Purchase of Navajo Mine

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 24, 2013

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I am dismayed by Speaker Naize's guest column in last week's Navajo Times In fact, the timing of the column and the approval of the mine purchase say much about Naize's unwillingness to debate the merits of his letter and his leadership.

Naize stated, "As speaker and as a co-sponsor of the legislation, it is my obligation to not only do what is best for our Diné people in the present time, but to also act in the best interest of future generations to come.

"What exactly is the best interest of the future generations of Diné?

"It's for our best interest" is a rhetorical phrase used by countless uninspiring politicians that only encourages the complacency within our government and placates and confines any challenge or critical analysis that may arise.

As far as I know, not a single Navajo Nation government official today has ever written down or publicly described in extensive detail what they envision to be the future of Diné people.

We must ask questions and demand their answers so that we may understand the ideological and philosophical reasoning behind the decisions politicians make in our supposed best interest.

We, then, must take it one step further by questioning and debating the legitimacy of politicians posing as leaders.

The column justifies actions of Council by saying, I strongly believe that the purchase of Navajo Mine fulfills both of those obligations by preserving jobs, revenue, and family life for employees of the mine and the Four Corners Power Plant... Diné jobs, revenue, and preserving a certain quality of life is where the discussion gets tough."

It is also where many of us split into separate camps because we view jobs, revenue, and quality of life differently.

The column also says "... while also tasking the NTEC with researching, developing, and transitioning to more efficient and sustainable energy sources. The Navajo Transitional Energy Company (sounds attractive), a company tasked to research and implement alternative energy solutions for the Navajo Nation."

However, it appears to be a mere afterthought as NTEC was solely created, just like the Navajo Nation Council, to sustain a non-renewable, dying energy industry that continues to oppress, hinder, and marginalize any attempt by the people of the Navajo Nation to attain a truly sovereign identity.

Until NTEC offers a timeline detailing when this transitional oppression will be complete, it will only exist as a few good words on some legislative paper that has zero teeth.

You also argued that, "For the Nation, it would mean losing approximately thirty-two percent of its general fund revenue, used by programs that provide direct services to many of our people."

Again, are we a truly sovereign nation if we continue to depend on our oppressors?

For over 90 years we have stayed in a toxic relationship with energy companies yet we are still no closer to a sovereign future.

In fact, we are even more vulnerable and further from becoming an independent nation because now the energy companies, are preying on our desperate dependency to offload their scraps and liabilities upon us.

It also says, "Although some individuals have and will criticize the potential acquisition of Navajo Mine, it is my belief that doing so will allow us to determine how we, as Diné, will manage and use our own resources in a manner that will bring prosperity and balance to our people."

Based on my interaction and participation in several grassroots organizations on Diné bikeyah, I'd say there are easily more people who have criticized the mine than those who will benefit from its purchase.

Yet, you continue to marginalize and gloss over the health hazards and other negative effects of keeping the mine open.

The final claim is that, "The purchase of the mine would bring us a step closer to truly defining our own future by creating the resources that will lead to a renewed and sustainable future for our people. Since its inception, the implementation of this deal has been rushed and minimally offered for true debate."

I can only see it as what it is: an act of desperation by elected officials who lack vision, courage, and the will to engage the citizens of Diné on the future of Diné.

Brandon Benallie
Black Mesa, Ariz.

Concerned with treatment of horses

I am writing this in regards to the Navajo Nation horse roundup.

They are rounding up their own people's tamed horses.

I have heard from family members that were affected by the horse roundup.

My understanding of this roundup was for wild mustang horses that no one claims with any brand or documented papers.

Currently, I reside in Albuquerque, but I am a registered voter with Sheep Springs Chapter and my children have livestock there.

My late mother, Mae K. James, has many horses that roam the land with her brand.

My mother shared with us that horses have their own sacred Navajo name and we have songs of horses.

We also have prayers for our horses.

