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6 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 222 (1993)
Justice Too Long Delayed on the Navajo Reservation: The Bennett Freeze as a Case Study in Government Treatment of Native Americans

handle is hein.journals/hhrj6 and id is 228 raw text is: Harvard Human Rights Journal / Vol. 6

TION: The Bennett Freeze as a Case Study in Government
Treatment of Native Americans.
The desert in northern Arizona stretches for hundreds of miles in
every direction from Cedar Ridge. Juniper bushes and tumbleweeds
are scattered across this high and barren region saddled upon the
Colorado Plateau. For many years this land has been the home of the
Hopi and Navajo Indians.1 Leonard Sloan, a Navajo, lives in Cedar
Ridge with his family; his parents' home, where he grew up, is next
Leonard Sloan, his wife Maybelle, his mother-in-law, his father-in-
law, and his four children live in a one-room octagonal hogan made
of rough cedar logs and mud that measures less than twenty feet at
its widest part. The floor is bare dirt. The Sloans have electric power,
supplied by an extension cord running under the sand to an outlet in
his father's hogan, but no running water. The beds along the walls
are neatly made, and clothes enough for eight people hang from the
Leonard Sloan has long wanted to replace his home, which has
become too small for his growing family, and unsafe due to the weight
of the mud roof and the age of the logs. Almost 700 families on this
part of the reservation have similar aspirations.3 Yet for over twenty-
five years, until September 1992, these families were rendered helpless
to change their living conditions by the Bennett Freeze. The Freeze
imposed an extensive and enduring ban on development on the West-
ern Navajo Reservation encompassing approximately 2 million acres
of land in northeastern Arizona.4
Originally conceived as a means of encouraging negotiation over an
age-old land dispute between the Hopi and Navajo tribes, the Bennett
Freeze gradually developed into an intrusive and burdensome policy
for the Navajo people, forcing them to live in poverty by denying
them the right to enlarge, to maintain, and even to repair their homes.
The Freeze thus came to represent a pattern of misguided administra-
tive oversight and callous legislative action. Although it has now been
2. This case-specific information comes from several visits to the Sloan household by the
author during the winter and spring of 1992.
3. Statistics on file with Navajo-Hopi Legal Services, Tuba City, Ariz., and with the Harvard
Human Rights Journal.
4. See Vernon Masayesva v. Peterson Zah, CIV 74-842 PCT EHC (D. Ariz., Sept. 25, 1992)
[hereinafter Mlasayesva 1), partial stay pending appeal granted in part and denied in part, Vernon
Masayesva v. Peterson Zah, CIV 74-842 PCT EHC (D. Ariz., Dec. 21, 1992) (hereinafter
Masayesva I] (on file with the Harvard Human Rights Journal).

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