'Racial slurs are unacceptable'

WINDOW ROCK, Nov. 27, 2013

Text size: A A A

Less than two weeks ago, as Dallas and Washington revived their annual NFL football rivalry, they also found themselves in the middle of an escalating fight over the name of the Washington football team.

In fact, as part of its "Change the Mascot" campaign, the Oneida Indian Nation is running radio ads in Dallas and the other cities where the Washington football team is playing this year calling for D.C.'s team to drop the "R" word from its name.

This is all part of a larger movement among civil rights organizations and political leaders from both the left and right who correctly point out that the term "Redskins" is a racial slur.

Suzan Shown Harjo, a Native American woman who lives in Washington and directs the Morning Star Institute, has been leading this fight and others like it since the 1960s.

President Obama recently weighed in, saying, "If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team -- even if it had a storied history -- that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it."

He added that he did not believe "attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have."

Team owner, Dan Snyder, disagrees.

He has vowed to never change the name and in a recent letter to season ticketholders, he called the team name "a badge of honor". Obviously not everyone agrees. The controversy has now gotten the attention of top NFL officials.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said, "If we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we're doing the right things to try to address that."

Officials of the Oneida Indian Nation and the NFL are scheduled to meet next month to discuss the issue. Consistent with our commitment to equality and the dignity of every human being, the National Urban League stands with all those demanding the Washington football team stop using the "R" word.

Ray Halbritter, leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, recently stated his opposition this way: "Let's be clear, the R word is defined in the dictionary as an offensive term. It was the name that was used against our people when we were forced off our lands at gunpoint. So it has a sordid history and it's time for a change."

He added, "History is littered with people who have vowed never to change something -- slavery, immigration, women's rights -- so we think one thing that's really great about this country is when many people speak out, change can happen."

The Dallas vs. Washington football game was played on the eve of Columbus Day, another reminder of the legacy of discrimination and oppression inflicted on Native Americans. Demanding the Washington football team remove the "R" word from its name is a simple request for respect.

As the Oneida Indian Nation radio ad states, "This country may be politically divided -- but we should all be able to agree that racial slurs are unacceptable and they shouldn't be used to market this country's capital city. We deserve to be treated simply as what we are: Americans".

Marc H. Morial
National Urban League
New York, N.Y.

Science and math on Navajo

I am writing a multi-point letter in response to the article titled "A Single Opportunity" published Oct. 31, 2013.

SACNAS is an amazing organization that has helped countless underrepresented men and women gain strength in fields of study dominated by the Euro-American society. The deputy director of SACNAS, David Wilson, has a message in the article, which is a paraphrase of the article's subtitle "to get more Natives into science".

So why isn't Mr. Shelly, or Mr. Naize working towards the same thing? Why isn't there a comprehensive research institute at Diné College preceding such an effort? The Window Rock Capitol clans seem busier running the enterprise called the Navajo Nation, which now operates like a for-profit entity exclusive to non-Navajo pockets.

I grew up near Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., of the proud Tó'aheedliinii Clan and the great Tsi'naajinii People.

SACNAS was one of the organizations that motivated my graduate school attendance. I attended two SACNAS national conferences during my education. At those meetings I learned the vast shocking disparity of Native Americans in higher education. The symposiums I prepared for allowed me to get published where I garnered the interest of powerful people in higher education. The message I learned as a result of SACNAS was: A young Diné man can overcome the harsh barriers of hegemony and become an intellectual.

Many educated and military trained Diné want to come home and take constructive jobs to contribute similar experiences. However, when we return home and apply for tribal work we are often interviewed by a condescending non-Navajo. When we go to an interview dressed for an impression we are scorned by our own people. When we speak in an intelligent manner to personnel at the tribal offices we are scoffed. When we express our well-researched findings to a Councilman we are told with a repugnant laugh we know nothing about "the way it works here."