My mother used to say horses are intelligent and were able to sense human emotions.

I am concerned with the treatment of these horses during the roundup.

Some people told me that ATVs were used, which ran horses to death, and as a result, leaving the colt behind.

It is sad to see colts roaming around alone.

I witnessed the roundup in Sheep Springs, and I must say they lacked professionalism on how to handle these horses.

They were forceful while obtaining the horses.

The chapter houses did not go out and inform their community members.

Many people do not read the Navajo Nation newspaper or have access to radios if it was reported.

My niece lives in Coyote Canyon, N.M. and was negatively affected by this.

They have tame horses that were taken from them.

I believe there is a need for this roundup but for the wild mustangs only, and not community members' personal horses.

Due to the drought season our natural vegetation suffers and local people depend on this wild grass to grow for their livestock.

The wild horses take more than their share.

These wild mustangs are easy to spot.

They are different in appearance from tame horses.

They have small bodies by comparison.

These mustangs are overpopulating the Navajo Reservation.

My parents maintain their horses by taking care of them.

They would breed their mare with a good stallion.

They often did trade as well, keeping the stallion corralled.

Two weeks ago the Gallup Independent wrote a piece on the horse roundup.

A Council delegate proposed a good idea, in my opinion, to have the Navajo community members take part in this roundup providing them with income.

The idea is to have the community members catch these mustangs and sell them for $90 a head.

I am sure there is a better solution to rounding up these wild mustangs without hurting our own people's horses.

Sadie James
Albuquerque, N.M.
(Hometown: Sheep Springs, N.M.)

Navajo housing improvement program

I was disheartened to learn about the budget crisis for the PL 93-638 Housing Improvement Program within the Division of Community Development for the fiscal year 2014 funding cycle.

The budget disparity caused by the department and division will soon lay off some agency personnel at the five agency offices effective Oct. 31.

The frustrating part of this budget disparity is the personnel at the central office in Window Rock will not be impacted and will be allowed to continue business as usual even though they have not performed the job required of them.

The department managers and supervisors should have stepped up to the BIA and closely monitored the budget development at the federal level.

It's their job to defend the program and combat these budget issues.

I would like to know why the central office personnel are being impacted.

I know the HIP is a formula driven program and I would like to know what the central office personnel will be working on if there are no projects to be funded.

Common sense tells me otherwise.

It was a sad situation to see tribal officials give up its PL 93-638 rights and allow the BIA a lot of say in how the housing program was to be administered, which is their way.

Most of us that were instrumental in taking Housing Improvement Program away from the BIA through PL 93-638 know they have no business in telling tribal officials how the program should be administered.

Asleep at the wheel is a prime example of what is happening with tribal officials in dealing with these budget crisis.

Pointing fingers is not the solution.

The department managers and supervisors of the Navajo Nation should have known that a budget crisis was becoming apparent when more than $3 million of the Navajo HIP funds were redistributed to other 11 regions of the BIA in program year 2006.

The reason was non-performance.

In conclusion, I would like to allude to the issue of temporary employment of the Navajo Nation.

The employees impacted with layoffs have been victimized with this temporary status since program year 2006 and is nothing more than management inefficiency.

Doesn't the Navajo Nation have a policy on temporary employment?

The Department of Management personnel should know it and not allow extension after extension of employment on a monthly basis.

Now, tell me how was the recent pay raises for tribal employees justified?

With this kind of deceiving development and returning some $30 million to the federal government over one year ago, I don't think the pay raises were justified.

I am hoping these comments and issues bring some light to tribal officials and begin to make more meaningful management decisions in the future.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Bright faces from Ganado High

Hello, my name is Elway Francis.

I am currently a senior at Ganado High School.

On behalf of my school, it came to my concern that our school, Ganado High School, isn't being put out there for the achievements and outstanding performances they've accomplish over the years.

In my point of view, many students within that area have been achieving goals but no one seems to put us out there to be recognized.

