Past Hopi chairman responds to allegations

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 3.17.59 PM
Bronze bust of Louis Tewanima at the 2010 Louis Tewanima Memorial Footrace. Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Last week Felicia Fonseca of the Associated Press alerted me to a story that she was writing about a criminal complaint made by Anna Mae Silas, Gibson Namoki (BIA Police Officer), and the Hopi Museum. The complaint alleged that past Hopi chairman Benjamin H. Nuvamsa of Shungopavi had stolen a bronze bust of famed Hopi runner Louis Tewanima.

Although I don’t know all the details in this case, I find it hard to believe that Nuvamsa would steal the bronze bust of his grandfather. In fact, the whole case seems a bit bizarre, and it leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions: What could Nuvamsa possibly gain from stealing this bust? Why did an individual – who appeared to be a Museum staff – help the former Hopi chairman load the bust in Nuvamsa’s vehicle, and then, six months later, assist  Silas, Namoki, and the Hopi Museum in filing a complaint against him in Hopi tribal court?

For those who have frequented Beyond the Mesas over the years, you know that I have a lot of respect for Nuvamsa. You also know that I greatly appreciate his activist work back home. Of course, it’s my hope that this will all be cleared up soon so that we can get back to focusing on Tewanima’s running legacy, and the inspiration his life and accomplishments have been for so many Hopi and non-Hopi people.

To learn more about the allegations against Nuvamsa, read Fonseca’s newspaper article “Ex-Hopi chairman charged with Olympian bust theft”. See also Nuvamsa’s response to the allegations below.


March 31, 2014

How Can It Be Theft?

This is my response to the baseless “Theft” charge filed against me by Anna Mae Silas, Gibson Namoki (Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Officer), and the Hopi Museum on the alleged “theft” of a bronze bust of our famous Olympian, Louis Tewanima.

Section 3.8.4 of the Hopi Law and order Code defines “THEFT” as: “A person who knowingly takes or controls the property or services of another person without consent of the owner or other proper legal authority, is guilty of an offense”.

An essential element of the crime that has to be proven by the Tribal Prosecutor, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the Tewanina bust was taken “without the consent of the owner or other proper legal authority.”

Here are the facts I intend to present in my defense. Louis Tewanima, from Shungopavi Village, was a great Hopi runner. He was an Olympian. He and the famous Jim Thorpe represented the United States of America at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm where Tewanima won the Silver Medal in the 10,000 meters, setting a U.S. record for 10,000 meters. He also ran the marathon in the London Olympics in 1908. Louis Tewanima was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame; and to the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. Tewanima is our grandfather. I grew up with him in the same house at Shungopavi.

Every Labor Day, since 1974, we celebrate the accomplishments of my grandfather, Louis Tewanima, at the Annual Tewanima Footraces. See for more information about the annual Tewanima Footrace. Each year our families, and race organizers, would bring his trophies and pictures to the races to honor his accomplishments and for public display. A bronze bust of Louis Tewanima has been displayed at the annual races in recent years. Shortly before the 2013 races, I visited the Taylor family of Shungopavi (members of the Association and relatives of Tewanima) and inquired how I could help with the race. They talked about displaying the bust at the 2013 annual footrace. We agreed that I could help the race organizers by going to the Hopi Museum and obtaining the bust to be displayed during the 2013 footrace. I asked where the bust is kept and was told that it was at the Hopi Museum, at the Hopi Cultural Center.

On August 29, 2013, during museum regular business hours, I went to the Hopi Museum to obtain the Tewanima bust on behalf of the race organizers. Anna Mae Silas was not there. However, her brother, Matthew Silas, Jr., was there tending to the museum’s business. Because he appeared to be “tending the store” and appeared to me as a museum employee, I told him the purpose of my visit. He said “Ok, it’s back here” and walked me over to where the bust was displayed. He said “It’s real heavy … let me carry it for you”. But I said, “I think I can lift it”.

I picked it up and Mathew Silas opened the museum door and helped me load it into my personal vehicle. Mathew Silas never tried to stop me from taking the bust. He never told me I had no right to take it or that I was doing anything improper or illegal. To the contrary, Mathew’s actions, by showing me the location of the bust and helping me load it into my vehicle, indicated to me that I was doing nothing wrong, illegal or criminal and that the Hopi Museum, as it had in the past, was allowing the bust to be in the temporary possession of the Tewanina race organizers for display at the upcoming race. I then went to the Taylor residence and dropped the bust off at their house so that it could be displayed at the race. That was the last time I saw the bust.

