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Navajo President Calls For National Recognition of Tribal Sovereignty

Navajo President Calls For National Recognition of Tribal Sovereignty
January 16
11:10 2018

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called for state and federal recognition of tribal sovereignty in addressing legislation that affect tribal nations.

“When it comes to bills and legislations, the legislature should always consider Native Americans,” Begaye said.

Begaye’s comments came January 10 during the 23rd Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day at the State Capitol in Phoenix. The other tribal leaders who took part in a State of the Tribal Nations address were Yavapai-Apache Nation Chairwoman Jane Russell-Winiecki and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel.

Bills and legislation can often pit tribes against each other, Begaye said. Tribes and the state need to think in terms of cooperation, he suggested.

“As tribes, we cannot have an ‘us versus them’ mentality. We need to remember that we are all a part of the great state of Arizona,” Begaye said.

Indian gaming adds about $100 million annually to state coffers, Begaye said. That money is put toward education, public safety, and trauma and emergency care.

According to a 2017 Arizona Department of Gaming report tribes brought in more than $89 million to the Arizona Benefits Fund.

“We are asking the state to support gaming exclusivity and modernizing Arizona Indian gaming, which will provide more revenue to the state,” Begaye said.

The Navajo president urged tribes to stand together in fighting for – and protecting – water rights and natural resources. They should also have plans in place for dealing with future droughts and water shortages, he added.

“We want to be engaged in decisions pertaining to our state,” Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “There’s a government-to-government relationship between the state and the tribe: when Navajo does great, Arizona does great. When Arizona does great, Navajo does great.”

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