Ganado had many great students that reached out and are still making a difference in their community and also becoming great role models.

For example, Leandra Thomas is a former Hornet who was crowned the 60th Miss Navajo Nation.

Lamont Yazzie received his doctoral degree.

Joe Kee Jr. is a professor at the University of New Mexico-Gallup Branch.

Tori Cody is Miss New Mexico Highland University.

Royale Billy became Miss Native American-first attendant for the University of Arizona.

Alvina Begay almost made it to the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Gabrielle Curtis plays for the NCAA girl's basketball.

Vanessa Parker and Evonne Yazzie went out to pursue a college degree to come back to Ganado, which they are now teaching mathematic courses at the high school.

Lastly, the one and only Candace Begody is now working for Navajo Times.

These people once walked in the halls of Ganado High School and they now are successful people.

These past graduates all made a big impact on the school and influenced many in the surrounding area.

Ganado has many bright faces that continue their education through high school and go on to college with strong backgrounds.

There are many students who accomplished many great things for the school like Jeremy Charley and Neltasha Begay, who took first place in the stock market games.

Back in February of 2013, Ganado competed in the 2013 Skills Native Competition and placed first for the fifth time now.

Sherill Thomas, Tierra Jishie, Vinton Nez, Colin Smith, Brandon Crank, Shiloh Wallace, Chassity Logg, Shawn Hosteen, and myself all competed and placed first, second and third in the competition.

With that, it shows that Ganado students are excelling well academic wise and teachers are doing their jobs right.

Student-athletes are big this year.

Many students manage their time with their education and still have time for sports.

Where are the people to tell these students how proud they are?

It's time for communities like Ganado, Chinle, Tuba City, Monument Valley, Red Mesa, and Window Rock to give back to their high school students for all the hard work they have accomplished over the years.

It takes time, determination and dedication to finish 13 years of school.

It would be nice if Navajo Times could take the time to write an article talking about our accomplishments and come visit Ganado High School to talk with some of the students.

People always tell us to make a difference and stand out from the crowd.

They also say one voice can make a big difference as well.

That's what I am doing by taking the time and writing to you to help my school.

To help build a stronger community for future generations.

Elway Francis
Ganado, Ariz.

Navajo Preference in Employment Act

First the usual disclaimer - the views expressed are my own and not those of any present or former employer or client.

I have mixed feelings about Council delegate Dwight Witherspoon's proposal to exempt the Navajo Nation (and its enterprises) from coverage under the Navajo Preference in Employment Act.

On the one hand, if an employer follows Navajo preference and has a fair, impartial and efficient grievance system in place, it makes no sense to provide an employee with both access to that grievance system and the ONLR/NN Labor Commission when the employee is unhappy with some action by her or his employer.

On the other hand, exempting the Navajo Nation from the NPEA while requiring other entities in the Navajo Nation to comply with the NPEA is certainly not "leading by example."

(It is bad enough now when the NPEA already exempts highly placed Navajo Nation employees from its coverage, but does not extend the same policy to highly placed employees of entities outside the Navajo Nation.) To be sure the lack of adequate funding for the Labor Commission and the Navajo courts has meant that the NPEA's original promise of a quick resolution of employment disputes makes that promise an empty one.

Perhaps a solution to the "problem" Witherspoon's proposal is trying to solve would be to keep the NPEA applicable to the Navajo Nation, but have a procedure in place where entities - like the Navajo Nation - which have a comprehensive, impartial personnel grievance system in place could be exempted from the ONLR/NNLC process on an entity by entity basis - perhaps with HEHSC approval.

Lawrence A.Ruzow
Flagstaff, Ariz.

I just read a letter published by Edith Charleston entitled "Slush funds helped soldier," and would like to disagree with her justification for receiving discretionary funds.

First, thank you to servicemen and women for their service however military personnel have an income.

