WASHINGTON, DC – Today Navajo Nation President Nygren delivered an impassioned testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, emphasizing the importance of tribal sovereignty, economic survival, and the protection of cultural heritage sites. The testimony was in support of H.R. 4374, the “Energy Opportunities for All Act,” introduced by Representative Eli Crane of Arizona, in response to the recently imposed Public Land Order 7923 by Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.
In his testimony, President Nygren underscored the importance of the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty, focusing on the Department of Interior’s recent actions dismissing the Navajo Nation’s rights as a sovereign nation. “The [Navajo Council] and I are unified in our opposition to the 10-mile buffer. The withdrawal was done without meaningful consultation and fails to honor the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty. “
The President firmly argued that the Navajo Nation has a centuries-old connection to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park. President Nygren contended that it is both historically inaccurate and offensive to suggest that the federal government can better protect Chaco Canyon than the Navajo Nation, its true custodians.
“We have preserved and protected Chaco Canyon since our ancestors’ time, well before the park was created and we will continue doing so forever.”
President Nygren also highlighted the economic impact of Public Land Order 7923 on the Navajo allotment owners, for whom oil and gas royalties are a critical source of income. President Nygren’s administration continues to vigorously fight against poverty. The recent restrictions threaten to deepen the economic hardships for Navajo allottees who depend on these royalties. “Having grown up with very little, I seek to maximize economic opportunities and be a voice for our most vulnerable.“
While the Navajo Nation supports the protection of Chaco Canyon, President Nygren emphasized the need for balance. The Nation is committed to finding a feasible solution that safeguards the historic site without imposing undue financial strain on its people.
President Nygren pointed out that the Department of Interior did not conduct meaningful consultation with the Navajo Nation, despite its claims. The absence of cultural resources and interpreters during the consultation process suggested a ‘check in the box’ approach, which is unacceptable for substantive government-to-government dialogue. Meaningful consultation requires adhering to the Navajo concept of k’é, which emphasized the importance of a relationship in which both partied listen to each other, compromise, and work together.
After his testimony, President Nygren issued a call to action. “It is time the federal government recognizes and respects tribal sovereignty and engages in meaningful consultation with tribes. We are not just stakeholders; we are sovereign nations.”
The Navajo Nation continues to stand firm in its commitment to protect its cultural heritage, fight against poverty, and uphold tribal sovereignty. The Nation looks forward to working with Secretary Haaland and Congress to ensure that these priorities are recognized and respected.
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