Bill proposing idea headed for vote by full Senate

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council continues to back the idea of naming a new class of fleet ocean tugs after the tribe.

The proposal to name a new class of tugs after Native American tribes, starting with the Navajo Nation, is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, according to the office of U.S. Sen. John McCain.

The Arizona Republican is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass the bill that funds the U.S. Department of Defense and national security programs in the U.S. Department of Energy.

The bill is headed to the full Senate for consideration.

A press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker states members of the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee under the 22nd council in 2014 voted in favor of a bill that addressed naming tug and rescue-salvage ships after tribes.

That legislation states the Navy would be decommissioning four fleet ocean tugs and four rescue-salvage ships within five years.

The eight ships eventually would be replaced by a single class of up to nine vessels, the bill states.

It further explains that the naming of the first ship essentially names the entire class and if the first ship is named after the Navajo tribe, the rest will be referred as the "Navajo Class."

There are three fleet ocean tugs named after tribes — USNS Catawba, USNS Sioux and USNS Apache — and are in service, according to the Navy.

Tugs are not the only vessels named after tribes in the Navy's history.

In the 1860s, there was the Wampanoag, a steam-powered warship named after a tribe in Rhode Island, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates said in the release from his office that letters were issued requesting that federal officials support the designation.

He also expressed gratitude for McCain's advocacy and for acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley for providing the recommendation for consideration in the federal bill.

"Without their efforts, this initiative would not have been possible, and we are sincerely grateful for their assistance," Bates said.

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

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