Monday, September 27, 2010

Forgotten People: Navajos say Bennett Freeze Development Act a disappointment




FORGOTTEN PEOPLE
Dine' Be' Iina' na' hil naa (Dine’ Rebuilding Communities)
Don Yellowman Joe Klain
President Vice-President
Lucy Knorr
Sec’y/Treasurer

P.O. Box 1661
Tuba City, AZ 86045
(928) 401-1777
forgottenpeoplecdc@gmail.com
http://www.forgottennavajopeople.org/

FORGOTTEN PEOPLE COMMENTS ON KIRKPATRICK DISCUSSION DRAFT OF THE “FORMER BENNETT FREEZE AREA DEVELOPMENT ACT”

September 24, 2010
Photo: Radioactive remains from uranium mine on Navajo Nation/Forgotten People

Forgotten People supports James W. Zion, Esq.’s comments on Kirkpatrick discussion draft of the former Bennett Freeze Area Development Act herein attached. We agree with James Zion that the draft is a disappointment. First, it is authorization legislation, not required by the Constitution, and all it would do is set up a new trust, to be funded from sources that are not likely, and authorize appropriations that will never come.

The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have never served the victims and survivors of the Bennett Freeze and Relocation. Forgotten People doesn’t know what the Navajo Hopi Land Commission (NHLC) and Rep. Kirkpatrick are doing because they are operating in secret.

Forgotten People submitted a letter and packet to Rep. Kirkpatrick in September, 2010, requesting she work with the House Resources Committee to conduct an Oversight hearing. Representative Kirkpatrick never responded. Rep. Kirkpatrick never met with Forgotten People and in August, 2010, when her 2 aides showed up several hours late to meet with us outside a building where a conference room was not reserved, they never told us about this draft rehabilitation plan. We never heard about it until our attorney James W. Zion told us about it.

On August 4, 2010, Forgotten People filed an accounting suit against NHLC to find out where the rehabilitation trust fund monies and collected fee revenues are. While this suit is pending, we request an injunction on all 638 and HUD contracts, an injunction on all land purchases by NHLC, a Social Impact Assessment of relocation and Bennett Freeze trauma be conducted and an invitation for Forgotten People to sit at the discussion table.

Don Yellowman, President, Forgotten People says, The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation is the WORST agency to oversee redevelopment. ONHIR is the fox guarding the hen house. ONHIR is in the business of relocation not rehabilitation. Rehabilitation must begin with development planners and a real plan to create infrastructure, not try to put a band aid on 43 years of abandonment and neglect.

ONHIR is in the business of relocating people not rehabilitation. Many of our members have been waiting for 30 years to receive relocation housing while people that never lived on HPL benefitted. And while ONHIR says they have no money to repair relocation housing and build new housing, apparently they have millions of dollars to loan the Navajo Nation to construct casinos, develop more cluster housing without any infrastructure to host communities and make more broken promises that have never been fulfilled.

Robert Begay, Board of Director, Forgotten People says, the ONHIR is the coyote that has been stealing and killing our sheep. To put ONHIR in charge of rehabilitation is like inviting the coyote to take charge. No matter what you do to that coyote they will steal and kill our sheep. That is their instinct. There is no honesty with that coyote. ONHIR is in the business of relocating people not conducting rehabilitation. What we need in the former Bennett Freeze is development planners to work with the people and grassroots Non Governmental Organization’s like Forgotten People to develop a holistic plan that a band aid cannot fix. ONHIR has no concern for our people

Marsha Monestersky, Program Director, Forgotten People wants the United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), World Health Organization (WHO), and Center for Disease Control to intervene in light of their recent intervention in Zamfara in northern Nigeria, where seven villages have so far been confirmed as contaminated to assess the full impact of the "acute massive lead poisoning”. Too many people in the former Bennett Freeze have died from living in substandard housing, drinking uranium and arsenic contaminated water and living in and around abandoned uranium mines and mills. The rehabilitation plan needs development planners on board and the provision of safe drinking water, human housing, roads, bridges and social and economic development and remediation of abandoned coal and uranium mines and mills.

