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Arizona's San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe may lastly get its personal homeland

3 min read

For greater than 160 years, the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe has
shared land with the Navajo Nation, and for the previous 23 years it has had
a treaty pending that might give them their very own lands.

It’s long gone time for Congress to ratify the treaty in order that San
Juan Southern Paiute tribal members are now not handled like strangers
of their ancestral homeland, tribal President Johnny Lehi Jr. testified

“We’re a small authorities. We do have our personal council, we do have our
management.” Lehi mentioned. “We’d like this treaty land to make us stronger
in our personal self-governance.”

He was testifying at a Home Pure Assets subcommittee listening to
in assist of a invoice that might approve the treaty and at last grant
5,400 acres of Navajo Reservation land and accompanying water rights to
the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.

Rep. Eli Crane, R-Oro Valley, who sponsored the invoice, mentioned it’s the
solely federally acknowledged tribe in Arizona with out its personal reservation.

“We owe them a chance to dwell freely within the land they name
their very own, like the remainder of us do,” Crane mentioned at Wednesday’s listening to of
a Home Pure Assets subcommittee.

Crane, a freshman, mentioned the invoice was the primary piece of laws
he launched after being elected final yr. He referred to as it a commonsense
answer that respects tribal governance and the desire of the individuals, and
mentioned Congress shouldn’t stand in the way in which of self-governance.

The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribal Homelands Act
of 2023 is co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Bullhead Metropolis, Democratic
Reps. Greg Stanton and Ruben Gallego, each of Phoenix, and Rep. Ryan
Zinke, R-Mont. It has the assist of each the Inside Division and the Navajo Nation.

“I’m a proud consultant of over half the tribes in Arizona,”
Crane mentioned. “They’re nice companions in preserving American historical past and
tradition and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe isn’t any completely different. Different
than the truth that they don’t have their very own land but.”

Though they’ve lengthy shared land with the Navajo Nation, the
San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe solely acquired federal recognition in
1989. That recognition, nevertheless, allowed it to intervene in a authorized dispute between the Hopi and Navajo tribes over possession of lands in northeast Arizona.

In 1992, a federal courtroom decided that the San Juan Southern Paiute
and the Navajo collectively held curiosity in 26,000 acres of land. After the
Paiute appealed that ruling, the 2 tribes started negotiating a
settlement that led in 2000 to a treaty settlement.

Lehi mentioned his grandmother, Mabel Lehi, helped negotiate that treaty.

“I spoke along with her earlier than I got here out right here, and he or she’s very proud that
it’s gone this far. And he or she needs to see this treaty ratified earlier than she
enters the following world,” Lehi mentioned of his grandmother, who he mentioned is
one of many few elders left within the tribe.

The settlement requires the Paiutes’ authorized enchantment to be dismissed
as soon as the treaty is ratified. Till then, the swimsuit stays pending and
the Paiute face the bureaucratic hurdles of being a authorities with out
having rights to its personal land.

“A number of doorways get shut as a result of now we have no treaty land,” Lehi mentioned. “And that’s the largest problem now we have.”

Lehi mentioned that then the tribe sought funding to get a bridge constructed
over a wash, for instance, the Arizona Division of Transportation would
not approve funding for the undertaking with out the treaty. With out an
unique reservation, Lehi mentioned most tribal members lack entry to
ample housing, operating water and electrical energy.

“We’re handled like strangers in our ancestral homeland, being denied entry to important companies and utilities,” he mentioned.

However Lehi mentioned the necessity for a reservation is about greater than bureaucratic and authorized challenges.

“A tribe with out land is a tribe with no future,” he mentioned. “Land is
what permits tribes to develop financial alternatives, generate income,
and proceed to cross down our lifestyle to our youngsters and our
youngsters’s youngsters.”

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