Navajo UT Commission discusses goods, hunting

Distribution of goods, hunting agreements, and support of special counsel to the Utah Governor were all items discussed at the February 9 meeting of the Navajo Utah Commission.

Members of the commission received a report from Pearl Yellowman, of the Navajo Nation Division of Community Development.

Yellowman explained that $90 million of funding was allocated to the 110 chapters on the Navajo Nation. Of that, $60 million was given to hardship funds and just less than $30 million was procured for essential items such as water, food, sanitation items, personal protective equipment, blankets, and other items.

In total, about 9,000 pallets worth of goods, equivalent to more than 450 semi-truck loads were purchased and are in the process of being distributed, with the division averaging about 320 outbound pallets a day.

As of the February 9 meeting, the Division of Community Development had delivered more than 650 pallets of goods to chapters that serve Diné people living in Utah. The division thanked the Utah Division of Emergency Management for their assistance in distribution.

The pallets sent to chapters are based on requests made by chapters. Distribution of the goods is up to the chapters, who were encouraged to make a chapter distribution plan.

Red Mesa Chapter President Herman Farley said while they are grateful for the goods, they have had a tough time unloading the pallets off the semi without a pallet jack. Farley said they put in a budget request for the much-needed jack.

At the meeting, the commission also discussed the hunting agreement between the Nation and the State of Utah. The hunting agreement has roots in the Navajo Treaty of 1868, which states, “[the tribe] retain[s] the right to hunt on any unoccupied lands contiguous to their reservation, so long as the large game may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase.”

The agreement between the Navajo Nation and the State of Utah was last negotiated in 2001.

The agreement defines the Nation’s contiguous (aboriginal) lands in Utah north of the reservation and provides defined hunting opportunities for its members on those lands, consistent with state regulations.

Currently, 270 deer tags are reserved to be sold each year to Utah members of the Navajo Nation. Tags are sold at a cost of $40 each. A Utah hunting license must also be purchased at a cost of $34. Those permits have consistently sold out over the past several years.

At the February 9 meeting, the commission heard from Brian Curley-Chambers of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. The department recently assigned Curley-Chambers to the issue. He has been working with contacts with the Utah Governor’s office, including Utah Division of Indian Affairs director Michael Jansen and special counsel Larry Echohawk.

Three major changes are proposed for the agreement, with one to increase hunting grounds in the State of Utah.

Mexican Water chapter president Curtis Yanito stated that pre-1800’s the Diné use to hunt in the Bears Ears region and past it all the way into the Moab area and up to Green River. Yanito said there are lodges still in that area and across much of Utah.

Another proposed major change would be for Utah to make accommodations for traditional hunting practices. That might entail cultural sensitivity training for Utah game wardens. The training could be patterned after training given to Navajo Nation game wardens.

An example of traditional Diné hunting practices includes leaving the head of an animal taken near the site of the kill. Technology could help with the collection of those heads, with geodata from photos on smartphones to help hunters or Utah game wardens retrieve the heads.

Also discussed at the meeting is what game is allowed to be taken. Currently, the agreement allows for deer and elk. Yanito asked if it were possible to get tags for buffalo and bighorn sheep, as they are used in ceremonies.

Curley-Chambers said he would look into that possibility he also suggested that the number of permits issued to Utah Navajo tribal members be decided annually rather than the current set number.

A previous suggestion that the permits be made free was not discussed at the February 9 meeting.

The commission also received and received an update about the peacemaking program at the Aneth Courthouse and an update on state legislation from Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Dustin Jansen.

The commission also passed one resolution and tabled another. The commission unanimously passed a resolution in favor of Utah Governor Spencer Cox keeping Larry Echohawk as special counsel to the governor, especially relating to tribal affairs.

Another resolution presented to the commission would give support to an effort by State Representative Phil Lyman, who is sponsoring legislation to create a Bears Ears National Monument Visitor Center.

The Navajo Utah Commission voted to table the item until they had more details on the proposal.

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