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Ousted Hopi chair plans court challenge 4-4-07

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) - The ousted chairman of the Hopi tribe plans to legally challenge his removal from office.

Ben Nuvamsa was removed from his elected post in late March by the Hopi Tribal Council and is planning to seek an injunction from the Hopi high court to get his job back this week.

Nuvamsa was elected to the post in February but was removed after only 27 days in office. The Council nullified his election, deciding he was not eligible to run because he did not meet residency requirements.

Nuvamsa on Tuesday called the council's actions illegal and unconstitutional, saying a legislative body doesn't have authority to nullify an election after the fact.

``The council did not vote me in. It is the people who voted me in. And that is what we are fighting about,'' Nuvamsa said.

The chairman was removed after allegations that he hadn't lived on Hopi lands for the previous two years, a requirement to seek office. But Nuvamsa said he has been living at Hotevilla and was eligible.

The tribal election office had reviewed the matter before the vote and agreed, and the Council allowed the election to proceed.

Tribal council members have not returned phone calls on the issue. The vote to remove Nuvamsa was 10-8.

Nuvamsa acknowledged working outside the reservation, including in the White Mountains, which he compared to a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq or a U.S. senator who travels to Washington to vote.

``My home is Hopi,'' he said.

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