McCain’s Relocation Legislation
10.23.08: This page is still under construction. Come back soon for links to each of these posts. Thankyou!
No forced relocation on Big Mountian, Black Mesa, AZ! Learn how Dineh (Navajo) families have been targeted by this unjust ‘relocation legislation’ sponsored by John McCain. On this page you can find the bill in full, read additional facts and background information, watch the video and/or read the transcripts of the testimony before the Senate Committee On Indian Affairs regarding this legislation.
John McCain has been a primary sponsor of legislation that set a new timetable for the forced relocation of a number of Dineh (Navajo) families who continue to live on their ancestral homelands of Black Mesa, AZ. During the 109th Congress McCain sponsored Senate Bill 1003, an amendment of the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-531, the relocation law), that prematurely terminates the Federal government’s responsibilities towards those who “have lived through the nightmare of relocation” as testified by Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley Jr. Furthermore, S1003 disclaims any further federal responsibility for the relocatees and refuses to acknowledge the long lasting damage to the community and current need for rehabilitation and support. Fortunately this legislation stalled on the House floor in April of 2007 but there are growing concerns that if McCain becomes the next U.S. president, S1003 would be at the forefront of the whitehouse agenda. The coal companies have a long history of and continue to fund both the Republican and Democratic parties because they have huge interests at stake.
If passed, this bill would have had dire consequences for Dine’ families who continue to live on their ancestral homeland, for the families who have moved and for the land of Black Mesa. S1003 passed through the Senate, it never made it out of the House Resources Committee to the House floor for a vote. The congressional session ended with no action being taken.
In support of the Dineh’s right to stay on their ancestral homelands, thousands of letters, emails, and faxes were sent from throughout Indian Country and the general support network to stop this bill. There was also a video sent to Congress produced from a Black Mesa resident and a BMIS volunteer which has statements from some targeted residents of the ‘Hopi Partitoned Lands’.
SENATE BILL 1003:
The bill as written appears to call for the remaining resisters to be removed (see Senate Report which gives a much clearer and more concise explanation of the bill than the actual text). Even if it passes the Senate it still has to pass the House. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/T?&report=sr206&dbname=109& (If there is a problem with the link, then go directly to thomas.loc.gov then to Senate Bill 1003. There is a link to the written report under “All Congressional Actions“). Here is another link to the report, a PDF file. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp109:FLD010:@1(sr206) 01.24.06
S. 1003 – The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 (As found at The Library Of Congress -Thomas, to access the current status of senate and house bills; Sponsored by John McCain on 05.11.05)
THE BILL (a PDF file): ‘The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 to amend the Act of December 22, 1974, and for other purposes‘ ( As reported by Mr. McCain at the 109th congress 1st session in the Senate of the United States, with amendments). ‘Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled’. 12.14.05McCain was actively involved with legislation being passed in 1996 regarding Navajo-Hopi Land Settlements.
See the 1996 Accommodation Agreement (P.L. 104-301).
For more detail of the report, including joint ownership of minerals: (scroll about mid-way down). http://www.washingtonwatchdog.org/public_lands_test/documents/cr/05/my/11/cr11my05-177.html
The major issues discussed at the hearing include (1) relocation and ending the settlement program, (2) the Bennett Freeze issue, (3) existing expenditures and programs under the 1974 Land dispute act, and (4) current litigation regarding royalties and land division.
The Senate Bill has bipartisan support as shown by the attendance and statements of Senator Daniel Inoye (Democrat; Hawaii). As the senior senator from Arizona and Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Mr. McCain is taking the lead and is listed as the only sponsor thus far.Mr. McCain takes the position that 31 years and $ 483 million is far in excess of the original estimates of ending the program in 1986 at a cost of $ 40 million and that the relocation program needs to finish its job and end by 2008. Mr. McCain questions whether the original act should have been passed at all and says he
recognizes the hardships involved but that there must be “closure” on this matter. Regarding the Bennett Freeze area, Mr. McCain states that the Bennett Freeze needs to be lifted but that this should be done in separate legislation. According to the President of the Navajo Nation and Chairman of the Hopi Tribal council, an agreement regarding Bennett Freeze has been reached, approved by the Hopi Tribe, and needs Navajo Nation council approval which is expected within a year. References in the Senate Bill to a certification deadline of September 30, 2005 requiring the Commissioner to
provide the Secretary of the Interior with a list of Navajo living on “Hopi land” without permission of the Hopi apparently will be changed to at least 2008. Both the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe oppose provisions in the act dealing with mineral royalties stating that it is the subject of ongoing litigation and a confidential agreement and negotiations with the 9th Circuit US federal court.