I had no criminal intention of stealing the bust or taking it without the museum’s consent. Had Mathew Silas told me not to take it, or that he would call the police, I would have left the museum without borrowing it. All appearances that day lead me to believe that Mathew Silas was an employee of the Hopi Museum and he allowed me to take the bust. When I explained to Mr. Silas the reason why I wanted to borrow the bust, he understood and showed me where the bust was displayed. In fact, he helped me load the bust in my vehicle. If I intended to steal the bust, why would I steal it in broad daylight, during museum hours while the museum was open, and in front of, and with the help of Mathew Silas, a museum employee, then drop it off at the Tayler residence for them to use during the race?

If this was truly a case of theft, why did it take the Hopi Museum, Anna Mae Silas, Mathew Silas, Jr., and BIA Police Officer Gibson Namoki six (6) months to file the criminal charge against me? According to the criminal complaint, the alleged theft occurred on August 29, 2013, yet, the Criminal Complaint was not filed until February 24, 2014 – six months later. Did it actually take the BIA Police, Hopi Museum, Anna Mae Silas and Mathew Silas six (6) months to investigate and decide that I had stolen the bust? Or, are there other ulterior motives and reasons for filing this baseless charge against me, and publicizing it to disgrace me in public?

If I am to be charged with theft of the bust, then shouldn’t Mathew Silas, Jr. also be charged as a co-conspirator because he showed me the location of the bust, opened the museum entrance door as I carried it out and helped me put it in my car?

The story about the arrest warrant that was issued against me is even more confusing. After the complaint was filed on February 24, 2014, the court claimed it mailed me a Notice to Appear (Summons) in Hopi Court for arraignment on March 10, 2014. The Court mailed the summons to a Mesa, Arizona address that I have not used in over eight years. In other words, an old address. My present mailing address is in Pinetop, Arizona. Naturally, since the summons was mailed to an eight-year old address in Mesa, I did not receive the notice. I, therefore, was unaware that I was to appear in Hopi Court on March 10th. When I did not appear in court on March 10th, Hopi Chief Judge Jess Lorona issued a warrant for my arrest. I had no knowledge of theft complaint, the summons to appear in court on March 10th, or the arrest warrant. I did not

receive word about these matters until I was contacted by news reporter from Flagstaff, and was asked to respond to the theft complaint and arrest warrant. I immediately contacted a lawyer and we arranged to quash and set aside the arrest warrant and the court would send me new summons where I am to appear in Hopi court on April 8, 2014. I will appear at every court hearing to fight this ridiculous theft charge.

I only hope that the Tribal Prosecutor, BIA Police, Hopi Museum and Anna Mae Silas will come to their senses and find the courage and wisdom to drop and dismiss this ludicrous theft charge and save everyone (Prosecutor, Police, Court and me and my family) time, money, embarrassment and other tribal resources in pursuing a matter that has no supporting evidence or merit.

Publicizing this baseless theft charge in the local, regional and national papers was only a futile attempt to disgrace me, but it now raises a lot of serious questions that must be answered.

In closing, there are many good Hopi people that have stepped forward and offered to testify on my behalf, including witnesses who saw Mathew Silas, Jr. helping me load the bust into my vehicle; and members of the Louis Tewanima Association.

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Village of Shungopavi – Bear Clan

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman

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.


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

Nuvamsa requests Secretary of the Interior to withdraw SB 2109 and HR 4067 from Congressional legislative process

November 8, 2012

The Honorable Ken Salazar

Secretary – Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

Mr. Secretary, I write this letter to you on behalf of our Hopi and Tewa Senom (People), our traditional leaders and our village governments concerning Senate Bill 2109, “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”. As you know, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl introduced S.2109 to the United States Senate on February 12, 2012. Arizona Senator John McCain co-sponsored this bill. And on February16, 2012, Arizona Congressman Ben Quayle introduced a companion bill, House Resolution No. 4067.

At a historic Hopi Tribal Council meeting on June 15, 2012, held at the Hotevilla Youth/Elderly Center on our reservation, the Hopi Tribal Council enacted Resolution H-072-2012 that formally rejected S.2109 by the Hopi Tribe. A copy of Resolution H-072-2012 is enclosed for your information.

