Sichomovi land lease should be for Hopi's benefit
December 13, 2006
To the Editor:
I have heard comments regarding why I terminated the First Mesa Business Land Site that included the Sichomovi organizations administrative office. However, I have not been directly approached on this issue, but am being subjected to the petty politics of a few.
Since 1986, the First Mesa Corn/Water Clan offered 30 acres of land for business development. For almost 20 years, attempts were made to establish business for the benefit of all people. The first obstacle came in 1988 when a grant was submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration. A Hopi businessman declaring unfair competition made a complaint to Arizona Congressman Eldon Rudd. The second obstacle was insufficient water system to support commercial development. Prior to the insufficient water system, the Hopi Tribal Council awarded $800,000 to FMCV for business development. Approximately $100,000 was spent for research and planning, and the remaining had to be reverted to support the loan portion of a proposed grant to upgrade the First Mesa water system. A grant/loan was awarded in 1998 to FMCV and a commercial water system was completed in 2002. This system now provides water to the village, and includes First Mesa Elementary School, Second Mesa School and the Hopi Health Care Center.
When the Hopi Tribe was buying lands and businesses off the reservation using money received from the U.S. Government for allowing Navajos to occupy Hopi lands, I met with Chairman Wayne Taylor, Jr. and made an offer to the Hopi Tribe to build a shopping center on our clan lands. No response was heard from Chairman Taylor and the Hopi Tribal Council. We did receive word that certain members of the administration did not favor using this money for business development on the reservation. Most of our challenges and blockages in my opinion continue to be politically motivated.
The Sichomovi Village administrator approached me in 2004 reporting they retained the services of a consultant and all necessary documents were being prepared for Sandia Oil Company out of Albuquerque, New Mexico for a lease. It was explained to me that the village board of directors established First Mesa Business Development, Inc. under the corporate laws of the Navajo Nation. This newly organized development group would be assigned the "Master Lease" and operate the business away from politics. It was also my understanding that required documents for the lease were completed except for the Environmental Assessment (EA). The village's EA consultant had to wait on the Hopi Tribe for almost one year to complete the EA. This document sat on the desk of one administrator for over two months until discovered.
In 2005, the completed lease was submitted to the Hopi Tribe and no action was taken to place this item on the Hopi Tribal Council's agenda. It was not until February of 2006 that we were informed that our "Master Lease" was on the March 2006 Agenda of the Hopi Tribal Council.
I learned from several sources that the "Master Lease" had changed, and information was requested from the Sichomovi board of directors. Instead of scheduling a meeting, a letter was received by the FMCV traditional leaders written by the Sichomovi administrator challenging our authority. I immediately choose to terminate the land assignment based on the disrespect for our traditional form of government and was advised to wait on the termination of my land assignment. My spokesman attended a board meeting to explain my position and offered a compromise.
The day of the Hopi Tribal Council's meeting on the now entitled "Sichomovi Master Lease," Chairman Sidney was requested to not participate in the meeting. Councilman Clifford Balenquah Quotsaquahu of Bacabi Village who spoke on behalf of the Sichomovi Board of Directors made this request. The Chairman voluntarily left the meeting and I was not recognized to speak at this meeting. The Council approved the Master Lease that was reviewed and prepared by the Tribal Attorneys. The Village Leadership and I were not afforded the opportunity to provide our input as landowners. This action caused me to terminate the land assignment and I proceed to take the appropriate action. I was immediately challenged by the Sichomovi Board of Directors and was charged and served with a restraining order issued by the Hopi Tribal Courts for protecting my own clan lands. Sichomovi Board never requested or responded to my requests for meetings and instead took this issue directly to the Hopi Tribal Council. Representative Quotsaquahu and Vice Chairman Honyaoma, Sr. have repeatedly supported the board in violation of the Hopi Constitution.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs did not approve the lease but submitted a letter to the Hopi Tribe requesting clarification on several issues. Sichomovi Organization also stated to me directly that this was no longer my land. Members of our traditional government and I traveled to Phoenix to meet with the Regional Director of the BIA. We requested to meet with him to ask if the BIA still operate and respect the Constitution and bylaws of the Hopi Tribe. Since approval of the Hopi Constitution by the BIA in 1936, First Mesa Village clan lands were always respected and lands were leased accordingly. The BIA stated they still interpret the Councils constitution in the same manner. If the BIA approved Sichomovi Boards Master Lease, this would have taken away our traditional clan ownership of all village lands and this approval would have been applicable to all clan lands at First Mesa. In fact, currently, Sichomovi Administrator is still convincing its Board to have the Tribal Council approve the takeover of FMCV's Youth Center and Water Program, which is a village matter.
I hope this clarifies reasons for termination of my land assignment. I did not terminate my support for use of our clan land for business development. We are ready to work with any organization to built this long waited business development based on mutual respect for authority and in accordance to traditional and modern law. The Polacca Airstrip, Hopi Health Care Center, and First Mesa Elementary School are all constructed on First Mesa Corn/Water Clan lands for the benefit of all people. The Hopi Jr./Sr. High School, Northland Pioneer College, Hopi Police and Court Complex, KUYI Radio Facilities, etc. are all on First Mesa for the benefit of all people. The Second Mesa Day School has been using the former Polacca Day School buildings by approval of our traditional leaders. This should demonstrate our support to provide for the welfare of the Hopi People. I humbly remain...
Leo LaCapa Jr.
Soyal Mongwi and Leader of First Mesa Corn/Water Clan
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