|U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal in the Dine'h Relocation Lawsuit|
FLAGSTAFF - The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the 13-year-old lawsuit in which the Dine'h used religious grounds to challenge the proposed relocation of about a hundred Dine'h living on Hopi Partitioned Land (HPL), the Associated Press reported on 05 April 2001. The appeal was that of the 1988 Manybeads suit in which several dozen Dine'h families challenged the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act. The class action suit charged that, through the act, the U.S. government violated their religious freedom rights under the First Amendment.
Hopi leaders, that is HTC officials, praised the court's decision Monday in the suit, saying that Dine'h who have not signed Accommodation Agreements (AA) with the Hopi Tribal Office now face "imminent eviction."
"This is an historic and hopefully healing day for the Hopi Tribe," said Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Lodge would not comment on the Hopi Tribe's (HTC) call for immediate evictions. He said the legal process paving the way for evictions [the Exclusion Hearings] has been underway since last year and will take time.
"We recognize the decision of the Supreme Court and we will act accordingly," said Lodge.
Thursday, Lee Brooke Phillips, an attorney for the Dine'h families, said that removals aren't imminent; because they will require more court action. He said that if the resisting families lose in the next round, their attorneys would again seek a remedy through the appellate court.
"I'm hopeful still that there might be some compromise reached that will allow these remaining families to remain on the land," Phillips said.
A 1979 judicial decree partitioned the so-called "disputed land" and resulted in a federal payment to the Hopis of $50 million. As a result of the Land Dispute Settlement Act, the Hopis have the legal authority to evict the Dine'h but agreed to let the federal government take the necessary steps in court. However, Claire Heywood said that Hopi tribal leaders have been frustrated with the pace of the U.S. Attorney's office since the 1 February 2000 deadline passed without action.
"I think this is the last outstanding case," she said. "Now that this has been resolved, I really don't see any reason why action can't be taken."
Source: Associated Press, High Court Refuses to Hear Appeal in Navajo Relocation Case