24th Navajo Nation Council - Office of the Speaker
The Navajo Nation formally approved a request for an extension to the termination date of the 50-year-old Quadrilateral Agreement, the attendant Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the Bridge Agreement with the National Park Service (NPS), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). The agreement’s original termination date is slated for September 10, 2020.
Navajo Nation Council Resolution No. CS-70-20 was unanimously approved on Friday, September 4, by a vote of 22 in favor and 0 opposed to request the extension of the agreements and the Memorandum of Understanding by one year. The new proposed termination date would be September 10, 2021, if the parties agree.
The 1970 Quadrilateral Agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 16, 1994, and the 2003 Bridge Agreement together govern the co-management of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including the Antelope Point and Rainbow Bridge areas.
The agreement currently preserves the Navajo Nation's rights, privileges, and remedies available by law, with respect to the co-management of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It also authorizes the Navajo Nation to construct, contract for, and manage the Rainbow Bridge Concession Area and outlines the rights and responsibilities relating to the development, maintenance and management of Antelope Point.
Navajo Nation leaders planned to conduct a series of public meetings to include 13 nearby local Navajo chapter governments and communities on the renegotiation of the agreements and Memorandum of Understanding. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused Navajo leaders to postpone all meetings as they focused on coordinating immediate responses and carrying out the legislative appropriations process for federal CARES Act funds.
Council Delegate Paul Begay (Broadway/Gap, Coppermine, K’ai’bii’to, LeChee, Tonalea), sponsor of the legislation, stated, “This legislation is critical for economic development in the western Navajo region.” The region includes traditional Navajo homelands which draw millions of visitors and tourists annually from around the world.
The agreements and Memorandum of Understanding were intended to give the then-Navajo Tribe and surrounding Navajo communities an opportunity to create and operate economic development opportunities.
To further the Quadrilateral Agreement, the Navajo Nation, National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs entered into the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding to implement the development concept plan for Antelope Point. The Memorandum of Understanding allowed the Navajo Nation and National Park Service to develop a concession contract and business site lease for Antelope Point Holdings, which was the developer selected by the Navajo Nation for Antelope Point. That Memorandum of Understanding is also to remain in effect until September 10.
“The National Park Service has not kept that promise the way they should have,” added Delegate Begay, speaking on behalf of Navajo communities in the area. The Navajo Nation continues to learn about National Park Service developments after they are approved, which contradicts the tribal consultation provisions found in the agreement. Additionally, boundaries defined in the agreements that are tied to reservoir water levels continue to obscure the jurisdictions intended for the Navajo Nation to control.
In 2003, the Navajo Nation and National Park Service further entered into a Bridge Agreement based on the Quadrilateral Agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding, and the execution of the Concession Contract and Business Site Lease. The Bridge Agreement will also to expire on September 10, although it is subject to renewal for an additional term to run concurrently with the second term of the Quadrilateral Agreement.
During Friday’s special Council session, Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Regional Director Bart Stevens indicated that many of the conditions in the Quadrilateral Agreement were drafted and included in the document by upper-level government officials with little to no input from the Navajo people.
To avoid making the same mistake, Stevens explained that the Navajo Nation needs time to have meetings, conduct research and consult the key stakeholders moving forward with each area while maintaining safe meeting protocols.
“The Navajo Nation still requires its people to maintain social distancing, which has created the limitations in carrying out the necessary consultation among Navajo Nation leadership, Chapter officials, employees, and Navajo citizens,” said Council Delegate Herman M. Daniels, Jr. (Tsah Bii Kin, Navajo Mountain, Shonto, Oljato), co-sponsor of the legislation.
The extension request pertains to the agreement termination dates that are set to expire at midnight on September 11.
Council Delegates Otto Tso (To' Nanees Dizi) and Jimmy Yellowhair (Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Pinon, Black Mesa, Whippoorwill) voiced their support for the legislation. They advised that the Navajo Department of Justice, other council delegates and Navajo Nation division directors be present for meetings with local communities to assist in outlining any new agreements.