The Hopi Tribal Council enacted this Resolution after our Hopi and Tewa villages, our traditional leaders, our village governments, and tribal members overwhelmingly objected to and rejected S.2109. Several of our past elected Hopi tribal leaders also objected to S.2109 and supported the enactment of Resolution H-072-2012. Enclosed are copies of proclamations and resolutions adopted by our villages and traditional leaders. Also enclosed is a copy of Action Item H-065-2012 endorsed by the past Hopi elected leaders which resulted in the passage of Resolution H-072-2012.

But, we understand Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa and certain members of the Hopi Tribal Council will be attending a meeting at the Department of Interior, sponsored by your office, to discuss the proposed changes to S.2109. The Hopi and Tewa Senom vehemently object to this meeting and any attempt to revise S.2109 without prior consultation with us and without our concurrence.

Be advised that Chairman Shingoitewa, the Hopi Tribal Council and the Hopi Water & Energy Team do not have the authority to negotiate S.2109 and any amendments thereto. Resolution H-072-2012 specifically prohibits Chairman Shingoitewa and the Hopi Water & Energy Team from further negotiations of S.2109. This Resolution has never been amended or rescinded, so it is in full force and effect. Consequently, Chairman Shingoitewa does not have the authority to sign the Water Settlement Agreement on behalf of the Hopi Tribe.

The Constitution and By-Laws of the Hopi Tribe, adopted in 1936, is not like other typical Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitutions of other tribal nations. The Hopi Constitution acknowledges the traditional and inherent powers of our villages. Our traditional villages are autonomous villages that still maintain their “Inherent Aboriginal Sovereignty” and powers of self-government. Please refer to the enclosed copy of the Hopi Tribal Appellate Court’s Final Answer to Bacavi Village’s Certified Question of Law that addresses the traditional, inherent powers of our villages.

Our villages are the rightful owners of water rights. The authority to negotiate water rights is authority reserved to our villages; and is authority not delegated to the Hopi Tribal Council in the Hopi Constitution. The Hopi Constitution was a “boiler plate” constitution authored by and provided by the United States. As such, the United States already understands that any negotiation and agreement regarding our water rights can only be agreed to with full concurrence and approval of our villages.

Water right is a property right. It is a sacred right of our villages. Any action by Chairman Shingoitewa, the Hopi Tribal Council and other parties may be unconstitutional and may constitute a wrongful taking of property without just compensation under Federal and Hopi tribal law. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibits any Indian tribe from taking private property for public use without just compensation. Thus, our villages would have legitimate claims for compensation for the unlawful taking of their water rights if the Hopi Tribe and other parties proceed with negotiating and pursuing the passage of S.2109.

Mr. Secretary, water is sacred and is central to our Hopi way of life. As Hopi Senom, we have a sacred covenant with our caretaker, Maasau, to protect our traditions, ceremonies and our natural resources. Important matters such as land, water and other natural resources are properly addressed by our traditional leaders and villages. Therefore, we respectfully request that you facilitate the formal withdrawal of S.2109 and H.R. 4067 from the Congressional legislative process.

With Respect,

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Village of Shungopavi (Hönwugnwa – Bear Clan)

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman


cc: Honorable Senator Jon Kyl, United States Senate

Honorable Senator John McCain, United States Senate

Honorable Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Honorable Ben Quayle, Representative, House of Representatives

Honorable Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs

Hopi Traditional Leaders

Hopi Villages

Hopi Tutuveni

Important issues facing the Hopi Tribe

The following post was written and provided by Benjamin H. Nuvamsa….

There are several very important issues currently facing our tribe, but no one from the tribal administration is sharing them with our villages, traditional leaders, and tribal members.  These issues have potentially long lasting and devastating impacts on our tribe.  There are other issues that the current tribal administration is doing, or has done, but tribal members have no knowledge of them.  If you are interested and want to hear about these issues, come to the Hopi Cultural Center on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. for an evening of discussion and dialogue.  We are at a very critical juncture in the history of our tribe that I believe everybody should know what direction the current tribal administration is taking our tribe.  Some of the issues we will discuss include.

