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Paiute and Navajo Nation sign historic treaty

by Debra Moon

The Observer

On March 18th, at Hidden Springs Arizona, north of Tuba City, Johnny M. Lehi, Sr., President of the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, and Kelsey Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation, signed the first treaty that two Indian Tribes have signed with each other in 160 years. The dreams and efforts of Paiute Tribe members, Navajos living in the area, officials, and friends, came true on this sunny afternoon after nearly 20 years of effort and negotiation from persons on all sides of the issue. The treaty allows the Paiutes approximately 5,400 acres of land of their own. The land designated is in two parcels and is presently occupied by Paiute families.

The Paiute Tribe began their efforts to obtain the land in 1981, when they realized, through consultation with DNA-Peoples’ Legal Services attorneys, that their land was part of the Bennett Freeze area. As part of the dispute between the Navajo and Hopi Tribes, homes in this large portion of the western Navajo Reservation cannot engage in new construction, nor are they permitted water or electricity.

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