Navajo Nation

Colorado delegation, EPA administrator to tour Gold King Mine and host town hall Friday

DURANGO, Colo. – Several of Colorado’s top politicians will hold a joint town hall meeting Friday afternoon directly after they tour the Gold King Mine with Environmental Protection Agency staffers, including the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt.

Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Scott Tipton and Durango Mayor Dick White will be among those attending the tour and subsequent town hall meeting, which will come a day before the two-year anniversary of the mine spill. Continue reading

FBI: Man accused of abducting stepsons captured Sunday; no decision yet on charges

New Mexico State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigations agents found the man accused of abducting his two young stepsonssometime Sunday, the FBI Phoenix office announced Monday.

The FBI did not say where 26-year-old Clinton Johnson was found, but did say it has yet to determine if he will face criminal charges.

Johnson is accused of taking his two stepsons from a campground in Wheatfields Lake, Arizona sometime Saturday. The boys were found on the side of the road just before noon Sunday in Manuelito Canyon, west of Gallup.

The boys were unharmed. Johnson allegedly fled on foot after dropping the boys off.

An Amber Alert for the two boys was first issued in Utah around 1 a.m. Sunday. The New Mexico Amber Alert was sent out around 10 a.m.

The FBI says the investigation into the case continues.

FBI: Kidnapped child found dead in Shiprock; suspected abductor arrested

SAN JUAN COUNTY, N.M. – The FBI arrested a man Tuesday evening in connection to the abduction and death of an 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped in San Juan County Monday afternoon and whose body was found Tuesday morning.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says Ashlynne Mike’s body was located about 6 miles south of the Shiprock monument around 11:30 a.m. Continue reading

Gov. Martinez again vetoes money meant for Gallup Detox Center

For the third time in four years, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed money meant specifically to help keep the doors of the Gallup Detox Center – McKinley County’s only detox and shelter program – open and helping the area’s people with alcoholism and substance abuse issues.

Read’s special report on the Gallup Detox Center and the cyclical money problem it faces.

Monday, Gov. Martinez announced she had signed the $6.2 billion budget passed by the state legislature. She line-item vetoed many portions of the budget, but one of those vetoes was $200,000 put specifically into the budget for the Gallup Detox Center, also known as the Na’Nizhoozhi Center, Inc. (NCI). Continue reading

Gallup: A crisis in the cold

Gallup: A Crisis in the Cold from Blair Miller on Vimeo.

GALLUP, NM — Two U.S. senators are calling what is happening along Historic Route 66 in the sprawling high desert of western New Mexico a “public health crisis.”

People are coming weekly in throngs from the vast expanses of Native American land reserves surrounding the city of Gallup – a quiet town along Interstate 40 often used as a stopover for travelers headed west – to work, hang out and drink alcohol.

But many of them never make it back to where they came from.

Over the past two winters, 24 people have died outside in the cold. Their causes of death range from hypothermia to alcohol poisoning and natural causes, but people in and around the city often group the deaths together and refer to them as being caused by “exposure.”

All of the people who died were Native American. Continue reading

In tight vote, Navajo voters approve language fluency requirement changes

Navajo Nation voters on Tuesday approved a change to the election code that would give the Navajo people the say over whether or not candidates for official offices speak and understand the language well enough to hold office.

The vote was tight, with 13,017 voting to change the language requirements and 11,778 voting to keep them the same.

Current Navajo law says candidates for the Nation’s highest offices, including president and vice president, must speak fluent Navajo.

The language requirement was the crux of an argument against former Navajo presidential candidate Chris Deschene, who was barred from running for office in the official presidential election because he was deemed not-fluent in Navajo despite winning the presidential primary election.

The new rules will go into effect starting with the 2018 election.

Lawmakers approved the vote after changes to the fluency requirement failed through other legislation.

More than 122,000 Navajos were registered to vote Tuesday, but only 21 percent of them voted.

Navajo President, Speaker: Supreme Court ‘overstepping authority’ by ordering April election

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates issued a statement late Tuesday condemning the Navajo Nation Supreme Court’s order requiring the presidential election to be held April 21 and say the court is “overstepping its authority” and “displays a lack of respect for the authorities of [the] Nation’s three-branch government,” further exposing the rift between different factions of the Navajo government.

The Supreme Court on March 20 called for the election to take place April 21 and that the Acting Controller transfer $317,000 to the Navajo Election Administration for the election. Continue reading

Navajo Supreme Court: Hold elections for president, election supervisors ASAP; planned primary cancelled

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Navajo Election Administration to hold a presidential general election “as soon as possible” with Joe Shirley, Jr. and Russell Begaye as the candidates. It also ordered the Election Administration to hold elections for the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors whose seats were invalidated in an Oct. 31 decision, but stopped at holding them in contempt of court.

The orders came in the invalidations of two Navajo Nation Council resolutions – CD-80-14 and CD-81-14 – the first of which called for a primary election for presidential candidates in June and a subsequent special general election in August.

The second resolution that was invalidated in Friday’s decision pardoned and reinstated the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors who were found in contempt in the October decision because they refused to follow through with a November presidential election.

Both resolutions came on the heels of the postponed Navajo presidential election, which were postponed mostly due to the fact that there was major disagreements between different factions of the Navajo government and people over the issue of language fluency and candidate Chris Deschene’s ability to fluently speak the language.

Deschene and Shirley Jr. were first and second the original primary in August and were thus slated as the two November candidates.

Dale Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne, both of whom had been presidential candidates, had filed a motion to hold Deschene, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and the Navajo Election Administration in contempt of court in October.

The two men are the ones who originally started the petition against Deschene over fluency requirements.

Friday’s decision denied Tsosie and Whitethorne’s petition to hold council delegate and election officials in contempt, but they will not be allowed to return, hence the upcoming election for the board.

Prior to the Oct. 31 decision, the Navajo Nation Election Board Commissioner, Wallace Charley, told KOB that the board would go to jail before it removes Chris Deschene from the presidential ballot for the upcoming election.

“The Navajo are citizens of the United States; there is a constitution that gives the principle that people have a right to vote, and their votes cannot be denied,” Charley told KOB. “So based on that, the Navajo Board of Elections Supervisors will not back off on this principle. Whether that means going to jail – fine. We’ll go to jail and see what comes out of this.”

The Supreme Court also requested Friday the Speaker of the Council convene a special session for the council to talk about how to fund the election.

Navajo Council approves legislation to hold special presidential run-off, general elections next summer

The Navajo Nation Council on Wednesday approved a special run-off election to be followed by a general election, scheduled for next summer, to determine who will be the new president and vice president of the Navajo Nation, according to the Navajo Times.

The council voted 11-1, with Charles Damon II as the sole vote against, to hold the run-off election on June 2, 2015. All 17 of the original candidates who ran in this year’s primary would be qualified to be in the run-off election, including embattled candidate Chris Deschene.

Those 17 candidates will have their $1500 filing fee waived; new candidates will still have to pay it.

The special general election would then take place on August 4, and the new president will be sworn in in September if all goes according to plan.

President Ben Shelly has ten calendar days to approve the motion. He would also have to approve another piece of legislation passed by the council Wednesday that seeks to pardon and reinstate the nine members of the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors who were removed from their positions after being found in contempt of court by the Navajo Supreme Court earlier this year.

The elections bill would also provide around $317,000 to the Election Administration to fund the special elections.

Tuesday, Deschene filed a motion with the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals to void the order that disqualified him from being president in the first place.