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Navajo open new hotel in Monument Valley

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://zoniereport.com/2008/09/navajo-open-new-hotel-in-monument-valley-564 3/ Navajo open new hotel in Monument Valley By Cyndy Hardy · September 29, 2008 ·
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2008
      http://zoniereport.com/2008/09/navajo-open-new-hotel-in-monument-valley-564
      3/

      Navajo open new hotel in Monument Valley

      By Cyndy Hardy · September 29, 2008 · Print This Article

      The View Hotel, Monument Valley MONUMENT VALLEY PARK — An ancient Navajo
      prayer, “Night Chant,” begins in a “house made of dawn” and evokes
      transition, healing and restoration of hozho – or beauty, order and
      harmony.

      Like a manifestation of the prayer, a promotional photograph shows the
      morning Arizona sun washing vivid color and new life over Monument Valley
      Navajo Tribal Park’s man-made mesa, The View Hotel.

      Monument Valley Park is located three hours northwest of Flagstaff on
      Navajo land in Arizona. The hotel is significant to the preservation of
      culture and to the healing of a depressed economy of the nation within a
      nation, say those close to the project.

      “My biggest reward is knowing that whatever building I construct will
      create employment opportunities for people, and with this current project
      it will create employment opportunities for my people, The Dine People,”
      says Romona Tayah, assistant superintendent for FCI Constructors Inc., who
      built the hotel.

      In a prepared statement, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said the
      project will create much-needed jobs while highlighting tribal culture.

      “Job creation on Tribal land means economic opportunity but also translates
      into cultural preservation,” he said in a recent press release. “When
      family members can find employment close to their traditional homes they
      stay connected with their culture and their language. This fosters an
      environment where traditional ways of the Navajo people can be passed from
      generation to generation.”

      TRIBE STRUGGLES FOR RECOGNITION

      The road to projects like The View was a long and arduous for the Navajo,
      also known as the Dine People.

      Beginning in January 1863, the U.S. Army forced more than 8,000 Navajo from
      their native lands on the Colorado Plateau in what is known today as The
      Long Walk, a roughly 300-mile trek to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.

      “The instigator of this policy, General James H. Carleton, was involved in
      a wide variety of non-military activities that presupposed removal of
      Indians from their homelands …
      Carleton was involved in a series of questionable activities regarding
      mining, the cumulative effect of which appears to have contributed to his
      decision to remove Navajos from their homeland,” wrote Neal W. Ackerly in
      his 1998 book, A Navajo Diaspora: The Long Walk to Hwéeldi.

      But Carleton had underestimated the number of Navajos and Fort Sumner was
      ill-equipped to care for them, Ackerly wrote.

      In May 1864, Dr. Michael Steck, then Indian Agent for the New Mexico
      Territory, condemned Carleton’s policy as a failure, stating that the
      captured Navajos surrendered largely because the Army could provide food.

      “The rich and powerful portion of them are still in their own country … it
      will cost ten times the amount to catch and remove the wealthy portion of
      the tribe,” Steck wrote.

      By early 1865, Carleton was losing federal and local support. Hundreds of
      Navajo began leaving Fort Sumner on their own, returning to their native
      land.

      On June 1, 1868 the U.S. signed a treaty with the Navajo, officially
      allowing the remaining detainees to return home to a reservation of about 3
      million acres, or 5,500 square miles.

      NAVAJO ECONOMY IS TOP CONCERN

      Today, the Navajo Nation covers 27,000 square miles in Arizona and New
      Mexico and includes 204,698 people, according to Trib Choudhary, a
      principal economic development specialist with the tribe. This makes the
      Navajo the largest Native American tribe in the U.S.

      Government, mining and services such as hospitals and schools makeup the
      Nation’s main employers, however 50 percent of its people live below the
      U.S. poverty level. About 9,400 Navajo families nationwide depend on
      welfare programs to provide clothing, gasoline, and food stamps, Choudhary
      says.

      The Navajo Nation government earned about $71 million from all mining
      revenue in 2005, accounting for almost 58 percent of the tribe’s $124
      million general fund that year, tribal documents show.

      When federal emission standards forced the coal-fired Mojave Generating
      Station in Laughlin to close on Dec. 31, 2005, the Navajo Nation’s
      pocketbook took a big hit.

