Jaylynn King and her sister Jessica King walk back to their home located on the Shiprock fairgrounds Tuesday. The single-wide mobile home has neither
Jaylynn King and her sister Jessica King walk back to their home located on the Shiprock fairgrounds Tuesday. The single-wide mobile home has neither running water nor electricity, and the home houses 13 members of the King family. The family believes that they have the right to live on the fairground property. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — Between a theoretically empty fair director position, a family of 13 living on the fair ceremonial grounds, and a big cleanup project for the entire fair property, the Northern Navajo Nation Fair board has its hands full.

The board has only three weeks before it must put on the 101st annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair, but it claims to be prepared for the event.

The Northern Navajo Nation Fair board today is expected to select an interim director for the fair, though it will not assign a permanent director until after this year's fair is over, said Russell Begaye, president of the fair board.

The fair board will open the application process for the unpaid permanent director position to the public, Begaye said.

The former fair director, Lloyd Smith, however, said the position is not up for grabs.

Smith was relieved of his position earlier this summer by the board, though he said that is not a decision for board members to make because the Northern Navajo Agency Council must approve the decision before the board's decision takes place.

"I do have a lawyer," Smith said. "He says the role of directorship is still under me."

Board members accused Smith of financial mismanagement in May, about seven months after police put him in jail following a dispute with a board member. He also was kicked off the board for similar allegations.

"I just want to oversee accountability, which has never been done before," Smith said. "It's just a big old scandal.



Smith has supporters in both the Northern Navajo Agency Council, and in the Shiprock Chapter, which also is trying to regain power that it lost in a memorandum signed in 1987.

The Shiprock Chapter used to oversee much of the fair, though longtime corruption led to intervention by the Navajo Nation. The Chapter, in early August, passed its own resolution granting itself power again. The fair board is not recognizing the chapter's resolution, Smith said.

Chapter officials argue that the board is now the corrupt group, bypassing the Northern Navajo Agency Council's approval for a variety of tasks, including the approval of a new Plan of Operations.

Aside from the ongoing saga of finger-pointing, the board also must face Annie King, a Shiprock Chapter member who has taken up residence at the Ye'ii Bi Chei ceremonial grounds.

The Ye'ii Bi Chei grounds are used for a nine-day traditional ceremony that begins prior to the fair.

"It's one of the most sacred ceremonies we have," said Begaye.

The medicine man conducting the Ye'ii Bi Chei ceremony, also known as the "Night Way" ceremony, does not want to move forward with the ceremony while King's mobile home is on the grounds, Begaye said, because its presence is disrespectful.

King, who claims to have grazing and land use rights for a portion of the Ye'ii Bi Chei grounds, said the space is hers to inhabit, and she is not trying to stop the fair.

"We're going to stay," said King, who lives in a single-wide mobile home on the grounds with a dozen other family members. She also has several horses in an adjacent corral.

The Navajo Nation Department of Justice served King a notice to vacate the property on Sept. 7. King had until Sept. 8 to leave the property.

"I'm still surviving," said King.

The fair board and Navajo Nation Department of Justice agreed that King's alleged rights to the property were purchased in the 1980s.

The board has several options, including King's arrest or escorting her off the property and helping her move the mobile home, Begaye said.

The board has other items to take care of, though, including a wide array of maintenance chores - big ones. The fairgrounds this year suffered more wear than usual over the seasons.

Aside from leaving behind the usual graffiti and vandalism, thieves stole much of the copper wire from the electrical wiring that runs throughout the grounds.

The board expects that all issues will be resolved, however, by the fair's start on Oct. 4.