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Navajo Housing Authority visits Brighton Housing Department

BRIGHTON — Five members of the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) traveled from Arizona to Florida to learn about the Tribe’s Information Technology (IT) Department, network infrastructure, and property management procedures and software program. The group met April 17 with the Housing Department in Brighton.

“The Tribe’s Geographic Information System (GIS) is the most aggressive in Indian Country,” said Michell Carter, GIS manager. “This will give them ideas how to create their own system and infrastructure.”

The GIS system captures, stores, manipulates, analyzes, manages and presents geographic data.

“We came to see how the software works,” said Nadine Clah, NHA IT analyst and GIS coordinator. “I’m a firm believer in Tribes helping each other instead of paying consultants. We need to know the good and the bad about the software program. Another Tribe has already been through this, so we can learn from them.”

The 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation Reservation spans four states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The Navajo is the largest federally recognized Tribe with about 290,000 members; about 150,000 live on the reservation.

NHA manages about 10,000 homes and needs between 30,000 and 50,000 more.

Susan Coleman, property manager, presented the Tribe’s Housing Department program step by step. Coleman said the Yardi Voyager property management software is flexible and customizable to a Tribe’s needs.

“Our goal is to present this to our leaders,” said Evans Bennallie, NHA IT analyst.

NHA considered the software program before the visit. It came to test the program’s efficiency and to determine whether it can handle the needs of a Tribe of their size. The Navajo Reservation has 15 housing offices, 110 communities with five agencies, and a council representative from each community. NHA also navigates through layers of bureaucracy, including federal and Tribal.

“We need a program to interface with all our branches of government,” said Charlotte Rieck, NHA chief administrative officer.

Seminole Housing regional manager Derrick Smith, among others, shared maintenance issues, costs, work orders, processes and efficiencies, noting that each reservation is autonomous and is responsible for managing repairs and costs.

“This is our business,” Smith said. “We aren’t managing it for someone else.”

But high-tech issues weren’t the only things shared between the two Tribes; culture was discussed. Leoda Tommie, procurement specialist, told Bennallie about chickees; he told her about the Navajo traditional eight-sided mud and wood hut, or Hogan, which always has a door opening to the east.

Language, the Rosetta Stone Navajo software and the size of the Navajo Tribal Council, which was reduced from 88 to 24 in 2009, were also discussed.

Last year, NHA completed a state-of-the-art satellite imaging database, with terrain modeling technologies, to map the floodplain on the reservation.

The results will determine feasible locations for new homes and will help protect existing ones.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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