Peshlakai urging legislature to support indigenous rights to ancestral land in Wupatki National Monument
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Recently the Arizona House of Representatives adopted HCR 2029, a House Concurrent Resolution proposed by Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron (District 7), urging the Arizona Legislature to support efforts to help members of the Peshlakai family retain their residence and grazing rights throughout the Wupatki National Monument in Northern Arizona.
“It is essential that we allow public access to sites like Wupatki National Monument, however, it is also important to respect our traditional culture and lands,” said Peshlakai. “The legislation’s purpose is to ensure that the individuals testifying in committee at the Legislature are heard and that it is acknowledged that they are citizens who have been wronged. Perhaps they will continue on to challenge the National Park Service to its claims to lands beyond the archaeological ruins it protects.”
Before Wupatki National Monument was declared a national monument, it was home to hundreds of Navajo families. Because of a special lifetime permit, 89-year-old Stella Peshlakai Smith is the last Navajo woman allowed to live within the monument boundaries. Once Smith passes away, her permit will no longer be available for family members to reside on their ancestral home site. The Peshlakai family is requesting that the National Park Service make Smith’s permit permanent and transferrable in order for the family to continue to have access to the land.
“So far the National Park Service has been uncooperative with our family’s requests,” said Peshlakai. “This is an issue of indigenous land rights, and with the park service restricting access to our ancestral land, it is continuing the historical trend of taking land from tribes and families. This issue predates my election to the legislature, but I hope to add my credibility as a United States combat war veteran and elected official to stand amongst the displaced families stating they are contributing, upstanding citizens of these United States, Arizona and the Navajo Nation. I am obligated to sponsor this for my constituents.”
HCR 2029 has passed the House and the Senate Government and Environment Committee but is awaiting further Senate action.
To see a full copy of HCR 2029, go to: