August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Secakuku: Hopi are stewards of the land, despite the coup

by Alph H. Secakuku,
Sipaulovi Council Representative, Village of Sipaulovi, Second Mesa, AZ, Hopiland

Comments by Alph H. Secakuku, Sipaulovi Council Representative, Village of Sipaulovi, Second Mesa, AZ, Hopiland

It is a sad day for Hopi/Tewa people, and I am disappointed in the illegal Hopi council’s action telling the “Environmental Groups to Stay off Their Land”. The Hopi/Tewa people have always considered themselves to be the best environmentalists in the world. Our Hopi Religion teaches that we made a sacred covenant with Maasaw, our Supreme Being, to be good stewards of the Fourth World we live in today.
We, as people, all have the responsibility of being Caretakers of Mother Earth. “You care for it and take from it only what you need, and it will provide for you”.
I never thought I would see the day when being “Hopi” meant being anti-environment, pro-big corporate energy, and actually promoting pollution and global warming in favor of dollars/money.
This is the new world image of Hopi, thanks to Scott Canty, Nada Talayumptewa, Phillip Quotshytewa, Mary Felter, Ivan Sidney, Sr., and the rest of the illegally constituted Hopi Tribal Council…in essence, a coup.
We, the Hopi/Tewa people, have worked closely for many years with our allies from the environmental community to protect sacred lands from development and to stop uranium mining from poisoning our water. Water is life, therefore, it is sacred.
We will continue to work together—tribal communities and other clean energy jobs advocates—to bring green economic development to our lands that respects our air and water.
Together with our partners in the environmental community, we are working to secure long term solution to energy, health and water issues in northern Arizona by cleaning up dirty coal plants and promoting solar and wind projects on the reservations. The time to transition from dirty old coal plants to clean energy from the wind and the sun is now.
We see a positive future ahead with results like the Navajo Nation’s recent unanimous green jobs resolution and will continue to support clean energy projects with Navajo and Hopi communities. We all know that climate change is predicted to bring hotter and drier conditions to the Colorado Plateau, an area which may see even greater temperature increases than the rest of the country. This threatens our water supplies and livelihoods.
Working together to stop global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants is vital to future generations. Now is the time to look forward and plan to transition existing coal plants to cleaner power.
What is H.O.P.I.? Hopi Organizational Political Initiative (H.O.P.I.) is a united, strong, clear, organized and non-partisan voice made up of members of the Hopi/Tewa community both on and off the reservation. It is there to serve as conduit for the Hopi/Tewa people to effectively raise concerns and resolve issues that affect the Hopi/Tewa people. It promotes issues and emerging concerns primarily within the Hopi tribal government, but also with the local state and federal governments. As such, we support all political candidates who seek public office who will address the concerns of the communities. H.O.P.I.’s mission is to insure that we impact policy regarding the issue of concern and quality of life to our community and future generations. It is a “grassroots” organization composed of concerned Hopi/Tewa people.
Why do we regard the “interim Hopi government” as an illegal council? The Resolution H-007-09, enacted on December 28, 2008, established an illegal interim Hopi Tribal Government. It is an illegal council because it is not Hopi Constitutionally authorized. In effect, the illegal council enactment amended the Hopi Constitution without holding a referendum vote of the Hopi/Tewa people. Only the majority vote of the qualified voters of the Hopi Tribe can amend the Constitution of the Hopi Tribe. They must cast their ballots in accordance with Section 16 of the Indian Reorganization Act of June13, 1934, as amended. The Superintendent, Hopi Agency, BIA, has the responsibility to call the election, and must serve as a Chairman of the Election Board. After the approval of the amendments, all officers and employees of the Interior Department are ordered to abide by the provisions of the said Constitution and By-laws. The Hopi Tribal Council, even when they are legally constituted, has no authority to amend the tribal constitution. The constitution cannot be amended by a tribal resolution or an ordinance.
Therefore, based on the foregoing, all of the enactments of the illegal council are of no force and effect. As of January 1, 2009, there was no legitimate tribal council in existence. At the close-of-business on December 31, 2008, the council became defunct and could no longer operate or conduct legitimate tribal council meetings or tribal business. In reality, the council and the council appointed officers of Tribal Secretary, Sergeant-At-Arms, and Tribal Treasurer became nonfunctional.
