Archive for the 'Hopi Tribal Council' Category

Nuvamsa questions Hopi Tribe attorney payments

Below is a letter written by Benjamin H. Nuvamsa to the Hopi Tribal Council. This letter has been submitted to be published in the Hopi Tutuveni. Used with permission.

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November 6, 2013

Letter to the Hopi Tribal Council:

The startling news coming out of the Hopi Tribal Council meeting this week concerns the $22 million that Leroy Shingoitewa and you, Hopi Tribal Council, allowed Robert Lyttle to rack up on 45 of his attorney friends. We understand Shingoitewa and Lyttle advised the tribal council to not worry because they will “pay the tribe back” when they win the lawsuits. And we hear there is another $12 million more in invoices that still remain to be processed.

So why do you authorize the lawsuits, or do you? Is it so that Lyttle and friends can make money betting on the come that they will win the lawsuits? You know there are no guarantees that lawsuits will be won. The only guarantee is that Lyttle and his attorneys will get our money by racking up billable hours. And we lose.

While tribal members were surprised and aghast at the news, I was not surprised. Not at all! For some of us have been writing letters to you ever since Leroy Shingoitewa came into office and brought Robert Lyttle to the scene – around May 2010. We advised you of the excessive billings and all the attorneys that Lyttle brought to the tribe without the benefit of tribal council approval (council resolutions) and without attorney contracts. We know how Robert Lyttle works. We know what he did to several Arizona and California Indian tribes. Maybe you were not getting our letters, or maybe you were simply ignoring our advice, but this matter has now exploded into a very serious situation where there may be federal criminal violations committed. And our financial position is now in serious question. Certainly, the Hopi people are not happy.

We also advised you of the depletion of tribal accounts and the transferring of funds between accounts to pay the invoices because the other accounts ran dry. I advised you of the possible tax implications on the tribe (and Robert Lyttle and the attorneys). To this date, we don’t believe Lyttle has a legal contract with the tribe. Ask the question: is Lyttle and employee or is he a consultant? There is a big difference. Hard working and conscientious employees working in Finance have been summarily fired by Shingoitewa and Elward Edd for questioning the invoices. They were only doing their job. There are memos from Shingoitewa demanding the staff to pay the invoices. Our advice and complaints went into deaf ears.

The Hopi tribal constitution is very clear. It requires that attorney contracts be formally approved by the tribal council, by council resolution. The constitution also says the Tribal Treasurer cannot spend any money from the treasury unless authorized by tribal council resolution. We assume you, as council members, are aware of these provisions in our tribal constitution.

Because of our concerns about excessive payments to tribal attorneys and violation of tribal procurement policies by Shingoitewa, several of us exercised our right afforded us in the tribal constitution and requested to view the Treasurer’s financial records. As expected, we were denied our request so we filed a Writ of Mandamus in tribal court requesting the court to grant us access to the records. This matter is pending in tribal court.

So, now you have a decision to make. Your duty as tribal council members is to watch over our money. This obligation is spelled out in the tribal constitution. You are our fiduciaries. I advise you to hold off making any payments on the attorney invoices until and when you have completed an exhaustive investigation into this matter. In fact, I encourage you to withhold action on this matter until after the tribal election. But the questions remain the same: Are there authorizing tribal council resolutions for each attorney? Does each attorney have a legal contract with the tribe? Does each attorney contract have an identified (and approved) scope of work? Do the invoices contain the required information on what services were performed? Tribal accounts need a good look to see how much has been taken out and what the remaining balances are. I understand a tribal employee asked you the same questions at the October 29, 2013, tribal council meeting. He knows what he’s talking about.

We trust you will carry out your constitutional duties and protect our money; and hold people accountable.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Village of Shungopavi 

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman

Hopi leaders demand stop to further negotiations on SB 2109

November 8, 2012

Honorable Hopi Tribal Council

We find it necessary to write this letter to you concerning Senate Bill 2109, “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”, to instruct you that you must immediately direct Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, Council Representative George Mase, and certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team, to stop any further negotiation of S.2109 (and H.R. 4067) and the Settlement Agreement.

On June 15, 2012, at a duly constituted Hopi Tribal Council meeting held at the Youth/Elderly Center in the Village of Hotevilla, the Hopi Tribal Council voted, 11 for, and 4 against, to approve Action Item No. H-065-2012, which resulted in the passage of Resolution H-072-2012 (copy attached for your reading). Voting for passage were: Vice Chairman Herman Honanie, Davis Pecusa (Bacavi), Gayver Puhuyesva (Bacavi), Nada Talayumptewa (Kykotsmovi), Carlene Quotskuyva (Kykotsmovi), Rebekah Masayesva (Kykotsmovi), Danny Honanie (Kykotsmovi), Bruce Fredericks (Upper Moenkopi), Leroy Sumatzkuku (Upper Moenkopi), Wayne Kuwanhyoima (Upper Moenkopi), Danny Humetewa (Upper Moenkopi). Voting against were Alph Secakuku(Sipaulovi), George Mase (Sipaulovi), Cedric Kuwaninvaya (Sipaulovi); and Leroy Kewanimptewa (Bacavi).

Resolution H-072-2012 rejected S.2109; and directed Chairman Shingoitewa and the Hopi Water & Energy Team to cease any further negotiation of S.2109. The Resolution also directs Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa to formally notify Senator Jon Kyl and appropriate departments of the Federal government of the Hopi Tribe’s rejection of S.2109.

Our villages, traditional leaders and tribal members overwhelmingly rejected S.2109. They issued village proclamations and resolutions, and wrote letters stating their rejection of S.2109. We attach copies for your reading. At the June 15, 2012 tribal council meeting, there was unanimous opposition to S.2109 by our villages, traditional leaders and tribal members. Not one village, traditional leader, and tribal member spoke in favor of S.2109.

The mandate of the Hopi Senom is very clear, yet Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, George Mase and certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team continue to negotiate S.2109 and its accompanying Settlement Agreement. Other council representatives are also supporting and are facilitating these negotiations. This is an outright violation of H-072-2012 and constitutes “gross neglect of duty” by Shingoitewa, Mase and certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team, and other tribal council representatives who are supporting Shingoitewa’s continuing negotiations.

As members of the Hopi Tribal Council, you are allowing the illegal spending of millions of the tribe’s money (our money) on attorneys on this illegal activity by your failure to stop Shingoitewa and Mase. You are allowing Shingoitewa, Mase and others to spend money illegally on their trips to meet with the Department of Interior officials and other LCR negotiating parties. All expenses beginning June 15, 2012, to continue negotiating S.2109 and the Settlement Agreement are improper and illegal.

The authority to negotiate village water rights under S.2109 is authority that is not granted to the Hopi Tribal Council by the Constitution & By-Laws of the Hopi Tribe. Thus, Leroy Shingoitewa, George Mase and certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team do not have the authority to be negotiating S.2109 and the Settlement Agreement. Moreover, Resolution H-072-2012 specifically prohibits Leroy Shingoitewa, as Tribal Chairman, and the Hopi Water & Energy Team from any further negotiations of S.2109.

We encourage you to study the attached Resolution H-072-2012, particularly the second recital. It points out your duties and obligations as tribal council representatives as mandated by the Hopi Constitution. Also study the By-Laws of the Hopi Tribe, at ARTICLE I – DUTIES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF OFFICERS, Section 3, where it requires you, as tribal council representatives, to “truly represent the people of their villages”.

We also remind you of the Hopi Appellate Court’s Final Answer to the Bacavi Village Certified Question. In answering Bacavi Village’s Certified Question, the Court spoke to the authorities of our villages. The Court said “(p)rior to the initial drafting and adoption of the Hopi Constitution in 1936 there was no central Hopi government. Rather, the people comprising the Hopi Tribe lived in 12 self-governing Villages, each of which retained its own aboriginal sovereignty”. The Court also said “the entire structure of the Hopi Constitution indicates that the authority of the central government rests on the bedrock of the aboriginal sovereignty of the Hopi and Tewa villages”.

