Tuesday, November 05, 2019

After 150 Years, Navajo Win Back Political Power in Utah

Navajo people managed their affairs for centuries in the spectacular buttes and mesas of what is now San Juan County, Utah, until white settlers moved in and established political and economic control here nearly 150 years ago. Now that the Navajo have taken over the county commission for the first time, a political battle is breaking out as they push for major changes, including opposition to the Trump administration’s policy to allow more development on federal land. In response, a politically conservative white minority is seeking changes that could dilute the new commission’s power and potentially even carve out a new county. In local and national races, American Indians are making some gains in political power across the U.S. Last year, New Mexico and Kansas elected the first Native American women to Congress, Oklahoma elected its second Native American governor and Montana boosted the percentage of American Indians in its state legislature to 7.3% from 6%. In San Juan County, the election of two Navajo men to the three-member county commission came after a court order in 2017 changed boundaries. The shift made American Indians—who account for half of San Juan’s population, which is 45% white—the majority in two districts, rather than one, for the first time. Willie Grayeyes and Kenneth Maryboy, both Navajos and Democrats, were elected last year. One of their first acts was to pass a resolution condemning President Trump’s decision in 2017 to reduce the size of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85%. The vote passed 2-1, over the objection of Bruce Adams, a Republican. The previous commission had lobbied for the smaller monument, and Mr. Adams appeared at a signing ceremony in Salt Lake City, where Mr. Trump autographed his cowboy hat. Judges “packed two districts with a majority of Navajos, and we are seeing the results of that,” said Mr. Adams...MORE

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