While Senator McCain and Mr. Bavasi, Executive Director of the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation, state that the program is “voluntary” and imply that no
one has been forced to relocate, Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor clearly and explicitly states his belief that a goal of this Senate bill is to finish the job of relocation. Mr. Tessler states that the Department of Interior is reluctant to forcibly remove an relocate Navajo. Chairman Wayne Taylor provides evidence that this is true by requesting mandatory eviction in the legislation and that the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation evict Navajo before dissolving in 2008.It does appear that this legislation, as currently written, does lay the groundwork for forced relocation of Resisters.
There appears to be a general agreement that the Bennett Freeze was put in place in 1964 to force an agreement on the land issue but that, supposedly, it has outlived its usefulness. Representative Rick Renzi sponsored a House Bill in 2004 for the repeal of the Bennett Freeze that was not enacted. McCain opposes its inclusion in the Senate Bill. The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal Council apparently have an agreement to lift the freeze.
Senator McCain expresses a strong desire to wind up the relocation program. Questions regarding rehabilitation and support for people in the New Lands and other relocatees were barely mentioned. It appears that the federal government does not want to address the continuing human cost of relocation and their special needs though Senator McCain acknowledges an interest in health, education, and housing funding.The question of royalties and division of land into parcels needs more investigation. It is the subject of confidential negotiations before the Federal courts and it appears that Senate Bill 1003 seeks to force some sort of resolution that both the Navajo Nation and Hopi oppose.
U.S. Senate Bill S.1003 may become an amendment to the 1974 Federal Law, so-called, “Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act”….An Article on Senate Bill 1003, the Relocation Legislation, Bahe Y. Katenay of Big Mountain.
Senator McCain wants to pass S. 1003 under the Senate’s “Unanimous Consent” procedure where there is no discussion or consideration of the bill. This procedure is used for ‘non-controversial’ legislation. Regarding the status of S. 1003, it is still before the Senate on the Senate calendar under “General Orders No. 324.”; This means that the Senate could possibly pass it at anytime when the Senate is meeting; The ’96 bill was unusual in that, once passed by the Senate, it only stayed in the House 7 days before the House passed it and made it law; If the Senate and House do not pass it by October, then the bill dies. If the bill passes, people on the land who have not signed leases with the Hopi can expect to receive letters or communication from the federal government within 6 months of the bill becoming law notifying them that they are required to move.”
Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act Amendment, Senate Bill 1003 Update & Analysis
There are 3 Major parts to the Bill:
1. COAL ROYALTY RATES
The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal Council currently are involved in litigation and negotiation regarding how to apportion and divide coal royalties from the JUA between them. Senate Bill 1003 would allow the Secretary of the Interior to unilaterally determine how to apportion revenue between the groups and is opposed by both the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal Council.The Navajo Nation brought a major lawsuit against the US regarding what the Navajo Nation considered dishonest dealings and communications between then Secretary Hodel and Peabody coal company allies regarding a reduction in the Navajo Nation’s demand for a 20 % rate in favor of a 12 1/2 % rate.
2. DISSOLUTION OF THE NAVAJO HOPI RELOCATION COMMISSION
Under the Bill, this office is suppose to windup affairs and transfer any remaining functions to the Department of Interior.This provision is problematic and needs to be discussed by the Dineh, particularly those in the New Lands or others that may have continuing relations with the Relocation Commission. The thrust of the Bill is to disclaim any further federal responsibility for the relocatees and refuses to acknowledge the long lasting damage
to the community and current need for rehabilitation and support. Despite the awful history of relocation, at present there may not be many alternatives to that commission and a lot of organizational knowledge that could be of use to Dineh may be lost.It appears to that this Bill represents a denial by the federal government of continuing responsibility to the people relocated. In addition to the problems faced by all Dineh, the people in the New Lands or in other places do face additional burdens related to this devastatingly and abysmally managed process.
3. RELOCATION OF RESISTERS
This Bill seems to create a situation very similar to that which existed before the 2000 deadline. In fact, the Bill was originally drafted in 1996.
