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Next up: Bennett Freeze?

The Cobell trust fund case overlooks other breaches of trust to American Indians and violations of the human rights of the survivors of one of the most massive breaches of Indian trust – the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

There have been many pronouncements on the need to rehabilitate the former Bennett Freeze lands of Arizona, and to help the people who were victimized by a policy of a 40-year freeze on all improvements on those lands, but while there is a lot of talk, there is no action.

While the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe signed a settlement agreement dated Nov. 3, 2006, fee monies accumulated during the Bennett Freeze to be distributed to those tribes have not been paid out. Other trust funds were set up to benefit people affected by the case that divided Navajo and Hopi lands in the former “Joint Use Area” and allocations to both tribes, the set-aside of an exclusive Hopi Reservation and Navajo-Hopi land dispute legislation, but where is the money?

More specifically, Congress established the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund for the “improvement of the economic, educational, and social condition of families, and Navajo communities” affected by the Healing decision, the collection of monies for the fund and establishment of Hopi Reservation boundaries. The law makes the secretary of the Interior the trustee of the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund. It is composed of money collected from leasing of New Mexico lands called the “Paragon Ranch” that is distributed to the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission of the Navajo Nation and spent by it. The secretary has a trust responsibility to oversee spending those monies “solely” for the benefit of Navajo families and communities, but they have not seen any benefit from the trust.

Similarly, they have not seen any of the money from the settlement of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute and no funds have been dedicated to helping the victims of U.S. energy policy as it was used to victimize individual Navajos and Hopis.

The Forgotten People, a grassroots of those affected by these policies, announces a new campaign to go after the money that belongs to the people. The organization is launching a new campaign in light of the Cobell settlement to make the secretary of the Interior, the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and others live up to their trust responsibilities and to finally do something about the mess the United States created in northeastern Arizona.

The campaign will include demands on the secretary, use of the Freedom of Information Act under the Obama FOIA policy, complaints to the inspector general, and any other legal means to get action.

– Don Yellowman, president

Marsha Monestersky,

program manager

Forgotten People

Navajo Nation

Tuba City, Ariz.