Relocation office one step closer to termination
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK – As expected, the U. S. Senate last week approved legislation to close the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation by Sept. 30, 2008.

Sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the bill was opposed by Navajo leaders who argue that the program is still needed to handle continuing problems of Navajos displaced by the land dispute.

But aides to McCain said Wednesday that the senator felt the cost of continuing the office – several hundred thousand dollars a year – was not justified with the number of unresolved relocation cases winding down.

Roman Bitsuie, executive director of the tribe’s Navajo/Hopi Land Commission disputed that picture, saying the work of the relocation office is not nearly over.

McCain, he said, “did not address our principal concerns regarding mitigation of the terrible effect of relocation program and the rehabilitation of the Bennett Freeze area.”

The matter is still before the U.S. House of Representatives and Bitsuie is hoping the Navajos have better luck making members of Congress understand the effect of closing the office would have.

The Navajo position is that Congress, as a whole, has never had a clear understanding of the effects of relocation on the Navajo people or how much it would cost the federal government.

“We have loads of anecdotal information that tells us many relocated families have been traumatized and suffer from a much higher incidence of alcoholism, poverty, suicide, depression, and physical illnesses than the rest of the local population,” Bitsuie said.

Navajo officials have been trying, without success, since 1980 to get Congress to appropriate money to help pay for the after effects of the relocation. While the funds have been provided for economic development efforts to create jobs, little or no money was provided for other services.

Bitsuie said this has resulted in more financial burdens for the tribe and surrounding communities.

When McCain brought up his proposal to shut down the relocation office, the tribe urged that it be postponed until an independent study was done to evaluate the program’s successes and failures.

If such a review is not done, said Bitsuie, the federal government is doomed to “repeat its earlier mistakes.”

But McCain dismissed this, saying that closing the relocation office doesn’t mean that federal government is shutting down all of its efforts in this area. Once the relocation office is closed, its functions will be shifted to another office in Washington, D.C. he said.




originally found in the hard copy of the Navajo Times, 11 May 2006




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posted 20 may 2006 by louve14