From the forgotten people of the Bennett Freeze community

The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior was scheduled to sign the Navajo-Hopi Intergovernmental Compact on Friday afternoon, November 3, 2006 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.

As a matter of great urgency and respect for Navajo sovereignty, land, liberty and property rights, Petitioners Bobby Bennett Sr. and Arnold Yellowhorse, et at. on behalf of the Forgotten People of Bennett Freeze Community requested that Secretary Kempthorne be restrained from signingand enforcing any provisions of the Compact until a hearing is concluded on the Navajo Nation.

Legal Counsel James Zion, Esq. filed a valid civil action No. TC-CV-166-2006 in the DistrictCourt of the Navajo Nation, Judicial District of Tuba City, Navajo Nation (Arizona) to opposethe Compact. The Honorable Manuel Watchman, Esq. is serving as Co-Counsel.

Petitioners are well aware of the harsh effects of enduring a 40-year Freeze on all homeconstruction, home repair, road repair and infrastructure development. However, it isinsufficient to say that the money will make up for the harm done and it is going to appear bymagic.

Serious due process concerns have been raised in factual allegations in Petitioners Complaint,which address defects in the approval of the Navajo-Hopi Intergovernmental Compact. Themost glaring defect is that Bennett Freeze residents never heard about the Compact until NavajoNation officials visited Chapter Houses and asked people to support a Compact while holding itas secret and confidential, denying the people of the Bennett Freeze Area any opportunity toprovide their informed consent.

Another problem is the fact that the locations of the "Hopi Salt Trail," Hopi eagle gathering areasand eagle nests (including those in the Navajo Nation) and springs are secret. The documentuses the term "sacred site" but does not define it. Navajos have various kinds of property rightsin land, such as leases for homes or businesses, grazing areas, or traditional use areas. Thoseproperty rights are affected because someone can claim that an area is a "sacred site," too closeto an eagle next or eagle gathering area, or a spring. People who have existing rights cannotknow when that may conflict with religious practices under the compact, or know whether aclaim that a given area is a "sacred site" is in fact true.

The Compact will allow people to take "certain" minerals or plants without defining what theymay be and that gathering permission does not take into account when those "certain" mineralsor plants may be private property or on private property. (While there is not "private" propertyas such, or little of it, property is "private" when there is an individual right to it.)

The definitions of "Hopi Religious Practices" and "Navajo Religious Practices" are vague andhinge on whether or not they are "traditional." Does that mean that a given practice must havebeen done a hundred years ago, or will that accommodate "new" practices? Those definitionsestablish religions in the Navajo and Hopi Nations and such an establishment is contrary to theNavajo Nation Bill of Rights (in its equivalent of the First Amendment). The recognition of poorly defined "traditional" religions discriminates against Navajos who follow Native AmericanChurch, Christian or other beliefs.

The substitute complaint makes five legal claims: First, that not allowing the people to know what is in the compact or agree to it denies the dueprocess right to be heard to protect various interests-they include life, liberty, property, and thepursuit of happiness under the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights.

Second, the compact will allow others to "take" people's property. "Taking" can include invasions of privacy, trespass, and like infringements of private rights.

Third, the Compact will bar rights of action by individuals, and that will be another form of "taking" property. That also denies the right to go to court to enforce individual rights.

Fourth, the Compact establishes religions and infringes on religions in violation of the NavajoNation version of the First Amendment, The Compact requires "notice" to either tribe if there isto be a religious gathering of 20 or more people. That may go against beliefs and it would be anopportunity for officials, such as police, to attempt to ban a religious gathering.

Fifth, the Compact and the process used to adopt it violates the traditional Navajo legal conceptof hazho'ogo. The word means to "be careful," and it implies doing things in a careful, respectful and deliberate way so that others are not hurt.

Petitioners wish to express their concern of this matter before the Judicial Court of the Navajo Nation as a matter of civil rights, religious freedom and hazho'ogo to protect the peoples land, liberty and property.

Bobby Bennett, Sr.


Forgotten People of the Bennett Freeze Community


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