WASHINGTON – On March 14, Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish Jr. wrapped up several days of meetings in the nation’s capitol with Department of Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officials and United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), presenting the Navajo Nation’s budgetary priorities for the Fiscal Year 200.
“As FY2007 is currently going through its Congressional review, I wanted to make sure the Nation’s FY2008 priorities and self-determining strategies were heard by DOI and BIA,” said the Vice-President.
Dayish was concerned that the priorities proposed by the larger BIA/Tribal Budget Advisory Council (BIA/TBAC), held last year in California, did not adequately reflect the needs of the Navajo people.
“I noticed that Contract Support Costs reimbursements were priority number four from the national meeting,” said Dayish, “However, we need to remember that those costs are eventually covered through the administration of programs, all though not at 100 percent, and instead Navajo priorities should focus on other areas that build self-reliance.”
The BIA/TBAC consensus was that Public Safety, Natural Resources, Education and Contract Support Costs lead the list of national priorities. The Navajo Nation proposed that additional emphasis should also include economic/community development and housing.
On March 10, the Vice-President met with BIA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management Debbie Clark to deliver this message and explain the three areas that would assist the Navajo people. The Vice-President envisioned that mining, manufacturing, and agriculture would lead the way in basic industry and job creation thus stimulating the local economy and helping create even more service sector jobs across the Navajo Nation.
Regarding mining, Dayish pointed to the proposed Diné Power Authority and proposed Desert Rock power plant. He mentioned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had recently issued a draft air permit request package which was being reviewed by DOI.
He asked for an expedient review by DOI and the National Park Service (NPS) which would help create a new revenue stream for the Navajo Nation.
Dayish also proposed that the activity brought by the construction of the plant would also create a need for additional educational programs for future employees and a larger demand for housing facilities.
“I would like to see collaboration between DPA, Sithe Global, Diné College and the Crownpoint Institute of Technology which would train Navajos not only for technical positions but for management levels as well,” said Dayish.
Two human resource summits have recently been held exploring these relationships which also could include film and tourism industries.
In Agriculture, Dayish again called for the continued support for the Navajo Agricultural Products Inc. (NAPI), enterprise and for the completion of the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP).
“I expressed our plans to ignite activity for all these areas,” said Dayish.
As the meeting ended, Dayish was pleased to learn from Clark that the priorities discussed were “in sync” with BIA priorities and thanked him for sharing the needs of the Navajo people. Although not in the initial meeting, BIA Acting Assistant Secretary, Jim Cason, did briefly chat with the Vice-President on Friday. He also found the priorities in line with the priorities of the bureau.
In a related meeting, Dayish also spoke with New Mexico U.S. Senator Pete Dominici. The pair discussed the Navajo priorities and shared very positive comments.
Vice-President Dayish voiced his support for keeping TPA intact and at the very least, at current levels for the next two years.
The week of meetings comes two weeks after Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., also provided comments regarding Navajo priorities before the BIA/TBAC national gathering in Arlington, Virginia.
(Michael Wero is Legislative Associate & Communications Specialist for the Navajo Nation Washington Office.)