Funding approved to rebuild structures lost in 2014 fire

Ch'ooshgai Mountain blazed burned more than 14k acres

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Scouts crew boss Irvin Begay, right, gives instructions to his crew June 20, 2014, as they take control of the Assayii Lake Fire in the Sand Spring area on Ch'ooshgai Mountain.

FARMINGTON — Three years after a fire burned 14,712 acres on Ch'ooshgai Mountain, a supplemental funding request has been approved to help Naschitti residents who lost homes or hogans due to the blaze.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has approved action taken by the Navajo Nation Council to authorize $764,408 in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to replace the structures.

The structures were identified by the Assayi Lake Fire Committee under the Naschitti Community Governance and most were used a summer residences when community members relocated livestock to the mountain for grazing.

Begaye signed the resolution on March 3 at the picnic area at Narbona Pass, which is several miles from where the fire originated in the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area on June 13, 2014.

"I'm signing this legislation that will provide these dollars so we can replace some of those homes and repair some of those that are still standing up. This is just to be an encouragement to our families who lost dwelling places up here on the mountain," Begaye said in a video posted on his office's Facebook page on March 4.

A Dec. 14, 2017, memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget states if the appropriation is approved, the amount will be a direct disbursement to the Naschitti Community Governance, which is a certified chapter.

Volunteers move relief supplies for victims of the Assayii Fire on  June 17, 2014, at the Naschitti Chapter house in Naschitti.

There have been other attempts to help residents since the fire, including legislation introduced in January 2016 by former Delegate Mel R. Begay and a $764,368 appropriation for the Naschitti Chapter in the fiscal year 2018 budget, which was line-item vetoed by Begaye.

The resolution signed this month by the president was sponsored by Delegate Steven Begay, whose representation includes Naschitti Chapter, and the bill was passed by the council on Feb. 16.

During the two-day special session, delegates passed 15 bills that each requested supplemental funding from the UUFB. The total amount approved was approximately $17.9 million.

A Feb. 14 memorandum issued by the Office of the Controller states the unaudited balance for the UUFB was approximately $27.7 million.

Among the requests that were approved by Begaye was a measure supplying $396,621 to the Navajo Election Administration for operational costs associated with this year's election.

The president also approved $350,000 for the Navajo Nation Museum for its upcoming exhibition featuring the Treaty of 1868, which emancipated Navajos interned at Bosque Redondo, acknowledged tribal sovereignty and established tribal land.

As of March 9, the only resolution left for Begaye to consider was a $4.2 million supplemental request for the Chinle Nursing Home in Chinle, Arizona, according to the Office of the Speaker.

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