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Congress Holds Hearing on Fort Wingate Army Depot Lands

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Navajo Nation Speaker Johnny Naize testified to the House of Representatives Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian Alaskan Native Affairs on August 2nd where he discussed the Navajo Nation’s opposition to HR 4187 – the division of the former Fort Wingate Army Depot according to a Navajo Nation press release.

HR 4187 is legislation of the Return of Certain Lands at Fort Wingate to Their Original Inhabitants Act, that was introduced by Representative Steve Pearce, R-N.M., on March 19, 2012.

According to the press release for 15 years the Navajo Nation and the Zuni Pueblo have struggled to reach an agreement on a fair distribution of the Fort Wingate land that holds sacred ties for both tribes.

Pearce’s bill calls for the transfer of almost 5,000 acres of unused land to the Zuni Pueblo, and would remediate 907 acres to the Navajo Nation. Any land after that would be remediated at a 50/50 split, but it is unknown how much more land would be remediated after the initial transfer the release said.

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“The Navajo Nation has always sought to find a resolution of this land dispute that reflects a fair distribution but a federally imposed solution would be unacceptable,” Naize stated. Naize is the Chairman of the Navajo Nation Fort Wingate Task Force.

Naize and a Zuni representative agreed to an event sponsored by Representative Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., the ranking member of the Subcommittee. Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, also encouraged the tribes to reach a resolution as soon as they could before Congress would have to intervene.

Following the hearing on August 2, the tribes were given 30 days to come up with a proposal to begin the discussions.