An open letter to the public from former Hopi Chairman Ivan Sydney
April 3, 2007
An article in the Arizona Daily Sun and Gallup Independent regarding the removal of Mr. Ben Nuvamsa as Chairman prompted me to write this letter. Both articles referred to the incident in Winslow as the sole reason for my removal, further slandering my name. Officials of the Winslow Police Department, Winslow Memorial Hospital and Adobe Inn refused to make statements and appear at my hearing. I have a copy of the Tribal Council hearing minutes, which is available to any interested individual. The Special Prosecutor hired by the Tribal Council charged me on the day of the hearing for missing two administrative (non-Council related) meetings. This was the primary reason for my removal and not the Winslow Incident.
I have remained silent on my removal since I have filed a complaint in the Hopi Tribal Court for violation of my civil rights afforded and protected by the United States Constitution. I further chose to not make statements to avoid disunity and disharmony among our people. I accepted the fact that no large group was present during my hearing to support me and the odds were against me. The Hopi Tribal Chief Judge chaired my hearing and overruled every objection and request by my lawyer to protect my rights. It is my opinion these were all unethical positions of Hopi Tribal Courts Chief Judge LaRance and I therefore have doubts my complaint will survive the Hopi Judicial process.
An organization initiated by a supposedly unbiased group calling themselves "HOPI" led a march and fed information to the media and general public via Internet to destroy my character. Non-Hopi individuals such as Mr. Bill Haven were involved and allowed to actively participate in my removal. Hopi Tribal officials today and in the past have committed serious violations, including criminal charges and were not subjected to what I had to endure. I understand the Code of Conduct was eliminated soon after my removal. Soon after the victory of Mr. Nuvamsa, candidates for chairman requested the HOPI organization to assist them with protests on Mr. Nuvamsa's non-qualification of the constitutional two-year requirement to live on the reservation. The organization was invited to a meeting and they elected to not respond. Instead Ms. Bonnie Secakuku was appointed to the Chairman's Office and Mr. Alph Secakuku is now a Tribal Council Representative from his father's village.
I have observed political material recently posted by Mr. Nuvamsa proclaiming that he is still Chairman and advocating violations of his voter's rights. This is an outright disrespect for the authority of the Hopi Tribal Council under the constitution. In fact, the Chairman derives his/her authority from the Hopi Tribal Council. What about the rights of voters for former Vice Chairman Caleb Johnson, former Vice Chairman Elgene Joshevema and myself? Are we now following another set of rules? I commend our Hopi voters for casting their votes for the candidate of their choice. We as candidates in elections bear the primary responsibility to be truthful on our qualifications. We as Hopi and Tewa people know who resides on the reservation on a daily basis. We that live on the reservation bear the responsibility of committing ourselves to our religious ceremonial activities on a daily basis.
I commend the Hopi Tribal Council Representatives who recently chose to adhere to the requirements of the Constitution and By-laws of the Hopi Tribe. The constitution gives authority to the Council to assign responsibility to officers or committees such as the Election Board to carry out certain responsibility and having the right to review all their actions. The Council reviewed the certification of Mr. Nuvamsa by the Election Board and did not agree. The Council then had the authority to nullify the election. It is my opinion that our Election Code and makeup of the Election Board be completely revamped prior to future elections. Otherwise these problems will continue to result in disruption to our families and people. The Constitution and By-laws of the Hopi Tribe was written for Hopi and must be interpreted by Hopi and not tribal lawyers. The Council Representatives by oath must adhere to the mandates of the constitution by listening to all facts prior to making hasty decisions. We in the general public are not privileged to all this information and quickly condemn the Council for its actions. The two Tribal Council representatives who voted against my removal were viewed as my supporters. I disagree since I know they were attempting to only uphold our Constitution and therefore appeared to be in my support. I know large political groups appearing before the Council making demands influence some Council representatives. It is interesting that the same individuals protesting against me in violation of my rights are now proclaiming, "our rights were violated."
Some of us have researched why the [two-year residency requirement] was put into the constitution. It will not be surprising that off-reservation people will be used to lead the issues for Mr. Nuvamsa. Our forefathers predicated that someday we will be overruled by off-reservation Hopi and this is beginning to happen because of our amendment to Hopi tribal membership in violation of our traditional law.
I commend Mr. Nuvamsa for wanting to be a tribal chairman and furthering his education. He should have moved onto the reservation two years prior to his candidacy and this would not be an issue. I have requested a copy of the Tribal Council minutes during the removal of Mr. Nuvamsa to read the section as it relates to Mr. Nuvamsa admitting to not meeting the requirement. This supposedly occurred at a political group meeting called by Alph Secakuku. A sign-in sheet of attendees at this meeting is also available and Mr. Secakuku apparently is now denying hearing the statement by Mr. Nuvamsa. This is the reason I call on all of us to hear the truths before taking positions or sides.
I wonder where I may have been today if I did not allow myself to be influenced to run against former Chairman Abbott Sekaquaptewa in 1981. I probably would be retired from BIA and maybe on the Tribal Council today. I was influenced and convinced by Mr. Secakuku, then Hopi BIA Agency Superintendent, to run against Chairman Sekaquaptewa. Soon after my victory, Mr. Secakuku became great friends with the former Chairman and has become my political critic. Mr. Harold Joseph Jr. told me [recently] that the same person influenced him to run against Mr. Sekaquaptewa when he was a federal employee assigned to Kaibab-Piaute Tribe. In fact, Superintendent Secakuku allowed a BIA-leased airplane to fly him from Kaibab-Piaute to Hopi during his campaign. The same individual is now influencing Mr. Nuvamsa and I would not be surprised if he authors an action item to reinstate Mr. Nuvamsa. I suppose Mr. Secakuku will completely deny these activities. Why doesn't he run for Chairman instead of standing on the sidelines and influencing some of you to our disunity.
It is interesting to have these individuals running to our traditional leaders for support and denounce their traditional positions. I hope and pray that right will prevail and that "two wrongs don't make a right." I feel for our Tribal Council Representatives who will be targeted for removal because of your stand to do what is right by adhering to our constitution. We as Hopi and Tewa tend to support individuals based on our clan relationship and other relations we have as Hopi people and not on merit.
In closing, as political persons are now proclaiming their past work and experiences, I too will state that I am a trained criminal investigator. What I have reviewed to date strongly questions Mr. Nuvamsa meeting the qualification requirement. Instead of leading us to this political controversy, I now ask his professional leadership to first meet the requirements by waiting for the next four year term election to avoid further political controversy. By then this question will hopefully not be an issue.
If Mr. Nuvamsa is reinstated, will the Tribal Council entertain an action item for removal under the Constitution for dishonesty? Then we will be allowed to present our testimony and evidence. Until the removal hearing, will he be on non-pay suspension?
I make these statements in the best interest of unity and know that I have again subjected myself to political ridicule and will suffer retaliations as I experienced in the past years. I commend all candidates in the last election for having the courage to run for the Office of Chairman. You subjected yourselves to criticism but you had the courage to offer your name to the Hopi and Tewa voters. I further commend Mr. Harry Nutumya and Mr. Armond Fritz for standing for what they feel is right on behalf of their voters. I now call on you to do what is right. I pray that our Creator will bestow on us humanity and what is prosperous for our future as Hopi and Tewa People. I will continue to be available to help the humble, weak, and sick according to my experience with cancer and now as a cancer survivor.
Any questions you may have on this letter, I am available to answer when I am around the reservation.
Ivan L. Sidney