It makes Congressional law current Department of Interior regulations regarding relocation. This means it can not be changed without another act of Congress and will definitely lead to notices going out to Resisters. What happens next is hard to say at this point. It is quite possible that the Hopi Tribal Council have been insistent and consistent in calling for removal of resisters.As an indication of how poorly drafted this bill is, there is no mention of
Accommodation Agreements or even if it is still possible to enter into such agreements.One provision, in particular, would allow children of Resisters to claim money and houses for the “Head of the Household”:
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—In order to facilitate relocation of a member of a Tribe, the Commissioner may grant a homesite lease on land acquired under this section to a member of the extended family of a Navajo Indian who is certified as eligible to receive benefits under this Act.‘‘(B) EXCEPTION.—The Commissioner may not use any funds available to the Commissioner to carry out this Act to provide housing to an extended family member
described in subparagraph (A).’’
This Bill is another step in the relocation process. The authors may see it as the final one. While the Resisters are definitely inconvenient to the Hopi Tribal Council and mining interests, it is an open question as to whether they are still considered a major threat given their current numbers.The real center of gravity of this Bill may be the Coal provision (as the Grandmothers and Roberta Blackgoat have always maintained). Keep in mind that this
same bill, virtually word for word, was first introduced in 1996 and then shelved in favor of the one that led to the Accommodation Agreements. Once dusted off and reintroduced this year, there was only one major provision added: Power to the Secretary of the Interior to determine how the coal is to be valued and shared.
Watch the video of the proceedings: This session shows a good overview of the governmental players involved in relocation, some brief history, current controversies and intentions. Click here (there is a 7 minute delay on the Senate Committee On Indian Affairs video): hrg072105.ram or visit the web site of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs 109th Congress – 1st Session Hearing List and click on ‘7/21/05 Hearing, on S.1003, Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005.‘ (give about 7 minutes for it to start). http://indian.senate.gov/mainpage.htm
Printed transcripts: (some notable comments below)
McCain starts the hearing.
Statement of William P. Ragsdale Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs Department of the Interior.
Mr. Christopher J. Bavasi, Executive Director, The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, Flagstaff, AZ; Accompanied by Mr. Paul Tessler, Legal Counsel, The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, Flagstaff, AZ.
McCain and Bavasi dialogue.
Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., Window Rock, AZ.
Roman Bitsuie Executive Director, The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office, Window Rock, AZ.
Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie Window Rock, AZ.
Wayne Taylor Jr., Tribal Chairman, The Hopi Tribe, Kykotsmovi, AZ.
Question & Answer
MINUTES OF SPEAKERS AT THE TESTIMONY BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS:
0.00 Committee Channel title page shown for first 7 minutes
7.30 Senator John McCain (R), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, opens the hearings, highlights costs of program and time
13.20 Senator Daniel Inoye (D) makes a few general remarks
15.30 Mr. William P. Ragsdale, Director of the BIA, discusses Senate Bill
18.10 Mr. Christopher Bavasi, Executive Director of the Office of Navajo and Hopi
Indian Relocation discusses the Senate Bill, some history of relocation, some reasons for the cost
of the program exceeding initial estimates
21.15 Senator McCain asks Mr. Bavasi “No one has ever been forced off of their
land?” Mr. Bavasi replies, “No sir. Never happened.”
22.35 Mr. Paul Tesssler, legal counsel for the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation,
briefly discusses some of the legal costs associated with relocation
23.45 Extensive discussion about Bennett Freeze with Senator McCain, Mr. Bavasi
28.30 Mr. Bavasi discusses New Lands and relocation housing
31.50 Mr. Ragsdale states BIA and Interior’s view of forced relocation saying that
the agency is reluctant to get involved in the process of removal and relocation
33.40 President Joe Shirley of the Navajo Nation states Navajo Nation’s opposition
to forced relocation and history of opposition to the relocation act.
43.00 Roman Bitsuie, Executive Director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office,
comments extensively regarding the costs of relocation on the families involved,
makes some comments on Bennett Freeze, and issues regarding some projects that received
54.30 Mr. Denetsosie, Attorney General of the Navajo Nation, talks briefly about
ongoing litigation with the Hopi and requests that Section 2 concerning of the Bill
57.20 Mr. Wayne Taylor, Hopi Tribal Chairman, discusses Senate Bill, also opposes
Section 2 concerning mineral royalties and granting the Secretary of the Interior
power regarding a matter in litigation be dropped. Mr. Taylor states a Hopi request
for relocation and questions the ability of the BIA and US Attorney to carry out
Specifically, Chairman Taylor states, “Senate Bill 1003 is intended to complete the work of relocating Navajo off of the land ” 104.00 to End.
