A Navajo tribal councilman says if the tribe doesn't get into the gambling business soon, it will not be able to compete with other tribes already running gaming operations.
Councilman Alfred Joe, the Teetso-Dilkon, Ariz., delegate, sponsored an unsuccessful motion to override Navajo President Peterson Zah's veto of a proposed gambling law for the reservation that spans parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.Council members voted 54-26 on Thursday to override the veto - five votes short of the 59 votes required for a two-thirds majority of the 88 members.
Zah said his administration supports Indian gaming, but that he vetoed the measure approved by the council in July because he believes the Navajo people should have the final say in the form of a referendum.
Joe told the council before Thursday's vote that the time, money and work that went into the gaming resolution were thrown out when Zah vetoed the measure.
Gambling would give the tribe a much-needed economic boost and is an issue on which tribal government should show leadership, said Joe, a member of the council's Economic Development Committee.
"There is not really anything going on with economic development," he said. "The current administration hasn't gotten anything set forth or any direction."
But Shiprock, N.M., delegate Genevieve Jackson argued the council would be overstepping its bounds to approve gaming.
"I understand the need for revenues," Jackson said. "But please, remember your constituents. We talk about decentralization and giving power back to the people, but if we do not put this on the November ballot we will not be practicing what we preach."
Zah, in a memo explaining his Aug. 5 veto, said: "In too many cases when the Navajo Nation considered major issues, the Navajo people have not been adequately consulted."
"It is time for the Navajo Nation to begin requesting the views of the Navajo people on issues which affect all Navajo people," he said.
Jackson said studies need to be done on how gambling would affect the reservation so Navajos will know what would be involved.
"It's going to have a profound affect on our lifestyle," she said. "The Navajo people must have a say, they must be given the exercise to control their own destiny when it comes to gambling."
She also said she wouldn't support gambling without specific guidelines on how tribal money would be spent.
After the override effort failed, Joe criticized Zah for not warning the council in advance that he would veto the resolution.
"If he had come to the Economic Development Committee and said he was going to veto the resolution, then there would have been a compromise," Joe said. "We could have done something."