While a trustee hasn't been named to administer the Navajo Utah Trust Fund, Navajo President Ben Shelly plans to hold several town hall meetings in early February to listen to ideas about how the money should be spent, reported The Farmington Daily Times.
“I want my marching orders to come from the people,” Shelly said prior to a January 11 Navajo Utah Commission meeting.
The Navajo Utah Trust Fund—established in 1933 after the tribe acquired oil and gas resource-rich land in southeastern Utah—serves a dual purpose: to compensate the state for lost tax revenue and to be spent in a way that benefits the tribe, such as "paying Indian student tuition or building roads across tribal land," reported Cronkite News.
For decades tribal leaders have accused the state with mismanaging the fund. In 2008, the state placed the fund in a holding account that prevents royalties from being dispersed. The law states the fund will remain sitting in the bank under state control until Congress reaches a solution.
Last summer, a federal judge settled a 20-year-long lawsuit, awarding $33 million to the trust fund.
Shelly said making the Navajo Nation the trustee of the fund meets the self-determination principals of the nation. The tribe has a proven record of managing and increasing its own trust fund, has a highly developed legal system and a well-established budgeting process, the President said, reported The Farmington Daily Times.
“The Navajo Nation needs to ensure the fund’s long-term survival for the ongoing benefit of the Utah Navajos,” Shelly said.
The Nation continues to oppose Utah Sen. Hatch's bill, S. 1327, which would make non-profit Utah Dineh Corporation a trustee of the fund. Given a breach by the non-profit, the beneficiaries would receive no compensation, Shelly has warned.