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March 21, 2014

Navajo woman family's last link to monument land

WUPATKI NATIONAL MONUMENT, Ariz. (AP) — Before it was Wupatki National Monument, the pueblo ruins in northern Arizona was home to hundreds of Navajos. They slowly they left and now only one remains.

And when 89-year-old Stella Peshlakai Smith dies, her residency permit dies with her.

But the Peshlakais have vowed to fight and support is mounting among state and tribal officials.

Navajo Nation lawmaker Walter Phelps says that "this family has had a homestead there for generations and ... we want that to be made right."

Monument Superintendent Kayci Cook Collins says reserving property for the Peshlakais could invite other tribes to lay claim to the land.

So far, no request to allow the Peshlakais to live there has been submitted to Congress.

But the family has an advocate in U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick who says: "we cannot forget that the people who have emerged with the land are inseparable."

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