforts and resources for more than 10 years. I am determined that our children will have their school build, but I need the help of the village leadership and SMDS Board to secure a land site for the school that everyone will endorse and support,” said Taylor.

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