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Former Hopi chairman Secakuku dead at 69

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PHOENIX — Former Hopi Chairman Ferrell Secakuku, who helped resolve a longtime land dispute between his tribe and the Navajo Nation, died Wednesday at a friend's home in Flagstaff. He was 69.

Secakuku (pronounced seh-KAH'-koo-koo), who disclosed earlier this month that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, had been in hospice care. He was surrounded by family and died peacefully, his daughter, Kim, told The Associated Press.

"Just before he passed away, we had a very nice rain come down … it's significant to Hopi in terms of just welcoming him into the spirit world," Kim Secakuku said.

Instead of fighting the disease with chemotherapy, Secakuku had opted to let nature take its course.

Born in the Village of Sipaulovi, Secakuku served as chairman of the Hopi Tribe from 1994 to 1997. While in office, he facilitated the negotiation of the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement.

The settlement was worked out after a federal judge in 1991 ordered the two tribes to reach an agreement over land they had been quarreling over since the 1800s. At the time, Secakuku said the agreement was important in providing a way for Navajo and Hopi families to live in harmony on the land in northern Arizona.

The Hopi reservation covers more than 2,400 square miles and is surrounded by the much-larger Navajo reservation.

"He had always to the very end instilled in us here to give service to people, to help them out whenever we can, especially those that are in need," Kim Secakuku said. "That's the way he practices life. He always helped, even when he wasn't chairman."

In 2006, Secakuku earned a master's degree in anthropology from Northern Arizona University. He also planned to teach and expand the use of Hopi language.

Rather than a public memorial, Secakuku requested a traditional Hopi burial, which will take place Thursday morning at Sipaulovi in Second Mesa.

In addition to his daughter Kim, Secakuku is also survived by five other daughters, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In the weeks before his death, Secakuku was inundated with phone calls, cards and e-mails from people in the Hopi community, Kim Secakuku said.

"He didn't realize how many people he had touched," Kim Secakuku said. "He was very appreciative of that. He never asked for anything like that."


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