Lovejoy picks activist, administrator
(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
WINDOW ROCK, Aug. 12, 2010
Her choice was Blue Gap, Ariz., native Earl Tulley, a long-time housing official and activist in many causes.
"He has deep beliefs," Lovejoy said in her announcement Monday before a packed room of supporters at a local motel. "He's a decent person, a man who stands on strong family values."
This marks Tulley's first foray into politics. As co-founder of Diné CARE, a grassroots environmental group, he helped protect forests from excessive lumbering. A devout Mormon, he also has supported efforts to prevent the spread of liquor outlets, substance abuse and casinos.
Lovejoy said she was looking at Tulley's strong spiritual beliefs to help her restore the government and provide all Navajos a voice in how their government is run.
"The Navajo people have been re-inspired by the (primary election) results of Aug. 3," she said, adding that she and Tulley will work side by side with the new 24-member council.
With Tulley as her vice president, Lovejoy said her administration can go to work immediately and make a major impact on government policy.
Tulley, who is K'ai Ch'ébáanii (Line of Willows Clan), born for Tó 'Aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together Clan), said he sees a lot of potential within Navajo society that is being wasted.
For example, 2.5 million people visit the Navajo Reservation annually but because there are so few services available most of their money is spent in border communities.
"We only have 13 motels on the reservation and only 930 rooms - Gallup alone has 32 motels. We need to flip that over," he said.
If the tribe could help Navajos open bed-and-breakfast lodgings or other businesses that cater to tourists, it could create a new source of revenue for thousands of Navajo families, Tulley said.
"If we could get these 2.5 million people to spend just one more dollar each on the reservation, that would be $2.5 million more for our people," he said.
Born and raised in Blue Gap, Tulley attended high school near Tucson and also Utah Technical College, where he took courses in human services.
As a college student, he also worked with housing inspectors and gained practical knowledge of the housing industry, which later helped him get an inspector job with the Navajo Housing Authority, where he is now oversees maintenance of thousands of housing units spread across the reservation.
But Tulley's passion has been working for the betterment of the Navajo people.
Shortly after finishing school and returning home, he became involved in the movement to curb alcoholism in border towns and reservation communities.
He joined efforts of Gallup-area officials and participated in the 1989 march on Santa Fe that resulted in legislation ending Sunday liquor sales in the city and imposing a 6 percent liquor excise tax that would be used to fund efforts to rehabilitate people with alcohol problems.
At the time, one of Tulley's major concerns was the treatment of Navajos who were picked up for public drunkenness and crammed to the point of suffocation into transport vehicles and then holding cells.
His group fought for the establishment of what became known as NCI (Na Nihzhoozhi Center Inc.), a local detox facility that provides safe haven for intoxicated persons until their blood alcohol level returns to normal, and also offers longer term treatment for those who want help to overcome alcoholism.
In the 1990s, he became one of the most influential voices on the reservation when Diné CARE took up the fight against timber cutting in the Chuska Mountains and Defiance Plateau.
The issue was controversial because jobs were at stake, but timber companies were consuming the resource at what his group said was an unsustainable rate.
When the fight was over, commercial lumbering on the Navajo Nation ceased. Navajo Forest Products Industry, which had operated the biggest sawmill in the Southwest, was forced to shut down. More importantly, in Tulley's view, procedures were set up so the Navajo people would have a role in the issuance of any future timber cutting permits.
In 1994, Tulley took up the cause of ensuring that the Navajo people's opposition to gaming, as expressed repeatedly at the polls, was respected by politicians.
A reporter for the Dallas Morning News referred to him as one of the leaders in the anti-gaming movement, and quoted him saying "we want to keep our families intact."
Today, Tulley is still not a fan of gaming, saying that the economic future of the Navajos will not rest on casino revenues but on the ability of the tribe to encourage micro-enterprise - small privately owned businesses - and gradually build an economy from the ground up.
Tribal leaders eventually overrode the voters' wishes on gaming, and plans are well underway to open half-dozen casinos on and around the reservation by 2012.
"That's already a done deal," Tulley acknowledged, adding that he still wants to see a tribal government that promotes family values and private business ownership over one that relies on casino profits.
Lovejoy said she and her staff looked at 11 candidates for the vice president position and she personally interviewed four of them before choosing Tulley.
Many of the 11 were not affiliated with the tribal government, she said, adding, "It was a very diverse group."
Lovejoy said she hasn't decided yet how to use Tulley in the campaign, noting that the two will meet with staff in the next few days to plan their strategy.