Chairman Benjamin H. Nuvamsa and Vice-Chairman Todd Honyaoma, Sr., both resigned on December 31, 2008. Hopi Tribal Constitution, ARTICLE IV, Section 1—mandates the “Hopi Tribal Council shall consist of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Representatives from various villages.” Without a chairman and vice-chairman, there can be no constitutionally authorized council to conduct meetings.
The Hopi Bylaws, Article 1—states “The Chairman shall preside over all meetings of the Tribal Council…” Clearly the delegated authorities do not include designating a member of the council to be the “Presiding Officer”. In fact, it expressly forbids it. This was a form of check and balance to prevent council from taking complete control of the government as is happening now. However, the illegal council selected Phillip Quotshytewa, Sr., as a “pro tem” presiding officer to chair the illegal meetings. He is only a council representative, like me, and not an elected tribal chairman.
Furthermore, it does not take a legal expert to interpret what Article IV, Section 1 means. It simply means that no legislative sessions can be conducted in the absence of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman under the current Hopi Constitution and By-laws. The council cannot legally conduct business, appoint people to run the so-called “interim government,” expend tribal and federal funds, or accept federal grants and contracts.
ARTICLE V, Section 2—mandates that filling vacancies in the office of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman that may occur for any reason “shall be filled for the rest of the term in the same manner as those officers are ordinarily chosen.” This mandate does not allow for any discretion on the part of the council. Council has no authority to decide that it simply is not convenient to hold an election to fill the vacancies. Yet, this is precisely what they have done.
Had the illegal “interim council” not interfered in the activities of the Election Board by refusing to allow them to conduct a special election, the objective of this Article would have been fulfilled and the current vacancies of our top officials would have been filled and the people would have had new duly elected leadership in office by the first week of April 2009. This would have met the Constitutional requirement and we would already have a legitimate fully functional government. The illegal council violated the provisions of the Election Ordinance #34 by refusing to allow the Election Board to hold an election, thereby, purposely destroying the independence of the Hopi Election Board.
We have appealed to the Superintendent, Hopi Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) numerous times to intervene on behalf of the grassroots people. Mr. Wendell Honanie declined to do so by citing a BIA policy not to intervene in internal tribal affairs. We believe the Bureau officials are hiding behind the veil of “sovereignty” and “self-determination.” Yet the BIA is deeply involved in the current controversy by ignoring the illegal actions of the council and has taken a position on the side of council who are orchestrating the illegal activities.
By siding with the conspirators who have illegally taken the reigns of Hopi government, the BIA has become complicit in the overthrow of our government. By recognizing the “interim government” and the illegally appointed heads of state, the BIA, in essence, intervened in an internal tribal dispute and has, therefore, become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. This defies the federal government’s trust responsibility to the Tribe.
The rhetoric of the Resolution H-007-09 was carefully crafted to create the illusion of a legitimate justification for illegal acts. The resolution also identified Tribal Secretary, an appointed position held by Mary A. Felter, and Tribal Treasurer, an appointed position held by Russell Mockta, to jointly hold the authorities of the Chief Executive Officer of the Tribe. The illegal council used the resolution as a deliberate and illegal way of reviving outdated practices which has been formally amended or eliminated. The official organization chart of the Hopi Tribe identifies the Chairman as the Chief Executive Officer.
Not only has our government been taken away from the Hopi/Tewa people, but our court system has been corrupted. Paving the way for the overthrow of our government and occupation of the Tribal Council by those who do not respect our Constitution and laws, our own Hopi Appellate Court was systematically dismembered by the same conspirators responsible for the current broken condition of our tribal government.
These are extreme circumstances that only can be mended and fixed by the Hopi/Tewa people themselves. Let us hope and pray that the upcoming election will have positive results.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I gree , sad to see the almighty dollar again disturbing the Balance

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