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.
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," says a release from Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley.
Huntsman is quoted as saying the state has worked hard to administer the fund in the best interests of Utah Navajos. "We are committed to helping the federal government and the Navajos find a more suitable way to distribute the royalties."
The release also quotes these legislative leaders:
• House Minority Leader Brad King, D-Price: "Navajos deserve to work toward their own future without the interference and oversight of the state. Congress will now have the opportunity to re-create the trust fund in a manner which recognizes their right to self-determination with respect to the Navajo Trust Fund."
• Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem: "We have been locked into a uniquely awkward relationship since 1933 but I know it can be better."
• Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price: "Our congressional delegation must create a vehicle to distribute these monies in a way that all of the Chapter Houses (reservation units) have input."
• House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy: "We have a unique opportunity to support the creation of a more appropriate system that will assign the rights and responsibilities of the royalties to the beneficiaries."