10/9/2012 3:10:00 PM Shelly calls for NGWS jobs to consist of 98 percent Navajo workforce More than 600 jobs would be created during construction
Navajo President Ben Shelly (left) talks with Department of Interior Sec. Ken Salazar before a formal meeting on Sept. 28. Submitted photo
TSE BONITO, N.M. - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said he wants the workforce that's building the Navajo Gallup Water Supply (NGWS) to consist of 98 percent Navajo employees.
President Shelly said that in his opening statement during a meeting with Department of Interior Sec. Ken Salazar and Navajo leaders on Sept 28, at the Navajo Division of Transportation Complex. More than 80 people attended the meeting.
"I want to see 98 percent of the workers be Navajo," Shelly stated during the more than hour meeting.
The Department of Interior recently announced that $43 million would be allocated to help build the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project. The entire project is expected to cost upwards of $900 million, create more than 600 jobs during construction and bring safe clean drinking water to thousands of Navajo people.
The purpose of meeting, Sec. Salazar said, was for him to listen to Navajo leaders and their issues.
Shelly said the Department of the Interior needs to work with the Navajo Nation for natural resource management and development, better utilize trust and assets to grow Navajo wealth, and better communication within federal agencies to Native American tribes.
In addition, Shelly added that while issues about the Navajo Hopi land dispute are though mostly resolved, need attention to ensure that issues are addressed to completion.
Shelly submitted a written statement to Sec. Salazar outlining the need for more funding for the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR) and more help for Navajos living in the former Bennett Freeze area.
"At the current rate of funding, we anticipate that it may be another 20 years for ONHIR completes its work. That means a family which relocated 10 years ago, it will have waited 30 years to receive promised benefits," Shelly wrote.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize reiterated the need for help for the ONHIR and for people living in the former Bennett Freeze area.
"Our people in the affected area have had to work twice, or even four times, as hard to travel on unmaintained roads to haul water for basic consumption," Naize said.
Navajo Supreme Court Justice Eleanor Shirley represented the third branch of the Navajo government and asked Salazar for funding support for a new Supreme Court Judicial Complex.
Attending council delegates, about a dozen, also expressed the need for help for Navajo people affected by the Navajo Hopi Land dispute.
"There is hope that we can do some great things on the issues which you have raised today," Sec. Salazar said after listening to the Navajo leaders.
"You have our commitment and you have seen us walk the talk over the last several years," said Salazar.