By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Although no one knows the exact amount, the legal fight has cost millions of dollars, a large chunk of which has been underwritten by taxpayers. In 1985 Congress agreed to give each tribe $160,000 a year to wage the legal fight, in addition to other money the tribes had already received.
Navajo spokesman Beyal estimates that his tribe is spending $1 million a year on the suit, and claims the Hopis are spending about the same. Hopi attorney Scarboro won't say how much his side has spent, and Hopi tribal leaders didn't want to talk about it.
Tribal members and observers wonder why the dispute could not have been resolved more quickly. Couldn't the tribes cut a deal? If not, why didn't Congress, the body whose ambiguous legislation spawned the dispute, step in and correct it?
The Navajos point out that, in 1986, they did offer to settle the lawsuit, giving the Hopis more land than it appears Carroll will, and throwing in some royalties from coal mining to boot.
"In retrospect, our offer would have given them more than twice as much acreage as the court has determined they might be entitled to," says Beyal. "We gave them a very lucrative offer."
The Hopis, Beyal says, replied that their chances would be better in court and turned the offer down. Hopi leaders did not want to talk about the lawsuit further.
In Congress, too, attempts to resolve the dispute floundered over the years. "It seems like every other year there was a new piece of legislation," says one longtime observer of the dispute.
A large part of Congress' inability to act was the continuing controversy surrounding its 1974 decision to partition the Hopi reservation. That legislation led to thousands of relocations--most moving Navajos off of Hopi land--and generated waves of bad publicity. To this day, the relocation program has not been finished, as remaining Navajo families fight to stay on lands in the 1882 reservation area.
When questions about the 1934 Navajo land arose, lawmakers took an all-or-nothing approach, says Dan Lewis, a minority staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. Legislators wanted a bill that also addressed the 1882 executive order.
"The thought was if they were going to settle it, they were going to settle it in a comprehensive way," he says. But given the myriad sensitive issues involved in the two cases, no legislative agreement was ever reached.
Time and time again, legislators would insist that the tribes agree on boundaries, which Congress could then enact, says the observer, who wanted his name kept out of the ongoing battle. Because the tribes could not agree, he says, Congress was unwilling to designate boundary lines of its own.
Some of those most affected by the dispute blame lawmakers for its protracted life. Doc Scott, the Navajo from Middle Mesa, says he believes Congress and the federal government simply ducked their responsibilities and set the tribes against each other.
"It's not the Hopi. It's not the Navajo. It's somebody else holding our heads and knocking them together," he says.
By default the time-consuming and laborious legal process was the only way left to resolve the question.
"First and foremost, the government has been very, very successful in pitting the tribes against each other," says attorney Lee Phillips. "It's sort of paralyzed the tribes."
Left behind is a legacy of contention both tribes may be hard-pressed to erase.
Younger members of each tribe have lived their whole lives viewing their neighbors as enemies in a land dispute. "Clearly there is more animosity among the younger ones than the older ones," says Phillips, whose work brings him in contact with both tribes. "Most of the younger people have never had [any] kind of positive relationship with the other side because the past 20 years has been building a Berlin Wall out there."
Northeast of Tuba City there is a small reservoir formed by a low stone dam. Its fate after the lawsuit remains unclear, although it is used primarily by the Hopis to water fields down below.
Downstream from the dam is an area of several hundred acres where tall cottonwood trees have grown, apparently nurtured by the water seeping from the reservoir. The shaded area with rutted dirt roads has been used as a park for years by both tribes. At July's hearing, Carroll instructed attorneys for both sides to give him their specific recommendations on what should be done with this unique parcel of land. Then, with a trace of a smile, he proffered his own suggestion. "What about a park?" he queried. "The Carroll Memorial Park." Given the case's legacy, he chided, "everyone could go there and have fights."
TORCHING THE TWANG K.D. LANG WAS ALMOST... v8-12-92