Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, right, greets Bartholomew Stevens, the new director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Navajo Region.
Published August 23, 2018
WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye welcomed Bartholomew “Bart” Stevens, the new regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), to the Navajo Nation during a meeting Tuesday.
Stevens, who formerly served as a deputy director with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), received a letter reassigning him to the Navajo region. He started his new role on Monday and spent the first two days meeting leaders and learning about issues and priorities that are important to the Navajo people.
An enrolled member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Stevens replaces outgoing director Sharon Pinto, who was reassigned to the BIE. Stevens comes to the Navajo Nation as the Interior Department continues to explore a comprehensive plan to reorganize the BIA and reassign regional directors. The proposed reorganization calls for the Navajo Nation to be divided into two regions—each combined with smaller tribes.
“Our position is still that we oppose the reorganization,” President Begaye said. “Our concerns are and always have been keeping the Navajo region intact and the making sure services continue to be delivered to the Navajo people.”
During the meeting, President Begaye briefed Stevens about ongoing issues and presented a list of priorities. Critical issues include the planned closure of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation and the pending shutdown of Navajo Generating Station. Other priorities include the Land Buy-Back Program, which is returning to Navajo next year, and the Nation’s continuing efforts to bolster law enforcement forces and fund road maintenance efforts.
“One of the reasons we are opposing the reorganization of the BIA is that we don’t want to lose a director who has been with us for many years and built up relationships and expertise,” President Begaye said. “Now we’re looking at a transition period while the new director gets up to speed.”
Stevens, who on Monday met with Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates and other Navajo and BIA leaders, promised to hit the ground running.
“Nothing will come to a standstill,” he said. “My commitment is to the Navajo Nation. Your priorities will become my priorities. My goal is to meet your needs and to bring the projects that have already begun to fruition.”