Questions and Answers
$8 billion of Stimulus Phase 3 is dedicated to Indian Country. The Navajo Nation is advocating to ensure that Navajo receives its fair share of these funds. The Navajo Thaw Support Team is connected with the Navajo Economic Stimulus Team to help ensure that the emerging funding appropriately benefits everyone.
The Regional Plan “Stimulus Edition” is targeting a future Stimulus Bill (perhaps late April or sometime in May 2020) for funding that would ultimately address the impacts of the Bennett Freeze and Forced Relocation.
Not necessarily. The methodology for the Regional Plan “Stimulus Edition” draws from historic studies and reports that make the comprehensive case for the need for funding.
Simultaneously, the planning process is collecting a sampling of projects that help to explain immediate “on the ground” improvements that could be made with Stimulus funding.
The goal is to receive the large-scale funding, and then convene the Navajo Thaw Roundtable to advise on the best utilization of such funding for all projects and major initiatives.
Once it became apparent that there would be a large-scale federal Stimulus response addressing the economic impacts related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Navajo Thaw Support Team re-focused the Regional Planning methodology to be responsive to current and future Stimulus funding.
A direct connection has been made between the poor living conditions caused by the Bennett Freeze and Forced Relocation and the significant health impact to the Navajo people. Past federal policies have created this situation where infrastructure for sanitation is limited and overcrowding is very prevalent. The inability to “wash your hands”(due to the lack of water infrastructure) and “socially distance” (due to overcrowding) have exacerbated the problem on Navajo.
We call the regional planning effort the Regional Plan “Stimulus Edition.”
No, the Navajo Thaw is not just a plan; it is the implementation of a four-year commitment to getting development projects completed. Economic development planning will take place as part of the implementation of the Navajo Thaw and will set the stage to prioritize projects to implement on an FBFA regional level. This is critical for securing federal funding to implement such projects.
The FBFA comprises all or parts of nine Navajo Chapters: Bodaway-Gap, Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Coppermine, Kaibeto, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tonalea and Tuba City.
Unlike past efforts, which were probably well intentioned, this is a commitment—a long-term commitment for over three years, and probably much more.
Navajo Nation leadership recognizes that the Freeze has had a terrible impact on the people of the area. Addressing a 40-50 year problem will take a decade or more to resolve. This effort is the first step.
The source of the Navajo Thaw funding stipulates that the money be used for expansion of economic development capacity, rather than for construction or maintenance activities.
Completing the Navajo Thaw work will open the door to additional funding and resources that can be used for housing improvements, infrastructure, road improvements, community facilities and job-creating projects.
No. Chapters exist for a reason, and this project will help Chapters more effectively help their people. In order to receive funding for the Navajo Thaw, the region has to work together more efficiently and effectively. Funding is less achievable for Chapters working independently.
Looking forward, the “Navajo Thaw region” serves as a pilot project to find new and better ways to support existing Chapters by working together as a team. The result should be more funding and benefit to each of the Chapters for priority projects.
We are adding two elements to the overall approach.
First, we are calling for the formation of the FBFA Roundtable. This will be comprised of leaders from throughout the FBFA that can speak on behalf of their respective Chapters and work together regionally.
Second, we are committed to bringing economic development professionals to the table to help the Chapters plan, and to help implement their projects. This will be a dedicated team of people who know how to support Chapters and regions, write grants, and manage projects.
A CLUP (a land-use plan) only addresses the question of where land should be developed, and defines which specific development purposes will be allowed for that land. A CLUP does not address broader economic questions, such as how to stimulate job growth, improve the standard of living, and consistently foster economic opportunity.
These are the things that Chapters will do to overcome the effects of the Bennett Freeze, and they require economic development—and the foundation of successful economic development is effective planning.
No. Participation in the Navajo Thaw implementation process is optional. To receive benefits from the overall initiative, however, Chapters will need to participate in the planning process. Participation by a Chapter allows funding and technical assistance to be channeled to it, to assist in overcoming the effects of the Bennett Freeze.
The story of the Bennett Freeze is a unique, national story. The Forced Navajo Relocation, the federal abuse of our natural resources and the moratorium on development all belong to a chapter of American history that has never been fully closed. We are not waiting for someone else to close that chapter.
Rather, by requesting and securing federal resources for the Navajo Thaw, we are taking action to see that this chapter does close positively.
Positive action is quicker and more effective than taking the “you owe us from past wrongs” approach, which has historically been very slow and ineffective. Our request of the federal government is not for a “hand out,” but rather for a “hand up” to implement the many projects and initiatives that will come from the Chapter-based and Regional planning effort.
All Navajo resources. It will be the responsibility of the consulting team to understand all of the needs of the FBFA, along with the financial, human and technical resources of the Navajo Nation (and federal agencies) needed to help solve the problem. Once potential Navajo resources are identified, Navajo Nation leadership will send a message to all divisions and departments to make supporting the FBFA a priority.
Any Chapter that is in the FBFA (either in whole or in part) is eligible to participate in the Chapter-based economic development strategic planning process that will lead to the Regional Plan. There may be some financial and technical resources derived from the NTIP that can only be directed to the people and locations within the FBFA boundaries. But, in general, all nine Chapters will fully benefit from this project.
The people and Chapters within the FBFA have benefitted in the past from support from colleges and universities. Implementation of the NTIP will continue to welcome such expertise and support. Past studies, reports and recommendations made by colleges and universities will be incorporated into the Implementation Plan. What is different about this effort is the 39-month commitment to implementation.
The Former Bennett Freeze Area Economic and Market Feasibility Study completed in December 2018 is to serve as a guide to strategically identify the potential needs, demands and constraints for commercial, industrial, small businesses and tourism development in the region. The purpose of this study is to assist Chapters to make wise decisions for the future community and economic development initiatives.
The market and feasibility study provides data that can be utilized by the Chapters and the region in the implementation of the Chapter-based and Regional Plans. For business development-related priorities within the Navajo Thaw Region, information from the market and feasibility study can help determine the viability of future business enterprises in various sectors.
In short, the work completed in December 2018 is a resource guide that can serve to assist in the implementation of business development priorities identified through the Navajo Thaw Implementation Plan.
Building Communities has assisted seven Navajo Chapters to complete community and economic development strategic plans between the period of 2011-2019. These Chapters included Nahata Dziil, Shonto, Bodaway-Gap, Chinle, Fort Defiance, Ganado, and Many Farms. The plan most similar to the work being conducted for the Navajo Thaw Chapters is the work completed in January 2018 for Nahata Dziil. Usually, the development of such plans are limited in scope, and do not provide implementation assistance. In the case of Nahata Dziil, such implementation assistance has been ongoing for nearly two years and will continue. Implementation assistance will be provided to the Navajo Thaw Chapters through December 2022.
Responding to the threatened closure of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR), Nahata Dziil decided to formulate a positive plan for their future in late 2017. The plan identified many viable economic opportunities and led to preparing a successful federal grant application to implement several of their priorities in 2018-2019. Nahata Dziil stands as an example of a Chapter that can build the legal and administrative capacity to receive and administrate grants.
Motivated to support their brothers and sisters in the Navajo Thaw Region, a second successful grant proposal was submitted to USDA Rural Development in 2019. The grant not only supports the Navajo Thaw Chapters, but it also allows continued progress in implementing Nahata Dziil’s plan and priority projects.