Two Tribes Split on Land Measure Vote

Two tribes, the Navajo and the Zuni are at odds over a land deal that is currently before Congress. One tribe, the Zuni, doesn’t like a provision that would prevent it from offering gaming on a former army base in New Mexico.

The Navajo and Zuni tribes are at odds on a vote in Congress that would split land from a former U.S. Army base in New Mexico.

Fort Wingate was shuttered in 1993. The defunct fort has 31 square miles of land attached to it. It has access to Interstate 40 near Gallup, New Mexico.

A land bill now before Congress sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan would split the land between the Navajo and Zuni, which both claim historical ties to the land. The bill appeared about ready to pass when a Navajo legislator, Edmund Yazzie, prevented the tribal council from endorsing the bill, saying he could do better for the tribe. He is opposed to the section of the bill that would prevent either tribe from building a casino on the land.

“I don’t think Washington should be telling us what to do,” said Yazzie last week.

The Navajos are more sanguine about the provision since they already operate a casino near Gallup. They say they don’t want the competition.

Some political observers say that if the tribes don’t agree that the bill might not pass the House at all.