Senator McCain asks for the opinion of President Shirley and Chairman Wayne Taylor regarding the Bennett Freeze. They say that an agreement has been reached, that it has been approved by the Hopi Tribal Council and that it is in front of the Navajo Nation council.Senator McCain and Roman Bitsuie and Denetsosie discuss expenditures for the Rehabilitation Trust Fund, problems with the Paragon ranch, and problems with funding for homes for Navajo on Hopi Partition Land.
Hopi Tribe – http://www.hopi.nsn.us
Navajo Nation – http://www.navajo.org
S.1003 contains language that puts a renewed emphasis on the idea of forced relocation of Navajo families (Section 111(8).(Section 111(8). The U.S. Attorney’s office, ONHIR and the Hopi Tribe have had extensive discussions regarding this issue and are close to an agreement that will preclude forced relocation. We believe S. 1003 should support this approach, rather than reinforce the deeply troubling idea that Navajo families will be forcibly removed from land that they have called home for generations.” However, it is important to point out that in the dozens of pages of testimony supplied by the Navajo Nation, there is scant mention or representation of the Navajo families still living under the relocation laws on the Hopi Partitioned Lands.
Furthermore, specifically, Hopi Tribal Chairman Taylor states, “Senate Bill 1003 is intended to complete the work of relocating Navajo off of the land.” While Senator McCain and Mr. Bavasi, Executive Director of the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation, state that the program is “voluntary” and imply that no one has been forced to relocate, Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor clearly and explicitly states his belief that a goal of this Senate bill is to finish the job of relocation and requests mandatory eviction in the legislation and that the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation evict Navajo before dissolving in 2008.
Perhaps if McCain and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs really do “look forward to working with all affected parties on this bill and will work with them to ensure it takes into account their views,” then they will follow Navajo Nation’s recommendation that “Congress should hold a field hearing, …urging that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to schedule a hearing on the Navajo Nation in order to facilitate participation by the people most affected by the land dispute and to provide the opportunity for visits to affected areas and families in order to deepen the Committees understanding of the long-lasting effects of the relocation law.” Unfortunately the Hopi Partitioned Lands and Navajo families living on them are hardly mentioned in the Navajo Nation’s testimonies.This bill comes at a time when the world’s largest coal company prepares to expand its strip mining of American Indian lands….
Senator & Chairman McCain asks Mr. Bavasi “No one has ever been forced off of their land?” Mr. Bavasi replies, “No sir. Never happened.” While Senator McCain and Mr. Bavasi, Executive Director of the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation, state that the program is “voluntary” and imply that no one has been forced to relocate, Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor clearly and explicitly states his belief that a goal of this Senate bill is to finish the job of relocation, requesting mandatory eviction in the legislation and that the Office of Navajo Hopi Relocation evict Navajo before dissolving in 2008.
President of The Navajo Nation, Joe Shirley, states: “The Chairman (McCain) is concerned with cost. I ask the Committee to consider how they would estimate the cost of moving an entire town, and how they would value the economic and social upheaval such a move would impose? This is what happened to the 12,000 Navajos who lost their land, their livelihood, and their identity. 12,000 people; approximately the population of Kingman, Arizona. How much would it cost to relocate the entire population of Kingman, to the Phoenix area? One billion dollars? Two billion dollars? How long would it take if the funds were appropriated bit-by-bit over 30 years? What would be the impact if the land these people were expected to relocate to was already populated? What would happen if these people suddenly had to unlearn their skills as farmers and learn to survive in a cash economy? How long would be too long? How much would be too much? ” Roman Bitsui on behalf of the Navajo Nation states: We take strong objection to the argument that the relocation program should be closed because it has “taken too long and cost too much.” We believe that the United States must finish the job with regard to the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute and assure that all those who have been adversely affected by the relocation law have a chance at a decent life. As a point of comparison, I think it is worth pointing out that the entire cost to the Federal government over the last 36 years of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute is roughly equal to what the United States spends in Iraq every 36 hours.
Bitsuie stated that “Congress should hold a field hearing. We urge the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to schedule a hearing on the Navajo Nation in order to facilitate participation by the people most affected by the land dispute and to provide the opportunity for visits to affected areas and families in order to deepen the Committee’s understanding of the long-lasting effects of the relocation law.
McCain: “What if we passed a law tomorrow that Bennett Freeze is lifted? What would happen then?”
Bavasi: “Number one, I don’t think that it would be wise. I think that we should all work together to come to…”
McCain [interrupting]: “But it wouldn’t be wise because what would happen?”
