Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 14, 2010

Hopi Chairman's Proposals Removes Religious Protections in Hopi Constitution

Press statement
Freedom to Practice Religion Infringed by Constitutional Changes Proposed by Hopi Chairman
Proposals Strip Religious Leaders Governmental and Religious Authorities Protected in Hopi Constitution
SHUNGOPAVI VILLAGE, Hopi – The right to practice religion is a fundamental right of freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights which is part of the U.S. Constitution. These rights according to Ronald Wadsworth, Director of the Hopi Traditional Office located on Shungopavi Village at the Hopi Reservation, are today threatened by Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingotewa.
Hopi Nation Director Wadsworth said “a recent call for the establishment of a ‘revised Hopi Constitutional amounts to the destruction and removal of existing religious and traditional practices effectively creating an environment hostile to religion and thereby ultimately forcing traditional religious practices underground.”
“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to practice the religion of their choice. The Hopi Constitution also protects Hopi Religious practices and traditional religious leader’s practices; however, changes proposed by the Hopi Tribal Council Chairman to the Hopi Tribal Constitution reinvent the Hopi Constitution and remove the authorities and traditions of the Hopi people. Hopi Chairman Shingotewa’s so-called reforms intentionally destroy Hopi religion and practices which are the things that make us Hopi. These are the customs and practices of the Hopi people from time immemorial. The Hopi people consider the right to practice our religion a fundamental human right and a fundamental Hopi right. It is an embarrassment and an insult to the Hopi people that a Hopi Chairman who does not practice the Hopi religion leads the charge to remove those protections from the Hopi Constitution” said Ronald Wadsworth, Director of the Hopi Traditional Sovereign Nation Office located at Shungopavi Village on the Hopi Reservation.
“The Village of Shungopavi is a Traditional Village governed by a Kikmongwi since time immemorial and whose powers are inherent in the position of Kikmongwi through the traditional rite of succession. The Hopi Constitution although the creation of the white man’s government provides an additional protection of those powers which have been repeatedly acknowledged by Secretaries of Interior on behalf of the United States Government. In recent years former Secretary of Interior Manuel Lujan acknowledged the sovereignty of the Kikmongwi but also suggested the submission of a Government Plan which would further substantiate the right of Shungopavi Village to act as a sovereign entity without the involvement of the Hopi Tribal Council” said Hopi Nation Director Wadsworth. (See Albuquerque Journal report on meeting between Secretary Lujan and Shungopavi leaders.)
“The audacious and unconstitutional proposal of Hopi Council Chairman Shingotewa proposals eliminating the basic protections of the Hopi people’s right to practice the religion of their choice are unconstitutional and violate the intent and specific language of the Hopi Constitution. Chairman Shingotewa and those members of the Hopi Tribal Council who voted to support the changes to the Hopi Constitution are in violation of their Oath of Office wherein they promise to uphold and protect the traditions, culture, history, and religion of the Hopi people. This is cause for immediate removal and sanction for their actions which willfully violate the Hopi Constitution.”
“This is not only an infringement of the Hopi Constitution but in our opinion an infringement on the rights afforded all Americans in the U.S. Constitution. Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingotewa does not practice the Hopi Religion nor has he been forced to do so, however, his actions can only be construed as dictatorial and intended to subvert Hopi religion and practices leading to the destruction and obliteration of Hopi religion, custom, practices, culture, tradition, language and its history forever” said Hopi Traditional Nation Director Wadsworth.
“Chairman Shingotewa’s proposed amendments to the Hopi Constitution completely reorganize the current governmental system thereby placing the Hopi Tribal Council in a position of dictatorial and extreme power without a checks and balance system. Destroying Tradition and Religion leaves the Chairman and Tribal Council as the sole power at Hopi thereby making every individual subservient to the whims and dictates of the Tribal Council. There would be no accountability for expenditures or any other decision made by the Tribal Council. As it stands now the Tribal Council can oppose any decision of the tribal courts by merely convening itself into a Tribal Court and voting against the courts decision. Although, as it stands right now the Tribal Courts are funded by the Tribal Council and every Judge receives his salary through the courtesy of funds provided by the Tribal Council. The question of true Justice is at issue. Instead the system as devised is now a travesty of justice!” said Director Wadsworth.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs is well-aware of the actions of the Chairman and Tribal Council but choose to sit quietly by and claim “gee, this is an internal matter and we can’t get involved.” That is nonsense! The Chairman and the Tribal Council are intentionally attempting to destroy Hopi religion and to install a government with exclusive powers and authorities. Of course, the BIA prefers a Tribal Council that will sign new coal leases without the input of the Hopi people. The BIA is responsible for the installation of the Tribal Council form of government for the purpose of easily acquiring permission to mine Indian lands” said Director Wadsworth.
“The Hopi people have not yet digested the fact that elected leaders of the Hopi tribe would have the audacity and temerity to wipe out the Hopi people’s religion. It is not often that religious rights are infringed upon by the decisions of the Hopi Tribal Council but today is a new day and unfortunately the actions of the Chairman require us to speak out on behalf of the protection of our religion and our religious leaders” said Hopi Director Wadsworth.
“We call on the Secretary of Interior to immediately take action to protect the Hopi people and our Hopi Religion. We call on all people to step forward and call the Secretary of Interior, the Assistant Secretary of Interior in Washington, D.C., and call your Congressman and elected leaders and ask them to help the Hopi Leaders stop the Hopi Tribal Council. We need the support of the media and the outcry of religious organizations to help us stop this atrocity from taking place” said Hopi Nation Director Ronald Wadsworth.
For More Information Contact: Bertha Parker

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