1.       Revised Senate Bill 2109 (and House Resolution 4067) “Navajo and Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012”.  Despite the overwhelming rejection of this bill by our villages, leaders and tribal members, Leroy Shingoitewa & certain members of the Water & Energy Team are continuing to negotiate this legislation and the Settlement Agreement.  In fact, they are in Washington, DC this week in meetings with Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Navajo Nation officials.  We recently received a copy of proposed changes to S.2109 that Shingoitewa and his attorneys have been secretly negotiating without our knowledge and approval.  Secretary Salazar and some tribal officials have indicated they want to push this legislation for passage during the lame duck Congress (before the end of this year).  We, past elected tribal leaders, have written to the tribal council to direct Shingoitewa to cease the negotiations and comply with Resolution H-072-2012.  And I sent a letter to Secretary Salazar (with copies to Senator Akaka, Senator Kyl, Senator McCain, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Washburn) that Shingoitewa and the tribal council do not have authority to negotiate and give away our water rights.

2.       Hopi LCR Water Rights Claim in the Apache County Superior Court.  There was a hearing recently in Phoenix on Hopi’s water rights claim to the Little Colorado River.  If Shingoitewa and his team continue with their negotiations of S.2109, any agreements on S.2109 by Shingoitewa may compromise the claim our tribe filed several years ago in the Apache County Superior Court (Little Colorado River Water Rights Adjudication).  What will be the impacts on our aboriginal rights, Spanish law rights, and Federal reserved rights; and what will we lose, if S.2109 is passed into law?

3.       Mishongnovi Case (Tribal Court No. 2011-CV-0023; Appellate Court No. 2012-AP-0002).  Recently the Hopi Appellate Court sent out invitations to villages and others to file Amicus Briefs in a case that may impact the traditional leadership and governance in our villages.  It is vitally important that village leaders are made aware of this issue and that they consider filing their respective Amicus Briefs on behalf of their villages.  You remember the Hopi Appellate Court issued its ruling on the Bacavi Certified Question  in February 2010.  This was an important and historic ruling for our Hopi and Tewa villages.  The Mishongnovi case could have even more significant impacts on our traditional villages.  It is really important that all villages, traditional leaders and others file their briefs to the appellate court before the deadline expires.

4.       RICO Lawsuit Settlement.  In June 1999 the Hopi tribe joined in the Navajo Nation’s lawsuit against Peabody Energy, Southern Cal Edison and Salt River Project for price fixing scheme against the tribes on coal royalties, and breach of coal leases under a law called Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.   Navajo Nation demanded a 20% royalty for its coal but ended up only with a 12.5% rate.  Under RICO, Navajo could potentially claim treble damages (three times) of up to $1.8 billion.  But in August 2011, the Navajo Nation agreed to a settlement for much less than its claim ($600.0 million claim originally filed).  Shingoitewa and Lyttle agreed to a settlement without the knowledge and approval of the Hopi tribal council and the Hopi people.  Questions remain as to: What happened to the settlement funds? What did Hopi give up by accepting the money? What were Robert Lyttle’s fees? Did Shingoitewa agree to certain waivers and release of claims against the Defendants (e.g. release of claims for over-pumping of the N-aquifer)?  The Shingoitewa administration have, so far, refused to answer these and other questions raised by Council Representative Becky Masayesva.

5.       Robert Lyttle.  The tribal council recently voted, by a secret ballot, to hire Robert Lyttle as In-House Counsel to the Hopi Tribal Council.  In doing so, they purposely overlooked a highly qualified Hopi tribal member who, along with others, applied for the job opening.  Robert Lyttle did not apply for the job but was selected by Shingoitewa’s supporters on tribal council in a secret ballot vote.  Back in May 2010, Robert Lyttle entered into a contract with Shingoitewa at a time when he was not admitted to the Arizona State Bar; and at a time when there was no “Law Firm of Robert Lyttle” (in fact, there is no Robert Lyttle Law Firm), and despite the requirement for a “law firm” in the contract he signed, and the Council Resolution the tribal council passed.  Since then, millions of the tribe’s money have gone to Robert Lyttle and his purported “law firm”.  The other attorneys who purportedly are partners or members of his “law firm” are members of other law firms.  How much money has been paid to Robert Lyttle?  What work did they perform?  Are there legal contracts between the Hopi Tribe (approved by tribal council) and all of Lyttle’s attorney friends who purportedly work in his “law firm”?  What funds were used to pay Lyttle?  We all have a right to have these, and other questions, answered by the Shingoitewa (and the Treasurer).

