Navajo commission on trading post restoration

The Navajo Utah Commission discussed upcoming distribution of American Rescue Plan funds, plans to preserve the Oljato Trading Post, and Navajo veterans at their May 11 meeting.

The commission received a report from the Utah State Historic Preservation Office about a restoration project at the Oljato Trading Post.

Roger Roper, with the preservation office, reported that his office sees the Oljato Trading Post as a good project for restoration. The building is on the national historic building registry and is in need of care.

In the early spring of 2020 Roper says his office obtained a small grant and pulled together a team of 25 people including people from USU Blanding donating three days of time to help clean up and stabilize the area just before the pandemic hit. 

Since that time the pandemic slowed down the work to restore and protect the building. Roper did report that a few different grants have raised $35,000 to repair the roof at the historic Oljato Trading Post.

Roper says they’d like to see the project occur this summer, additional fundraising is being done through an organization established as the friends of Oljato Trading Post.

The commission also received a report from Dr. Pearl Yellowman, Division Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Community Development.

Dr. Yellowman explained how the office had helped distribute millions of dollars in goods from the CARES act and is preparing to distribute the 1.8 billion dollars the Navajo Nation anticipates to receive from the American Rescue Plan.

“We believe chapters should be direct beneficiaries of the American Rescue Plan Act.”  Yellowman explained.

Prioritization of the fund distribution includes chapter identified projects, infrastructure projects, regional projects, and special projects. 

Part of prioritizing the 110 chapter projects means finalizing a list of those different needs. A May deadline was set for chapters to submit project needs. 

Although some needs had been identified as part of CARES projects, some members of the Utah Navajo Commission pushed back on the deadline, as some had been taught how to report their lists in April, they asked for more time, including a possible June deadline, to organize and prioritize chapter projects.

Dr. Yellowman shared that lessons from the CARES act funding has her division prioritizing a deadline in order to cross-reference projects and leverage funds for as much benefit as much as possible as soon as possible for the Navajo Nation.

James Zwierlein, Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration reported to the commission on available resources and benefits.

Assistant and resources available to Navajo Veterans include financial, housing and burial assistance and coordinating with other federal benefits. Navajo Utah veterans can receive resources through the Navajo Veterans office in Shiprock, NM.

The commission also received reports from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and passed a resolution in support of President Joseph Biden’s Climate Crisis Executive Order.

The commission also held a special meeting on May 25 to discuss the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement.

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