Hopi Council needs to be more aware of constitutional requirements
February 5, 2007
To the Honorable Tribal Council:
It is yet another sad time in the history of our tribe. Problems with alcohol have forced us into yet another election to fill the vacancy left in our leadership office. This is not the first time and perhaps may not be the last time.
Today, you have a matter brought to you by those who, in my opinion, have lost the true meaning and understanding of what is Hopi - what our values are as Hopi. It concerns a literal interpretation of what is "continuous residency" and "primary residence." In my opinion, they are asserting their own interpretation to their personal advantage. What is lost in this interpretation is our traditional Hopi interpretation of what we consider as our "home" and our "primary residence." I will not elaborate on this point at this time, but suffice to say there is a significant difference in this interpretation.
These individuals have questioned whether the qualifications standards in Ordinance 34 have been met. Let me remind you that as a governing body of our tribe, you delegated the authority, by council resolution, to the Election Board to interpret Ordinance 34 and to conduct the Special Election in the manner prescribed in the Ordinance. Let me also remind you that it is the interpretation of the Election Board by the documents I provided that I met the qualifications standards. This interpretation and decision was made by the Election Board on Jan. 10 when it certified me as a viable candidate; and it was affirmed by the same Election Board on Jan. 18, and therefore, this matter is closed.
We all know that our tribal constitution is in dire need of revision. As a result, the ordinances that implement our constitution are also in need of revision. While Ordinance 34 is in need of revision, it is the current legal instrument used in our elections. So, do not lay blame on the Election Board on how it interprets the standards on who should or should not be certified. This responsibility rests with you, the governing body, to ensure that all ordinances provide clear guidance for interpretation and application.
Ordinance No. 34 does not provide for, nor does it authorize additional criteria and qualification standards to be met by candidates. I am fully aware that certain candidates (and others) have been soliciting and collecting personal and confidential information, not related to the Special Election, on and about me to provide additional documentation to disqualify me as a candidate in this election. This is what I refer to as "selective enforcement". In this process, I believe that my right to privacy, afforded me under the Privacy Act, has been violated by these individuals.
For your information, I was subjected to the same qualifications criteria contained in Ordinance 34 as the other candidates, and I was interviewed by the same members of the Election Board using the same criteria, but it appears now that I am being subjected to additional criteria that are not applied to the other candidates. This is now infringing on discriminatory practices condoned by our tribal government.
Now, allow me now to address the literal interpretation of "residency." Residency has been a question in past elections. There are several instances where certain candidates, whose residency was in question, were permitted to participate in the electoral process. I am told that matter involves Council Members Clifford Qötsaqahu and Caleb Johnson in previous elections. In the last election this question arose about Tubby Honyaktewa. In the current election no mention was made about Michael Puhuyesva or other candidates including Valjean Joshvema. In a more serious case, a convicted felon was permitted to participate in the last election. As you know, in national elections, anyone convicted of a felony loses his/her constitutional right to participate in the electoral process.
So I ask now: Why is it that no one raised issues about these candidates and more importantly, why was a convicted felon permitted to participate in the last election? And, why am I being singled out and subjected to additional standards? Again, I refer to these practices as "selective enforcement" and discrimination.
As you deliberate these issues, be mindful of your constitutional obligations to the Hopi and Tewa people. Should you disqualify me as a viable candidate or should you decide to terminate the election process already in process, your decision will be the burden you will shoulder to the Hopi and Tewa people.
I have already complied with and met the qualifications requirements and now I will await the decision of the Hopi and Tewa voters on February 7, 2007. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Ben H. Nuvamsa
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