WASHINGTON – Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren concluded an additional two days here today, becoming acquainted and establishing new relationships with members of Congress and key individuals from federal agencies.
The president and NTUA General Manager Walter Haase met with Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Administrator Andy Berke where he focused on finding solutions to maximize every dollar under the Inflation Reduction Act and bi-partisan Infrastructure law.
The president and Haase highlighted the progress being made with funding provided under the American Rescue Plan Act. It includes improvements from the Light Up Navajo initiative.
The President met with the American Public Power Association board of directors. NTUA is a member of the association.
APPA represents not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that powers 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. It serves public power utilities before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that its member utilities serve, and the 96,000 people they employ.
NTUA collaborates with APPA to assist in efforts to provide electricity to the Navajo people through the Light Up Navajo Initiative.
The president met with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to discuss ways for the Navajo Nation to expand and advance its clean and renewable energy initiatives to supplement revenue lost from the closure of Mohave Power Station and Black Mesa Mine in 2005 and the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine in 2019.
The congresswoman serves on the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. President Nygren reiterated the need for congressional assistance and responsibility to clean up and remediate more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.
From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Tribe.
Hundreds of Navajos worked in the mines, living and raising families close to them. Although the mines are now closed, uranium contamination remains, and homes and water sources show elevated levels of radiation.
Resulting health problems affecting miners and their families include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.
The president met with Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He said there is a need to extend the timeline of the emergency rental assistance program provided under the American Rescue Plan. He recommended scheduling a hearing on public safety to address numerous shortcomings and underfunding of tribal justice programs.
President Nygren met with Sen. Brain Schatz, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He raised the same topics that he had with Sen. Smith but emphasized the need to host a field hearing on the Office of Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation.
The president requested that the committee advocate for the appointment of an ONHIR commissioner by the White House. The office, based in Flagstaff, Ariz., began as a commission as a result of the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act of 1974. The position of a commissioner has been vacant for nearly 30 years. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
He said a field hearing would greatly assist in reviewing the activities of the ONHIR program. Several concerns have been raised by Navajo relocatees from Hopi Partitioned Land and by Navajo Hopi Land Commission.
This evening, the president attended a gathering hosted by Native Americans in Philanthropy at the National Indian Gaming Association building.
NAP strives to advance responsible and responsive investments in Native communities through education and advocacy within the philanthropic sector.
NAP is developing a Native Youth Grantmakers program designed for community-connected, Indigenous youths aged 18-24. The program is designed to help youth to grow leadership skills, advocate for Native youth and youth programs, and learn more about philanthropy.
The program is designed to support emerging Native leaders and to build a community of grantmakers. NAP works with Youth Grantmakers to cultivate and nurture strengths and connect them to key Indigenous leaders in philanthropy.