To the editor:
As each year comes to a close, people usually reflect on their accomplishments and set new resolutions for the coming year. So as 2009 draws to a close, we should reflect on what we were able to accomplish as a tribe - as a people. But unfortunately, we can only reflect on how our rights have been violated and how our government has been abused.
The Hopi and Tewa people went to the polls last month with a renewed hope that things will change, but sadly, not very many people voted because they feared their votes would be thrown out again. Our political situation has not changed. As the old saying goes "the more things change, the more they remain the same."
I resigned as Tribal Chairman because I believed that it was the only rightful thing to do to stop the political turmoil and to begin the healing process. Almost immediately afterwards, Resolution No. 007-2009 was passed. Before I left office I issued Executive Order, No. 02-2008 by which I ordered that all subsequent actions of the tribal council be declared invalid, including Resolution No. 007-2009. I ordered that a special election be held to fill the vacant offices of Tribal Chairman and Vice Chairman and that the Hopi Appellate Court justices who were removed be reinstated.
I also demanded that the Interior Department intervene on behalf of our tribe and appointed Arnold Taylor to serve as interim Chief Administrative Officer to ensure programs would continue to operate until a new Chairman and Vice Chairman were elected. The Executive Order was all but ignored.
On Jan. 1, there was still no legitimate tribal council because there was no chairman or vice chairman. Resolution No. 007-2009 appointed a "presiding officer," essentially changing our constitution by resolution without approval of tribal members. The constitution can only be changed through a referendum where adult members of the tribe would vote on the proposed changes. This did not happen.
Our constitution requires that "vacancies occurring in the offices of the Tribal Chairman and Vice Chairman for any reason shall be filled for the rest of the term in the same manner as those officers are ordinarily chosen." Instead, Phillip Quochytewa served as presiding officer from Jan. 1 until Nov. 31.
Some of the actions of the council since Jan. 1 included the hiring of staff without the benefit of advertisement, removing our appellate court justices and seating new justices, approving the Peabody Coal Lease Reopener, "removing" me as Chairman even after I already left office, and removing the Economic Development Board and appointing themselves as the new board. They reorganized the tribal government and removed the executive authorities of the new Chairman before he took office, upsetting the balance of power in our government. They also approved a budget that will shut down the Tutuveni newspaper. And the list goes on.
So what is the solution for the New Year? As we all do when a year comes to a close, we set new resolutions for the coming year. It is also the time of our ceremonial calendar, Soo'ya'lung muya, where we renew our lives. So in the spirit of Soo'ya'lung muya, let us all renew our lives and commit to a new year by rescinding Resolution No. 007-2009 and start all over.
Let's start a new legislative process and develop new and meaningful action items that will benefit our tribe and allow the Hopi and Tewa people to participate in this process. It is our right. Let us have a transparent and accountable tribal government and let us abide by our constitution by only having those representatives that are elected by the people to serve on the council and do away with appointed representatives.
And finally, let us move forward and change the tribal constitution. This change is long overdue.
With that, I bid you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Kwak'wha.
Benjamin H. Nuvamsa
Former Hopi Tribal Chairman
Village of Shungopavi, Ariz.