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April 18, 2023

First of its kind visit to the Navajo Nation from First Nations of Ontario

FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. – The Navajo Police Department welcomed the Nishnawbe Aski Police Board, the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association of Canada, and the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario, to Navajo Nation, in a historic first collaborative session between the largest indigenous policing programs in Canada and the United States. Since October 2019, the NPD have been working with the First Nations group and had been engaged in information sharing and planning visits, however, COVID 19 suspended those efforts.

The efforts were reestablished and NPD Chief Daryl Noon officially extended his invitation to the First Nations group to visit the Navajo Nation which coincided with the mid-year meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Indian Country Law Enforcement Section Midyear meeting, from April 3-5, in Chandler, Ariz.

“We welcome you,” Chief Daryl Noon said to the group. “We are happy to share with you all the projects and all the successes we’ve had, and also highlight all the projects that need work,” he continued. “With the Command staff we have, we are trying to be innovative and push on a lot of things we are doing here at NPD,” Chief Noon stated to the First Nations group, representing different tribal policing programs, as they work with federal, state, and private partners.

After the IACP Mid-Year Indian Section meeting, the NPD hosted the First Nation partners at Arizona State University for two days where NPD Commander Emmett Yazzie laid the foundation of the development of the department’s relationship and partnership with federal, state, municipal and county police agencies.

On Day 1, Yazzie introduced the First Nations to Diné bi beenahaz'áanii (Fundamental Law of the Navajo). It includes Navajo Nation criminal jurisdiction, and historical enforcement practices which promulgated the principles of Navajo values into decision making. Navajo Nation Council Law and Order Chair, Eugenia Charles-Newton presented on how the Navajo Nation Council interrelates in the establishment of law and oversight of the NPD.

Day 2 concluded with hearing about the Navajo Police Department Organizational Assessment, the PSAP Consolidation Feasibility Study, and the leadership development processes with ASU.

Currently, the First Nations law enforcement are building their relationships with their federal partners and asserting their advocacy for indigenous policing in their state of Ontario.

“We wanted to come and meet with the Navajo Police and members of the community,” Roland Morrison said as he serves as Chief of Police for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. “We think there are a lot of commonalities of what is happening on Navajo and what is happening in our territory, in Nishnawbe Aski Nation. We are very happy and honored to be here.”

As part of the First Nations visit to Navajo Nation, from April 11-13, on Day 1, the NPD hosted a series of sightseeing events which included a tour to Monument Valley, Utah, a jeep tour down to the valley of Canyon de Chelly, in Chinle, Ariz., a scenic drive to the overlook in Buffalo Pass, N.M. and a visit to NPD’s Fallen Officer Alex Yazzie’s memorial in Red Valley, Ariz.

During the same day, in Chinle, the First Nations group were also given a tour of the Navajo Police Training Academy by NPD Sgt. Lucy Dan and they met with the recruits of Class 58. Afterwards, a series of discussions took place at the Navajo Police Department Chinle District which related to how economic development closely interrelates to public safety and how cooperative partnerships with non-governmental organizations increases community involvement.

Participating in the group included NPD Chinle District, Chinle Criminal Investigations Department, Chinle Department of Corrections, administrative staff from both the Kayenta and Chinle Districts, and Navajo Police Training Academy.

“It’s the same issues, regardless, of what Indian reservation you’re from. Alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, and sexual abuse,” Chief Morrison emphasized. “You are understaffed,” he said. “We are understaffed—underfunded. We are underfunded. Lack of infrastructure—we have a lack of infrastructure.”

The Nishawbe Aski Police Service is located in northern Ontario, Canada and is the largest police force in Canada. It is the second largest in North America, with Navajo Police Department ranking the largest. Their police force patrols 39 of the 49 communities, in which 34 of those communities are in remote areas. These hard-to-reach communities are only accessible by plane.

On Day 2, on April 12, at the Diné Youth Facility, in Shiprock, N.M., the First Nations group were introduced to students from the Eva B. Stokely Middle School. The Pledge of Alliance in Navajo was made. A traditional basket dance and ribbon dance performance were given from the Dual Language Native Group. A native food demonstration of chiłchin, was given by Miss Northern Navajo, Kaiesta White, followed by a meet and greet of Miss Navajo Nation, Valentina Clitso. Some discussion topics for the day included victim advocacy, murdered and missing persons, major crimes, and discussions from First Responders in the field.

Anna Betty Achneepineskum, Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, explained how she was looking forward to “Murdered and Missing Persons” presentation because she’s been an advocate for MMIW for her Nation for the past 20 years.

“We have a lot of cases and we are always having a problem with going outside our jurisdiction, even though we try really hard to establish those relationships, its been difficult,” Achneepineskum stated. “Even for us to go into the next providence, say we want to go look for our loved one, sometimes the police will work for us, and a lot of times, they won’t, and we have to do it on our own.”

On Day 3, April 13, at Navajo Police Headquarters, temporarily located in Fort Defiance, a government-to-government conversation with Navajo Nation executive leadership took place with the First Nations group with Vice President Richelle Montoya and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne. Students from Tsehootsoi Middle School demonstrated a traditional dance. Other presentations were made by AZ DPS, NM DPS, and Utah DPS.

“I’d like to thank the Nishnawbe Aski tribal members for being here on the Navajo Nation and I hope that the relationship that is built here will continue on for generations to come,” Vice President Montoya said as the event concluded.


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