Bavasi: “Chaos might be an appropriate term. I don’t have any idea what would happen. I don’t think it would be good because everyone would be scrambling to get the upper hand, and I don’t think that’s the proper way to handle it.”
News Articles about S1003 and McCain:
Navajo relocation mired in human suffering and costs by: Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today 06.29.06
Letter to the Editor by Sarah Woody 06.28.06
Navajo Resist John McCain’s Senate Bill 1003 Listen to an audio for the story; by Christina Aanestad 06.26.06
SENATE BILL 1003 JUNE 6 HEARINGS AND CONGRESSMAN RICK RENZI’S INVOLVEMENT
Hopi’s, Navajos Divided Over Land Dispute Measure. Indianz.Com
Indianz.Com has many links on the Relocation Legislation Senate Bill 1003, including Listening Lounge: House Resources Committee hearing on S.1003, the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005, June 21, 2006. S1003 Relocation Legislation
Hopi: Bill divides 2 tribes; Sidney says completion of relocation process is ‘long past’ overdue By Kathy Helms Staff Writer 06.06
Shirley Wants Unbiased Study By Kathy Helms, Diné Bureau; 06.23.06
Navajo says evictions of farmers from urban farm sends a message by Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today 06.19.06
United States — Navajo (Native American) Relations —Opposition to Congressional Bill Based on Human & Environmental Rights 05.17.06
Senator McCain passes S. 1003 in the Senate under the Senate’s “Unanimous Consent” procedure where there is no discussion or consideration of the bill. This procedure is used for ‘non-controversial’ legislation. The bill now sits in the House. 05.09.06
Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Legislation Passes the Senate Navajo Nation Opposes Bill 05.04.06
Navajo-Hopi Land Commission visits lawmakers (04.02.06) Several members from the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission met recently with members of Congress regarding a proposed amendment to the proposal to disband the federal Office of Navajo-Hopi Relocation, and place future claims under the administration of the Department of the Interior.
According to the Navajo Nation Washington Office, commission members and council delegates Amos Johnson, Leslie Dele and Lee Jack Sr. along with Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Division Director Roman Bitsuie made the trip. In testimony presented last July, President Joe Shirley Jr. agreed that the time has come to end the human tragedy and suffering created by the
Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act. He said the Navajo Nation would support the bill so long as any proposed solution does not cause more hardships for the affected residents, and that closure of the program does not stem merely from a desire to save money for the federal government.
WHO originally proposed the bill? Since both the Hopi Tribal Council and the Navajo Nation both oppose the provision giving the Secretary of the Interior the authority to determine the value of Joint Use Area coal and how it is to be shared, this leaves either Senator McCain or the Department of Interior, most likely acting on behalf of other interests (Peabody)?….
An interesting article on a possible Hopi Tribal Council-Abramoff connection: Lobbyist worked with Jack Abramoff Indian Country Today
Families on Big Mountain receive notices to sign. A Dineh man living on Big Mountain recently told BMIS that he recieved legal notice from the relocation office that pertains to this recent bill (S. 1003, The Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 Amendments, introduced by Senator John McCain.) The notice states that he needs to come into the office by Oct. 31, 2005 to read some papers and sign up for some relocation benefits and that if he does not, he will be put onto a “no exception” list. He said that other families have been given the same notice.
Navajo and Hopi leaders testify;Bill transferring relocation duties sharply criticized. Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today 07/29/05
McCain bill would dissolve U.S. relocation office Navajo Times 07/28/05
McCain prods tribes, government on tribal land dispute. Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 (S.1003): Get the bill, read relevant documents, links, stories and listen to the Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on S. 1003, Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005 that took place July 20, 2005) Indianz.Com 07/22/05.
McCain proposes closing federal relocation office Navajo Times 06/09/05
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES: Arizona Senator and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs John McCain introduced the following bill that will adversely affect those who’ve had to live through the horrors of relocation.
“The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005” 05/11/05.
The newest Amendment to The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974, Senate Bill 1003 contains language that puts a renewed emphasis on forced relocation of Navajo families and comes at a time when the world’s largest coal company prepares to expand its strip mining of American Indian lands….Watch the testimonies or read the transcripts & analysis here: TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS for the 08.21.05 Hearing on S. 1003, The Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 Amendments.
Taylor: No question of Hopi sovereignty Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today 07/29/05. Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said the Hopi Tribe wants all Navajos remaining on Hopi Partitioned Lands relocated before the closure of the current relocation office in 2008. ”Eviction should be mandatory and deadlines for appeals should not stretch the process beyond 2008,” Taylor told the committee.