Navajo Nation to buy land, buildings in Washington, D.C.
FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has backed the tribe's purchase of real estate in Washington, D.C.
Nez approved on Feb. 14 buying the land and its two structures at 11 D St. SE for approximately $4.89 million.
Proponents of the purchase have stated it will increase the tribe's presence in the capital city and serve as a cost-saving measure by eliminating monthly rent for the Navajo Nation Washington Office.
Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer, Speaker Seth Damon and delegates Wilson Stewart Jr. and Rick Nez stated in a joint press release that the purchase will support the tribe's advocacy to the federal government since it is located near the U.S. Capitol.
Nez and Lizer categorized the action as a "milestone" in Navajo history in a Feb. 14 letter to Damon.
"The Navajo Nation will be the only tribal nation to own office property a few steps from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Much of the nation's work with congressional leaders and executive leadership takes place in Washington, now the Navajo Nation has a permanent office in which to advocate for our people," the letter states.
The total amount for the purchase – consisting of a 0.15-acre site, a two-unit two-story mixed-use building and carriage house – and closing costs will be paid by the principal of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
The location will primarily be used by the tribe's Washington office. Santee Lewis, the office's executive director, said in the press release securing the property will "catapult" the office's work by improving access to Congress.
The release also acknowledged there were concerns raised by tribal members about obtaining the real estate.
Nez explained that the trust fund has its own policy and guidelines for its use, noting it cannot be used for matters like COVID-19 relief or other direct services.
"Thank you to the Navajo Nation Council for supporting this bold step and for seeing the future benefits of this purchase. We know this was a difficult decision, but we also know this action will reap rewards for the Navajo Nation in the future," the president and vice president wrote in their letter.
Delegate Stewart sponsored the bill alongside Delegate Nez in council, where it passed in a vote of 16-7 on Jan. 29.
"The council provided the discussion on this purchase and has approved this initiative because it provides a long-term vision for those efforts to continue long into the future," Stewart said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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