SANTA FE, N.M. – Navajo Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and several New Mexico Council delegates attended American Indian Day at the New Mexico State Legislature to support legislation to benefit Navajo constituents and to oppose state budget cuts which would directly impact Navajo communities.
“We are here for a common purpose and it is my hope that we can strengthen our working relationship to ultimately help improve the quality of life of Navajo citizens in New Mexico,” said Lawrence T. Morgan, speaker of the 21st Navajo Nation Council when addressing state legislators.
New Mexico Council delegates in attendance included Hoskie Kee, Littlewater/Baca-Prewitt/Casamero Lake; LoRenzo C. Bates, Upper Fruitland; Herman R. Morris, Naschitti/Tohatchi, Young Jeff Tom, Mariano Lake/Smith Lake, Lawrence R. Platero, Tohajiilee and Phillip Harrison Jr., Red Valley/Cove. Morgan worked with other New Mexico Council delegates to ensure issues needing to be addressed would be covered.
Morgan emphasized a government-to-government working relationship built on cooperation and collaboration. He also spoke against the proposed retraction of capital improvement funds to help alleviate the state deficit.
“We are here for a common purpose and it is my hope that we can strengthen our working relationship to ultimately help improve the quality of life of Navajo citizens in New Mexico.”
“I ask that those funds remain in place,” Morgan said. He also asked legislators to include state tribal citizens in the stimulus package being proposed and to remain cognizant of the limited state services tribal states citizens currently receive.
Morgan asked lawmakers to continue to support legislation which respects the government-to-government relationship, and legislation which helps to protect Navajo language and culture. More specifically, he asked legislators to support the State-Tribal Collaboration Act, which was endorsed by the interim Indian Affairs Committee. He said the act would provide a stronger framework to solidify communications and collaborations between state and tribal governments.
New Mexico Council delegates also supported the act, and in a special meeting with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, asked that the act not exclude leadership at the chapter house level when the language is drafted.
“We support this act and when it does go through, we want to make sure it does not exclude our leaders at the chapter level,” Jeff Tom said. Other council delegates expressed concern about projects in their respective communities when speaking with Richardson.
Morgan asked legislators to fully fund chapter house projects, rather than partially fund them.
“Granting complete and total funding of chapter house projects is absolutely necessary. It is pertinent chapters receive full funding so their projects will not stall.”
He expressed his gratitude to the state of New Mexico, and more specifically the Indian Affairs Department for making Indian issues a top priority. The American Indian Day was the 22nd consecutive one, where leaders from the state’s 22 tribes were in attendance.
“Secretary Warren and his staff are doing a great job in their respective positions and my office looks forward to working closely with them again this year.”
In 1953, the New Mexico State Legislature created the Commission on Indian Affairs, and six years ago, Richardson elevated the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs to the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department.