      “[The Navajo government] lost about $20 million,” Choudhary says. Replacing
      that revenue seems about as hard as the stratified formations speckled
      across the desert floor.

      The next day, Peabody Western Coal Company shut down operations at the
      Black Mesa Mine on the Navajo reservation. Mojave was the mine’s only
      customer, buying about 5 million tons of coal annually.

      About 240 people were employed at the Black Mesa Mine when it closed.

      The overall unemployment rate in Navajoland, including non-Indians, is 52
      percent. Among Navajo people, the rate is 57 percent, according to tribal
      documents. Bout three-fourths of the 4,195 people living near the View
      Hotel project are unemployed, Choudhary says.

      “The Navajos are trying to bring industry, but they often don’t have the
      money for infrastructure,” Choudhary says. Navajo lands are held in trust
      and cannot be leveraged to fund private enterprise – even by its own
      people. “Private companies don’t want to build because they can’t own the
      land.”

      As a sovereign nation within the U.S., it is understandable that Navajo
      leaders would look to capture more of the tourism revenue currently
      bypassing its economy for lack of services.

      About 2.5 million tourists annually visit the reservation’s many
      attractions like Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon. They
      spent more than $100 million inside the reservation, according to the
      tribe’s 2006 economic report.

      With only 13 hotels and few retail outlets on the reservation, much of the
      potential revenue leaks out to border towns.

      So, borrowing from business models used by the U.S. Department of Interior
      and the U.S. Forest Service, the Navajo Nation set up a system to lease
      parkland through its Parks & Recreation Department.

      OUTLOOK IMPROVES WITH THE VIEW

      The View Hotel is the first such project. The Nation’s parks department
      leased land to ARTSCO, a family-owned company led by Armanda Ortega, of the
      Kiy`anníí – Dine for “Towering House” – Clan. The Ortega family has traded
      in Indian jewelry, arts and crafts since the early 1800s.

      ARTSCO built the 90-room hotel with private funds on the site of a former
      campground that adjoined the park’s visitor center, using contractors that
      employ more than 90 percent Native American workers.

      The project means a lot to Romona Tayah, assistant superintendent for FCI
      Constructors, Inc., who lives in a reservation home her parents built the
      year she was born.

      “Maintaining ties to family land given to me and my sisters by my
      grandmother and mother is what keeps me coming home from wherever my work
      takes me,” Tayah says.

      The View Hotel will employ about 100 people. A percentage of gross revenue
      on all sales will go to Navajo Parks & Recreation. The Navajo Nation will
      receive sales tax revenue.

      “The hotel goes beyond what have become standard eco-friendly building
      practices using low-flow water devices, extra insulation, windows with
      energy-efficient values, and fluorescent lighting,” stated Mike Finney,
      owner of AZ Communications Group, which has worked with ARTSCO and the
      Navajo Nation office of tourism.

      “There are operable windows in public spaces including the soaring two
      story lobby that allows for natural air flow for energy efficient cooling,”
      he says.

      Modern utilities and a wastewater treatment plant will be in place before
      the hotel opens in mid-November, Finney says. Hotel management is taking
      online reservations now for arrivals beginning Dec. 6, 2008, he says.

      QUESTIONS LINGER ABOUT GAMBLING, IMPACTS

      Despite the much-heralded project and its promise of new jobs, the
      long-term effects of bringing more tourist services to the Navajo Nation
      remain unclear. Information regarding financial benefits – both to the
      Nation and its workforce – were not immediately available.

      Speculation abounds about the role gaming should have in tribal culture.
      Gaming on Navajo lands was approved in November 2004 by the Navajo people
      in a referendum vote. The first tribal casino – Fire Rock Casino – is under
      construction in Window Rock and expected to open in November, Choudhary
      says.

      Sources couldn’t say whether the new hotel will lead to a casino at
      Monument Park.

      Choudhary advocates for tribal casinos and would support a casino at the
      View Hotel, he says; however he worries about the profit-sharing models
      used by other Native American tribes, which give between $7,000 and $38,000
      to native individuals.

      “It’s not right to give welfare to people who are able to work. It makes
      them lazy,” Choudhary says.

      But a casino could help fill the gap in government revenue and jobs left by
      the mining industry, Choudhary says.

      = = =

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