Navajo Nation Council Delegates watch Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs give a speech on the council floor during the 25th Navajo Nation Council Summer Session in Window Rock, Arizona, on July 17, 2023. (Photo by Shondiin Silversmith / Arizona Mirror)
Katie Hobbs made history on Monday, becoming the first sitting Arizona governor to address the Navajo Nation Council, congratulating the council on its 100 years as a governing body and discussing her office’s commitment to Arizona’s tribal nations.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley welcomed Hobbs on the first day of the council’s summer session to recognize the historic 100th anniversary.
“On this historic day, Governor Katie Hobbs honored the Council by attending the summer session and engaging with our leaders on issues that impact the lives of our people,” Curley said, adding that Hobbs’ visit gives tribal leaders hope for future partnerships and support on critical issues for the Navajo Nation.
Hobbs, herself a former state legislator, said she has visited with Navajo tribal leaders individually but has never gotten to address the Navajo Nation Council in Window Rock before. As part of her speech, she reiterated her commitment to tribal nations across Arizona and highlighted the work her office has done since January.
“I’ve made it a priority to engage with Indigenous communities because, for too long, you have been left without a seat at the table,” Hobbs said, and the only way to build an Arizona for everyone is by “creating meaningful partnerships with the First Peoples of this land, and working together on the issues that matter to tribes and Arizona as a whole.”
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Hobbs said that her office has connected with Indigenous communities across Arizona because she tripled the staff in the governor’s tribal relations office and developed a Northern Arizona support team to serve constituents, tribes, and local agencies.
“We are ready to roll up our sleeves and partner with you to tackle the tough challenges we’re facing together,” Hobbs said. “That starts with working to right a wrong that has deeply affected tribes and tribal families across the state.”
During the session, Navajo Nation Council delegates discussed public safety, first responder substations, cross-commissioning of Arizona police officers, school safety, water rights in Arizona, emergency response assistance for natural disasters, remediation of abandoned uranium mines, broadband expansion for education and voting rights.
“We need the state to come to the table to partner with the Navajo Nation to help support projects that will improve communities,” Curley said. “Today, Governor Hobbs told us that she’ll continue to work directly with the Navajo Nation and other tribal nations to bring progress to the issues we presented.”
Hobbs highlighted her administration’s work to shut down fraudulent rehabilitation homes targeting Indigenous people.
“We are committed to rooting out these bad actors and protecting indigenous people from this crisis,” Hobbs said. In May, Hobbs announced the closure of 1,000 fraudulent rehabilitation homes and partnered with the Navajo Nation to provide additional resources and collaboration through Operation Rainbow Bridge.
Hobbs also spoke about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People crisis, which has gone unaddressed and ignored for years, inaction that spurred her team to consult with Indigenous community leaders to establish a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Task Force as a way to ensure that action is taken.
Another key challenge Hobbs addressed was protecting natural resources throughout Arizona, including water access.
“No one knows the importance of this precious resource better than the First Peoples of this land,” Hobbs said. “I believe in responsible water management for our state.”
Hobbs said that is why she created the Water Policy Council, which includes tribal voices at the table to help develop policy solutions for the state.
“I recognize that Indigenous peoples are stewards of our natural resources,” she added.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Casey Allen Johnson asked Hobbs how she intended to support the tribes on the water rights adjudication with Arizona.
“Water is life, and we need water on the Navajo Nation,” Johnson said.
Johnson shared with Hobbs how a family living in the Coal Mine area on the Navajo Nation is capped at 500 gallons a week, which includes water for home and personal use and tending to their livestock.
“That is a family of seven, and they can only flush their toilet twice a day,” Johnson said. “We really need help with water infrastructure. We need help with our rights to our water.”
On average, Arizona residents who do not live on tribal land use about 146 gallons per day, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources. That equals 1,022 gallons per week.
Hobbs said she is committed to re-engaging with the Navajo Nation on their water rights and the ongoing settlement discussion.
“I know that they have been stalled for some time,” Hobbs said, adding that she’s committed to engaging from the state level with the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Shawna Ann Claw asked how the Governor’s Office plans to support veteran’s programs and how they can help ensure resources are deployed to communities experiencing natural disasters.
Hobbs said that her office makes an effort to include tribal voices at every level of government, this includes the Arizona Veterans Affairs Department.
Hobbs said she understands that Indigenous people serve at a higher rate than any other population, which is why Arizona wants to make sure that the services Indigenous veterans are entitled to are granted.
“We’re working on enhancing the tribal liaison positions at every state agency to make sure that’s happening,” Hobbs said.
In terms of natural disasters, Hobbs said that the state will be able to provide support where they are able to and the Navajo Nation should reach out when needed.
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