A "Mixing of Religions"

May 2, 2013

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My masani always told me to greet people even though you don't respect their opinions or thoughts. I read Tacheeni Scott's article relating to the "mixing," of religion. I also read about how he called peyote, "medicine which is despicable."

I can understand the fear of peyote and understand he claims to be a "Christian." Christ preached the message of love as well as forgiveness. The only requirement of being Christian is accepting Jesus as the Lord and Savior. What happened to love your neighbor?

When the first people arrived on the East Coast they proclaimed it their land, then they moved across the country, and claimed it was given to them by manifest destiny. They killed thousands of Native Americans - women, children, and men. They called the Native Americans savages, subhuman, filth with proclamations such as "Nits make lice."

Finally after killing most of the Native Americans they wanted to own his spirit as well. They subjected Native Americans to schools with the philosophy of "Kill the Indian, save the man."

During World War II another people faced genocide by the Nazis, these people were labeled as subhuman. They were the Jews, the very people whom God promised a land of milk and honey to. God protected them during World War II and they survived just as we do.

During the 1930s there were stories about peyote and the peyote way. Back then people didn't understand what peyote was, they just knew it wasn't a Navajo traditional ceremony. The stories passed were only negative and were spread by Christian ministers.

Times have changed however and now many people know the peyote ceremonies and many people pray in this manner. It is not right for anyone to cast judgment upon how people pray.

There was no mixing of religion, there was only celebration of prayer between Native Americans. There were just Native Americans praying, this is what Native Americans do.

In the book of Acts, Paul happens to walk into a place where there are idols set up and he sees one only marked to the unknown God. Paul believes it is the Lord's place. Was this not an example of syncretism?

Navajos are accepting and spiritual people. God was introduced to the Navajo and now most Navajos acknowledge the Creator. There is and never has been no such thing as Navajo religion, there is only Navajo philosophy. Within Navajo philosophy is the concept of hozho or balance. Our goal as Navajos is to live with peace and harmony with creation.

If you believe in Christ and the Bible to reach your state of hozho may you be blessed to do so. If you want to believe in worshiping the Creator with pollen in the morning, so be it, and if you want to worship God with peyote to reach your state of peace and harmony so be it.

I pray for open minds of understanding. Understand what Jesus Christ really meant. Teach us things through love, understanding and pray for your fellow Native American. This is the real meaning of love.

Sean Alvin Begaye
(Hometown: Fort Defiance/Dilkon, Ariz.)

Dubbing tribal themed movies

This is in response to the surprising announcement of 'Star Wars' to be dubbed into Navajo.

My personal feeling is that if a tribe is going to invest into preserving its language, its makes more sense that its funding is directed toward an educational tool that falls more in line as a daily teaching device rather than a video that eventually ends up on a shelf collecting dust.

High-tech is surely opening doors and now assists in preserving native tribal languages throughout all of Indian country. There is an app developed that provides translation devices, talking toys in native languages, and can also be customized for iPads and iPhones.

When you think about it, a movie is watched once or twice and rarely watched again - unless of course it was 'Dancing With Wolves,' which I must confess I watched at least 5 or 6 times.

Don't get me wrong, I would like to see movies dubbed in various native languages, however if given a choice, it makes more sense that first consideration goes to movies such as 'Windtalkers' or 'Edge of America,' which are respectively tribally-themed and based on history and contemporary made-for-TV sports drama.

The merit and practicality of the language app is that it brings together the older and younger generation.

First, the app language development process may utilize elders to phonetically provide the native words. Secondly, and most beneficially, the youngest to oldest generation who are already tech savvy will have widespread access to the app as opposed to a limited showing of a dubbed movie.

Isaac Curley (Apache/Navajo)
Tempe, AZ

On February 15, 2013 I attended the grand opening of the new jail in Tuba City. Many tribal officials and former dignitaries were recognized. To my disappointment there were many others who were not recognized.

While serving as Coconino County Supervisor, local citizens and workers first informed me that the (old) Tuba jail was beginning to have facility problems. I began investigating by inquiring from various stakeholders and those who had a responsible role, to assess the problem and find a solution.

I first contacted EPA who provided me some helpful direction. I also spoke with IHS representative, Angie Maloney. Ms. Maloney invested her time, expertise and resources to identifying a solution to remedy the deteriorating condition of the jail. Ms. Maloney prepared a presentation to the Coconino County Supervisors during which she showed slides of the overall bad condition of the jail. Based upon her report, I began working with the community and Ms. Littlefoot, who served as Tuba City chapter manager, and chair to a committee for 18 other chapter managers.

We began hosting meetings at the Tuba City chapter house to discuss ways to help each other and Tuba City rebuild/repair the old jail. Officer Ronald Brown and all supporting police officers participated.

Tuba City jail was finally condemned June 29, 2006; that forced the Navajo Nation to relocate public safety operations, as well as corrections workers into various modular units. This forced us to take further action.

The lobbying began from the Coconino County office to the BIA schools and hospitals. In the meantime, an old doublewide trailer formerly used as a classroom at the Gap Chapter was made available for the jail's staff; it's important to note, that it was county funds that covered the expenses to relocate the trailer to Tuba City.

Back in 2001-2002 we decided to plan an economic summit, which was held on the NAU campus and also in attendance was former president Kelsey Begay, who appealed to Coconino, Navajo and Apache County's leaders to collaborate to develop a consensus around an innovative and creative strategic solution.

At the summit, I suggested to start a sales tax across the Navajo Nation. It was on April 1, 2002, the Navajo Nation Tax Commission first adopted a sales tax at a rate of 3 percent. From those funds, District 5 received one million dollars, which was utilized for road maintenance and building transfer stations across Western Navajo.

The one percent increase was finally adopted and made effective July 1, 2007 by the Tax Commission. Mary Etsitty, executive director of the commission, said the one-percent increase from 3 to 4 percent is dedicated to the Judicial/Pubic Safety Facilities Fund estimated to generate $3-4 million.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors lobbied Arizona Congressional leaders, and eventually former U.S. President Bush asked the Department of Justice to review the state of the tribal detention center facilities on the Navajo Nation. That's when H.R. 2764, which included language that allocated funding for addressing the lack of tribal detention facility capacity on the Navajo Nation.

The tribal Council subsequently established a Health and Safety Committee. Again, the Tuba City jail was only made possible through the collective and collaborative effort of many mentioned above.

Louise Yellowman
Former Coconino County Supervisor

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