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Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren presents spring State of Nation address

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya present to the State of the Navajo Nation address to the 25th Navajo Nation Council on Monday. (Navajo Nation courtesy photo)
President touts sales tax revenue; pushes for uranium cleanup

In his quarterly 2024 report to the Navajo Nation Council on April 15 in Window Rock, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren highlighted developments in infrastructure, water rights, transportation of uranium, economic growth, and veterans affairs.

A school bus moves up Rock Door Canyon Road in Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo Nation on April 27, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)
Navajo Nation Infrastructure

In a collaboration with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the American Public Power Association, 176 electrical employees and linemen from 26 utilities around the country, were acknowledged by Nygren for their mutual aid program, “Light Up Navajo 5.”

They arrived on Navajo land April 6. The program expects to extend power lines to wire 300 homes on the Navajo Nation.

Since taking office in January 2023, the Nygren-Montoya administration has prioritized road improvements. The president reported the filling of approximately 2,500 potholes in the past two months by the Navajo Department of Transportation.

To address persistent road issues, Navajo Nation Department of Transportation donated four pallets of pothole material to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Fort Defiance.

The Navajo Department of Justice Water Rights Teams are nearing completion of two water rights settlements and asked for the Council’s unanimous approval as a sign of unity, Nygren said.

The two water right settlements are for Arizona and New Mexico. There are two communities in New Mexico, the Rio San Jose and Rio Puerco Basins.

“Securing water is not for us but it is for the generations of Navajos yet to be born,” he said.

Economic strides

With regard to the Navajo Nation tax revenue, Nygren reported that the Navajo Tax Commission collected $66.7 million, a total of 59% of projections for the fiscal year that began in October and that revenue increases are trending yearly as tribal tax revenue in 2023 showed an increase of 42% and a sum of $143.2 million.

“This is good considering we haven’t entered the high spending summer season,” Nygren said in a news release. “I remain optimistic that with more Americans traveling again, our sales tax will outperform FY2023. In the second quarter of FY24, we collected $28,399,648 in tax revenue.”

Nygren mentioned that the sale of the historic Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley will benefit the Navajo Nation tourism industry. According to a news release, Nygren thanked the Council for securing the Nation’s future.

The resort “is expected to bring an annual net income of over $7.3 million to the Nation,” he said. “With Monument Valley as its backdrop, Goulding’s is a world-class property with 152 guest rooms, RV grounds, campsites and a restaurant. This purchase ensures the retention of 280 jobs and local purchasing from the area artists,” he said.

Navajo Veterans Affairs

Nygren thanked the Council’s Health, Education & Human Services and Budget & Finance committees for their guidance of the Navajo Veterans Affairs to find a company, Eaglesun Systems Inc. to expedite the processing of veterans’ checks.

Nygren recognized Veterans Affairs Director Bobbie Ann Baldwin’s launch of the program Talking Circles in Fort Defiance, Chinle and Tuba City where veterans can gather in a safe space with other vets to share their military experiences.

An application for a $54.2 million U.S. Veterans Affairs grant was submitted April 11 in an effort to complete the Warriors Nursing Home in Chinle, Arizona.

Grant funding would enable the completion of the nursing home, providing veteran housing in the form of a two-story, 45,850-square-foot, 60-bed nursing facility. Its central building would feature a functional traditional hogan.

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren visited the Navajo Preparatory School on Nov. 2. (Crystal Shelton Special to Tri-City Record)
Animal health care

The president told the Council that in February the Division of Natural Resources hired Dr. David Manuelito, ending a two-year span without a leader of the Navajo Veterinary Management Program.

“Under Dr. Manuelito's leadership, and with our MOU with the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine, I look forward to young veterinarians returning home for their first two or three years after graduation to hone their veterinary skills,” Nygren said.

Nygren also thanked U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico for securing $1 million to help build a Crownpoint animal shelter to replace the former condemned shelter.

President Joe Biden signs a proclamation designating the Baaj Nwaavjo I'Tah Kukveni National Monument at the Red Butte Airfield on Aug. 8 in Tusayan, Arizona. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)
Uranium updates

According to a news release, Nygren requested that the Council work with his office in developing position statements regarding the cleanup of the Navajo Nation’s 523 abandoned uranium mines, and to address renewed uranium mining at the Pinon Plain Mine south of the Grand Canyon and within the newly designated Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

“My concern is the transport of uranium ore on public highways across the Navajo Nation,” he said. “Navajo EPA is working with the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and the U.S. Forest Service to receive advanced warning of any uranium ore shipments from the mine.”

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In March, Nygren and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden to ask for support to halt uranium transports across Navajo Nation land, stating it is an “unacceptable risk to the well-being of our people and the sanctity of our land.”

Nygren also noted that on March 14 and 15, officials from Environmental Protection Agency visited the Cove Chapter to announce that Lukachukai Mountain Mining District would be the reservation’s first Superfund site.

“This will give our people the protection against radiation exposure they have begged for over the decades with little response until now,” Nygren said in a news release.

He said the Navajo Nation Washington Office continues to rally congressional representatives in support of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act earlier passed by the U.S. Senate to soon be considered in the House.