The Hopi Tribal Council operates on the limited authorities granted it by the villages; and any authority not specifically included in the Hopi Constitution is authority retained by the villages. The authority to negotiate village water rights is authority that has not been granted the Hopi Tribal Council by the villages.

We are aware of meetings being held and attended by Chairman Shingoitewa, George Mase, certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team, and their attorneys. We are aware of the scheduled November 14, 2012, meeting with Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Washington, D.C. We are also aware that certain representatives of the villages of Mishongnovi, Sipaulovi and Upper Moenkopi plan to attend this meeting in Washington, D.C.

We recently obtained a copy of proposed revisions to S.2109 that has been the topic of illegal negotiations by Shingoitewa, Mase and certain members of the Water & Energy Team. While the Navajo Nation Council committees shared this document with its constituents for their comment, Leroy Shingoitewa, George Mase and certain members of the Hopi Water & Energy Team found it convenient to keep this document secret and not share with Hopi villages and tribal members. You will recall we had to go to other sources to obtain a copy of the original S.2109.

It is clear that the Hopi Tribal Council does not have authority to negotiate S.2109 and the Settlement Agreement. And by majority vote in enacting Resolution H-072-2012, you directed Chairman Shingoitewa and the Hopi Water & Energy Team to cease any further negotiations of S.2109, but to date, they have defied your legislative mandate. Therefore, we want you to direct Chairman Shingoitewa, George Mase and the Hopi Water & Energy Team to stop any further negotiation of S.2109 and the Settlement Agreement. This is your duty and obligation to our villages and members of the Hopi Tribe.

We also want you to cancel Chairman Shingoitewa’s, George Mase’s, and certain tribal representatives’ trip to attend the November 14, 2012 meetings in Washington, D.C. Finally, we demand that you direct that letters be written to Senator Jon Kyl, Senator John McCain, Senator Daniel Akaka, and Representative Benjamin Quayle, to withdraw S.2109 and its companion bill, H.R. 4067, with copies of the letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

We fully expect that you will comply with our demands and respect the will of the Hopi Senom. Your failure will constitute your “serious neglect of duty”; and may require further legal action.

Respectfully,
/s/ Benjamin H. Nuvamsa
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Chairman
/s/ Vernon Masayesva
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Chairman
/s/ Ivan Sidney, Sr.
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Chairman
/s/ Clifford B. Qötsaquahu
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman
/s/ Phillip R. Quochytewa, Sr.
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman
/s/ Todd H. Honyaoma, Sr.
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman
/s/ Caleb H. Johnson
______________________________________, Former Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman
Attachments

cc: Honorable Senator Jon Kyl, United States Senate
Honorable Senator John McCain, United States Senate
Honorable Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Select Committee on Indian Affairs
Honorable Representative Benjamin Quayle, House of Representatives
Honorable Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior
Honorable Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, BIA
Hopi Traditional Leaders
Hopi Villages
Hopi Tutuveni

Village of Hotevilla formally rejects SB 2109 – Story by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer

The following story by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer will be published soon in various newspapers. News of Hotevilla’s formal rejection of SB 2109 is very significant and I hope that other villages will make similar statements in the near future. The official Hotevilla Proclamation and Resolution on SB 2109 is included at the end of this post. PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY.

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Village of Hotevilla formally rejects SB 2109

Historical, unprecedented move by ” Hopi traditional” village a first in dissaproving LCR settlement

Story by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer

Exercising its aboriginal sovereignty rights, the “traditional” village of Hotevilla, 3rd Mesa has formally rejected the Hopi tribal approval of SB 2109, making it the first of 12 villages located on the Hopi reservation to formally notify the Hopi Tribal Council of its dissaproval of any further action or legislative movement on its village behalf.

