The press secretary to Navajo Tribal chairman Peter MacDonald announced his resignation last week, saying he wished to avoid having to choose between telling the truth or creating "phony images."
In saying he had resigned Sunday night, David McCann also contended that MacDonald concentrates on publicity for the sake of "personal enhancement" and takes "a confrontation stance" in order to attract the national spotlight."If you look at my daily log, you'll see there was an obsession with getting the chairman on national TV," McCann said.
MacDonald didn't return calls seeking comment. An aide said he was in Albuquerque for television interviews.
McCann said MacDonald and a Washington-based public relations firm, Madison Public Affairs, used the plight of Navajos living in substandard housing on Hopi lands as a publicity tool.
The dispute involves Navajos living on Hopi-designated land that has been contested between the two tribes for a hundred years. What once had been designed as joint-use land by federal authority - 1.8 million acres surrounding the Hopi Reservation and near the center of the Navajo Reservation that sprawls into three states - was partitioned by Congress in the Relocation Act of 1974.
An estimated 10,000 Navajo families were to be relocated from Hopi land, and a number of those families - the counts vary from a few dozen to perhaps 250 - have yet to move. Meanwhile, the last of the relatively smaller number of Hopi families living on land assigned to the Navajos moved to Hopi land several years ago.
But earlier this month, saying improvement must be completed before winter, MacDonald first demanded that the federal government upgrade Navajo housing on Hopi lands, then - when the federal government said it could not do so - personally went onto Hopi land Aug. 20 with repair crews in a refurbishing junket to which the news media were invited.
The Hopis contended the move was illegal in that the Navajos failed to secure Hopi permission. They also contended the Navajos in some instances were building new houses rather than merely making repairs. And Hopi Tribal Chairman Ivan Sidney accused MacDonald of staging the affair for the sake of publicity.
McCann said that "in order to keep the dispute going, " MacDonald refused attempts by Sidney to negotiate a settlement.
Peter Segall, executive vice president for Madison Public Affairs, said McCann's allegations were false.
Segall said Sidney was treating the problem simply as a land dispute while MacDonald was interested in helping the people have properly repaired homes. Segall said Sidney was only interested in working out a deal that required the relocation of the Navajos.
Segall acknowledged MacDonald sought publicity, but said his intent was to bring attention to the plight of his people as a means toward solving the problem.
McCann, who has been press secretary since July 18, said MacDonald also uses a confrontational approach in his dealings with the federal government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
He charged that general assistance checks to between 20,000 and 25,000 Navajo recipients almost were delayed because MacDonald initially refused to sign documents in an attempt to create another confrontation with the BIA.
McCann said MacDonald refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes and, instead, blames the federal government, and the BIA in particular.
"BIA-bashing has become standard operating procedure," he said. "It's no fun going through channels and trying to work things out. There's no press in peace and reconciliation."