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Nez backs tribal council in cancelling fairs on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Nenahnezad Community School second-graders pet Jebediah, a cow owned by Dally Carlisle with the Double Spur 4-H Club from Crownpoint, on Thursday at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez supported the Navajo Nation Council's decision to cancel fairs, rodeos and roping competitions held on tribal land this year due to the novel coronavirus.

"Working together we must do everything we can to keep ourselves healthy. Cancelling large and smaller local events on the Navajo Nation will help reduce the spread of this deadly virus," Nez wrote to Speaker Seth Damon on July 12, the same day he signed the resolution.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation reached 8,187 on July 12 and the death toll is 401. There have been 5,856 people who have recovered from the disease, according to hospitals and clinics on or near the reservation.

Before the council and the president determined the fate of the bill, cancellations were announced for the Eastern Navajo Fair in Crownpoint and for the Fourth of July Celebration in Window Rock, Arizona and the Kayenta 4th of July Rodeo in Kayenta, Arizona.

The resolution now cancels the Ramah Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Naatsis'áán E'eaniih Day Celebration, Southwest Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Central Agency Fair, Navajo Nation Fair, Utah Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Alamo Indian Days, Northern Navajo Nation Fair and Western Navajo Fair.

Nenahnezad Community School second-graders pet Jebediah, a cow owned by Dally Carlisle with the Double Spur 4-H Club from Crownpoint, on Oct. 5, 2017 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

The Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock is the oldest of the fairs on the Navajo Nation. It would have marked its 109th year in October.

Fair Board Chairperson Harry Descheene was not surprised by the decision made by lawmakers and stated that fair board members had cancelled the fair and the Yei'Bi'Chei', a nine-day healing ceremony.

"We already figured ahead of time that was going to happen," Descheene said about the resolution.

"Even had we gone ahead and done it, we would have ended up spending more than we would have made money off of it, so we already figured – in our minds – that it wasn't a good deal to even attempt it," he said.

Descheene added that representatives from seven boards that oversee fairs on the reservation reached consensus to cancel their events because of the public health orders by the Navajo Department of Health, and to curb the spread of the new virus.

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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