FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The race to become the next leader of the Hopi Tribe
has drawn eight candidates, including the current chairman and vice chairman.
Hopis will narrow down the list Wednesday in the primary election, sending the
top two vote-getters on to the general election on Nov. 20. Two of the four
candidates for vice chairman also will move on.
Hopis elected Le Roy Shingoitewa, a former elementary school principal, as
chairman and Herman Honanie, the tribe’s former health director, as vice
chairman four years ago. They’re now running against each other to lead the
12,000-member tribe in northeastern Arizona that has faced challenges with
investments, securing water rights and finding new sources of revenue as coal
Shingoitewa and Honanie took the leadership posts during a rare vacancy in the
offices after former Chairman Ben Nuvamsa and former Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma
Sr. resigned amid political chaos in the tribal government. Honyaoma is
seeking the chairman’s job.
The race also features Caleb Johnson, a former vice chairman; Shingoitewa’s
former chief of staff and anthropologist Micah Loma’omvaya; tribal solid waste
director Mike Puhuyesva, grocery store manager Tommy Canyon; and Norman Honie
Jr., who heads the tribe’s office of mining and mineral resources.
Ronald Honyumptewa, Alfred Lomahquahu Jr., Robert Sumatzkuku and George Mase
are vying to become vice chairman.
The chairman oversees meetings of the Tribal Council, which functions much like
a city government, but does not vote except to break a tie. Not all of the 12
Hopi villages that sit on three mesas above the surrounding desert send
representatives to the Tribal Council.
The candidates’ platforms include equal representation of villages on the
Tribal Council, improving the tribe’s relationship with the federal government,
reaching out to Hopis and cultural practitioners for advice and promoting
cooperation between villages.
The Hopi Tribe also fought a public battle this year to keep dozens of
artifacts from being auctioned off in France but was unsuccessful.
The Hopi Constitution, which reflects a mix of theocracy and democracy in
government, doesn’t require tribal members to be registered to vote but any Hopi
casting a ballot must be 18 years old. Nearly 1,400 voted in the 2009 primary
“It’s a pretty small turnout,” said tribal registrar Karen Shupla. “We really
encourage if you don’t want that individual to get in, come and vote for who you
would like to get in. That’s your choice.”
Historically, Hopis don’t vote when disapproving of something. The polls open
at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.