'Diné Minds' tries to bridge gap between government, governed

By Alastair Lee Bitsóí
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 23, 2014

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Navajo Nation council delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake), answers a question about tribal government and transparency during the Meeting of the Diné Minds conference in Window Rock.

BOTTOM: Navajo Nation council delegate LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland), second from left, answers a question about the coal mines on the Navajo Nation on Friday during the Meeting of Diné Minds conference at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock.

Navajo politicians say they vote on bills that represent the best interest and voice of the Navajo public, while some grassroots activists would argue that these elected officials pass bills serving their own interests.

But what about the voices of concerned Navajos like Janene Yazzie of Diné Minds, a coalition whose focus is bridging the communication gap between elected leaders and the Navajo public?

“It's not grassroots per se," Yazzie said about Diné Minds. “These are people from different political backgrounds who engage in constructive and critical dialogue."

According to Diné Minds, one of the latest examples of their voices being ignored was when the Navajo Nation Council on Dec. 27 passed a bill that allowed the Navajo Transitional Energy Company to acquire Navajo Mine from BHP New Mexico Coal. The $85 million purchase has been and continues to be opposed by environmental groups like Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, who don't agree with the tribe waiving its some of its sovereignty.

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