Bennet Thaw Implementation Plan

Navajo Nation leaders have the opportunity to move forward right now to support the Former Bennett Freeze Area by implementing the five-step Bennett Thaw Implementation Plan.

The area Chapters and Districts have passed resolutions asking for the help, the procurement process has been finished, and it is time to implement the Plan.

Housing projects will be completed, funds will be leveraged, the people will have new skills and abilities, and jobs will be created.

IT IS TIME.

Bennett Thaw Implementation Plan Documents and Presentations

FBFA Recommendations FBFA Recommendations Bennett Thaw Briefing Packet Bennett Thaw Implementation Plan BTIP Resolutions and Support Presentation BTIP Presentation

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The "Bennett Freeze"

In 1934, the federal government sought to add about 234,000 acres to the Western Agency of the Navajo Reservation (the Navajo Reservation was created in 1868).  The 1934 action proved to be contentious, as the Hopi Tribe claimed ownership of the land in question, citing that it was part of 2.5 million acres of land set aside for the Hopi people in an 1882 executive order signed by President Chester A. Arthur.

Over three decades passed without resolution of the land-ownership dispute and in 1966, at the request of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Robert Bennett, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, placed a "freeze" on development of the disputed area—some 1.5 million acres in size. Under the freeze, any future development of the disputed land would require consent of both tribes, and revenues from the land would be held until ownership claims were resolved.

The effective result of the Bennett Freeze was nothing less than a complete halting of improvements and progress for the thousands of people who lived in the affected area. That developmental stagnation has persisted to this day, although light has finally begun to break for the people as recent legislation has initiated a "thaw" of the Bennett Freeze.

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What is the Navajo Renaissance?

Navajo Renaissance is the beginning of a new chapter for the people that time forgot during the Bennett Freeze. During the past 48 years, approximately 20,000 people on 1.5 million acres have been prevented from making even the most modest of improvements to their homes. The homes themselves are not what most Americans consider to be homes, many without water, power and telecommunications.

It has not just been home improvements that have been stopped. It has been life itself. Decisions that make a positive difference in the lives of these people are few and far between. Even the funding set aside to begin to help them has been difficult, if not impossible, to release and invest.  In short, life has passed this region by.

Navajo Renaissance is an effort launched following recent legislation reversing the Bennett Freeze, to assist in renewing American people and lands long crippled by dispute and bureaucracy.

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A New Era

In late 2013, representatives from the nine Former Bennett Freeze Chapters, along with nine other Chapters, came together in Flagstaff, Arizona to build capacity and begin to strategically plan a brighter, more prosperous future. Since then, many positive steps have been taken to change the stagnate social, economic and political environment. Local leaders formed a new Community Development Corporation. One Chapter completed a visionary, robust community and economic development strategic plan. All Chapters have come together to support using funding to further plan for the region’s future. A clear and present desire to advance the region’s most feasible projects has now set the stage for a new day in western Navajo Nation:

  • Tourism projects are being supported
  • Support for the region’s artisans and entrepreneurs is being advanced (Antelope Trails Vending Organization)
  • Renewable energy projects are being pursued
  • An Integrated Resource Management Plan will clear the way for major development projects
  • Ways to better manage the land for agriculture and livestock will be discovered
  • Chapters will work together to support each other’s priorities

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A New Era

Native Builders LLC was established in early 2015 as a Navajo Nation Priority One company to offer community development, business development, strategic planning, housing study and other development services to people, Chapters, Divisions and Enterprises throughout Navajo Nation.

Thomas Tso is the President of Native Builders, and has assembled a team of qualified professionals to help conduct the important work to improve the lives of Navajo people in the Former Bennett Freeze Area and throughout Navajo Nation.

Native Builders believes that Navajo Nation possesses great potential to utilize its human, financial and natural resources to create a bright future for its people.

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The Role of Building Communities

The employees and contractors of Building Communities, Inc. are committed to helping local Navajo leaders realize this brighter future. Building Communities has been active on the Navajo Nation doing community and economic development strategic planning since January 2011. Work funded by U.S. Housing and Urban Development to complete the Northeast Arizona Economic Development Strategic Plan was completed in September 2013 and contained seven recommendations:

  1. Establish Regional Capacity to Implement Projects and Initiatives
  2. Enhance Local Community and Economic Development Staffing
  3. Implement the Navajo Nation Building Report
  4. Establish Tribal Non-profit Development Corporation Structures
  5. Collaborate on Regional Tourism Development and Promotion
  6. Take Proactive Strides to Work Together
  7. Implement the Local Plans with Support from HUD and BIA

Northeast Arizona Economic Development Strategic Plan Documents

Northeast Arizona Economic Development Strategic Plan Navajo Nation Building Report      

In the midst of the HUD-funded project, Building Communities was invited by the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development to help formulate, facilitate and report-out the Navajo Nation Building Summit, which was conducted in August 2012 at Diné College in Tsaile. The two-day event brought 60 Navajo Nation Chapters together (over 300 participants) to formulate findings and recommendations in 14 key community and economic development areas for Navajo Nation.

Building Communities has completed five Chapter-based community and economic development strategic plans throughout Navajo Nation for the following Chapters:

  • Bodaway-Gap
  • Chinle
  • Ft. Defiance
  • Ganado
  • Many Farms

Chapter-based Community and Economic Development Strategic Plans

Bodaway-Gap Strategic Plan Chinle Strategic Plan Ft. Defiance Strategic Plan Ganado Strategic Plan Many Farms Strategic Plan

Finally, Building Communities was active throughout 2014 developing position papers and advocacy documents to generate support for investing in strategic planning and project development throughout the Former Bennett Freeze Area. These documents are shown below.

NHLC Proposal and Supporting Documents

Proposal to NHLC from Building Communities Unique Qualifications for Sole Sourcing Advantages of Investing in Economic Development Refining the Process for Optimal Benefit Vision for Western Navajo Nation Agencies Proposed WNA Pilot Planning Project

In short, Building Communities has been very actively working on behalf of Navajo Nation for the last four years. During this time, the company developed a keen and comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities before Navajo Nation and its Chapters.

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Moving Forward

To overcome the impact of 40 years of no development due to the Bennett Freeze, new thinking and new partnerships will be necessary. 2014 was the Year of Preparation. 2015 will Launch the Navajo Renaissance.

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