ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -- For 40 years, Navajos in an area in Arizona's far northeastern corner have lighted their homes with candles and kerosene lamps and hauled water from long distances.
But it wasn't by choice.
In 1966, then U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Robert Bennett imposed a ban on construction on 700,000 acres of Navajo land the Hopi tribe claimed as their aboriginal homeland. The so-called Bennett Freeze prohibited extension of water and electrical lines on the acreage unless approved by the Hopis.
Now, with an order signed Monday by U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll in Phoenix, that ban is lifted, and residents in the area are making plans to rebuild.
"Now we can live and think normal like other Navajos do," said Navajo council Delegate Duane Tsinigine, who represents the Bodaway-Gap chapter in the Bennett Freeze area. "It was a hardship. ... We're taught to think, 'OK, we want something but we have to go through all these obstacles and protocol and red tape.' Now we don't have to think like that."
The Hopis and Navajos have fought over the land for much of the last century.
The two tribes began working on an intergovernmental compact four years ago that would lift the Bennett Freeze and end litigation the Hopi filed against the Navajo in 1974 as part of a broader land dispute.
The agreement finalized Monday also allows members of either tribe to venture onto the other tribe's land for religious purposes without a permit.
"The heart of the compact is recognition on the part of both tribes of the religious and cultural ties that we have to the land," Hopi vice chairman Todd Honyaoma said.
The Navajo and Hopi councils and Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne approved the agreement this fall. All that was pending was Carroll's signature.
"This is the day Navajos have been waiting and praying so long for," Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said in a statement.
Honyaoma said: "We can now move forward into what I hope will be a new era of cooperation between the Hopi and Navajo on numerous common issues. The future is ours to decide."
Shirley said he is looking forward to working with the Hopis to rehabilitate the land and build hospitals and schools, and to pave roads.
"It's about time," he said.
Bodaway-Gap chapter coordinator Dorothy Lee said the first thing she would like to see is electricity and running water to the home of her aunt, Bessie Little.
"She has a husband who is bedridden ... and (she) has to provide for him," Lee said.
But Little is ailing, and she suffers from pneumonia periodically, Lee said. Just this week, she was hospitalized, and Lee said doctors don't want her to return home until it has power and water.
Lee said she told a social worker Wednesday morning that the community should see relief soon with the lifting of the Bennett Freeze.
"I don't know how fast, is all I can tell him," she said.
U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., whose district includes the Navajo Nation, said Wednesday that he will introduce legislation in the spring that would secure funding for rehabilitation efforts.
Renzi said the measure would change the federal Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, which is responsible for relocating Navajos from Hopi land and Hopis from Navajo land, to a rehabilitation office.
The relocation office receives million a year in federal funding that Renzi said he would like to see go toward improvements.
"I don't want that money to just dry up and blow away," he said.