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Navajo Nation committee calls for nurses in tribal jails

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — A committee of Navajo Nation lawmakers says it has voted to ask federal officials to assign medical staff to jails on the sprawling reservation that covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

In a statement, the Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order Committee said Monday that it wants to ask the Indian Health Service to assign nurses to the facilities, which lawmakers say do not have resources to provide health care to inmates in house.

Federal figures show there are some 80 tribal jails nationwide that hold an estimated 2,500 inmates.

The Bureau of Indians Affairs manages about a quarter of them. Tribes have federal contracts to operate the rest.

An Associated Press review of jail records earlier this year found that on average health care was sought multiple times each week within the facilities.

Navajo Nation Council OKs bill on police standards, training

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation is moving to set its own standards and training requirements for certification of tribal police officers instead of continuing to rely on processes used by the federal government or states.

A bill to create training requirements and create an oversight commission was approved by the Navajo Nation Council on Thursday, the final day of the council’s summer session.

Supporters of the legislation said tribal police and other law enforcement personnel need to be trained in addressing complex public safety issues related to the tribe’s reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The legislation was approved by the council on a 15-1 vote and is subject to approval by tribal President Russell Begaye.

Tribe begins negotiations with possible new coal plant owner

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D0132B Navajo Generating Station, a 2250 megawatt coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page, Arizona

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Leaders from the Navajo Nation say they’ve begun negotiations with a potential new owner of a coal-fired power plant on their land.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is scheduled to shut down in December 2019.

The plant’s coal supplier has been leading an effort to find a new owner.

Navajo President Russell Begaye says the tribe is negotiating with New York-based Avenue Capital for ownership and one of its subsidiaries, Middle River Power, as an operator.

Begaye told lawmakers Monday that an agreement could be ready for them to consider by October. He acknowledged it’s an ambitious timeframe for a process that generally takes years.

Environmental groups have said the coal plant is not worth saving and have urged tribal officials to focus on renewable energy projects.

Discussion to focus on Native American voting rights

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Access and barriers to the political process across Indian Country will be the focus of an upcoming discussion in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, vice chair of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, will be leading Tuesday’s conversation about Native American voting rights.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, representatives with the National Congress of American Indians, the Native American Rights Fund and top election managers from New Mexico will be among those participating.

Earlier this year, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition held a field hearing in Albuquerque at which people shared their experiences with voter registration and voting in federal, state and local non-tribal elections.

The group has been working to document the needs and challenges faced by Native American voters and to identify successes that can be replicated.

Annual horse ride honors past Navajo Nation leaders

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation lawmakers gathering for the start of their weeklong summer session were greeted by a small group of horseback riders.

The annual tradition honors past tribal leaders who traveled by horse or wagon to gather input from their communities on the way to the tribal capital. Several people rode in Sunday and Monday.

Council delegate Walter Phelps led a group from Cameron. Delegate Steven Begay led another group from Tohatchi, New Mexico.

The legislative session in Window Rock begins Monday with an address from the tribal president and other reports.
Lawmakers begin considering bills Tuesday. The session is scheduled to end Friday.

Ex-Navajo police officer gets 16 years for fatal DUI cash

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PHOENIX (AP) — A 31-year-old former Navajo Nation police officer has been sentenced to 16 years for a fatal DUI crash.

Kevin Richard Hevel was sentenced Friday by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge after previously pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the 2017 death of 61-year-old Peter Rankin.

Rankin was killed while bicycling after Hevel drove off a street and onto a sidewalk. Hevel then drove off before colliding with a marked police car.

The County Attorney’s Office said Hevel told police that he had “a lot to drink” and was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.235, or nearly three times Arizona’s presumed limit of 0.08.

Hevel was fired several days after the collision.

The Navajo Nation said he had worked for the police department for 10 years.

Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company and Guggenheim Partners Announce Closing of an $80,000,000 First Lien Credit Facility

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St. Michaels, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company (“NNOGC” or the “Company”) announced the closing on June 14, 2018 of a first lien oil & gas term loan credit facility (the “Facility”) with clients of Guggenheim Investments, a subsidiary of global asset management and investment advisory firm Guggenheim Partners.  The Company will use the proceeds to retire its Wells Fargo-led first lien credit facility and for general corporate purposes, including the future funding of anticipated Greater Aneth Field related capital expenditures.

Louis Denetsosie, President and Chief Executive Officer of NNOGC said, “The closing of this Facility is a significant step toward stabilizing NNOGC’s finances after the 2014 price decline and positions us to fully participate in the significant future development of the Greater Aneth Field.”   Mr. Denetsosie added, “We greatly appreciate the Navajo Nation’s support and the Wells Fargo-led bank group’s patience as we worked through alternatives to address the outstanding credit facility and our future capital needs.”

