As of Jan. 7, three separate lawsuits have been filed against Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa, Vice Chairman Herman Honanie and members of the Hopi Secretarial Election Board including Alphonso Sakeva Sr., Marilyn Tewa, Darrell Kewanwytewa and Alice Kewenvoyouma of the Tribal Operations office. The lawsuits were filed by three separate groups of enrolled Hopi tribal members regarding Draft 24A.
Each of the lawsuits say they want the Jan. 27 secretarial election halted because there has been clear "violations of the current Hopi Constitution" regarding the rewritten Hopi Constitution titled "Draft 24A."
The areas of violations outlined in the three lawsuits focuses on how the 12 villages shall be organized by creating a "new fourth branch of government." The "village" category is the biggest area of concern. Other areas of the lawsuits say that the defendants, Shingoitewa, Honanie, et al, have no right, authority or power to enact Hopi Tribal Resolution 053-2010 to conduct such a constitutional election because it violates the current Hopi Constitution.
In addition the lawsuits charge that Hopi public input, participation or information was never allowed regarding the new draft 24A. The suits also charge that there has been no formal Constitution Task Team Committee since 2004 when that team was disbanded. According to the lawsuits, the current paid Constitution Task Team with Shingoitewa as its team leader has no authority.
The lawsuits also charge that Shingoitewa did not inform the Hopi or Tewa people of a formal, written BIA document dated Sept. 24, 2010 from Western Area BIA Agency Brian Bowker. The document outlines 19 comments of suggestions regarding the new draft, saying Draft 24A clearly violates Section 3, Article 3 of the current, still in-force 1936 Hopi Constitution.
The three lawsuits add that the proposed draft violates the current Hopi Constitution that gives only "limited powers" to the Hopi government from the 12 Hopi villages.
All three lawsuits cite that the original "inherent aboriginal power," which has always belonged to the 12 Hopi villages since "time immemorial," was never relinquished, delegated or transferred to the current Hopi Central Government. This would allow them to conduct major change in their tribal constitution without thorough notification and participation by the Hopi community.
On Dec. 2, legal representative for First Mesa and Mishongnovi village suits, Jerry Sekayumptewa, filed a certified question of Hopi Constitutional law petition to the Hopi Tribal Court. In the petition, First Mesa and Mishongnovi are asking the Hopi Appellate Court to render a legal opinion stating that Article III, Section 2 of Draft 24A and Hopi Resolution 053-2010 are illegal in that they violate the inherent sovereign powers of the villages to decide how they will be governed and violate Article III, Section 3 of the current Hopi Constitution of 1936, which states "that each Village will decide for itself how it will be organized."
On Dec. 16, a civil complaint was filed by Flagstaff attorney and former Hopi Chief Judge Gary LaRance. The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Dec. 21. The third lawsuit was filed by former Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma on Dec. 20.
"The new Draft 24A and Hopi Resolution 053-2010 both violate the inherent sovereign rights of the villages to decide for themselves whether they should be made part of the Hopi Central Government as a fourth branch. That decision does not belong to the people at large, but to each village," said LaRance.
Hearings for the Nuvamsa-Hamana lawsuit and the Honyaoma lawsuit were set for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 18 at the Hopi Tribal Court.
At press time, no preliminary hearing had been set for the First Mesa-Mishongnovi Village suit.