Hopi residents demand government reform

Peabody lease deadline also weighs heavy on Hopi agenda

<i>Photo by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO</i><br>
Various signs expressing the general displeasure of the state of Hopi political affairs were mounted in various spots in front of the Hopi tribal building.

<i>Photo by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO</i><br> Various signs expressing the general displeasure of the state of Hopi political affairs were mounted in various spots in front of the Hopi tribal building.

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - Hopi and Tewa community members started gathering near the Hopi Tribal complex as early as 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 to be able to go into the Hopi Tribal Chambers for the last quarter council session of the year. The session was scheduled to start at 9 a.m.

The Hopi Council agenda that was originally posted the end of November had recently been revised and now included a "discussion" agenda item that centered around Peabody Western Coal, Inc. and also a new proposal to lease out the Hopi Tribe's share of slot machines and two new major water project proposals.

By 11:30 a.m., the crowd count in front of the tribal headquarters was at 113 and by 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, there were 133 individuals.

The crowd was told by a tribal security guard that only 10 people from the community were going to be allowed into the Hopi Council Chambers to hear what the Council was discussing and voting on.

Attendees were required to "sign in" as if they were going to be able to go into the tribal council chambers, but instead had to wait outside in the chilly air for most of the morning.

The biggest reason for the Hopis and Tewas present was that they wanted to see the Hopi Council act on five specific but separate action items.

The first was a demand in petition form to put a formal stop of any further action or approval of any negotiations with Peabody for the proposed life of mine permit and to make sure that a comprehensive document was presented to the Hopi and Tewa people on what really was happening with the EIS issue and public presentation on what will be the final formal tribal statement by the Dec. 8 deadline.

The second was to certify and swear-in all the new village council representatives who had recently won their own village elections.

Third, also in petition form, was to immediately reinstate the Hopi Appellate Court.

The fourth item for consideration was to remove Todd Honyaoma, effective immediately, from his post as Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe.

Finally, the last item was for the council was to reinstate Benjamin Nuvamsa to the office of the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, with all constitutional powers and authority effective immediately.

But the Council never even got to the village certification issues as several of the new representatives were waiting outside the chambers to be sworn in.

The certification issue stopped at the Village of Sipaulovi during the Monday morning session, and was remanded back to the village. But by Wednesday afternoon, three new Sipaulovi representatives were sworn in: Alph Secakuku, George Mace and Cedric Kuwaninvaya. Marilyn Tewa was also reinstated for the Village of Mishongnovi.

The Hopi Tribal Constitution does not require a full council quorum to swear in new elected representatives.

The two open Council meetings held at the Veteran's Memorial Center on Dec. 2 and 3 went into recess until Dec. 22 after a motion was made by First Mesa Representative Dale Sinquah.

But instead of leaving and officially recessing the publicly open meetings, Nuvamsa, Honyaoma and several members of Council opted to stay and listen to public testimony from the Hopi community on all the recent political turmoil on Tuesday.

The comments were heartfelt, angry and very pointed to the Council's recent actions on the Hopi judicial system and its suspension of Nuvamsa, but the majority of the criticism surrounded Vice Chairman Honyaoma.

There were also suggestions on how the Council could get the Hopi Tribe back on track, like making sure that every village had their candidates certified immediately and active on the Council membership.

Two surprises of the Tuesday session occurred just after noon, when there had been numerous, extremely negative public comments about Sidney's appointment to Honyaoma's staff. Honyaoma stood up and assured the crowd that he had let his Chief of Staff go that morning.

Loud cheers and clapping followed this announcement, but as of press time, Sidney was reportedly still working at the Hopi Tribe.

Many community members voiced their disappointment that Honyaoma had not been truthful in making this declaration regarding Sidney's alleged firing.

The second surprise was when Honyaoma had threatened in memo form that he would "consider formal resignation by the end of Dec. 31." Many at the Wednesday meeting said, "Why wait? Resign today."

"[You are] just like a spoiled child, having a temper tantrum and threatening us with quitting. Well do it. You stepped down once already in February, so just do it and let us get on with the business of running our tribe," said Patsy Ross of First Mesa.


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