Guggenheim Corporate Funding, LLC will serve as administrative agent and collateral agent for the Facility. KeyBanc Capital Markets, LLC served as the Company’s financial advisor and sole placement agent.

About Navajo Nation Oil & Gas Company

Navajo Nation Oil & Gas Company is a federally incorporated oil and gas company wholly owned by the Navajo Nation. NNOGC has more than 80 employees with headquarters in St. Michaels, Ariz., and operations in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. NNOGC owns and operates oil and natural gas interests, primarily in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico and the Greater Aneth, Tohonadla and Desert Creek fields in southeast Utah. The company also operates the Running Horse Pipeline in southeast Utah and northwest New Mexico and gas stations on the Navajo Nation under the Navajo Petroleum and Chevron brands.  NNOGC was established as a federally chartered Section 17 Corporation under authority granted by the Navajo Nation Council and began operations in 1998.

About Guggenheim Investments

Guggenheim Investments is the global asset management and investment advisory division of Guggenheim Partners, with more than $246 billion[1] in total assets across fixed income, equity, and alternative strategies. It focuses on the return and risk needs of insurance companies, corporate and public pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowments and foundations, consultants, wealth managers, and high-net-worth investors. Its 300+ investment professionals perform rigorous research to understand market trends and identify undervalued opportunities in areas that are often complex and underfollowed. This approach to investment management has enabled Guggenheim Investments to deliver innovative strategies providing diversification opportunities and attractive long-term results.

 

Local communities to benefit from the new Lok’aah Ni Teel Shopping Center

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GANADO, Ariz. –On Wednesday, members of the 23rdNavajo Nation Council had the honor of joining local residents as the community of Ganado celebrated the grand opening of the Lok’aah Ni Teel Shopping Center located at Burnside Junction, which is approximately 40-miles west of Window Rock, Arizona. The new 35,000 square-foot building currently houses a Lowe’s Shop N’ Save, Pizza Edge, ACE Hardware, and Laundromat. A Subway will soon be added as well.

Council Delegate Seth Damon (Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Tsé Lichíí’, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh) congratulated the Ganado Chapter and thanked his Council colleagues, Ganado Chapter officials, Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development, and others for striving to complete the project.

“Thanks to the hard work of these individuals and to my colleagues on the 23rdNavajo Nation Council, we are seeing the fruits of the Permanent Trust Fund income and now many of the local residents don’t have to travel very far for groceries or basic necessities,” said Delegate Damon.

The shopping center was one of numerous projects funded by the Permanent Trust Fund Income Five-Year Expenditure Plan in 2016, when the 23rdNavajo Nation Council approved $150 million for economic development projects, agricultural development projects, and water infrastructure development across the Navajo Nation. The expenditure plan provided $9.2 million for the shopping center.

Delegate Damon, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, described how he and the committee worked to develop the five-year plan, which also included various projects in the communities of Dennehotso, Shonto, Shiprock, Crownpoint, Wheatfields, and others, which will create over 100 jobs, he added.

Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kin Dah Lichíí, Steamboat), who represents the Ganado community, joined Ganado Chapter president Vince James in praising and thanking the family of Ethel Myers who consented to land withdrawals within the family’s grazing area to allow for the construction of the shopping center.

Delegate Shepherd also stated that the new project is a sign of progress for the community and acknowledged that more needs to be done to create more economic development for the Navajo Nation, including amending current laws and policies at the federal level that discourage companies from starting businesses on the Nation.

“As leaders, we will continue to work with congressional members because there are federal laws that need to be changed because outside companies don’t want to do business on Navajo due to dual taxation,” said Delegate Shepherd, who also thanked many past leaders who he said had a “vision” for the community and for the Nation.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland) said the new shopping center is an example of how the 23rdNavajo Nation Council is fulfilling the priorities that were established when the current Council took office in 2015. He noted that in addition to the $150 million five-year plan the Council has also approved $180 million for major water projects across the Navajo Nation and $100 million for chapter projects.

Other guest speakers at the event included President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez, Ganado Chapter president Vince James, and Lowe’s Market CEO Roger Lowe, Jr. The new Lok’aah Ni Teel Shopping Center is currently open to the public.

Navajo community still uneasy after gang members arrested

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By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Down the road from Hank Blair’s trading post in the tiny community of Lukachukai on the Navajo Nation, a sign occasionally would pop up in a corn field saying the crop was ready.

But the announcement wasn’t for corn. It was a sign that a local gang was dealing a fresh supply of cocaine and methamphetamine.

