Navajo VP hopes for economic development partnership with NM

By Susan Montoya Bryan
Santa Fe, New Mexico (AP) 2-08

Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly told New Mexico lawmakers that his tribe is seeking the state’s help in spurring economic development and creating jobs on the sprawling reservation.

Shelly said that prosperity on the Navajo Nation would not only benefit the tribe, but would result in additional tax revenue for New Mexico.

“We’re seeking economic development, we’re seeking jobs for the Navajo people. As you know, this is a win-win situation for the state of New Mexico and also for the Navajo Nation,” he told a Senate chamber packed with American Indian leaders from the Navajo Nation and from New Mexico’s pueblos.

Shelly said the tribe – from his office to tribal lawmakers and
the Navajo judicial branch – wants to continue
government-to-government relations with the state and form
partnerships that can “better the lives of New Mexicans and the
Navajo people.”

A mid Febuary day marked Native American Day at the Legislature. Joe Garcia, governor of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in northern New Mexico and president of the National Congress of American Indians, was among those who addressed a crowd in the Capitol Rotunda.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan also visited the Legislature in mid Febuary. He thanked state lawmakers for making Navajos part of the legislative process and pushed for even greater communication between the two governments.

“There are bigger issues that we all need to cooperate and work on continuously – be it water rights, be it land resources, be it health issues and education issues,” Morgan said. “We have common issues.”

Shelly said the Navajo Nation has thrown its support behind several measures during the 30-day legislative session, including bills that aim to improve Indian health care and create a commission to study off-reservation health care in Bernalillo County.

Supporters of the proposed commission say the county is home to nearly 50,000 Indians representing hundreds of different tribes. They say off-reservation tribal members often have limited opportunities to help shape policies that affect their access to health care.