US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell speaks to crowd in Window Rock – Photo Credit: Navajo Times
WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA — Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a historic multimillion-dollar trust settlement, the largest in United States history, at a commemorative signing ceremony with Navajo leaders and federal officials.
“Today, we gather as a Nation to celebrate the historic trust settlement agreement between the Navajo Nation and the U.S. government. The settlement of this claim is symbolic of the evolving relationship that the Navajo Nation has had with the federal government. For decades Native Nations have had an adversarial relationship with the U.S. Department of the Interior,” said President Shelly.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Sam Hirsch, acting attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resource Division, Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, other federal officials, Navajo Council Delegates, and the Navajo Trust Litigation Task force joined President Shelly at the ceremony.
The president and the secretary acknowledged that the settlement demonstrated resolving differences and working together for Navajos.
“This settlement reflects our continuing commitment to upholding the federal trust responsibility to Indian Country and to building strong, prosperous and resilient tribal communities,” said Secretary Jewell.
The president called on the Navajo people to provide input at town hall meetings scheduled to begin October 6 in Chinle, Arizona. The purpose of the town hall meetings is to gain guidance from the Navajo people on how to best utilize and wisely spend or invest the funds.
The president said the money from this settlement will provide the Navajo government with a wide range of choices on investment, but infrastructure and development will be a priority.
“This means that we are taking one small step towards self-sufficiency and away from dependence,” the president added.
He also underscored the need for the Navajo Nation to stand on its own and rely less on the federal government to provide for the people.
“It is important to note that a lot of work went into reaching this landmark agreement. The Navajo Nation worked for many years in long and tough negotiations to come to a resolution on this issue.”
President Shelly thanked President Obama and his administration for settling this long standing wrong to the Navajo Nation and for the president’s commitment to working with Indian country.
He also thanked the Trust Litigation Task Force for their guidance and leadership to resolving this issue.
“The next step following today’s signing ceremony is to hear from the Navajo people on how the settlement can be used. We urge the Navajo people to provide their input on this important issue that will effect generations to come,” said the president.