Proposal supports efforts to demolish dilapidated BIA buildings in Shiprock

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The delegate from Shiprock Chapter is sponsoring a bill to support securing federal dollars to demolish several dilapidated buildings owned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Shiprock.

The legislation requests Congress, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the BIA to direct and fund the agency to remove more than 40 structures and clean up the location near the intersection of U.S. highways 64 and 491.

The property is known as the "Shiprock Administrative Reserve" and consists of 37.8 acres that belong to the Navajo Nation, according to the bill and a September 2020 letter by then BIA Navajo Regional Director Bartholomew Stevens.

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Stevens' letter states the property is occupied and has been "intermittently" developed by the BIA since 1903 without a formal lease with the tribe.

Windows are covered with boards at closed building owned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Shiprock.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who is sponsoring the bill, explained that since the BIA owns the structures, they are responsible for the demolition.

The bill describes Shiprock Chapter's desire to use the area for economic development projects, among those being a hotel, visitor's center, open markets and arts and crafts shops.

The structures also present public health hazards, are an unattractive nuisance and a danger to community members, according to the bill.

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"These buildings have been abandoned. They're dilapidated and they pose a public safety concern to the community," Charles-Newton said in a telephone interview on July 27.

She added that she has been part of a community group since 2019 that has been working on clearing the site and that similar efforts have taken place over the years.

Fire activity has heavily damaged some buildings owned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs situated in an area known as the Shiprock Administrative Reserve near the intersection of U.S. highways 491 and 64.

"That whole area is a prime location for economic development. For years Shiprock has been waiting to get those building demolished," she said.

Charles-Newton explained that U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., has $3.32 million earmarked for the BIA Navajo Regional Office for costs associated with demolition as part of a spending request for fiscal year 2022 and submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"This legislation is saying that we asked for it to be earmarked and this is the reason why and Navajo Nation supports the earmarking to get it demolished," Charles-Newton said.

Shiprock Chapter officials passed a resolution on April 15 that requests the Interior Department and the BIA to allocate funds for the demolition project.

A sign directs motorists on July 25 to the old Bureau of Indian Affairs area in Shiprock.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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