The United States-Navajo Nation Treaty of 1868 established stipulations to provide land and assistance for farming. In 1908, the Winter’s Doctrine reaffirmed water rights of Native American Indians. Public Law 87-483 was authorized by US Congress in June 1962 for the purpose of furnishing water for irrigable and arable lands in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico. The project authorized construction of 110,630 acres of farmland and the diversion of 508,000 acre-feet of water from Navajo Reservoir to the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project lands. In 2009, Public Law 111-11 added additional uses to the NIIP and allows the transfer of water using NIIP to outside service areas.
In 1970, the Navajo Nation established Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI), a Navajo Nation Enterprise to operate the NIIP and manage the Industrial Agri-business company.
San Juan/Chama Diversion and Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, NIIP
The Rio Grande Compact signed in 1938 (between New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas) included the idea that a trans-mountain diversion could bring water from the San Juan River in to the Rio Grande Basin. With consideration of the ‘Winters Doctrine’, the Navajo people have rights to a sizable claim of water in the San Juan River. To support a delivery system to the Navajo Nation, the State of New Mexico insisted upon a non-Indian joint project that would be known as the San Juan-Chama Diversion under the Rio Grande Compact. The project diverts 100,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River (portion of the Navajo Nation’s sizable claim) to the Rio Grande Basin. In 1957, the Navajo Tribal Council approved the reduction of their claim to the water for the San Juan-Chama Diversion. In exchange, the Federal government guaranteed a system to deliver 508,000 acre-feet of water on an annual basis to 110,630 acres of farm land.
After 10 years of negotiation, ‘Public Law 87-483, Navajo Indian Irrigation and San Juan-Chama Projects’ was agreed upon and signed by the United States, State of New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation to authorize:
- NIIP: develop and provide a delivery system to 110,630 acres of farmland to the Navajo Nation.
- San Juan-Chama Diversion Project: develop conveyance to transfer approximately 100,000 acre-feet of San Juan River Basin Water annually to Rio Grande Basin.
NIIP began in 1964. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for construction and operations & maintenance of the irrigation delivery system until project completion. The BIA contracts the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to plan, design and construct the NIIP infrastructure through the MOU of 1962. The BIA’s responsibility also includes the participation in the San Juan River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program that concern federal actions related to NIIP construction and operation.
Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, NAPI
On April 16, 1970, NAPI was developed by the Navajo Nation Council as a Navajo-Owned Enterprise to create employment and operate a profitable Agri-business. NAPI has become one of the largest contiguous farmland in the nation and provides ‘Navajo Pride’ products internationally.
The NAPI farmland has an estimated 72,000 acres developed. The major crops grown at NAPI are alfalfa, no. 2 corn, small grains, potatoes, and beans. Each crop is grown to meet the highest quality under the ‘Navajo Pride’ brand. NAPI operates three Navajo Pride processing facilities: Bean Plant, Potato Fresh Pack and Flour Mill. The Bean Plant and Fresh Pack are Global GAP certified to make Navajo Pride products one of the highest quality products in the market.
NAPI’s employment varies between 200-500 people during a crop season – 95% are Navajos. NAPI’s education promotional programs include summer internships and a scholars program. The students who have participated in NAPI’s Scholars Program have returned to NAPI as a full-time employees.