Forgotten People is a nonprofit incorporated on the Navajo Nation and an NGO:
· We request additional congressional guidance on the expenditure of existing monies and assurances that the Navajo Nation will not use any funding for Bennett Freeze rehabilitation for uses other than such rehabilitation,
· We request recognition of the Forgotten People as an agent for Bennett Freeze residents for the negotiation of program and plan approaches. With our academic, governmental, scientific partnerships, and a team of community development planners led by a multi-agency task force with monies managed by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the lead agency to ensure accountability and fiscal responsibility..

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COMMENTS ON KIRKPATRICK DISCUSSION DRAFT OF THE
“FORMER BENNETT FREEZE AREA DEVELOPMENT ACT”

September 22, 2010
By James Zion

A reporter kindly provided copies of the discussion draft of Representative Kirkpatrick’s proposal for legislation for a “Former Bennett Freeze Area Development Act” and accompanying documents. These are a lawyer’s initial comments on the legislative proposal with the support of The Forgotten People organization.

The draft is a disappointment. First, it is authorization legislation, not required by the Constitution, and all it would do is set up a new trust, to be funded from sources that are not likely, and authorize appropriations that will never come.

Second, it attempts to keep a bureaucracy, the Office of Navajo and Hopi Relocation, in existence when it has not proved its worth to the Bennett Freeze people and that may not be very popular with Navajos. The additional promise that “638" programs could be contracted from the Office is not a meaningful one for the people of the Bennett Freeze, who have not seen any benefit from existing “638" or HUD programs. A past study of a proposed plan for rehabilitating the Bennett Freeze was announced, with a great deal of fanfare, and the thick study has never been adopted—much less acted on. My requests for a copy (from the CEO of the Navajo Housing Authority) were ignored.

Third, set asides of small percentages from the B.I.A. Indian Programs budget, the Indian Housing Block Grant Program, and Rural Development Program are really an attempted earmark, and the other beneficiaries of such programs will likely block any such measure. Otherwise, no real money is identified.

Fourth, some of the language of the proposed Act tracks the existing Navajo Rehabilitation and makes some technical amendments to it. There is no discussion of better implementation of that trust fund or what the Navajo Nation has done or is doing with the current trust fund income. In point of fact there is one dirty audit on a housing venture carried out for the purported benefit of Bennett Freeze residents and a law suit for an accounting that seeks to know what is being done with the fund. The Forgotten People wait for the Navajo Nation’s response to the suit.

Fifth, there is no mention of the division of all funds received and held by the Department of the Interior or B.I.A. for easements, rights-of-way and other fees from the Bennett Freeze Area for the period between July 1966 and November 3, 2006 (40 years) between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. The division is authorized by Article 7.2 of the Navajo-Hopi Intergovernmental Compact of November 3, 2006. The Forgotten People have asked various people how much money is involved and when it will be allocated (and how the Navajo Nation will spend it) many times and never given an answer. The proposed legislation does not mention it.

Sixth, the proposed Act would do some tinkering with accommodation agreements with Navajo families without mentioning the due process implications of impairing existing contracts. The Hopi Tribe might have something to say about that. There is no mention of help for families with existing agreements, or those who do not have them because of coercion and intimidation.

Aside from those shortcomings, there could be positive steps:

1. An oversight hearing into:

a. Why there has never been an effective plan for the Bennett Freeze area and meaningful appropriations;

b. Where the monies to be split between the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe are; how much money there is; and whether the feds can account for 40 years of revenue;

c. What happened with the B.I.A funded rehabilitation “plan”;

d. What has happened with the existing trust fund; and

e. Authorization legislation based on a meaningful assessment of real need and supportable assurances of appropriations to follow or realistic sources of monies for a trust.

2. Additional congressional guidance on the expenditure of existing monies.

3. Assurances that the Navajo Nation will not use any funding for Bennett Freeze rehabilitation for uses other than such rehabilitation.

4. Recognition of the Forgotten People as an agent for Bennett Freeze residents for the negotiation of program and plan approaches.

James W. Zion

1 comment:

Monica Thompson said...

I'm sad there even has to be a community organization such as Forgotten People. Keep organizing and complaining, although I hope you can keep your spirits high and try to figure out how to change the dynamics of the situation. We wish you well in your fight for environmental justice.

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