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Extend Utah fund role, say Navajos

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 10:28 p.m. MDT

Utah Navajos would like more time before the state steps out of its 74-year role as trustee of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, Navajo representatives to a legislative committee Tuesday.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and legislative leaders are asking Congress to get Utah out of the business of managing the Navajo Trust Fund, which handles money from mineral revenues on the Utah portion of the Navajo Reservation. For fiscal 2007, that amounts to about $16 million in assets in San Juan County and $10 million in cash.
"We all know how long an act of Congress takes," said Tony Dayish, the fund's administrator, who supports a proposal for a two-year extension to Utah's role in the fund.
The state statute governing the trust fund is supposed to sunset in 2008, and state officials are asking that Congress set up a new disbursement system for the royalties. Under the system, 37.5 percent of all oil and gas royalties derived from the Utah portion of the three-state reservation are set aside and administered by the state for the use of Utah Navajos.
"The state of Utah is the only state in the nation administering a trust fund for the benefit of American Indians whose lands are within state boundaries," the governor's office said in a release earlier this month.
The Utah Dineh Committee of the trust fund on Tuesday gave the Native American Legislative Liaison Committee a resolution asking for a two-year extension to the sunset, which would allow more time for a transition to new administration.
"Even President Bush is giving the Iraqis more time to get their act together," said Marilyn Holiday, education specialist for the trust fund. "I'm really saddened by what's happening," Holiday said. "We don't have a plan."
Dayish also supports the two-year extension of the current administrative plan, which would require intervention by the Utah Legislature before the trust fund's June sunset date.


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