Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Oct. 31

Livestock impoundment causes unrest in Hopi Partitioned Lands
Hopi Tribe contends 43 ranchers out of compliance with grazing permits

Navajo elders from Big Mountain, Ariz., and Black Mesa, Ariz., lead a peaceful walk from Window Rock Mini-Mall to the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock, Ariz., on Oct. 30, 2014, to protest impoundment of their livestock and arrest of Navajo people by Hopi Tribal police and U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs rangers. Photo/Marley Shebala.

Navajo elders from Big Mountain, Ariz., and Black Mesa, Ariz., lead a peaceful walk from Window Rock Mini-Mall to the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock, Ariz., on Oct. 30, 2014, to protest impoundment of their livestock and arrest of Navajo people by Hopi Tribal police and U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs rangers. Photo/Marley Shebala.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Hopi Tribe and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) impounded more than 100 animals on Hopi Partitioned Lands Aug. 18-28, causing conflict between Hopis and Navajos.

In a press release, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates demanded that the Hopi Tribe and BIA cooperate with a request issued by the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office (NHLCO) to "cease and desist from ongoing impoundment activities of livestock owned by Navajo residents in the Hopi Partitioned Lands."

In an Oct. 24 memo from NHLCO Executive Director Raymond Maxx to Hopi Tribal Chairman Herman Honanie, Maxx requested a 10-day grace period to allow for the opportunity to confer with residents to request removal of excess livestock from the partitioned lands.

The Hopi Tribe said in a statement that it and the Department of Natural Resources completed the annual livestock inventory in compliance with the statute that governs the grazing of livestock on Hopi lands. It said five-day notices were given and written notices were posted for those who were not in compliance with their livestock grazing permits.

"Citations were issued for violations of over permit limits and trespass for non-permit holders," the statement said. "This notice was to provide the opportunity to correct their permit violations and to come into compliance voluntarily."

Shelly said that among many Navajo families, livestock is the main source of food and the Navajo Nation needs a resolution. Bates said he and other officials have heard the concerns of their people, particularly those of elderly Navajos who rely heavily on their livestock for their livelihood.

"Impounding livestock of Navajo people is a deliberate violation of their rights to practice our culture and traditions and it must stop immediately," Bates said. "If overgrazing is the major concern for Hopi officials, it is certainly an issue that we can address by sitting down and talking with one another."

But officials with the Hopi Tribe said they have passed land management regulations to protect native plants, grasses and wildlife. The tribe regulates the number of horses, cattle and sheep to ensure the land is able to replenish itself. Those are particularly important now during a severe drought. The tribe said monthly monitoring of Hopi lands shows "severe deterioration of Hopi lands due to overgrazing in specific range units over the past five years."

"All residents, both Hopi and Navajo, living on the Hopi reservation are expected to share in this responsibility and the laws will be equally enforced amongst all residents, Hopi and Navajo ranchers alike," the Hopi statement said. "...these impoundments are being carried out equally for and between Hopi and Navajo tribal members...who were all issued citations for violation of over their permit numbers."

Despite assurances that ranchers would abide by their permits, 43 ranchers were discovered to have grazed animals in excess of their permits.

While reports surfaced from various Navajo livestock owners in the area that the livestock impoundments included authorities brandishing firearms, the Hopi Tribe said there was no "threat of violence by the Hopi Tribe against the Navajo and Hopi residents of Hopi Partitioned Lands."

NHLC members Council Delegates Dwight Witherspoon and Walter Phelps met with Hopi and BIA officials and affected residents.

According to Witherspoon, further discussions between all parties will take place.

The Hopi Tribe said the Department of Natural Resources and the tribe are working one on one with affected Navajo and Hopi livestock owners to resolve the removal, sale or to decrease the animals to permitted numbers.

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