Navajo lawmakers convene for summer session

Noel Lyn Smith
Seymour Smith rings the bell Oct. 19 signaling the start of the fall session of the Navajo Nation Council at the council chambers in Window Rock, Ariz.  The council's summer session begins Monday.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation Council delegates are scheduled to consider a number of bills when they convene for the summer session at 10 a.m. Monday in the council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz.

Included on the proposed agenda is legislation to enact the Navajo Nation Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, which would regulate surface coal mining, reclamation operations and coal exploration on tribal lands.

The measure is being proposed is to protect individuals and to "strike a proper balance" between protecting the environment and agricultural productivity, the bill states. The legislation would also waive the tribe’s sovereign immunity in regard to the proposed act allowing lawsuits against the tribe.

A bill sponsored by Delegate Leonard Tsosie requests a loan from the Síhasin Fund to plan and construct a travel center near the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz. The loan, including interest, would be repaid by the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise within 15 years.

Since 2011, the gaming enterprise, the tribe, the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, and the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Co. have planned and advocated for a convenience store and gas station at the casino’s Interstate 40 interchange, according to the bill.

Delegate Dwight Witherspoon is sponsoring a bill that proposes that compensation for district grazing committee members be provided annually from funds provided by the tribe’s budget. Current law mandates that grazing committee members be paid by appropriations passed by the council, and those are subject to the availability of funds.

If passed, grazing committee members could receive stipend payments of $125 for each chapter meeting, chapter planning meeting, agency grazing committee meeting, district grazing committee meeting, agency council meeting and district council meeting.

Tribal lawmakers are being asked to support a bill proposing that Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee members, the president, the vice president and division executive directors meet to discuss “important issues facing the Navajo Nation” prior to each regular council session.

Delegates are set to consider three bills that seek supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance.

During the winter session in January, the council tabled a bill to provide $340,725 to renovate a modular building used by the Dzil Yijiin District Court in Whippoorwill, Ariz.

Another request would provide $148,325 as a grant for the Phoenix Indian Center Inc. in Phoenix. The amount would be used to provide services such as Navajo language and cultural classes, seminars, and informational sessions for Navajos living in Maricopa County. A portion of the grant would go toward personnel expenses to provide those services at the center.

The last request is for $610,931 for the tribe’s Office of Diné Youth to provide salaries for the temporary employment of high school and college students in the five agencies, and to provide funding for cultural liaison services and for the Navajo Nation Youth Council.

On Monday, delegates will hear the State of the Nation address from Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, and reports from Speaker LoRenzo Bates and other tribal and federal entities.

According to a press release from the speaker's office, groups will ride horses and bikes to the council chamber prior to the start of the summer session.

The council is scheduled to listen to reports from Arizona state Sen. Carlyle Begay, R-Ganado, on Tuesday and from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., on Wednesday, the release states.

The summer session will be streamed live at

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.