'I wanted answers... from Albert Hale'

October 8, 2012

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I am writing this editorial because of the Navajo Times article showing a picture of me being escorted out of the Chapter by two policewomen for voicing my concerns during a Bodaway/Gap Chapter special meeting held Oct. 3 regarding the Escalade Project.

I wanted answers to my questions from Arizona State Representative Albert Hale, and partner of the Escalade Project who was in attendance. I asked Mr. Hale, "Why did you pick the Confluence, the most sacred site in the world to all indigenous people to develop the Escalade Project? Who are your partners and why are they your partners? What percentage of ownership do the Navajo's hold? What is the amount of money being used to promote this project and where is the money coming from?" If the Navajo's have 100 percent ownership of the project, it would then make sense. If not, the Navajo's don't want the project. No Deal.

In terms of the events leading up to my removal from the Chapter, here is an example of misconduct on behalf of Bodaway Gap Chapter leadership. They are secretly holding meetings and consulting with Navajo Nation leaders on how to conduct a meeting to move the Escalade Project forward. On Oct. 3, the special meeting was called, which was posted at the last minute and also held during the middle of the week, purposely disenfranchising people from participating in the discussion and decisions being made on their behalf.

When Billy Arizona, president of the Chapter called the meeting to order, he told the people they were not allowed to record or take pictures. Then immediately called for the motions and vote to rescind all prior resolutions opposing the Escalade project and vote to accept a new resolution to support the Project. Violating Robert's Rule of Order by purposely not allowing a discussion by the people, before voting.

It was then I raised my hand to speak. I called for a motion not to make a motion until the situation here was addressed. I stated to Mr. Arizona, that he couldn't make motions and call for the vote and then close the meeting, which is what he was saying. I also stated, they can't use just anyone from the outside to vote, like the signatures you've been collecting. I reiterated, that the people voting must be registered voters to this chapter.

Arizona acted like he didn't hear me and proceeded with the vote. That is when I got up, out of my chair and walked to the bench and asked him to answer to the people, and not promote this one-sided agenda. That is when two policewomen grabbed me and took me outside and held onto to me keeping me from re-entering the chapter building. While I was outside, people were ultimately being allowed to speak and I was glad they were given time to voice their concerns.

As I was outside, I noticed more and more police were arriving, there were state police, Navajo police and men dressed in black with word "Police" on their backs.

They began to prohibit any people from entering the chapter. I asked them why, they refused to answer me. Darlene Martin was also prohibited from entering and asked why, they referred her to Captain Dodson, who also refused to even acknowledge the question and kept looking straight ahead into the Chapter house.

When it came to the vote, from outside, I could see chapter secretary Marie Williams counting votes so fast and counting them twice in some cases and pointing to anyone randomly; not ensuring that they were indeed Bodaway/Gap chapter members and/or registered voters.

I knew then, that I was right to stand up for the people, which is the responsibility and duty of the chapter officials and elected officials. The people should be allowed to be heard and treating with respect and equality. It made me sad to see in action the injustices and violations of our civil and human rights.

Louise Yellowman
Former Coconino County Supervisor
Tuba City, Ariz.

President needs to meet the people and ask for their opinions

In the Sept. 27, 2012 Navajo Times (page A-9) article "2013 budget move on to President Shelly", written by Marley Shebala, emphasized how there was a disagreement between the council delegates on whether to reduce the 12 percent set aside for the tribal general funds to 10 percent. It was debated for quite awhile but it was decided that it is in the hands of the Navajo Nation president to agree or disagree with that amendment.

This debate to reduce the money from 12 to 10 percent is important and should be decided by the Diné people, it is their money, but to have President Shelly decide on it, I disagree with that.

In Mr. Shelly's activity involving his proposal to selling our water rights to the outsiders has been a true sign of not caring for his people and future generations. President Shelly should know now that with one little mistake he makes, we the Diné people won't sit back and watch but we'll let our voices be heard.

If the president wants to get on the people's good side, he should go and meet the people and ask for their opinions, instead of making decisions that could affect the people. So please, Mr. President Ben Shelly, make the right choice and help your Diné people.

Ryan R. Begay
Round Rock, Ariz.

(Editor's note: Tribal officials are actually working to decrease the 12 percent to 2 percent, not 10 percent.)

