A divisive issue

Perhaps Sherlock Holmes is needed? After all, the game’s afoot – but not everyone wants to toe the line.

For roughly a century the non-native – mostly Republican – voters in San Juan County, Utah, have controlled the political landscape. Despite Native Americans making up half of the registered voters in the county, the district maps were drawn in such a way to ensure that two of the three seats on the county commission would always be kept in non- Native hands.

Until the November 2018, election, that is.

After a federal court ruled that San Juan County districts were “racially gerrymandered” to discriminate against Native American voters the district boundaries had to be redrawn.

This led to Native candidates, both Democrats, winning two of the three commission seats for the first time ever.

The entrenched Powers-That-Be were determined not to go gentle into that good night.

First, losing Republican candidate Kelly Laws challenged the residency of Navajo Willie Grayeyes. But when the district court recently ruled in favor of Grayeyes it appeared as though a new reality had come to San Juan County.

The bell had tolled on the Old Guard that had kept a firm grasp on county political power for a hundred years. What can be done now?

It’s elementary, really.

State Rep. Kim Coleman, R-Salt Lake City, wants communities to be able to break away from existing counties and form their own.

It’s an idea backed by State Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding. Lyman, a former San Juan County commissioner, thinks San Juan should be split into two or three separate counties.

The idea has nothing to do with discrimination, divisiveness or now having two Navajo commissioners, Lyman insisted. It’s just a matter of better representation. After all, the American Revolution was fought because citizens wanted better representation from their government, Lyman said.

His home community has been “disenfranchised” by the new voting district map, Lyman insisted.

San Juan County’s other Navajo commissioner, Kenneth Maryboy, summed up Coleman’s legislation in one word: “Stupid.”

Maybe, while he’s at it, our pipesmoking super sleuth could unravel the mystery of why county Republicans – who ignored fair voter representation for a century – are suddenly concerned.

Or has Kenneth Maryboy already solved that puzzle?

The white Republican establishment just doesn’t like seeing natives in leadership positions, Maryboy deduced.

John Christian Hopkins lives in Sanders, Ariz., with his wife Sararesa. He is a veteran journalist – but never an enemy of the people – and a former nationally syndicated columnist for Gannett News Service. He is the author of many books,including “Carlomagno: Adventures of the Pirate Prince of the Wampanoag” and “Loki: God of Mischief.” Hopkins is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.

From John Christian Hopkins.