Residency of candidate for Hopi Chairman challenged
KYKOTSMOVI-Ben Nuvamsa won the primary race for Hopi Chairman, but his victory is being challenged in the Hopi courts by two of his opponents.
According to undisclosed sources, the Hopi Tribal Council may call a special session to investigate whether Nuvamsa meets the residency requirements.
The Hopi Constitution calls for candidates for Chairman to have lived on the Hopi Reservation for two years prior to entering the race.
Nuvamsa won the Jan. 24 race with 274 votes, Harry Nutumya grabbed second with 168 votes and Dr. Alan Numkena finished third with 132 votes. There were a total of 14 candidates in the race for tribal Chairman.
The special election was called when the Hopi Tribal Council ousted Ivan Sidney from the Chairman's office.
The top two vote-getters are to move on to the Feb. 7 General Election, however, Chairman candidates Hernal Dallas and Harold Joseph filed a complaint with the Hopi Court on Jan. 26. The complaint calls for the court to issue an injunction stating that Nuvamsa did not have proper residency, that the Hopi Election Board did not follow the guidelines and that having Nuvamsa in the race had a negative impact on the primary election.
If the Hopi Court or the Hopi Tribal Council rule Nuvamsa out of the race, it is not clear whether the race would have to be redone or whether Nutumya would move up to first and Numkena would move up to second in the primary race and general election.
Nuvamsa, who runs a consulting business called the Kiva Institute, said that he had been certified for the primary election, that the election is in process and that the Hopi people expressed their feelings through their vote.
Joseph placed fourth in the election and Dallas finished 14th.
Dallas said it is general knowledge that Nuvamsa hasn't physically lived on the Hopi Reservation for the past two years.
Dallas said if Nuvamsa won the Chairman's office that he would be starting out dishonestly and that it would hurt the integrity of the Chairman's office.
Carbon copies of the complaint letter were also filed with Tribal Secretary Mary Felter and the Hopi Election Board.
Felter, who was also a candidate, said as tribal secretary she could not take a stance on the letter, but would do her duty and pass it along to the Hopi Tribal Council. Felter finished fifth in the race.
Three tribal Councilmen were made aware of the residency issue and have called for a special Council meeting to investigate Nuvamsa's residency. It takes four Councilmen's signatures to call a special meeting and they believe they will have the fourth within a few days.
The three Councilmen calling for the special session so far are Cliff Qotsaquahua of Bacavi and Jerry Sekayumptewa and Leon Koruh, both of Mishongnovi.
Qotsaquahua said the Hopi Courts have determined in previous cases that residency requires that the person come to their Hopi home every night. He added that if the people living around Nuvamsa's home were interviewed they would tell investigators that Nuvamsa has not lived there on a daily basis.
"I doubt that he has met the two year requirement. He comes out often, but not every night. Maybe he's been doing that for six to nine months, but not for two years," Qotsaquahua said. "He should wait two more years before he runs."
Qotsaquahua, who originally encouraged Nuvamsa to run, said if the Hopi Tribal Council allows Nuvamsa to run that they are enablers for not following the process.
"In that case, we might as well call Ivan (Sidney) back and have him take over," he said.
Qotsaquahua said taking Nuvamsa out of the race would be a slap in the face for the voters who voted for Nuvamsa, but added that if Nuvamsa doesn't have the proper residency that that would "shoot the Hell out of that."
Qotsaquahua said he was calling for the investigation, but not out of spite or anger.
"He (Nuvamsa) is a good candidate and I would like to serve with him, but he would be starting out wrong," Qotsaquahua said.
Nuvamsa responded that if the Hopi Tribal Council decides to have an investigation that the action would be out of his control.
"Everybody has the right to go before Council and have the chance to be heard, but my certification has been approved and I respect the vote of the people," he said.
Nuvamsa added that if the Hopi Court ruled that candidates must come home to their house each night then nobody would meet the requirement.
During the primary race, candidate Valjean Joshevama challenged whether Nuvamsa met the two-year residency requirements. Nuvamsa produced a post office box, utility bills and tax papers showing that he had lived on Hopi for the past two years, so the Hopi Election Board certified him for election.