Navajo-Hopi Lande Dispute
When first considering the Navajo-Hopi land dispute as a topic of research, I anticipated a relatively light research paper discussing the local skirmishes between the two tribes. However, my research has yielded innumerable volumes of facts, figures and varying viewpoints on a struggle that has dominated the two tribes for over 100 years. The story is an ever-changing one, evolving from local conflict to forcible relocation to big business interests. The incredible breadth of the dispute's history makes it impossible to objectively cover the entire progression from all viewpoints. I will therefore focus on current issues - and their historical causes - facing the two tribes as they mutually approach a "common ground" on problems now facing both sides. I will also offer my own insight on the current state of affairs and the possible resolution to the dilemma plaguing 5 generations.
The recent history of the land dispute has its origins in 1882 when President Chester A. Arthur issued an executive order creating the ̃3.5 million acre Hopi reservation; one degree latitude by one degree longitude, hence its original square shape. The executive order was intended to alleviate local land conflicts among the tribes and to establish a protected homeland for the Hopi. Instead, it effectively set the stage for a convoluted century-long dispute.
From 1882 on, no real problems occurred until one of the world's densest deposits of accessible coal - representing about $10 billion in revenue - was discovered in the 1950s beneath land occupied by both tribes (Wood 1999), an area later established as the "joint-use area" (JUA) in 1962. While the JUA existed in relative peace, the technical problem of land usage rights was becoming more apparent to politicians and big business interests. Only one year after the coal's discovery, Hopi Tribal Council representative - and attorney for Peabody Coal, the nation's largest coal company - John Boyden began petitioning the Secretary of the Interior to partition the JUA.
The land was officially partitioned in 1974 by mandate of P.L. 93-531 - also known as the "Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974" - without the input or consent of those from both tribes actually occupying the land in question. The partition equally divided the JUA into the Navajo Partitioned Lands (NPL) and the Hopi Partitioned Lands (HPL). About 12,000 Navajo were stranded on newly declared Hopi land and, likewise, about 300 Hopi families found themselves on Navajo land. Many hold the belief that government-sponsored and styled tribal council and influential energy interests contrived the JUA dispute to promote congressional action. The US has subsequently spent over $400 million to relocate the families to tract housing in nearby cities.
The disproportionate amount of Navajo forced to relocate heightened age-old anxieties between the Navajo and Hopi. The Navajo are still at the center of...