KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - In the packed house at the Hopi Tribal Council Chambers on Dec. 1, there was an air of jubilant celebration after what has been an extremely difficult year of political unrest and divisive power-wrangling on the Hopi Council, which for the past year, has had neither a Chairman or Vice Chairman as required by the Hopi Constitution.
Newly elected Hopi Chairman Leroy Ned Shingoitewa, 67, from the Bear Clan of Upper Moencopi Village was officially sworn in as the new Hopi Tribal Chairman along with new Vice Chairman, Herman Honanie, 56, Tobacco clan from Kykotsmovi. Both were supported by their immediate families, relatives, well-wishers and tribal employees who were there to witness a hopefully more benevolent executive branch.
There was hope that the new administration would heal relationships between villages, community political factions and outside entities who have long working relationships with the Hopi Tribe.
Chairman Shingoitewa was able to sit down to discuss a bit of his vision for his tribe, though he was clearly pressed for time on his first day in office meetings with individuals who wanted to express their congratulations or offer suggestions on how he and his vice chairman could resolve the current political turmoil at Hopi.
He stated, "It was really [busy with] meetings that started right after our morning swearing-in. But it gave me a really good indication of what our people's concerns are. I think the morning council session started off a bit rocky but there also seemed to be a change in the mood and tone of some of the Council members, which to me showed some encouragement for change. I do want to take a second look at many of the policy proposals and resolutions that were approved this past year."
Shingoitewa also felt it was critical to change the direction of the tribe. "I want firstly to stabilize our government which is in disarray. Then we need to re-stabilize our working relationship with the newly elected members of the Hopi Tribal Council and certainly with our villages. We have gone too long without involving our villages and Hopi people. We need to get back to them, give them ... information, help them understand our current issues [and] about the monetary investments of the Hopi Tribe."
One of the questions that was constantly asked of the new Chairman at the public forums was the question of whether he would uphold the Hopi constitution in the area of how council representatives were recognized at Hopi Chambers.
Shingoitewa replied, "Our Hopi constitution is the law of the land. We can't overstep the bounds of what authority it gives us as a tribal council governing body. As the new Chairman, I am a servant of the Hopi and Tewa people. The Hopi Council are the servants of the Hopi and Tewa people. We can't forget that. This goes back again, to the re-establishing of our working relationship with the villages and communities. It's time to welcome our people back into the council chambers, invite them to our meetings, to have input, to have a voice. Also our tribal documents must be made available to our community, including financial documents. Its time for us as official tribal officers to become totally accountable, accessible and restore credibility to our Hopi constituents."
Another question asked was about any immediate plans for both himself and Vice Chairman Honanie in the upcoming months.
"We won't be doing much off-reservation travel right away. We both recognize that there is much work right here at home, just trying to restore faith and credibility to our own community. We must be here first. But we want to assure our Hopi and Tewa people that we are indeed a team. From Day One, we are talking [and] working together ... Both of our offices want to be completely available to our community. For now, my senior staff members are Samuel Shingoitewa Jr and Curtis Honanie; Nicole Honanie will be our secretary/receptionist. I believe that Vice Chairman Honanie will have Milton Poola as his staff assistant with Maxine Wadsworth as his secretary/receptionist."
When asked about the recent press release regarding the de-funding of the Hopi Tutuveni newspaper, Chairman Shingoitewa said, "Vice Chairman Honanie and I will be looking at the entire 2010 budget that was approved recently. Many of these budget decisions will need a second [visit] and the Tutuveni is only one of the areas we will take a second look at."
During the formal swearing-in, there were still many Hopi council seats left vacant due to individual village election issues.
However, three villages were able to certify their council representatives. The Village of Upper Moencopi certified representatives Danny Humetewa, Wayne Kuwanhyoima, Everett Calnimptewa and Leroy Sumatskuku. The Village of Bacavi certified Velma Kelyesvah. First Mesa Consolidated Villages certified Leroy Lewis and Alvin Chaca.
The Hopi Council agreed to recess until Dec. 14, when the Council will address the villages who were asked to clarify representative authority and status.