We should question what goes on behind closed doors

In the article "President Ben Shelly: The Highs and Lows of the First 18 Months" by Bill Donovan, President Shelly discusses his attempts to implement a new type of government as well as discussing the issues with the budget cuts and his support of the Navajo Nation veterans.

I believe what our new head of government is doing is all with good intentions, and if there will be changes implemented for the "betterment of our people", I believe that we have the right to question what our president states.

First of all, this chairmanship form of government would put our president in charge of the decisions, good and bad, that are made for the reservation.

Second, the budget is being cut which would result in job loss. I think people will want to know who is going to be laid off. Will they be employees of the tribal government? The council? Police officers? Who will be affected?

If that many people get laid off then it will definitely bring on hardships for 51 families. Was that considered?

Lastly, the last part of the article barely discusses veterans. Veterans are the people who fought, died, and sacrificed so much of their lives to save our country, time and again. Yet they barely get a nod, much less a mention in this article, which proves that there is really not much going on to help our vets.

To quote Washington officials, "Are you [President Ben Shelly] speaking personally or for the tribe?"

We trust our nation with our president and his workers, and if their actions are as questionable to me as they are to federal officials in Washington, D.C., then we should begin to really question what goes on behind closed doors.

Tori Hunter
Chinle, Ariz.

Navajo Nation needs strict laws for use of tribal money

In the article "A Coal Economy" by Alistair Mountz from Sept. 27, 2012 Navajo Times (page A-1), it stated that the Navajo Nation is a coal economy. It is said the Navajo Nation receives an enormous amount of funds from two major power plants, which are Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station. Over 32 percent of the plants revenue is received from these two big facilities.

If the Navajo Nation is really a coal economy, where is all this money going?

I see it in a way that many of our tribal leaders and administrators are just pocketing the money for their own use. It's plain to see that our Navajo tribal leaders just use a lot of the tribal money for traveling and personal use. It's obvious to notice that they use tribal funds to go to Las Vegas to watch the National Finals Rodeo or the Professional Bull Riders World Finals when you see council delegates' faces on national television.

The misuse of tribal funds is noticeable when you spot council delegates rolling around in new rides, or when you see that they spent 50 grand on delegate rings. Council delegates also made it obvious that they were misusing funds when they were caught writing out discretionary funds for their own use and to family members.

Without our tribal leaders' selfish attitude to only think for oneself, maybe there would have been more money for Navajo college students when many of them couldn't receive their tribal scholarships. Perhaps the tribe could hire better attorneys that will fight for the Navajo Nation's water rights.

The Navajo Nation could also maybe have better roads, better school facilities, and better teachers for our Navajo children from K-12. The Navajo Nation really needs to set laws and set strict standards for the usage of tribal money. Most importantly, we need honest leaders.

Arji Thinn
Sanders, Ariz.

If Navajo leaders want prosperity and progress, let's exercise our sovereignty

I am for clean air for our Navajo people but this topic needs to be addressed regardless if you're in favor or against NGS renewal.

If you buy food and gas today it costs more than it did 50 years ago. Tax rates and water prices are higher these days too. Now our Navajo Nation's leaders are being urged to renew the NGS as soon as possible, which is set to expire in 2019. What's the rush?

NGS stakeholders (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, SRP, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Arizona Public Service Company, Nevada Energy and Tucson Electric Power) want to continue to bribe Navajos with bonuses and royalty rates set from 1970s and 80s.

Our leaders need to put their foot down and renegotiate with today's market rates for right-of-ways, taxes, fees, and royalties. No waivers. Have 50 percent of taxes, fees, royalties revert back to impacted chapters. The revenues will help with impacted community planning of roads, electricity, water lines, homes, and other programs.

A couple more terms our leaders should take into consideration are lease expiration date. Fifty years lease is overrated these days. Today, any Navajo living off reservation does not have a rent lease for over 50 years or more. Rent, water, or electricity is always increasing yearly based on economy and demand adjusted with inflation. Our leases with outside companies should be in intervals of 60 or 72 months and revenue payments should be due on first of each month.

If stakeholders increase their rates Navajos should be able to increase their rates too - just common sense. Same for coal rates. Water rates should be $300 per acre-foot. Right now Navajo Nation only gets $7 per acre-foot for 28,000 acre-feet to cool the power plant.

Leaders also need to include grassroots voters in negotiations. Public hearings and presentations need to be held and presented with figures, rates and visuals. If Navajo leaders want prosperity and progress let's start by not caving to stakeholders offering lowball market rates for right-of-ways, taxes, fees, and royalties. Let's exercise our sovereignty.