Soldiers and servicemen in the United States military receive a salary and if they are married they receive base housing allowance to match a civilian employment.

I have been a member of the Armed Services for almost 14 years, first as a U.S. Marine starting as a private (E-1) and eventually with education and college I am now a commissioned officer in the Army.

When I started as a private I made a little over $700 a month after taxes in 1998.

Never in my years as a military member have I ever asked for money from any Council delegate or the Navajo to assist me in travel.

I was deployed to Iraq in 2005, 2006, and most recently to Afghanistan in 2013.

I understand people do need assistance, however, the military has their own programs for soldiers, sailors, and Marines to help in dire situations.

My grandfather, Joe Shorty Yazzie, served as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II and I can tell you he never requested assistance from the Navajo Nation.

My own father, Alvin Erving Begaye, a captain in the National Guard during the 1980s never requested funds either.

Discretionary funds need to be used for those most in need and should not be abused.

There are families on the reservation who do not have a salary due to the recent economic status of the country and job scarcity on the reservation.

In 1998 as a private in the Marine Corps., I traveled from San Diego on a Greyhound bus to Houck, Ariz., where my mother picked me up.

The bus ride took 22 hours and I didn't enjoy it but it was all I could afford at the time.

Recently my sister passed from this world and I traveled to see my mother and family, this was a family emergency, yet I did not walk into any Council delegate's office requesting funding.

I took care of it and I did what I needed to do and paid for gas and stayed with relatives.

I would've hitchhiked or walked home if needed and sold the clothes off my back before I took money from people who definitely need money more than I.

Politicians on the reservation need to be held accountable for their actions and I applaud the efforts by the Navajo Times to let the people know the truth about politicians who take advantage of the system by ensuring their loved ones or friends receive funding.

As individuals we cannot rely on the Navajo Nation to provide us an income, we must rely on our own two hands, our minds, and hard work.

Sean Alvin Begaye Fort Bliss, Texas WRUSD board members I am writing this letter to shed some light on the real truth others and I have witnessed of the Window Rock Unified School District and to commend the four board members - E. Arviso, L. Nelson, R. Showalter, and A. Descheenie for doing their job and not giving in to pressure or threats from some community members who have demonstrated that they know nothing about public education and the roles and responsibilities of school board members.

The real truth is change is inevitable, especially in this time of uncertainty with all the budget cuts so many organizations and schools have taken this year, and will continue to take in the coming years if Congress doesn't act soon again on the budget crisis at the federal level of government.

The WRUSD Board has done a stellar job in making governing judgments and decisions, they have kept students at the forefront of each of their actions and evidence supports why they have done so.

I had the opportunity to listen to several presentations made to the public on WRUSD's financial status and attend several of school board meetings.

Through these informational meetings, I came to understand why we needed to combine schools and reduce staff, the evidence was there and so were the numbers.

What I was appalled to see were the actions of parents and some community members.

They were very rude, disrespectful and arrogant.

They weren't even attempting to understand what was being presented or didn't want to hear it.

How can one make a sound judgment carrying on like this and why would people want to support this behavior?

It's no wonder why kids are misbehaving.

They are acting just like their parents or the adults in their lives.

Those who are pushing this recall are totally out of touch with reality.

I was approached to sign a recall petition for the four school board members, which I did not.

The reasons they stated are totally false and very demeaning of respectful leaders of WRUSD.

In the Sept. 12, 2013 issue "Parents File Petition to Recall Four WRUSD Board Members. " Marcus Tulley stated that a reason the board is being recalled is because they are allowing the superintendent to "call the shots".

For goodness sake, that is her job! She was hired to do just that.

Dr. Jackson-Dennison and the four WRUSD Board members have carried themselves with dignity and respect in going on the offense in an effort to change our schools for the better and moving beyond the negativity that some have created.

It is evident in all their work that their education, experiences and commitment to a quality education is in their best interest and has created an important partnership with community at large.

Delores Tsosie
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

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