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Navajo Nation Council starts summer session


FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council started the summer session on July 19 with the return of the horse ride to the council chamber in Window Rock, Arizona.

Last year's ride was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The horse ride has participants travel by horseback from chapters to the session, a nod to how past leaders traveled to the tribal capital.

Delegate Mark Freeland said in comments before the session that he was with 26 riders who traveled from the Eastern Agency and reached Window Rock on July 18.

"I'm looking forward to a very productive week and we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially the ARPA coming up. A lot of people are counting on us in that chamber," he said.

ARPA is the American Rescue Plan Act, from which the tribe received approximately $1.86 billion in May. There is a bill on the proposed agenda to address the funding.

Delegates Wilson Stewart Jr., Eugene Tso and Rick Nez were other delegates who rode horses to the session, according to the Navajo Nation Council Facebook page.

The tribe's Supreme Court Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne talked about the significance of horses to the Navajo people, including owners valuing the animal's life before their own.

"When you were coming up this morning, I had tears. It was just so powerful to me," Jayne said adding she used to barrel race in rodeos.

The summer session is being held in hybrid format with some delegates attending in-person and others by telephone.

Delegates were discussing the proposed agenda as of deadline on July 19.

The proposed agenda listed 10 pieces of legislation, including a bill that proposes establishing a fund to house the amount the tribe received under the American Rescue Plan Act and any additional funding from federal recovery funds.

This fund would hold the amount as well as any investment earnings until tribal leaders approve plans to spend it.

The bill would also authorize reimbursements to the Síhasin Fund and the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance, which were used to help address the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, the bill would authorize replenishing funding to projects that reallocated money from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to fund the tribe's hardship assistance program.

Other bills on the proposed agenda call for using the Síhasin Fund for road projects in Hardrock Chapter and in Piñon Chapter, both in Arizona, and for the Western Navajo Pipeline project in the Antelope Canyon area in Arizona.

Another piece of legislation seeks to use the Síhasin Fund for a clinic expansion project by the Cañoncito Band of Navajo Health Center Inc. in Tóhajiilee.

A copy of the entire agenda is on the council's website. The session will stream online on YouTube under the Navajo Nation Council name and on the council's Facebook page.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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