WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye commended U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., for securing an amendment to the fiscal 2019 appropriations to aid the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR).
O’Halleran responded to appeals from Navajo leadership to ensure that funding goes toward building homes and fulfilling the obligations of ONHIR for the benefit of the Navajo relocatees.
Coming out of the House Appropriations Committee, the fiscal 2019 appropriations bill would have cut ONHIR funding from $15 million to $4.75 million, including diverting $3 million of ONHIR’s funding to the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) to begin planning for ONHIR’s closure and to assume ONHIR’s land management functions. However, OST has no land management experience.
With bipartisan support, O’Halleran secured an amendment to restore the diverted $3 million back to ONHIR, increasing ONHIR’s fiscal 2019 appropriations to $7.75 million. O’Halleran recognized that any transition of ONHIR at this time would be premature as many of its fundamental responsibilities have not been completed. Also, there is currently no comprehensive transition plan for ONHIR, and the Navajo Nation was not consulted in the decision to utilize OST to plan ONHIR’s closure.
“Since we first discovered that OST was authorized to begin taking steps to plan the closure of ONHIR, the Nation has demanded a full consultation. I am grateful that Congress understands that a decision to unilaterally throw funding at an agency to plan the closure of ONHIR will greatly impact the Nation and cannot be made without consultation,” Begaye said.
The Navajo Nation has strongly opposed any plans to close ONHIR until all of the promises made to the Navajo Nation and relocated families are completed.
“The federal government should acknowledge the harm it has caused and sit down with the Navajo Nation to develop a plan to address the current needs of the affected Navajo families and communities, as well as to assure that all promises have been kept,” Begaye said. “Just 44 years ago, Congress passed a law that forced the removal of more than 16,000 of our people. Today we are still fighting for Congress to keep the promises it made to our relocated people.”
“As the promises made to the Navajo people have yet to be fulfilled, the Navajo Nation applauds the work of O’Halleran to restore diverted funding back to ONHIR and to highlight the critical need for proper consultation with the Navajo Nation,” he said.
Information provided by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President
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