Youth lack opportunities in today's Diné Nation

WINDOW ROCK,April 3, 2014

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Hello, everyone. I was born and raised on the Diné Nation and throughout my life I developed a strong sense towards tradition, culture and, most importantly, language. I learned how to cultivate and utilize these instructions to better accommodate my harmonious pathway.

When I left the reservation, it was to attend school at an institution founded on diversity, such as the way this country was established. During the duration of my undergraduate career, I developed a strong sense of Diné philosophy. Like many youth across our great nation, I share the sentiment of one day giving back to our nation and distinct communities.

After graduating and currently at the dawn of my graduate program, I see that it is my day to gain experience in the roles Diné government displays. However, I continue to combat the Diné Nation's system with the engrained philosophies I was taught. In this regard, I have read countless articles and headlines about the disproportionate system our leaders are upholding. Many youth, including myself, are educated in areas of respect, quality, determination, support, and aspects of the philosophical teachings given by elders, parents and educators. Often where we bring our educational observances back to help our nation we are overlooked by our own political leaders.

Quite ironically, our leaders continuously advocate for higher education and support the notion of the phrase "Come home and help your people" or "We need young minds." It has come to my attention, after countless applications, interviews and interests in governmental agendas, that when youth express their dire need for a chance to help our nation, it is not because there is only the lack for jobs but the fact that many uneducated employees hold the positions we work towards. There are rarely any youth who serve in Diné Nation positions.

Perhaps, it is true that today's Native youth cannot win over Western ideologies through battles of wars or weapons, but by learning in the classroom. Since the Diné Nation holds strong content in replicating a Western-style government system, the youth are being overlooked for securing a growing indigenous education grounded on what elders refer to as "k'é."

Unsurprisingly, these are flaws seen in today's government system. For instance, the Council delegates worked progressively to dismiss Speaker of the Council Johnny Naize from his position rather than focus on the many ongoing issues dominating Diné people.

I have had my fair share of encounters throughout many Diné Nation offices and the employees are mean, unhelpful, and at times rude. Is it because I am a young Diné individual? Why is the Diné Nation not assertive in providing opportunities for youth? Why do we continuously seek employment in a nation showing diminutive physical attention to our generation?

It is becoming unanimously noticeable that for those youth who are given opportunities, it is solely based on a relative-to-relative relation and not expertise or experience. This is not the type of k'é teaching that is embedded in traditional teachings.

What makes every voice count is that this year is election season. Therefore, I hope the Diné Nation presidential candidates and its administration can see the impact of youth productivity. A goal for candidates to consider is to create a transition plan for graduates to be useful in their political and social agendas while at the same time revisit the traditional philosophical practices in the Diné Nation and its embodiment of k'é.

As youth, we are nowhere near giving up because we believe that one day our government and people will progress as a decolonized, united, independent, and Diné-oriented system that is inclusive and inviolable.

Andy Nez
Rabbitbrush, N.M.

Riley describes basic water rights backwards

The mysterious "Jack Riley" -- an unknown and self-described Gallup Navajo -- again writes the Navajo Times (March 27, 2014) to belittle Diné grassroots people. His remarks are suspiciously like an insider lawyer would make and he describes basic Indian water rights totally backwards.

Riley confuses coal mines with the Little Colorado River settlement, known by "S. 2109," its Senate Bill. Navajo Generating Station and Peabody Coal needlessly appeared in the settlement documents. Senator Jon Kyl added them. In private life, he was a lawyer for NGS and in 1983 he represented Arizona against Navajo at the U.S. Supreme Court. We lost.

Riley's use of "settlement" alone confuses. "Little Colorado River Settlement" is the whole process. It has three main documents: First, the settlement agreement between the parties. Second, Congress's settlement act (like S. 2109) ratifying the agreement. And third, the settlement decree where the Arizona court ends all related court proceedings.

The full settlement forever waived rights and protections of the Navajos and Hopis. Our Human Rights Commission declared S. 2109 violated our human rights of free, prior, and informed consent. Hundreds of grassroots people read the settlement act (157 pages) and settlement agreement (100 pages). We prepared an index for the agreement, and knew it better than the lawyers. A failed 2010 settlement was used to draft the 2012 settlement, which will be used for the next one. So we must still read LCR documents.

Navajo Nation lawyer Stanley Pollack secretly approved S. 2109 without permission from our people or Council. That's stealing sovereignty. Pollack said LCR yearly flow was 160,000 acre-feet, but annual LCR flow into Colorado River is 340,000 acre-feet (like a pool the size of a football field, 64 miles deep). Downstream that continual flow is $3.4 billion worth.