In a formal village meeting held on May 21, 2012, at a regular meeting of the village community, Hotevilla adopted a Proclamation and Resolution directing and mandating that the Hopi Tribal Council reject Senate Bill 2109 – Navajo -Hopi Little Colorado River Rights Settlement Act of 2012 and that “failure” to honor the village directive “shall constitute gross neglect of duty as defined in the Hopi constitution and By-Laws, Article V, section 2.

This Hotevilla proclamation is consistent with the Hopi Appellate Courts Final Decision in the Village of Bacavi’s Certified Question filed in 2010 that traditional Hopi villages retain all aspects of “their inherent aboriginal sovereignty” and that those powers are “outside the scope of authority of the Hopi Tribal Council.

The discussion and approval of this village proclamation was a result of two separate village public meetings held at Hotevilla to educate its village membership on the water issue.

Public meetings were held on March 26th and April 13th, 2012.

The second public meeting on April 13th, the Hopi Tribes’ Water and Energy Team Chair-George Mase, along with Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, made their arguments to the village in favor of the settlement agreement and “agreement in principle.”   This meeting was requested by Hotevilla village with the added special condition that no outside tribal attorneys be present and that the Hopi Chairman and his Water and Energy Team present their materials in the Hopi language solely on their own.

This proclamation asserts that the village of Hotevilla has the “inherent sovereign power” to maintain and exercise its rights and powers over all matters and resources belonging to the village and asserts that these rights and powers have “never been delegated to the Hopi Tribal Council.”

The Hopi Constitution and By-Laws does in fact, specifically “admonish” that the Hopi Tribal Council “shall not sell or lease tribal properties which includes water rights.”

Despite protests from Hopi Energy and Water Team Chairman-George Mase at the public meeting who said that “we cannot walk away from this agreement”, the Hotevilla Village Board of Directors, on behalf of its traditional village membership wholly reject SB2109 and “any form of agreement intended to waive, or extinguish our rights to our sacred waters” and directs the Hopi Council to reject the bill.

The formal 3-page village proclamation by Hotevilla is titled, “HV-102-2012″ and was signed off on May 21st.

Click to download the Hotevilla Proclamation and Resolution on SB 2109 (4 pages).

SB 2109 and Sovereign Rights of Hopi Villages

Below is an email from Ben Nuvamsa, former chairman of the Hopi Tribe, that he sent to a number of Hopis (including myself) on April 25, 2012. Please note that the documents that Nuvamsa refers to are included at the bottom of this post. Many thanks to Mr. Nuvamsa for allowing me to publish his email on BEYOND THE MESAS.

Hello Everyone.

Attached is a copy of the tribal council agenda which contains Action Item No. 053-2012 and proposed council resolution that George Mase (Sipaulovi) endorsed as Chairman of the Hopi Water and Energy Team.  Also attached is a copy of the March 8, 2012 Agreement-in-Principle that attorneys for the parties have signed, including Joe Mentor on behalf of the Hopi Tribe.  Note that the Agreement says they will endeavor to support S.2109, subject to the review and approval of the governing bodies.

Remember, neither Leroy Shingoitewa, George Mase, the Hopi Water & Energy Team, nor the Hopi Tribal Council have the legal authority to commit to endorsing S.2109.  This is the sovereign right of the villages.  Only the villages have a legal and sovereign right to decide on this matter.  In addition, only four (4) villages are represented on the tribal council, leaving out the remaining villages.  None of the traditional villages are represented.

Impose on your representatives to require that Shingoitewa and Mase withdraw Action Item No. 053-2012 as it is not properly before the tribal council.  None of the villages have been consulted on this Action Item.  Also, we urge all villages to enact village resolutions or write letters to the tribal council to withdraw this Action Item as soon as possible; and instead to reject S.2109.

Signed Agreement in Principal (March 8, 2012)

Water Resolution (Action Item No. 053-2012)

Hopi Tribal Council March Agenda 2012 Second Quarter


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an associate professor of American Indian Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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“‘The Hopi Followers': Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909″, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

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