PHOENIX, Ariz. - On Dec. 13, members of the Hopi Silent Majority (SM) group and Gerald Wiki Numkena of Sipaulovi Village met with Western Regional Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Director Bryan Bowker at the Phoenix BIA area office. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the relationship between the BIA and what the SM feels is specific to "oversight responsibility to the Hopi Tribe" regarding their concerns with the proposed upcoming Draft 24A Election.
The SM group described to Bowker what they say is a "faulty and dangerous public information process by the Hopi Chairman and his constitution task team along with the BIA election board" of Hopi Constitution Draft 24A. The draft is scheduled for formal vote on Jan. 27.
A six-page letter was drafted by SM organizers Monica Kahe and Dale Sinquah, and accompanied by Gerald Wiki Numkena, Frederick Koruh, Celestino Youvella, Wally Youvella, Leroy Chili Lewis, Leon Koruh, Larry Polingyumptewa, Steven Dewakuku, Jerry Sekayumptewa and Phillip Quochytewa. The letter - delivered to Bowker - described areas of concerns with Bowker, Donna Peterson, Acting Tribal Operations Officer, and Matthew Crain, Regional Director for Indian Services.
The SM letter contained a detailed outline of what their group feels are serious violations to the current Hopi Constitution and bylaws of the Hopi Tribe in Draft 24A. The letter also described to Bowker and his staff the political climate at Hopi that they say has become dangerous and oppressive to their group's opposition under the current Shingoitewa tribal leadership. This includes a "conflict of interest and influence" of local Hopi area BIA Superintendent Wendell Honanie in relation to the upcoming election.
The SM also asked for an immediate re-assignment of Superintendent Honanie to another BIA agency as Honanie is brother in-law to current Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa.
The SM group says there have been several documented violations by Chairman Shingoitewa of the current Hopi Constitution. One violation is case of Honyaoma vs. Nuvamsa, No. 2007-AP-0005, in which the Hopi Appellate Court's final decision was that the Hopi Council cannot pass a resolution such as H-036-2007 since it violates the current Hopi Constitution.
SM also says that Hopi Resolution H-053-2010 violates the Hopi Constitution, Article III, Section 3, stating that "each village shall decide for itself how it shall be organized." The SM group says the new referendum vote will violate current village sovereignty by allowing members of other villages to vote to determine how other villages other than their own are organized."
SM says this same resolution violates the current constitution in the area, "that the traditional Hopi organization, and the Kikmongwi of such village shall be recognized as its leader." SM feels the new referendum would oust the current Kikmongwis and the "traditional Hopi organizations" such as villages like Shungopavi, Old Oraibi, Hotevilla and Lower Mungapi.
"It seems to me that Shingoitewa has specifically chosen this month when Hopis are supposed to be respectful of the religious moon and not discuss politics, he is taking advantage of us during this period. What kind of leader takes advantage of his own people for his own personal political gain, when it's our cultural responsibility is to uphold these religious traditions. It's what makes us Hopi," said Gerald Wiki Numkena.
"Chairman Shingoitewa has said in several newspapers, that this new Draft 24A won't infringe on our Hopi religion but he's not a practitioner of Hopi religion or culture. LeRoy thinks this doesn't have an impact on us, but it does. Hopis have always worked by consensus. We must talk together and decide together," said Leroy Chili Lewis.
Another key point for the SM is Shingoitewa's "sole control of all Hopi Tribal Finances," which violates the Hopi Constitution where it specifies, that "only the Tribal Treasurer" has the authority to expend funds on behalf of the Hopi people. A recent council resolution drafted by Shingoitewa's Interim General Counsel Robert Lyttle has overstepped that part of the Hopi Constitution when "sole signature authority" was given to Chairman Shingoitewa and to Tribal Finance Director Joseph Begay.
Bowker made it clear to the SM members that the formal BIA referendum election will go forward on Draft 24A on Jan. 27th "unless a court order is presented to him."
The SM has been working on a "voter registration drive" in all local Hopi villages since the Jan. 27 election will require a certain percentage of Hopi and Tewa voters to participate to be able to defeat this new draft.
"There is a big misunderstanding that not registering and not voting will stop this election process. This is totally false. We confirmed in our BIA meeting that regardless of the number of registered voters, the election will still happen. The 30 percent will come into play when the votes are actually counted on Jan. 27. If 30 percent of those registered vote, the outcome will be approved by the BIA. With only 166 Hopi voters currently registered to vote, it would be a shame if 60 voters decide the fate of our people," said Kahe.
"In our lifetime, we experience significant events that require us to personally step forward and act out of our comfort zone. I believe that the vote on the Hopi Constitution is one of those events. The Hopi Constitution affects the everyday lives of all Hopis," said Sinquah.
Contact Kahe or Sinquah at (928) 737-0135 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.