Hopi and Tewa voters on the 2,500-square-mile reservation in northeastern Arizona upheld 75 years of individual village clout.

Hopi Reject Constitutional Changes

Carol Berry
1/31/11

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz.—Hopi and Tewa voters upheld 75 years of individual village clout Jan. 27, when about 62 percent of voters rejected proposed changes to the Hopi constitution that would have aggregated the 12 self-governing communities into a fourth branch of tribal government.

“This was a dangerous non-Hopi proposal and would have caused irreparable harm to our people,” said Ben Nuvamsa, a former Hopi tribal chairman who, together with Gary LaRance, a former Hopi tribal chief judge, was among those opposing the revisions.

At present, about a third of the villages on the 2,500-square-mile reservation in northeastern Arizona do not send representatives to the tribal council and practice traditional governance by religious and clan leaders.

The official tally of votes cast in the Secretarial election showed 410 people, or about 38 percent, were in favor of the revisions and 656 against, with 71 percent of 1,496 registered voters going to the polls at 11 locations or voting by absentee ballot.

Only Tewa village voted for the changes, by two votes, according to the official tally, while Upper Moenkopi voted against constitutional revision by only one vote. Heavy voting against the revisions occurred in the villages of First Mesa, Shungopavi, and Kykotsmovi, the tribal headquarters.

In pre-election remarks, Nuvamsa contrasted the Hopi form of village governance to the chapter governmental units of the Navajo Nation, which, he said “maintain a central government with plenary authority over its chapter governments.” He drew attention to two recent vetoes by the Navajo president of legislation that would have allowed chapters to prohibit unwanted mineral and energy leases or to reallocate non-emergency funds.

Although pre-election legal appeals to halt the polling were not successful, Nuvamsa said he will file complaints about possible election irregularities and judicial ethics issues.

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