Calvin Johnson
Leupp, Ariz.

DHA is in the business of healing, not abuse

As president and chief executive officer of the Diné Hataalii Association and with all due respect, I feel it is incumbent on me to, proactively, provide the readership with the proper Diné healing and medicine protocol that sometimes can be misinterpreted or taken out of context.

The recent newspaper article published in the Sept. 27, 2012 issue of the Navajo Times "Charges/More Medicine Men Charged" creates the impression or implies that all medicine men are engaged in criminal acts or sexual misconduct, especially when time-honored Diné traditional ceremonies are conducted. Despite implications, it is only proper to point out that majority of Diné patient(s) already have prior knowledge of which medicine men and women are implicitly trusted and are in good standing. They also know which medicine men and women have questionable motives.

If a patient is unsure which medicine person has proper credentials or if ceremony is authentic and follows Diné traditional ceremonial protocol, I usually get a call from patient to verify credentials and there is always further inquiry, if medicine person is in good standing.

The DHA has an official registry of all medicine people who are board certified with application on hand with supporting documents that specifies authentic ceremony studied, when ceremony was authorized, how many years in actual training, which medicine man - the mentor - studied under, etc.

In some cases, medicine people who are subject to court litigation and/or under dispute are not listed as a DHA member. Unfortunately, medicine people alleged and charged become subject to federal intervention and jurisdiction. This is followed by court proceedings of innocent until proven guilty.

Upon further review, a certain ceremony practiced by a medicine person, is not listed or not recognized as a bona fide Diné traditional ceremony. Some ceremonies are explicitly intertwined with other prevailing ceremonial influences. The DHA does not, and will not certify, a given ceremony, which is intricately linked in this fashion. The Diné traditional ceremonies are exclusively categorized under the two main ceremonial branches - the Naayee'ji or Hozhooji systems.

When medicine men and women request to be certified by the Diné Hataalii Association, one question, among a series of questions, posed which all new applicants are required to unequivocally respond to it, "Are you currently subject to any court-related cases, on the tribal, state, or federal levels relative to violations of the fundamental laws governing ethical virtues and moral principles established for conducting Diné ceremonies?"

If an applicant has a pending charge or a questionable record, the application is put on hold indefinitely. The DHA does not certify an applicant who has an outstanding warrant or is under court ceremonial-related litigation and/or dispute with a patient or patient families. The DHA is intuitively aware of all complaints brought to the attention of DHA leadership. Some are still under legal review. In most moot cases, the DHA is not in a position to intervene in a ceremonial dispute or even question the character or integrity of a medicine person. This is because medicine person, under dispute, is not certified by the DHA or refuses to be certified.

Before a certification is issued, a new applicant is interviewed by DHA leadership, prior to the meeting day, to ensure accuracy of information provided on application.

Although medicine people are encouraged to become certified, some maintain a position that it is not DHA's business how he or she conducts ceremonies. In some cases, it becomes a claim that he has always performed ceremonies without certification.

Today, it is best medicine people become certified as hospitals, clinics, and employment sectors now require a medicine person to be board certified and as required for certain traditional counselor positions and for other specialized in-patient treatments.

At this juncture, I remain self-assured that the Diné people will continue to place their faith, trust, and confidence in prominent medicine people, who are in good standing. Medicine people understand the omnipotent Holy People (Diyin Dine'e) are the ones who provide blessings of ceremonial healing, administration of medicinal herbs/plant roots, and thereby restore wellbeing to Diné patients to continue journey on the corn pollen pathway (tadidiin bik'eh atiin).

Please keep in mind, the DHA is in the business of healing, not abuse, misuse, politics, or exploitations. I wish everyone wellness in the spirit of healing through the Sa ah Naaghai Bik'eh Hozhoon guiding principles.

Anthony Lee Sr.
Lukachukai, Ariz.

Cultural loss is not a community problem

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am of the Towering House Clan, born for Black Streak Through Wood Clan. I am a resident and chapter member of Bááháálí N.M.

The statement that Bááháálí is losing its "Navajoness" is not entirely true. We still conduct ceremonies and continue the Diné way. Yes, our youth are indeed mimicking mainstream America but this is true for the entire Dine' nation. A majority of them are no longer interested in our beautiful way of life because it is not instilled in them due to a language barrier.