For 15 years, the Red Skin Kingz terrorized this remote section of the vast reservation near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Dealing in drugs, murder, kidnapping, arson and aggravated and sexual assaults, the gang intimidated the community where law enforcement is more than 45 minutes away on a good day.

“They were the most organized, worst people that we’ve had around here forever,” said Blair, who has owned the Totsoh Trading Post for 34 years. “It was scary.”
Now, after the recent sentencing of three high-profile gang members, including a mother and son, authorities believe they have shut down the gang that meted out a level of violence not seen by gangs on the reservation since the 1990s.

Authorities conducted more than 300 interviews in the investigation of the Red Skin Kingz, using a task force made up of tribal, state and federal officials, said Michael Caputo, an FBI assistant special agent in charge for the Arizona district. It was formed in the mid-1990s when the Navajo Nation saw an explosion of gang activity in and around its capital of Window Rock, with turf wars, drive-by shootings and retaliatory killings. The model since has expanded to other parts of Indian Country.
Navajo Nation residents, numbed to silence by a gang that raised its profile on social media and threatened people to keep them from talking to police, are encouraged but still wary.

“This investigation did cut off the head of the snake, if you will, and we took out all the main players that were involved in this gang,” Caputo said.
“Did we get everybody? Hard to say,” he said.

Lukachukai is at the base of the mountains, about 10 miles from Dine College, the first college established by an American Indian tribe in the United States. The community of about 1,700 has a boarding school, gas station, post office, the trading post and mostly scattered housing.

Community members witnessed the gang’s crimes for years, Blair said. But with the closest police district so far away, no one was sure authorities would or could make a difference, he said.

The death of a man in late 2014 was a turning point. Tim Saucedo’s family in Gallup, New Mexico, reported him missing, and authorities discovered he was shot in the chest by two gang members at a picnic area in Wheatfields Lake where they met for a drug deal. Saucedo’s body was dismembered and burned in a fire pit, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors charged gang leader Devan Leonard and Kyle Gray in Saucedo’s death the following year, a move that Navajo Nation police Capt. Michael Henderson said helped show the community that law enforcement was paying attention.

“It started falling together, looking at all these and doing the research all the way back to the 2012 time frame,” he said.

The Red Skin Kingz didn’t match the level of gang violence in the 1990s, but the drug trafficking operation was among the most organized police have seen on the reservation, Henderson said. The planning of criminal activity centered mostly around a steamed corn business, according to court documents. Members would gain status by selling drugs, collecting debts and assaulting community members, court documents state.

The charges against the five Red Skin Kingz under a federal racketeering statute meant to combat organized crime are rare in Indian Country, prosecutors said. The other two defendants — Uriah Shay and Randall Begay — will be sentenced later this year.

Getting the community to talk was difficult because people feared retaliation. Some lived near the suspects and others are family or related by clan. Many who worked up the courage to talk would only do so anonymously, Henderson said.

Philip Sandoval Jr, the vice president of the Lukachukai Chapter, was hesitant to say anything even after Gray, Leonard and Leonard’s mother, Lucille, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

“You start opening your mouth and saying this and that,” Sandoval said. “You don’t know who is still out there.”
The fear wasn’t unfounded.

After Saucedo was killed, the gang kidnapped a witness and threatened to harm her child if she told anyone what happened. Gang members also stole vehicles and burned the dwelling of one of their victims because they believed the family was cooperating with law enforcement, court documents state.

Samuel Yazzie, the Lukachukai Chapter president, said that even after the arrests, some residents remain afraid, unwilling to photograph or report suspicious activity, or publicly call out suspects, he said.

“I understand, but I think that’s the way it goes,” he said this week.

Henderson can’t say for sure whether the arrests of the gang members have made the community safer. But he points to drops in the number of felony sexual assaults, homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults since the arrests in the police district that includes Lukachukai.
“It’s interesting to see those numbers,” he said.

Navajo Nation company buys partial ownership in power plant

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Atrribution: Carlan Tapp

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Navajo Transitional Energy Company has acquired a 7 percent ownership interest in units 4 and 5 of the Four Corners Power Plant.

NTEC purchased the partial ownership from an affiliate of Arizona Public Service, which operates the coal-fired power plant.

The energy company is owned by the Navajo Nation.

NTEC owns the Navajo Mine south of Fruitland, New Mexico.

Tribal officials say ownership of a power plant is a first for a Navajo Nation enterprise.

APS also entered into an amended and restated coal supply agreement that will govern the power plant’s fuel purchases from NTEC.

The deal gives NTEC more flexibility in the sale and purchase of coal from the Navajo Mine.

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