Coal mines are not the largest nation water users. NGS is the top industry user, 34,100 acre-feet annually. NAPI is the largest overall, about 200,000 acre-feet annually now.

Riley, like Pollack, misrepresents the groundwater projects. Congress's IHS laws state, "It is the policy of the United States, that all Indian communities and Indian homes be provided with safe and adequate water supply systems as soon as possible."

It appears Pollack, here 30 years, and others kept those IHS projects from us. They were held hostage for extortion from us of a billion dollars worth of our reserved rights in the LCR water by waiving them for groundwater projects Congress already promised.

Indian reserved water rights are not use-it-or-lose-it rights. "An Indian reserved right does not depend on any use," according to 69 Cornell University Law Review, 1090.

Pollack is following his LCR pattern in Utah and giving away nearly all rights to the San Juan River, giving away all rights to Colorado River in Utah, tricking citizens, corrupting leaders, withholding truths, and committing another human rights violation. He and corrupted leaders hide the actual settlement agreement from our people.

Diné grassroots proposals: Fire Pollack and buddies; End divide-and-conquer by Pollack and anti-Navajo interests; End divide-and-conquer of us against Hopis, which dis-empowers both; Completely overhaul Navajo Water Rights Commission (stolen by Pollack long ago); Push Congress to provide trust responsibility water systems as soon as possible; Publish requests for qualifications for honest water lawyers/firms and hire in six months; reasonably maximize all Navajo water rights; Begin a Navajo Nation renewal through consent of the governed, making us a representative democracy with more economic and political power; Vow to never again be hijacked by parasitic corporations, outside politicians, and disloyal lawyers (who turn us away from ourselves, our cultural and spiritual values, our treaties, and each other); and Continue to promote and support our greater unity, our sovereignty, our children, and our economic and other opportunities as North America's largest Native nation.

Ed Becenti
Window Rock, Ariz.

Seeking donations for veterans memorial

Ya'ta'hey, sila lo sii (veterans). My name is Floyd Dawson and I am from Tonalea, Ariz., in the Western Navajo Agency. I am campaigning for contributions to raise money to create a Native Warrior Memorial bronze sculpture. The construction of an 8-feet-tall 1,000-pound sculpture will be placed at the Navajo Nation capital, located at the Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, honoring all war veterans.

The certified sculptor who makes bronze statues is Karl Kendall from Prescott, Ariz. The sculpture will cost approximately $73,000. We receive no tribal and federal government money or grants. No fund may be used to pay expense of the establishment of the sculpture. Our serving programs rely upon the generosity of caring people like you.

Thank you for your cooperation and your understanding. If there are any questions, you may contact me on my cell at 928-401-1390, or write to my address: Floyd Dawson, Founder, P.O. Box 231, Tonalea, AZ 86044.

I will truly appreciate whatever you can give. Of course, your donation is tax deductible.

Floyd Dawson
Tonalea, Ariz.

Urge your delegate to override junk tax veto

The American Heart Association recommends a limit of no more than six teaspoons of added sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men per day. One 16-ounce serving of soda pop contains 13 teaspoons of sugar. Sweetened drinks comprise about 35 percent of the added sugar consumed by Americans. They are literally killing us. In New York, the city itself is moving to ban the sale of sweetened sugar beverages over 16 ounces.

Here on Navajo, a group of grassroots volunteers of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has been working hard to address this crisis for the past two years. We have taken the lead in developing legislation that is known as the Diné Healthy Nation Act.

We have proposed to eliminate the tribal 5 percent tax on fresh fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, we are seeking to levy a tax of 2 percent on junk foods, targeting unhealthy foods that have become a large part the Navajo people's diet.

The simple tax idea is to encourage people to make healthy choices by eating nourishing foods and discourage them from eating the junk foods that over a period of time are responsible for various illnesses that affect our people. The tax revenues collected would be distributed to all the chapters for the purpose of providing locally developed, wellness projects such as community gardens, healthy traditional cooking classes, walking trails and other related health activities.

We have made the case at many chapter houses across the Navajo Nation and in January of this year, received overwhelming approval from the Navajo Nation Council. However, the president exercised his prerogative of vetoing the legislation due to outside influences.