6.       Tribal Fiscal Year 2009 Audit.  The tribal council recently approved a Fiscal Year 2009 audit performed by Walker & Armstrong.   The audit firm has worked for the tribe for a long time and may have violated several auditing standards (rules).  They may have violated conflicts of interest rules by acting both as auditors and consultants.  In the audit report, the firm evaluated tribal investments, investment risks, investment quality, past and future investment performance.  This goes well beyond and outside the scope of the audit.  So the question is, did Walker & Armstrong violate Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)?  Walker & Armstrong was deeply involved in the former Treasurer Russell Mockta matter and tribal investments; and may have certain vested interests to continue working for (auditing) the tribe.

7.       Miscellaneous. There are several other issues, such as the APS Right-of-Way, Law & Order Code, Snow Bowl, Grand Canyon Escalade Project, Shingoitewa’s new effort to revise the Hopi Constitution, etc., that will be briefly addressed.

These are only a few issues that face our tribe.  We just want to share them with you for your information since this administration is not keeping us informed.   What you (we) do about them is entirely up to tribal members.  Thank you.

Criticism over distribution of Hopi Tribe LCR Settlement Agreement “Fact Sheet”

UPDATE July 15, 2012: On Saturday I noted that the following responses from Benjamin H. Nuvamsa and Rosanda Suetopka Thayer focused on Micah Loma’omvaya’s (Hopi Chief of Staff) role in distributing last week’s Hopi Tribe LCR Settlement Agreement “Fact Sheet“. I now realize that their comments refer to a Press Release that the Hopi Tribe issued on July 12 surrounding Rosanda Suetopka Thayer’s efforts to remove Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa from office. Click here for a copy of the Press Release. I apologize for the confusion.
Benjamin H. Nuvamsa, July 13, 2012
There seems to be certain amount of credence placed recently by the local news media on comments, quotes, etc. from staff (political appointees) other than directly from the Hopi tribal chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, particularly concerning the current water rights debate.  Be advised that we do not place any credence or credibility on comments made by Shingoitewa’s staff, like comments by Micah Lomaomvaya.  Micah is not tribal chairman, vice chairman; and therefore has no authority to speak on behalf of the Hopi Tribe.  He has no authority to be issuing press releases, or making comments on any matter in the papers.  Those authorities are vested in the tribal chairman.  Those authorities and protocols are similar to the Office of the President of the United States.  We do not see any press releases, nor comments coming out of Vice Chairman Honanie’s office, because he understands and respects the proper delegations of authority.  He understands the protocols and when it is an appropriate time to issue statements on behalf of his office, or on behalf of the tribe.  Thank you.
Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, July 13, 2012
“Its truly unfortunate and completely unprofessional that Micah Loma’omvaya, chief of staff for Mr. Shingoitewa, without formal Hopi Council authorization to release such a ill-informed press statement regarding the Hopi and Tewa grassroots movement to remove Shingoitewa for serious neglect of duty.
Only the Hopi Tribal Council through formal action or the Hopi chairman with council authorization can speak on behalf of the tribe, not a politically appointed staff member like Loma’omvaya.
For me personally, Loma’omvaya’s release shows the level of paranoia, intimidation and lack of signature accountability, that Shingoitewa has created and fosters at the Hopi Tribe against anyone who opposes him, including all members of the media, tribal or non-tribal.
This has been evidenced by Shingoitewa’s refusal to allow reporters into local publicly posted Hopi council meetings over his past two years in office including the Hopi Tribes’ own newspaper, the Hopi Tutuveni, which is the only local and free news medium available to Hopi community members for public information.
No community member, enrolled or un-enrolled is safe from Shingoitewa and his supporters, especially after such a heated public battle where clearly the Hopi and Tewa people did not support Shingoitewa’s LCR settlement proposal and in which Shingoitewa continues to try and re-visit an already dead tribal water issue.
The “Shingoitewa Removal” public meeting slated for Saturday, July 14th at the First Mesa Consolidated villages community will still move forward with the full open support of Hopis and Tewas who want Shingoitewa removed from office for serious neglect of duty.”

Hopi chairman accused of “gross dereliction”

A message from Ben Nuvamsa….

