21st Navajo Nation Council concludes summer session

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The 21st Navajo Nation Council concluded the fourth and final day of their 2009 summer session and celebrated the appointment of Cynthia Thompson as a probationary district court judge of the Navajo Nation.

The session began with legislation No. 0069-09 sponsored by Charles Damon (Baahaali/Church Rock) related to economic development and resources approved the purchase of Lot 5 of the Juniper Hills Light Industrial subdivision located in Gamerco, N.M. for the sum of $375,000 plus $1,958 estimated closing costs for a total amount of $376,959 utilizing the land acquisition fund.

"The land is going to be used to build a technology data center," Damon said. "It's for our children that need technology."

Harold Skow, director of the Navajo Department of Information and Technology, provided a slide presentation.

"We really ... to purchase a building for all our servers to be housed in because our current building is unsuitable," he said. "With the new building we will be able to protect the Navajo Nation's technology investments."

Most delegates supported the legislation and declared that the purchase would prompt economic development. The legislation was passed by the council with a vote of 41-20.

Next on the agenda was legislation No. 0167-09 sponsored by Amos F. Johnson (Forest Lake) related to an emergency. It passed unanimously with a vote of 64-0.

The legislation grants Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. to release any documents expressing gratitude for the passing of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama on March 30.

Johnson also sponsored legislation No. 0316-09 related to human services. He supported a posthumous award of the Congressional Medal of Honor to specialist four E-4 Huskie Yazzie Begay Ten, U.S. 67124010 U.S. Army, for distinguishing himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in military operations in Vietnam on Feb. 4, 1968. Ten was mortally wounded in action by a grenade while shielding his comrades from the blast.

"Specialist Ten really deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor and we ask for council's support not only for his family but for the Nation," said Jerry Bodie (Sanostee).

Although council delegates were in favor of the legislations intended propose, consensus among the delegates was that congressional support would carry this legislation forward through Congress more efficiently.

Sampson Begay (Jeddito/Steamboat/Low Mountain) recommended an amendment to the legislation suggesting that Senators John McCain (R - AZ) and Jon Kyl (R - AZ) along with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D - AZ) carry out the intent of this legislation.

The legislation passed with two amendments by a vote of 67-0. The second amendment acknowledged the Navajo Nation's support of resolutions and documents attached within the legislation.

Legislation No. 0370-09 sponsored by Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale) passed with no discussion with a vote of 57-0. This legislation was related to an emergency and confirmed the appointment of George Apachito to serve on the Eastern Navajo Land Commission.

In other new business, legislation No. 0368-09 sponsored by Raymond Joe (Tachee/Blue Gap/Whippoorwill) related to an emergency to restore the foundation of the Diné to the Diné repealing 1 N.N.C §§ 201-206.

In his presentation to the council, Joe explained the law's initial intent. "In the beginning the law was clear and thought out, the language was clear and it had propose in that our tradition and way of life would be understood," said Joe. "This law is still good but people are misusing it, misinterpreting it and abusing it today."

Katherine Benally (Dennehotso) expressed her concerns.

"Our elders and ancestor never intended for our language to be put into writing and used against us," she said. "My biggest concern it that this law the way it is being implemented hurts women and children. Many judges do not have knowledge or limit knowledge of our language and culture therefore they call on others to interpret and the outcome of those decisions are inconsistent from district to district."

The legislation was tabled until the fall session with a vote of 48-21.

Lastly, the council concluded its summer session by reviewing legislation No. 0369-09 sponsored by Nelson Gorman Jr. (Chinle). This legislation was related to an emergency and confirmed the appointment of Cynthia Thompson as a probationary district court judge of the Navajo Nation.

Thompson, a 2005 graduate of Northern Arizona University studying criminal justice and administration addressed the council.

"I started my career and I learned a lot from it," she said. "I have volunteered in many organizations and have served on several boards and I often ask myself how I am going to help my Navajo people."

The legislation was strongly supported by council and passed with a vote of 57-0.

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