Utah may use a portion of its oil and gas royalty money to help fund construction of a school building for Indians in Arizona, the Utah attorney general's office has determined.
The opinion, written by Special Assistant Attorney General Clark B. Fetzer, addressed a question posed by Travis N. Parashonts, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, who wondered if the expenditures would be proper and legal.The state has been asked by the Navajo Nation to pay $20,000 for a Head Start program facility for Indian students in Mexican Water, Ariz., and to pay $2,000 to help renovate a similar facility in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.
The money would come from a portion of the oil and gas royalty money Utah receives from the federal government as compensation for tax money it gives up because of the amount of federal land in the state.
The Navajo reservation, as noted in the attorney general's opinion, extends into Utah and Arizona, and some Indian students in Utah's San Juan County receive benefits from the Indian school programs based in the Arizona communities.
"The real issue to be resolved is whether monies from the royalty trust fund can be contributed to the school facilities for the Head Start programs, which will benefit the Navajo Indians residing in San Juan County, even though the facilities are located outside of San Juan County," Fetzer wrote.
"The use of funds contemplated in the present case will benefit (San Juan County Indian students). The school facilities for the Head Start program will help educate the beneficiaries even though the facilities are located outside of San Juan County," he said.
Currently, 17 Navajo students who live in Utah receive education benefits from the programs in Mexican Water and Teec Nos Pos.