Attached for your information and dissemination is a complaint we (the former elected leaders of the Hopi Tribe who endorsed Action Item H-065-2012) filed against Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa for his failure and/or refusal to sign a duly enacted Tribal Council Resolution H-072-2012 that was passed on June 15, 2012, at the Hotevilla Elderly Center.  This resolution opposes and rejects Senator Jon Kyl’s Senate Bill 2109, Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012.  This Resolution was approved/passed by a majority vote of: 11 for; 4 opposed; 0 abstentions.  It represents the express will of our villages, village leaders and tribal members.

There was overwhelming objection to and rejection of Senate Bill 2109 by our villages and tribal members, yet Shingoitewa has purposely and deliberately refused to listen to the Hopi and Tewa people.  Instead, he signed Resolution H-073-2012 passed illegally on June 21, 2012 which endorses Senate Bill 2109 over our objections.  Action Item H-053-2012 was sponsored by Sipaulovi Village Representative George Mase to endorse Senate Bill 2109, which resulted in Resolution H-073-2012.  Resolution H-073-2012 is not the official position of the Hopi and Tewa villages and tribal members regarding Senate Bill 2109.

Even if Shingoitewa refuses, or otherwise fails to sign Resolution H-072-2012, he does not have the constitutional authority to veto a lawful action of the Hopi Tribal Council.  Therefore, this Resolution is in full force and effect, and has the force of tribal law.  If he continues to not sign this Resolution, by this letter, we have implored the Hopi Tribal Council by the attached complaint, to take immediate and appropriate action against Shingoitewa for contempt of tribal council action and for his failure to uphold his duty and obligation as presiding officer of the tribal council, including immediate removal.

A copy of this complaint has been sent to the Hopi Tutuveni for publication, and to other local and national news media.  We asked that this complaint be published in full, unedited text so that all tribal members and the general public can be informed of this matter.  Please disseminate copies of the complaint letter to your fellow tribal members.  Thank you.

LCR Water Rights Bill Rejected by Hopi – A Report to Hopi People

A message from Benjamin H. Nuvamsa…                            Sunday June 17, 2012

LCR Water Rights Bill Rejected by Hopi – A Report to Hopi People

Attached is a report to members of the Hopi Tribe and to the Hopi Tribal Council on the council meeting held last Friday, June 15, 2012, regarding our Action Item No. H-065-2012.  Our Action Item is to reject the Little Colorado River Water Rights Agreement, S.2109.  Please pass this information on to other tribal members.  Thanks to everyone, we defeated this dangerous bill introduced by Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain regarding our water rights to the Little Colorado River.

Despite this victory, this matter is not over.  Shingoitewa and Mase are still intent on continuing negotiations on this bill, despite what the action item, and now Resolution, No. H-065-2012, mandates.  In fact, Shingoitewa, Mase and Hopi attorneys are talking to and negotiating with Navajo’s attorneys.  Resolution No. H-065-2012 prohibits Shingoitewa, the Water & Energy Team and the Tribal Council from further negotiations on S.2109.  You should know that George Mase has an Action Item, No. H-053-2012, before the tribal council that “endorses” Senate Bill 2109.  But the council’s vote on June 15, 2012, killed Kyl’s and McCain’s bill and deems George Mase’s action item a moot issue; so it should not be addressed by the tribal council.  We are monitoring this matter and will advise you when the council may act on Mase’s action item so you can attend the council meeting.


Below is the report that Nuvamsa refers to in his message. You can also download the report as a PDF document by clicking here

June 16, 2012

To: Honorable Members of the Hopi Tribe

Honorable Members of the Hopi Tribal Council

June 15, 2012, was an historic day in the history of our tribe. Hopi village representatives, traditional leaders and tribal members gathered at the Hotevilla Elderly Center and overwhelmingly rejected Senator Jon Kyl’s and Senator John McCain’s Senate Bill 2109, the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012. At the end of the long day, the Hopi Tribal Council voted 11 to 4 to pass Action Item H-065-2012 that was endorsed by three former Hopi tribal chairmen and four former Hopi tribal vice chairmen, and sponsored by Vice Chairman Honanie, to reject Senate Bill 2109.

