On March 27, a signing ceremony was held where Johnny Naize, Navajo Nation speaker, and Flagstaff, Arizona Mayor Sara Presler signed a memorandum of understanding to address and improve race relations between Navajos and non-Navajos. The MOU was a result of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to help raise awareness to the issue. Duane H. Yazzie, NNHRC chairperson, signed the MOU earlier in the day before the ceremony according to a Nation press release.
The MOU states that, “Together the COMMISSION and the CITY intend to move forward acknowledging and respecting our mutual histories, and in order to build up on the past and improve the future; this UNDERSTANDING is entered into with a spirit of Hózhóogo.”
“We want to live in harmony with the City of Flagstaff, we can rely on one another, and we can be good neighbors by showing one another respect,” Naize said at the ceremony according to The Navajo Post.
The MOU also states under the general provisions, “It is understood that the CITY and COMMISSION may decide to refrain from the addressing issues that are outside the scope of this UNDERSTANDING.” And, continues with, “The COMMISSION is established to address not only race relations, but other human rights issues, inter alia, the right to practice cultural beliefs; and … .”
According to the release, the MOU gives the city or NNHRC the right to terminate the understanding and only the signatories may make amendments.
Presler was the first mayor from Arizona to sign an MOU with the Navajo Nation according to the release.
“I lived here for over a year now and I have come to respect my Navajo neighbors, I think they just want that level playing field and that is understandable. I commend the City for stepping up to this historic moment,” Lewis McFarland of Flagstaff told The Navajo Post.
This is the sixth MOU for NNHRC on behalf of the Navajo Nation in regards to race relations. Four of them are with New Mexico communities and one is a Colorado community the release stated. All Navajo MOUs are as follows:
- Grants Mayor Joe Murrietta of New Mexico signed on April 29, 2010
- Gallup Mayor Harry Mendoza of New Mexico signed on August 12, 2010
- Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts of New Mexico signed on Nov. 17, 2010.
- Cortez Mayor Dan Porter of Colorado signed on May 24, 2011.
- Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein of New Mexico signed on August 22, 2011.
- Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler of Arizona signed on March 27, 2012.
The journey to this MOU, which started in 2008, was extensive and involved 25 pulbic hearings; more than 175 testimonials from Navajos and non-Navajos in 2008 and 2009. A report was produced August 22, 2010, following the hearings that made the recommendation of a MOU according to the release. Prior to the report a draft memorandum was sent to all border town city officials by the NNHRC in the fall of 2009.
“It really is a mutual agreement among the Nation and the City of Flagstaff to improve our quality of life, your quality of life, and the quality of life of everyone in this world,” Presler said in her opening remarks of the signing ceremony according to The Navajo Post.
On February 2 of this year, the Flagstaff City Council voted 6-0 in favor of the MOU with the Navajo Nation. The NNHRC Commissioners then approved the MOU by a 2-0 vote on March 2, which sent it to the NNHRCs oversight committee, the Naab’ik’iyati’ Committee of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council. On March 14, it was approved by a vote of 21-0 according to the release.
For more information on the report from 2008-2009 visit www.nnhrc.navajo-nsn.gov and click the link for the report.