Navajo Nation leaders take message to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC — Navajo Nation leaders President Kelsey A. Begaye and Chief Justice Robert Yazzie were in Washington, DC to meet with members of Congress and federal agencies promoting the Navajo Nation and establishing a more visible and strong working relationship with Congress during Navajo Nation Congressional Impact Week, February 25 to March 2.

Representatives from the Navajo Legislative Branch and the Office of the Speaker attended as well.

In addition to meetings with U.S. Representatives and Senators, federal officials and staff, the Navajo Nation hosted two Congressional briefings to educate members of Congress, federal agencies and staff on various Navajo Nation issues and needs, especially those regarding federal appropriations. Among the other issues addressed at the Congressional briefings were education, welfare reform, funding for tribal courts, the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Act, and the Navajo Electrification Project. Additionally, Navajo leaders discussed Navajo environmental issues, energy and tax issues.

“It is very important for Navajo leaders to take the Navajo Nation’s message to Congress,” said President Begaye, “Our meetings last week established the Navajo Nation’s role with the federal government. Now, it is our responsibility to follow-up on these issues.”

The Navajo leaders met with recently appointed and confirmed Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton on March 1. This was the first meeting between an Indian tribe and Secretary Norton since Secretary Norton’s appointment in January of 2001. At the meeting, the Navajo Nation stressed to the Secretary its unique status as being the largest American Indian Nation with the largest land base and the greatest pressing needs in Indian Country. The Navajo leaders stressed needs in the areas of education, tribal court funding, and environmental concerns, among other topics.

“There is no question that the Navajo Nation is affected when the federal government decides to cut spending,” said Navajo Nation Washington Office Executive Director G. Michelle Brown-Yazzie, “The Navajo Nation must maintain and strengthen its contacts with these federal agencies, especially the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Services.”

Navajo Nation Impact Week activities were coordinated by the three branches of the Navajo Nation government, with planning and facilitation provided by the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

The Navajo leaders met with U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and Robert Bennett (R-UT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); U.S. Representatives Tom Udall (D-NM), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Chris Cannon (R-UT), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); staff members of the office of U.S. Representatives Joe Skeen (R-NM), John Shadegg (R-AZ), and Heather Wilson (R-NM); the Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton; representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; representatives of the Head Start Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dale More, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, the U.S. Department of Agriculture; representatives of the National Drug Court Program, the U.S. Department of Justice; and representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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