Our Action Item, No. H-065-2012, does several things: (1) it rejects Senate Bill 2109; (2) it prohibits any further negotiations of Senate Bill 2109 by the tribal chairman, Water & Energy Team and the tribal council; (3) it requires the tribal chairman to report the Hopi Tribal Council’s rejection of Senate Bill 2109 to Senator Jon Kyl, to the Congress, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and to the Department of Interior; (4) it requires that, if another water rights agreement comes before the tribe, that it will only be decided on by members of the Hopi Tribe through a voter referendum (not the tribal council) after a full and open consultation with and through participation of the villages and tribal members. The council vote also effectively killed the Agreement-in-Principle because without Senate Bill 2109, there is no Agreement-in-Principle.

Not one village, not one tribal member, and not one traditional leader supported Senate Bill 2109. Villages and traditional leaders provided written testimonies, in the form of letters, proclamations and resolutions, all opposing the Kyl/McCain bill. But despite the resounding opposition by the Hopi and Tewa people, there were four votes in opposition to Action Item H-065-2012, most notably by all three representatives from Sipaulovi.

The day did not start without controversy. First, tribal chairman Shingoitewa and Sipaulovi representative George Mase tried to surprise those in attendance by bringing George Mase’s Action Item, No. H-053-2012, to the council floor. But thanks to an objection raised by Kykotsmovi Village Representative Nada Talayumptewa and others, the matter was stopped. Action Item H-053-2012 proposes to endorse Senate Bill 2109.

Next, our request to hold the council meeting in larger facilities was not honored by Shingoitewa, but thanks to former vice chairman Qötsaquahu’s persistence, we forced a vote. After a unanimous vote, we moved the meeting to Hotevilla. Once we convened at Hotevilla, there was yet another attempt by Shingoitewa to exclude the news media. The news media was previously excluded by Shingoitewa in the morning session in council chambers. And again, at the insistence of Qötsaquahu, a vote was taken and the majority vote allowed the news media to stay. But Shingoitewa demanded there will be no recording of the proceedings.

At the outset of the meeting, we insisted that Shingoitewa and the council not control our presentations by limiting what we say and by limiting how long we take to make our presentations. But throughout the entire day, Shingoitewa consistently tried to limit and control our presentations. Because of his constant interruptions and time remaining in the day, many people who traveled from far away and took the time to speak, were not able to address the council. For this, I apologize to these people.

After the presentations, Vice Chairman Honanie made the motion, seconded by Rebecca Masayesva, to approve Action Item H-065-2012. It passed by a vote of 11 to 4. But after the meeting, Hopi chairman Shingoitewa was quoted as saying to the news media, “The tribe will continue water settlement talks with the Navajo Nation, and other industrial users including Peabody Coal and the Navajo Generating Station.” But passage of Action Item H-065-2012 is very specific in prohibiting Shingoitewa, the Water & Energy Team, and the Hopi Tribal Council from any further negotiations of Senate Bill 2109. This statement by Shingoitewa demonstrates his deliberate intention to disregard the voice of the people and would violate the new tribal law passed this day by the Hopi Tribal Council. If he does not abide by the mandate of the villages, traditional leaders and tribal members, and the tribal council, then it would constitute a direct violation of the tribal constitution.

Passage of our action item would now deem George Mase’s Action Item, H-053-2012, a moot issue. But Shingoitewa and Mase are intent on bringing this action item before the tribal council later this month. We encourage you to impose on your council representatives to require George Mase to withdraw his action item. We also encourage everyone to show up at the council chambers when this action item will be discussed and object to the council to act on this action item. Remember this right belongs to the villages, not the tribal council.

In closing, I want to express my deepest, heartfelt appreciation to everyone who participated in this very important issue. This includes all village governments and village leaders who took a stand by issuing proclamations, resolutions, letters; all traditional leaders who issued proclamations, the veterans, allottees, tribal members, and many more. In particular, I want to thank former tribal chairmen and vice chairmen who took personal responsibility to sign the action item and made very compelling arguments to the tribal council. We appreciate the Village of Hotevilla for offering their facility for the meeting. And finally, special appreciation goes to members of the tribal council who voted to support our action item. Your participation and stance against the dangerous Kyl/McCain bill will go down in the annals of our history.

Kwak’wha; Pai’lolmani, 

Benjamin H. Nuvamsa

Shungopavi Village, Bear Clan 

Former Hopi Tribal Chairman 

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