Traditional teachings start in the home with the parent(s), first and foremost by learning our language. But some parents state that it is "easier" to speak English so instilling the Dine' language and teachings are put on the side burner while work and leisure take precedent. Please teach your children our beautiful language. I can't stress this enough. Our language is the key that unlocks a treasure chest and this chest is full of Dine' knowledge spanning from time immemorial.

Secondly, to the elders and keepers of traditional knowledge, don't be stingy with it. Enlighten us! When we seek knowledge, we get a response in the form of "Yeeyah! doo baa yajilti'dah" (warning, don't talk about it). Well, how are we going to learn if you aren't going to tell us?

If it wasn't supposed to be shared then why was it passed down to the present time? Ashoodi'! Tell us when we ask (when seasonally appropriate).

Lastly, there are a few youth who hold our Diné way of life dear to their hearts who attend ceremonies and continue our Dine' legacy that began with our revered mother Asdzaan Nadlehe. To you, I give much respect, Ahe'hee! You are indeed important to our future. Thank you for learning the songs, prayers, and correct protocol for our sacred ceremonies so that balance and harmony can be restored for our people and the entire world.

Again, cultural loss is not a local community problem, it's a problem that spans the entire Dine' nation. We are a strong nation that has endured many hardships and obstacles in the past, if we stand together as one nation as in those times, we can overcome the barriers and claim our youth back.

Sean Tsosie
Bááháálí N.M.

Unused money and 'I couldn't even get any help...'

I was reading your article on federal funding and how most of it will be returned because of non-use. I am a college graduate and throughout my years in school I have specifically asked and applied for funding but was denied several times. After reading the article about how funding was being given back, it really irritated me on how all that money could be returned when there are people like me struggling and trying to make a life for my family.

I went back to school thinking it would be better and also thinking I would get help from my tribe, my people.

I just wanted to respond to the article and say that I'm very disappointed in the government and how they chose to handle the situation and because they chose not to support my education I am now in debt of more than $30,000. It saddens me knowing they have all that unused money and I couldn't even get help with any of it.

So I hope in the future that our young adults going to school won't have the same situation I had. I am struggling because of a poor decision. I am in debt because I did not qualify. And most of all I am hurt because I thought we were one nation, one people, and one family.

William Upshaw
Phoenix, Ariz.

Difference of 7 votes does not open the door to Escalade

Regarding your coverage on the "Bodaway opens door to the Escalade" I would like to express several concerns that relates the very nature of the way the Gap/Bodaway Chapter officials conducted that meeting.

At a chapter meeting in August the president did not wish to entertain any more discussion on the Escalade project. My guess was that the July 22, 2012 resolution was the official position of the chapter. The president said that he signed it and that would be it. Couple weeks ago I heard that one of the candidates for the chapter presidency joined the Confluence Partners, LLC. This means that he may be on their payroll and actively promoting the project. One wonders if there is a serious conflict of interest.

To make matters more interesting, the president did an about face and scheduled a special meeting. This particular meeting was closed down by the Navajo Nation police for safety reasons. Then the following week officials scheduled another meeting. This time under the presence of the police, which reminds the Navajo people of the Water Settlement forums.

The results of the last meeting went down with a lot of confusion. The group that wanted to rescind all resolutions against the project managed to garner 59 votes against the other side with 52. A difference of 7 votes does not "open the door for the Escalade." What the numbers tell us is one thing: President Shelly and the Confluence Partners do not have a mandate to continue with this effort.

This whole project split the community down the middle, and does not even mirror the president's desire for a "solid community support."

The officials are not even at the stage of promoting harmony and Ke'. They just watch as the people argue back and forth with no goal as to how the community can be a community. The people against the Escalade feel strongly that the vice president was bias and did not count all of their members. To make sure she counted correctly, one opponent said that she re-counted her side and another opponent said that she went outside the chapter house to count the people standing outside and those waiting in vehicles. And she counted the opposition just once. Just how fair is this count?

If a person raises both hands, did she count them? Or if the vice president does not know certain people, but are registered voters, were they counted?

Another if, if the vice president has total control over vote count and she supports the Escalade, she can add or delete votes. There are other ways to do this more objectively. Down the line, this outcome may be subjected to a lawsuit or it may just be accepted by the Navajo Nation government as a way of doing things. I believe that the Partners are still at the same position: "promising a pie in the sky" that will never be realized.

William LongReed
Tuba City, Ariz.

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