During the recent Legislative session, New Mexico lawmakers passed the State-Tribal Collaboration Act to ensure better relationships between state and tribal agencies.
This law was a long time coming, and the lawmakers who shepherded it through deserve a lot of credit for realizing how inadequate communication is between state and tribal agencies.
Many provisions are put into place by this act to help ensure a better understanding between tribes and the state, including more training for state agencies, requiring them to appoint a tribal liaison and creating a yearly summit for tribal leaders to consult with the New Mexico governor.
Everyone should be able to agree that this law was a long time coming.
So why is it that it only took a few days after its passing for the Navajo Nation to begin fighting among themselves over it?
The ink was barely dry from Governor Richardson's pen before the Navajo Tribal Council passed a resolution in an attempt to make sure it would be Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan who attends the yearly summit with the governor and not Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr.
The president's office immediately fired back, claiming that attending this summit was the right of the executive branch and that the council was overstepping its authority.
The council and the president's office are missing the point.
Why bother having a law mandating better communication between the state and the tribe when tribal leaders can't even agree who should speak to the state on their behalf? The tribe was one of many that lobbied for this bill based on years of inadequate service from the state. It would be downright ironic if, now that the law is passed, the tribe is unable to hold up its end of the collaboration.
This is what needs to happen: The president and the Legislature need to get on the same page as to who will represent Navajo interests to the governor. If they can't agree, maybe an outsider would be best; someone who doesn't have a political career or an agenda outside of the tribe's best interests.
The Navajo people deserve better, and if their leaders aren't more careful and shrewd, the people will demand better when elections come around again.
The clock is ticking.