Press Release - NTIP Kick-off

Crystalyne Curley, Sr. Public Information Officer, The Navajo Nation
October 14, 2019

Navajo Nation Administration Supports Partnership to Create an Implementation Plan for Nine Chapter Communities

WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation President, Vice President, and Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office Executive Director Robert Black Jr. are pleased to announce the launch the Navajo Nation’s partnership with Native Builders LLC and Building Communities to address the conditions, infrastructure, development, and economics of nine Navajo chapter areas, including Bodaway-Gap, Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Coppermine, Kaibeto, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tonalea, and Tuba City. The nine communities are located in the area commonly known as the Former Bennett Freeze Area.

In 1966, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Commissioner Robert Bennett ceased the development of approximately 1.6 million acres of land that was in dispute by the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, which prohibited Navajo families from improving their homes or from constructing new homes in the area for nearly 50 years.

In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the “freeze” by signing into law Senate Bill 39. The Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act officially lifted the freeze on development in the area, allowing for residents to begin constructing and rehabilitating homes and facilities.

“As we move the Nation forward, we need to no longer refer to the nine communities as the ‘Former Bennett Freeze Ares’ due to the negative connotation associated with the former Commissioner Robert Bennett. We should not continue to use his name to represent our communities, but we should refer to these communities as an area of empowerment and great potential,” said the president of the Navajo Nation.

The president added, “This area has been over-studied and I think we all know what the problems are, but now is the time to create solutions and work together to improve our communities,” stated the president.

According to NHLCO Executive Director Robert Black, Jr., the partnership would allow the nine chapters to identify their strategies, initiatives, projects, and priorities to address in a detailed plan, known as the “Navajo Thaw Implementation Plan.” The investment plan will leverage the collective power and energy of the chapters to secure funding and development within the area, he added.

In January, the Navajo Nation Administration met the area residents during an open meeting and many shared concerns over homesite leases, housing, water and power lines, uranium contamination, emergency assistance for veterans, land boundaries, economic opportunities, and others.
“Many of the people of this area have lived in dilapidated homes with no electricity or running water, but yet they are resilient and continue to live good lives,” said the vice-president.

The “Navajo Thaw Implementation Plan” will begin with a two-day intensive planning session with each chapter and produce a chapter-specific implementation plan. A regional implementation plan is expected to be completed by March 2020.

For more information regarding the “Navajo Thaw Implementation Plan,” please visit the NTIP website.