When we bring our work ethic to a workplace we are disfavored, ridiculed, and told by supervisors we have no place here. When we demonstrate our ambitions we are sabotaged. These ridicules are made by people who cannot write a proposal, professionally answer a phone, operate MS Office, balance a checkbook, or find the means to get a chapter house fixed.

Every election year you will see a turquoise wearing politician get out of a black suburban and grandstand urging "young people go get educated, then come home and help your people". These same people are spotted at high school graduations and national conferences drinking champagne with Hillary but they fail to facilitate the young when they come home educated.

The current leadership sure enjoy getting subprime financing for new casinos and make shoddy mine deals without consulting the needs of Diné education. Not one leader will talk about overhauling the tribal education system. I have yet to hear Mr. Shelly talk about developing a paradigm of science and math in schools.

So what do you expect, Mr. Shelly, when his administration obscures the educated and instead favor those who can't manage a horse roundup? Go to the local border town and you will see the educated working in the Wal-Marts and the Home Depots instead of being utilized in our communities. That is the tribal brain drain in the works and the effort to fix it is never mentioned in a Council session. Instead the priorities that the tribal leaders try to transpose as "tradition" are the poor emulations of U.S. imperialism. That is the legacy of the enterprise we call The Navajo Nation.

Terry Lee
Kirtland, N.M.

Stranger returns wallet

Thank you to the kind stranger from Window Rock for returning my lost wallet. A very sincere thank you for tracking me through my driver's license address and returning my wallet that I lost recently. This person took the time to go to the post office and send me my wallet back to me, even paid for the postage and handling. Such actions really do restore one's faith in the world and are worth sharing across the community. Honesty is not earned; it is given from the Lord.

It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon when my son asked for a haircut, it was the ideal way to spend time together and get our cuts at the barber. So after our cuts and feeling light I sat down to relax when I realized that my wallet was missing from my jacket pocket. The pocket was open and the wallet was gone. And there was no way to find out where I might have dropped it.

I sat there in shock for a while before I took a cry out to God that I would leave everything in his hands. I let go but this was no small issue I had in my hands. I had some very important documents in my wallet (insurance cards, credit/debit cards, IDs, etc.) some of which would cost me a lot of time and dollars to replace.

Most important that was of value to me was my late mother's silver coins, a $20 and $10 silver coin. It was almost time to leave, so there wasn't much hope of finding it that night. I walked around for a time tracing my steps to see if was still around somewhere, but that didn't yield anything either. And that was my Saturday happiness and grief all on the same day.

And what Tuesday had in store for me made me one happy soul. I checked my mail and there was my wallet with everything in there. No better way to begin my day, I tell you. I was so relieved, to say the least. God bless the person who sent it back. I'm happy we have honest people.

Evelyn Walker
Ganado, Ariz.

Carbon monoxide scare

What I am about to reveal is from my own perspective as one writer states when commenting on certain issues on the rez. It is concise and to the point.

How can a defective material go undetected? The carbon monoxide scare at the Montezuma Creek Elementary School is no joke and I urge those affected by it to take legal steps against the school district and its administrators. It shouldn't be treated, as it's no outsider's business. It's a win-win situation for them.

The bottom line here is carbon monoxide is a silent killer and should be not taken lightly. I am disappointed only a small segment was reported which indicatedÊat least 30 students andÊadults were affected. The frustrating part is the investigation report by the San Juan County Sherriff's Department, which reportedly stated only 10 percent were affected. Are they saying the lives of 30 individuals is only a number? The other issue of concern is negligence by the school officials. Isn't it a standard protocol by the state to conduct routine inspection of a commercial building to ensure the health and safety standards and codes are adhered to? This isÊparticularly true at this time of the year before heaters are lit into full gear.

The school officials should have an in-house policy availableÊto have weekly safety meetings and avoid issues of this magnitude. The incident at the Montezuma Creek Elementary School should be a wake-up call to all area schools. I am hoping all are in compliance with the applicable standards and codes.

