POLACCA -- Hopi's new Tribal Chairman Ivan Sidney said he will be honored to serve the people knowing that the people's trust cannot be taken lightly.
Chairman Sidney offered his comments after his inauguration Dec. 1 at Hopi Jr/Sr High School.
For the first time at a Hopi inauguration, the White House recognized the Hopi Tribal Chair live through satellite screen, during the event.
Chairman Sidney said visiting the villages and listening to the people will be first on his agenda. He said education, jobs and alcohol abuse are the main issues that need to be addressed.
Approximately 2,000 people packed into the gym for the inaugural. Chairman Sidney and Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma Sr. were sworn into office by Hopi Chief Justice Emory Sekaquaptewa. Marvin Yoyokie, governor of Kykotsmovi, served as master of ceremonies.
Chairman Sidney said he selected Hopi Jr/Sr High School as the site for the inaugural because he wants to focus on youth and educational issues during the next four years. He said students need to decide what they want.
"Do you want business development? College? Vocational education? The military? We are listening to you," he said. "Will you be prepared? Can you challenge youreducation? Can you help your teachers?"
Hopi High School students played a major role in the proceedings as the Junior ROTC posted the colors, choir students sang the national anthem, other students read the Pledge of Allegiance and National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society students handed out programs and helped with crowd control.
Sidney said his administration will also work at getting a junior high school building and community center that the community has needed for so long.
"Working with the White House on our side, we cannot fail if we work together," he said.
Rudy Fernandez, an assistant to President George Bush, read a letter from President Bush praising Chairman Sidney, a Republican, and Hopi schools.
Bush noted that this is the 35th anniversary of the Indian Self-Determination Act and he looks forward to working with Indian country on a government-to-government relationship. Moreover, the president signed an executive order in 2004 that calls for this government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes, including using the federal No Child Left Behind policy to help educate Indian students.
Bush, in the letter, praised the Hopi schools for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress--the federal standard for showing educational improvements in federal schools.
"There is no greater model than Hopi," he wrote.
Bush said in the letter that all schools on Hopi made AYP, but only one-third of the federal schools reached this goal.
"Hopi has an educational distinction in Indian country," he wrote.
President Bush stated in the letter that "together we can build a legacy." The president said that he will continue to focus on homeland security and education
to the people.
President Bush wrote that Sidney is a hard worker who is an inspiration to the Hopi people. He added that as chairman of the Hopi Tribe that Sidney will be the chief servant of the people.
"The president and administration look forward to working with you, the Hopi people and all Indian people," Bush wrote.
Bush also recognized Sidney as a cancer survivor and felt that this reflects "the great spirit of the Hopi Tribe."
The president closed by saying that he looks forward to working with Sidney, the Hopi Tribe and all tribes.
After Fernandez finished reading Bush's letter, he told Sidney that the tribe can always reach out to him for help.
Sidney, who served previously as chairman from 1981-89, said it was an honor for the school to hear from the White House live.
Chairman Sidney said Hopis live on a desolate land, but that past Hopi leaders chose this land because "it is a promised land" that brings them the happiness of
He noted that there is an abundance of resources, especially coal, on the Hopi Reservation. But, he emphasized, that it is up to Navajo and Hopi people to decide the best way to use this resource.
Sidney added that he has recently met with former Hopi Chairman Vernon Masayesva and officials from the Grand Canyon Trust with the intent of working together on environmental issues.
Sidney said drug abuse and alcohol problems have to be addressed.
"We can conquer (alcohol and drug abuse) and survive," he said. "We are survivors. They can take jobs away from us, but that doesn't bother me because you have the answers."
Sidney urged the students and citizens to participate in their tribal and village governments. He also told them they should demand accountability from their tribal officials.
"We must always be accountable to the people," he said.
Sidney said any new economic development for the Hopi Tribe must start on the reservation. He was referring to the past administration's purchases of businesses
off the reservation.
Sidney also reiterated several of his campaign themes including asking religious leaders to take their place in progressive Hopi politics. He said he respects religious leaders and they have their place, but he has criticized villages where the religious leaders appoint the council members because he believes this brings on a lack of accountability.
Sidney noted that the Hopi Constitution has been in the process of being reformed. He said this should continue to show respect for the many leaders who have
worked so hard on this issue.
Sidney recounted how he has fought off cancer before recently being cleared.
"I don't want anyone going through that," he said.
Sidney said he will meet with Indian Health Service officials to look at Hopi health needs.
"But we need a hospital instead of a health care center. We need rehabilitation centers instead of jails," he said. "Diabetes, heart disease and cancer patients should not have to go off Hopi for treatment."
Sidney received the largest laugh of his speech when he said that Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and former Navajo Chairman Peterson Zah were jealous because Sidney had a Navajo Police motorcade escort to the inaugural.
New Vice Chair
Hopi Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma Sr. said he was humbled by the presence of the students at the inaugural and he was grateful that people had the faith in him to serve.
"I'll do all in my power to fulfill those duties," he said.
Honyaoma said he heard the voice of the people loud and clear.
"The government has not been working for you and has lost touch," he said. "It has created instability and unwarranted negative relationships. These major deficiencies should not be tolerated."
Honyaoma added that in recent years that questionable decisions of multi-million dollar deals have been made without information going to the public.
"There has been a lack of consultation and that has caused a lack of trust," he said. "We should not tolerate the current state of affairs. People are tired of being ignored by the Hopi government."
Honyaoma said this resulted in a lack of services to the people and shows the need to work together.
"We're capable people Everybody's opinion counts and matters. It will take everyone's effort. It's important to begin. Your support and guidance is required," he said.
Like Sidney, Honyaoma said revision of the Hopi Tribe's Constitution needs to go forward.
"I want a document that the people will support," he said.
Honyaoma said the tribe's Code of Conduct also needs to be updated. He added that it needs to be addressed at the village level.
Honyaoma urged the students, "Study hard. Get an education and you'll be up here."
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)