Navajo and Hopi Land Dispute

By: Cailin Dunavan

Navajo Indians, today.

Since the beginning Navajo and Hopi tribes have lived fairly close to one another in northeastern Arizona. Though they have always been civil towards each other, land issues and other differences interfere with the peace. The Hopi tribe population has been known for living in large villages while the Navajo live in small, family centered groups, often they moved around the shared land while grazing livestock. Since the Navajo continuously moved they "owned" more land that the Hopi, this is the cause of one of the two land disputes.

(1st Land Dispute Cont.)

By 1820 the Navajo land had more than doubled the amount that the Hopi inhabited, this angered them so they took their complaints to the government who after many months decided to give them their own Hopi tribe reservation. Though the tribe now had their own reservation and land there was a major problem; Navajo people were on their land, living, and would not leave.

The Hopi complained to the U.S. government repeatedly until they were finally rewarded with a reservation created in 1882. The reservation was occupied by Hopi and Navajo Indians, which was against the creation of the reservation; this caused the Hopi to continue their protest to the Department of the Interior. After many complaints, in 1936 the BIA divided the 1882 reservation into 18 land management districts. Only District 6 was designated for exclusive Hopi use, while the remaining districts were intended for joint use by the Hopi and Navajo.

In 1958, the Hopi Tribe sued the Navajo Tribe over title to the 1882 reservation lands in the case Healing vs. Jones. When the case was ruled on four years later, the judge granted exclusive rights to the Hopi over District 6. He also noted that since the Navajo had squatted in the Hopi territory for decades without the Secretary of the Interior removing them, they had "squatter’s rights." He granted the Navajo Tribe claim to 50% interest in the remaining Hopi reservation lands

Conflict over land use between the tribes continued, and was intensified by the presence of coal in the shared use area.

Second Dispute

In 1934, the Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit against the Navajo Tribe to gain rights to the lands added to the Navajo reservation west of the 1882 Hopi reservation. These lands included the Hopi trading village of Moencopi, whose population was about 400. Hopis based their claim on the few Hopi people living in Moencopi, plus the continued religious use of several sacred sites within the 3.5 million acres. The case lingered for almost 60 years, finally coming to a close in 1992 when the U.S. District Court ruled that the Hopi claims based primarily on religious use were inadequate. Roughly 60,000 acres in and around Moencopi were granted to the Hopi Tribe.

The Hopis appealed, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 upheld the 1992 ruling. The court also reinstated the Bennett Freeze, and granted the Hopi guaranteed access to all recognized sacred sites within the disputed area.

Though through this all the conflicts continue between the two tribes.

Main Points:

  • The creation of the Navajo and Hopi Tribal Councils by the US government.
  • The division of jointly used ancestral lands through the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act.
  • A federally imposed building moratorium and livestock reduction program for Navajos living on Hopi Partition Land.
  • The relocation of thousands of Navajo people from their homelands.


Equally divide land between the Navajo and Hopi tribe ancestors, the reservations would have stores, security, and other things that any town would have, it would be their own sanctuary, though the place that we build this reservation would have no resources that would be wanted by the government, this would be a permanent home for the tribes and their family, no more moving...


"An Historical Overview of the Navajo Relocation." Cultural Survival. 24 Feb. 2010. Web. 3 Feb. 2015. <>.

"The Two Navajo-Hopi Land Disputes." Wanna Be an Anthropologist :. Web. 3 Feb. 2015. <>.

Hopi indian, today.

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