Hopi chairman forum brings forth issues
POLACCA-The Hopi Tribal Council and tribal administrators drew heavy criticism Thursday night during the tribal chairman's forum at Hopi High School.
Approximately 200 people came out on the cold night to hear from the candidates.
There are 14 candidates for the special chairman's race on Jan. 24 with the top two making it to the general election on Feb. 7.
Twelve of the 14 candidates attended the forum. Candidates Tommy Canyon and Ben Nuvamsa did not attend.
Valjean Joshevama, Harry Nutumya, Elgean Joshevama, Dr. Alan Numkena, Mike Puhuyesva, Mary Felter, Hernal Dallas, Caleb Johnson, Harold Joseph, Wilbur Maho, Cliff Qotsaquahu and Wayne Kuwanhyoima shared their stances on the issues and why they think they are qualified for the tribe's top office.
Several candidates criticized the Hopi Tribal Council for not keeping people informed on the issues and not being responsive to the people.
Nutumya said the current tribal council is a problem because they do not represent the people. He said some representatives on the council are appointed by the kikmongwi, or the village religious leader.
"We need to separate church and state," he said. "This is an ongoing problem. It's time the people have a voice through referendum. Decisions should be made by the people, not by the Hopi Tribal Council."
Dallas said he is against the Mohave Power Plant and the tribal council has carried out negotiations in secret. He also criticized the council for recently giving itself a $3,000-a-year raise.
Dallas added that department heads who aren't productive should hear Donald Trump's words: "You're fired."
Maho agreed and said they should start with the director of economic development.
Royce Jenkins, director of economic development, happened to be serving as the moderator for the evening so Maho's assertion drew a lot of laughs.
He did not respond to the call for his firing.
Maho said department heads and council representatives need to be held accountable. He added that the salary of the tribal council should be raised so more educated people would be interested in serving on council.
Puhuyesva said the tribal council's task teams are supposed to look into projects, get details and report to the people.
"But there are a lot of projects we know nothing about," he said.
Johnson said the tribal council sometimes enacts legislation without thinking about the consequences so the chairman should have veto power.
Johnson did not have an opinion on whether council representatives should be appointed or elected.
"Since the law allows for appointment, we have to abide by it. If the draft constitution were approved, it would be one more step toward democracy. But I don't have an opinion on this," he said.
Qotsaquahu defended the tribal councilmen as hard workers.
"If you care for the government you will work with it," he said.
But Qotsaquahu said Article 1, Section 3, should be followed. This calls for the tribal council to report to the community.
Valjean Joshevama said if elected he would communicate with the public so they would be better informed.
"Right now the public is not involved," he said.
Joshevama also said Hopi needs a rehabilitation center to address the methamphetamine problem.
Dallas said tribal leaders must be held accountable for the decisions they make.
Johnson, who served ten years on the tribal council and 15 months as vice chairman, said the tribe needs a decent non-alcoholic, fair-minded individual as its chairman.
"It's a stressful job. We need someone we can identify with and be proud of," he said.
Felter, tribal secretary, said she is familiar with the tribal council's roles and responsibilities.
"This is a time of change, but we're not moving with the change," she said. "We need to change with technology."
Felter said the council has talked about changing Title 36, the education ordinance, for ten years without it being done.
Nutumya said the tribal government has not listened to the people.
"The voice of the people needs to be heard," he said.
Nutumya said the tribe is sending out money without getting any return. He said the budget needs to be streamlined and prioritized so more funding can go into education and helping the elderly.
Nutumya said data is needed to determine what villages need.
Puhuyesva, who has worked for the EPA, BIA and other tribes, said past Hopi governments have been self-serving and not for the people. He added that a lot of programs have been started on Hopi but lacked follow through.
Kuwanhyoima, the governor of Moenkopi, said his goal is to unite all villages.
"It used to be that way," he said.
Qotsaquahu said his administration would stand for integrity and professionalism. He said Hopis believe that everyone has a stake in finding common ground by working together.
"We can start to get things done with this philosophy," he said.
Joseph pointed to his experience as an economic development director and the manager of water projects.
Elgean Joshevama, Valjean's brother, said he would seek justice and equality along with revising the Hopi Constitution. He criticized the tribal council for not allowing the proposed constitutional revisions to go to a referendum of the Hopi people.
"If we had voted then the constitution could have been amended afterward," he said.
Joshevama said the current constitution is manipulated by the tribal council. He added he sympathizes with people who worked on the revisions for the Hopi Constitution.
Felter said the current constitution has nothing wrong with it that some amendments wouldn't fix. She added that the tribal council needs to be accountable and responsible to the people.
Joseph said the money being wasted by the U.S. in Iraq should be used on Hopi to help the elderly and build a junior high school building.
Qotsaquahu said the villages should receive more money, but less should go for the salaries of the community service administrators in the villages. He said they receive anywhere from $33,000-$43,000, with some receiving more than tribal councilmen.
Kuwanhyoima emphasized his experience in law enforcement and the military saying it gives him credibility because he believes in honesty, justice and being trustworthy.
Puhuyesva said Hopi needs an effective supervisor for its scholarship system because the current system favors relatives and friends.
"The same people get helped year after year. That needs to be stopped," he said.
Dr. Numkena, a chiropractor, praised Diane Humetewa for being considered for appointment as the U.S. Attorney from Arizona.
"That shows why education is so important. It means that we could get positions that we didn't think we could get," he said. "It takes work skills and ethics [and] shows that Hopis are just as smart as anybody."
Felter said the tribe needs to look at its finances because they are being reduced. She said economic development and infrastructure are needed, but added there is a lack of unity in the villages and on the tribal council. She said the council needs to partner with the villages.
Kuwanhyoima said the village budget system is corrupt and that budget problems keep Hopi from having enough law enforcement officers.
Johnson said the tribe's scholarship committee needs to be looked at closer.
"It's evolved into a bureaucracy. Hopi college students are not getting the money they need," he said.
Dallas said there should be more funding for college students, but he added they also need to evaluate how the students are using those funds.
Numkena said his top priority would be looking into issues that impact the daily living problems of Hopis.
Numkena said economic development is needed. He wants to help Hopi businesses and see apartments in every village to address the housing issue. He said $11 million from Peabody should be used to send students to colleges and trade schools.