WINDOW ROCK—President Russell Begaye on Wednesday signed closing documents for the purchase of the Gentle Ironhawk domestic violence shelter in Blanding, Utah, signaling the end of an 18-month process to transfer the property to the Navajo Nation.
The non-profit Gentle Ironhawk Shelter, Inc., which derives its name from Dakota Ironhawk Black and Nicole Gentlehawk Black, two children who were killed by their father in 2000, has operated in its current location since 2004. President Begaye toured the 7,250-square-foot building in early 2017 when the shelter’s director announced her retirement and immediately began negotiations to acquire the property.
“We have so much domestic violence on the Navajo Nation, and we need a shelter for our Navajo women and children seeking safety,” President Begaye said Wednesday as he signed the closing documents. “We finally have a shelter for our people, but this is just the beginning. We will continue to expand these services all over Navajo.”
The Office of the President worked closely with the Division of Social Services (DSS) and the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to secure the purchase, which marks the first domestic violence shelter owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. Additional shelters operate in Kayenta and Shiprock, but neither building is owned by the tribe.
The DSS’ Strengthening Families Program operates the Shiprock shelter, but it leases from the Navajo Housing Authority. The Strengthening Families Program will operate the Gentle Ironhawk Shelter.
“By owning and operating a domestic violence shelter, the Navajo Nation is offering a safe haven for Navajo families and children,” DSS Director Terrelene Massey said. “There’s a big need for domestic and family violence services on the Navajo Nation. In the past, we referred people out, to off-reservation services. In the last four years, we’ve built our capacity to handle these cases and provide services for the Navajo people.”
The shelter is fully functional and houses 18 beds in 14 rooms, as well as a living room, kitchen, baby room, offices and laundry services. The purchase also includes 3.6 acres of land.
“The location alone is important because the Utah strip of the Navajo Nation is so underserved for domestic violence victims,” said Ketah Simpson, the shelter’s interim director. “Domestic violence is a huge issue, and by purchasing the property, the Navajo Nation is ensuring that this service will continue.”
Simpson thanked President Begaye for his swift action to acquire the facility.
“President Begaye was very passionate about getting this facility and working with us for a smooth transaction,” she said. “He truly believes this is a necessity and will benefit people affected by domestic violence.”