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Navajo Nation Council passes bill to cancel fair season

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Nation Council supported a bill to cancel fairs, rodeos and roping competitions for the remainder of the year on the reservation.

The bill, proposed to protect the public from further transmission of the novel coronavirus, was part of the consent agenda on the July 1 special session.

It passed in a vote of 19 in favor and two opposed. The consent agenda included another bill to declare the second Friday in May as "Navajo Police Officer Day" on the Navajo Nation.

The resolution to cancel fairs, rodeos and roping competitions will be submitted to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez's office for his review and consideration.

Events like the Traditional Trail ride down U.S. Highway 491 to the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock, seen here on on Oct. 4, 2013, are canceled this year due to the pandemic.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who represents Shiprock Chapter, introduced the bill on May 14.

"The concern is for the people," Charles-Newton said in a telephone interview on July 2.

She reiterated that physical distancing would be difficult to achieve in large gatherings and maintaining hand hygiene would be challenging.

More:Electric Light Parade canceled following public health order issued July 1

"At least with me and my experience, the wash stations are usually full and ready to go maybe the first couple of days," she said about the fairs.

"After that, it's kind of a hit or miss and wash stations are very important at this time," she added.

Glenn Pablo competes in a barrel racing competition during Elder Fest on Sept. 29, 2016 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

The bill did receive some comments from the public that called on the council to oppose it.

When the legislation went to the Resources and Development Committee in June, delegates questioned whether it would cancel traditional ceremonies and religious gatherings as well.

Read More:Navajo Nation Council gives the green light for CARES Act bill

Charles-Newton said that she told committee members that it has no effect on traditional ceremonies or religious gatherings.

Brenda Tabaha, left, examines an ax used by members of the Navajo Nation Fire Department as her son Isaiah Tabaha, 7, tries on firefighting gear on Oct. 4, 2018 during the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

"I am not going to be the delegate to say, 'no you can't have ceremonies' or 'no, you can’t go to church.' I think the faith of our people right now is what is getting them through each day. That's why I made it very clear that had nothing to do with this legislation," she said.

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

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