No decision reached by Hopi Tribal Council in Nuvamsa case

The Bear Clan corn fields in Shungopavi are shown in this undated photo. The Bear Clan fields are the first to be planted every year and are maintained by various clan members, including Ben Nuvamsa. Nuvamsa says that his participation in helping to maintain these fields and partaking in religious ceremonials constitutes proof of his residence at Hopi (Courtesy photo).

The Bear Clan corn fields in Shungopavi are shown in this undated photo. The Bear Clan fields are the first to be planted every year and are maintained by various clan members, including Ben Nuvamsa. Nuvamsa says that his participation in helping to maintain these fields and partaking in religious ceremonials constitutes proof of his residence at Hopi (Courtesy photo).

KYKOTSMOVI-Following the Hopi Tribal Council's March 28 decision to nullify the election of Chairman Ben Nuvamsa, several actions have been taken to clarify the terms of the nullification. Nuvamsa and supporters turned out at the April 9 meeting of the Hopi Tribal Council to appeal the decision and argue its lack of constitutionality.

The meeting was convened to decide whether to rescind the nullification, to hold another special election, or to maintain a government without a chairman for the next two years. Following the day-long meeting, however, no decision was made and an April 30 date was set to revisit the issue.

Arthur Batala, executive assistant to the Hopi Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma, said that Nuvamsa is still removed.

During the April 9 session, Nuvamsa declared the illegality of the nullification and detailed the violation of not only his rights as a newly-elected chairman, but also the disregard for the individual rights of each Hopi voter.

Nuvamsa explained that nowhere in the Hopi Constitution or Hopi Election Ordinance is an allowance for the nullification of an election, and that by doing so, the Council had violated the Constitution, Election Ordinance and furthermore, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

"What we're asking for is to preserve the constitutional rights of the Hopi people-their rights to vote, to participate in the electoral process. The majority of tribal members are very angry that they took the time to register to vote, to vote.... I was sworn in, held council meetings, signed documents and tribal cards," Nuvamsa stated in an interview following the April 9 meeting.

"Now we want to inform tribal members of the constitutional rights and that the Council didn't have the authority to do what they did. We want people to know what they can do now. This is about preserving constitutional rights and honoring and respecting the electoral process," Nuvamsa said.

Batala said the interpretation of the Hopi Constitution and Election Ordinance in regard to this matter is now in the hands of the Hopi Tribal Council and Hopi Tribal Court System.

"At this point in time no one is going to want to address the issue publicly as it is ongoing," Batala said. "We need to let the proceedings take place and not do anything to circumvent the process."

In its March 28 decision, the Tribal Council declared the election void on grounds that Nuvamsa did not meet the qualification for candidacy necessitating that a person running for the office have lived on the Hopi Reservation for the two years prior to the election.

This requirement was previously questioned prior to the both the primary and general elections. On each account, the Hopi Election Board upheld Nuvamsa's candidacy and directed that the elections continue as planned.

Following suit, voters turned out and selected Nuvamsa for chairman in the Jan. 9 primary election and the Feb. 7 general election.

Nuvamsa said that he has maintained a home on Second Mesa and also has a home in Pine Top. He explained his devotion to the Hopi community, traditions and people. "I was born there, raised there and have a home there. I'm initiated in several societies. I'm born into the Bear Clan and when you're initiated, it's a lifetime commitment. I take that very seriously. I partake in the snake dance, the flute dance, the ceremonies and social dances. It's a lifetime commitment," Nuvamsa said.

He also detailed his commitment to the community and proof of residence in the fields he maintains with his clan and family as well as with his wife's family.

"Corn is our livelihood. We always have a corn field, a bean field, we cannot forget the importance of that," Nuvamsa said.

Nuvamsa reiterated the proof of his residency and said that there are deeper reasons for the nullification of the election and his chairmanship.

"I think that there is a resistance to change in the Tribal Council. My platform has been about a change in government to be accountable, transparent and respectable-a government that is for the people, by the people. We need to be accountable about our finances; people need to know where the money is coming from and where it's going, and as a government office to be accountable. There seems to be more than a residency issue here. It's control and the control that the Council has held for a long time. The people want to take that back," Nuvamsa said.

Nuvamsa explained that the residency requirement of several former chairmen has been questioned including Chairmen Johnson, Coin, and Honyumptewa.

"This issue is not a new issue. All those cases were handled before this, and they were all allowed to serve. I'm perplexed about what the real issue is here," Nuvamsa said.

Nuvamsa said that Hopi people now need to know what their rights are in regard to the nullification. He and his staff will hold an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m., tonight, at the Hopi Veteran's Memorial Center.

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