On September 17, Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation president, put 373 acres near Winslow, Arizona into Navajo trust after stating, “with today’s signing of these documents, we are not just signing land deeds into trust, we are establishing a firm pathway for Navajo families to start a new life after being relocated.”
The area oft-referred to as the Turquoise Ranch was purchased by the Navajo Nation for $1.5 million in 2011, and Shelly, on Monday, signed the General Warranty Deed, which places “four parcels of land to the United States Government to put into trust,” according to a Navajo Nation press release.
Signing on behalf of the U.S. Government was Sharon Pinto, Bureau of Indian Affair’s Navajo Regional Director, who accepted the land into trust.
Roman Bistui, the former Hopi Land Commission Director and current advisor for the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, said the land would more than likely be used to develop homes for relocatees stemming from the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act. More than 4,000 families have been relocated and decedents are entitled to homes under the act.
The act created an artificial boundary, dividing an area of 1.8 million acres that was jointly owned Navajo-Hopi land located in Northern Arizona according to culturalsurvival.org. Sen. Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs said the act was a “measure to settle a century-old land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes in Northwest Arizona.”
Bistui stated that there are currently two water wells on the land, but a master land use plan would need to be composed before usage of the area becomes final.
Shelly, according to the release, said developing the land would create jobs.
“We now have the capability to manage this land as our own. We can build new homes for our people. And with construction of homes, we will create jobs for our local people,” Shelly said at the ceremony.
Benefits of having Navajo families living close to the reservation extend further than just local jobs into preserving the Navajo culture and language as Shelly addressed at the signing ceremony.
“It is important to have our Navajo people in homes that are on our reservation. Within our Navajo boundaries, our culture is the strongest. Our children have a better chance at learning their language and culture when they live within our boundaries. Our children are our greatest resource,” President Shelly added.