This was a great disappointment. It is clear that there are powerful outside forces opposing us from the Arizona Beverage Association and the Coca-Cola North America Group. These forces have hired our own Navajo people to work against our efforts to build a strong and healthy Navajo Nation for the sake of making monetary profits.

The ball is now back in the court of the Navajo Nation Council, that has the authority to override the president's veto.

DCAA is proud of the Council delegates to support healthy Navajo people and not listen to outsiders. This legislation is only a small step. Consideration of the legislation also raises awareness among those of us who can remember a time not long past when our people were not obese and struggling with diabetes. We hope it will spur a new interest in traditional foods, healthy lifestyles and a return to a Navajo value of living a long life.

We urge the Navajo people to contact their delegate to support the override veto vote at the April session of the Council.

Gloria Ann Begay
Diné Community Advocacy Alliance
Inscription House, Ariz.

Removing Naize is the right choice

On April 4, as our elected officials head into the Council Chamber, I plead that they make the right choice when it comes to their constituents. By removing Speaker Johnny Naize from his position, I believe they all are going to be making a right choice. As they contemplate this decision, the outcome of this vote to remove Naize broadly affects your people.

The people are done and tired of being represented by negative leaders. When the decision is made, the actions they make will distinguish them to the public. By this I am referring to the fact that as you choose to vote him out, the public will feel their voices are being heard and their faith in our government restored. Yet, if this issue is pushed aside yet again the public will lose faith in their leaders.

This is what the people are trying to express to their elected officials, yet they are ignored. These individuals that are ignored are the ones who placed them in their current positions, so as election season gears up their decisions made on this day will give the public a more general view of their actions.

So, as they contemplate over this issue, they need to keep in mind that the people are tired of being placed in a negative light as a whole nation, as this issue seems to be making heads turn in the outside world of our nation.

Our founding fathers did not endure the harsh sacrifices to make a mockery of their ambitions as their legacy. They need to show that the people's voices are being heard and that their leaders are now ready to make a change to restore k'é to our government and not restore to bribery, greed, power, and deceitfulness.

Jay Ross Slivers
Lukachukai, Ariz.

Shelly embarrassing with NAU selection committee

Political hopefuls across the Diné Nation and the states are anxiously awaiting the upcoming primary and general elections. Across Arizona and New Mexico, we may have several tightly contested races for Diné president, Council delegates, U.S. Senate, Congress, state senate and house, as well as assorted county and local races.

Many of these elected offices may be just as important, if not more, than selecting who will serve as the next president of Northern Arizona University.

Of course, voters don't get to vote on who will be the NAU president. That is left up to a search committee appointed by the Arizona Board of Regents, with final approval coming from the regents and the governor's office.

But when you consider how important NAU -- including the College of Business, College of Education and numerous research programs -- is to the Diné Nation and the state economy, there may not be a more important selection to be made.

NAU, besides being the single largest economic engine in northern Arizona and across the Diné Nation, plays a major role in the preparation of professionals, many of whom are Navajo students that upon graduation will be expected to help address the Navajo peoples' needs.

And of course this was a main reason everyone was so pleased when it was announced President Ben Shelly was selected from among other tribal leaders to serve on the selection committee along with two other Native Americans.

According to a press release from the Intertribal Council of Arizona, these three Native American leaders would be representing the 22 Arizona tribes on the selection committee and would be speaking on their behalf to ensure that a leader with the right perspective is eventually selected to ensure that Indian students' interest remain a priority at NAU.

One can only imagine the level of trust that was conferred on Shelly when ITCA agreed to support him for which he graciously accepted by confirming his willingness to serve. Then, when I learned Shelly had not been participating in any of the public forums or meetings, I was stunned.

Angry and offended I contacted the Arizona Board of Regents office and they confirmed he had not attended and even more disappointing is they have not heard from him about his interest to remain on the selection committee or plans of attending any of the remaining meetings.

My disappointment is not just for Navajo people, but also for the other 22 Arizona tribes as well as the other tribes from across the states that send students to NAU. Like many other Indian parents, I had hoped that by Shelly stepping up to the plate, his input and counsel on the search process would help open up more doors of opportunity for our young people to continue their education.

In my humble opinion, Shelly has not only embarrassed the Diné Nation but above all he has brought shame upon all tribal leaders to whom NAU and the other two universities look to for leadership and guidance.

It is as if we have no voice, we just hope that the other two individuals will do their best to speak in our best interest. It could be more important than who is elected U.S. senator, congressman, state senator or Navajo leader. NAU means that much to the Diné Nation as well to all other Indian nations.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

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