It is a family tradition passed on to us from many generations that our children are most precious and valuable thatÊGod has blessed us with. And it is our God given duty to keep them out of harm's way. It is for this reasonÊthe human oversight that occurred is unacceptable and should not beÊjust anotherÊcase closure and move forward.

In conclusion, I would to state the incident at Montezuma Creek Elementary School should have never occurred had there been a standard protocol in place. The school district and its administrators should be held responsible for the carbon monoxide scare.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Lack of leadership

There is no doubt one of the most troubling features of the Navajo Nation's economic development needs is the lack of political leadership. This was displayed by President Shelly at the recent Navajo Economic Development Summit organized by Senator Carlyle Begay at Twin Arrows.

To say I was dismayed in President Shelly's response to a crucial question posed by a representative from the Bennett Freeze area regarding the lack of attention to the area and for the veto of funds intended to support efforts in the area is an understatement. Frankly speaking, he did not have the courage to tell that person and the audience the truth. Instead President Shelly put all of the blame on the BIA suggesting that things might be a lot better for the people living in the Bennett Freeze area if only the BIA were able to tell the tribe who has ultimate authority to develop the area.

They are the president's people and I dare say many of them probably cast their vote for him hoping his leadership would make a change for the better. To suggest their livelihood depends on what the BIA does or doesn't do is preposterous.

A good heads-up leader would have seized on this opportunity to explain in detail that the nation has a sensible plan to fix the area -- which is what people want most from their president -- and many Navajo business leaders would surely support it, had he been more truthful to put in plain language an explanation of some of the major challenges that keep Navajo economic development from progressing, not just for the Bennett Freeze area but for the entire Diné Nation.

Most everyone understands that lack of access to capital, little to no land-use planning, unstable education system, weak outside investment, and virtually no support for individual Navajo businesses (forcing Navajo business leaders to compete with the tribe) have, each in their own way, contributed to major setbacks, causing the tribe to continue to dig out of their respective holes with fewer resources, less time and, almost certainly, more pain.

There is no easy way out.

But, to confront these hard truths becomes unavoidable. I believe we're likely to see some wild, angry, and destabilizing politics that could make the economic development even more difficult, particularly in creating good-paying jobs and fostering a stable workforce.

Deep holes and weak leaders are a bad combination.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

'It's a Nam thing you wouldn't understand'

I felt chills going through my body when the Tsosie family in Pueblo Pintado, presented me with a half size white cake. There was a message on the cake that read "Happy Veterans Day." I felt honored and moved to where I shed tears. The family and I enjoyed the cake to the very last cut. One of my granddaughters finished it with licking the frosting off the box.

This honor took place as I was conducting a Blessing Way ceremony for the Tsosie family during this year's Veterans Day weekend. I thanked the Tsosie family for the honor they gave me and I will always remember it.

When I returned home one of my grandsons asked me, "Papa, why are you not going to the chapter house for Veterans Day?" I sat down to watch television for a while and answered my grandson while members of my family were present saying, "I hesitate in going to these special events for veterans. In my lifetime I believe I attended only three events. Three of these were leading the Dulce Vietnam Veterans Group in parades throughout the New Mexico state. When I was in battlefield of Nam, many of my comrades lost their lives by me.

And I have seen and walked among many enemies that were killed too. And my comrades that died during combat, there was a sacred oath, verbally made or just being present made sacred where it made me feel like something is absent, missing beside me. I feel that my past comrades are looking down on me like saying 'What about me?' when I would attend a ceremony. And I like just holding this sacred oath by being home and enjoy the day by myself and for them. Here, I find solitude. I feel the privacy and sacredness of, 'It's a Nam thing you wouldn't understand.' Later in the day, my family honored me with round steak, chili, baked potato, tortilla, and a cherry pie made especially for me by my daughter Tonya. Two of my grandchildren presented me with a bolo tie with a Marine emblem in the midst. After I ate, I rested and enjoyed the rest of the day taking a hot sweat prepared by my grandsons. This was my Veterans Day celebration.

Richard Anderson Sr.
Crownpoint, N.M.

Back to top ^