Nation codifies, legitimizes bigotry

WINDOW ROCK, May 15, 2014

Text size: A A A

I have just read your article regarding the withdrawal of sponsors from an event because of its affiliation with the Washington Redskins. While I detest the team name, I find it ironic that so many Navajos find team names and sports mascots offensive for promoting bigotry, even while the Navajo Nation codifies and legitimizes bigotry with the Diné Marriage Act.

Either you are against bigotry in all its forms, or you condone it; there is no middle ground. This law discriminates against a segment of the Navajo population and the people who love them. How does institutionalizing bigotry promote balance and harmony?

As the federal government weighs using cutbacks in aid to sovereign nations such as Uganda who criminalize the people whose inborn traits make them "gay", will the same tool be used against sovereign dependent nations like the Navajo Nation?

All too many condemn gays because their lifestyle does not promote stable relationships or long-term commitments. In the same breath those people deny to gays the stability that marriage brings. The Diné Marriage Act gives nothing to the Navajo Nation, and it takes away from the nation the harmony and balance that equality brings, and denies rights to a portion of the nation's people. This law should be repealed.

Keith DiGiovanni
Navajo, N.M.

Corporation trying to keep foothold in Dinétah

The Navajo Transitional Energy Company was formed under dubious circumstances, it appears to be a last-minute measure by the transnational corporation to keep its profitable foothold in Dinétah. The historical practice of corporate giants like BHP is to embed itself among an unsuspecting people, usually indigenous people who have vast amounts of natural resources.

They come among the people with their wily smiles and promises to be good neighbors and to abide by the local rules. Over the course of their intrusion, they will do whatever they have to do to increase their profit margins, their attitude being, "It doesn't matter what the locals think, they don't know any better anyway."

In due time the corporation manages a manipulation where the local leaders succumb to the self-serving corporate culture, by forcing a condition where their rules become the rule and the locals have little choice but to play the game dictated by the company. It is a colonial outpost strategy that has been used since the days of the early intruders. As Natives we should no longer tolerate this abuse by corporate outsiders; unquestionably, our lands have been unrelentingly exploited for far too long. As a strong Navajo Nation we must consider economic alternatives that are relevant to a healthy Diné culture and identity.

NTEC promises to get involved in solar, wind and other forms of energy production, but this is only used to defend and counterbalance their dirty coal actions. NTEC should examine the fundamental premises and assumptions of their actions pertaining to the connections between indigenous-centered decolonization, rights of Earth Mother, indigenous human rights and Diné Fundamental Law.I am sure NTEC and agents would understand these arguments but they would be unacceptable, as they would be "economically unfeasible".

The Navajo government will say, "No, look we have Navajos on the board, we have some measure of control", well in the business world an arrangement like that is usually referred to as a "front". The so-called public hearings they are parading around asking comment on the EIS (after the fact) only underscores their practice of manipulation. The EIS should have been provided as part of the due diligence process before the coalmine purchase was considered.

Duane Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

EIS process must be suspended indefinitely

The Navajo Generating Station – Kayenta Mine Complex Environmental Impact Study process must be suspended indefinitely for the following reasons.

The 30-day deadline to study and comment on Peabody Western Coal Co. revised Permanent Program Application does not meet the minimum standard set up under Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act and the implementing regulations. The 30-day comment period is therefore premature, arbitrary and capricious and has no basis in law.

The Office of Surface Mining has not provided Hopi and Navajo language interpreters making it impossible for local people, who will directly be impacted by mining activities, to understand the mining plan written by lawyers and scientists. Failure to properly educate and inform the people is a direct violation of their due process rights.

Second, PWCC is not the true applicant. U.S. Congress statutory scheme for regulating surface coal mining assumes that the actual controller of operations, not its mere agent, is the focus of OSM's regulatory review. In the present case, Peabody Energy is the "the true focus of control" over PWCC and the Black Mesa and Kayenta mines.

PCC is simply a subsidiary, just one leg of a centipede. For this reason OSM must use its authority to pierce the corporate veil to find the real or "true applicant." Unless OS fully discharges it regulatory authority it cannot legally declare PWCC mine applications "administratively complete."

The same standard of proof should be applied to Salt River Project, which is a partner and operator of NGS. SRP is a public utility company set up by the state of Arizona. As such it is a state utility company.

Vernon Masayesva
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Reasons for my ‘no’ vote on CCSD superintendent

This letter is in regards to the recent annual job performance evaluation of the superintendent of the Central Consolidated School District conducted by the Board of Education on March 17, 2014.

This job evaluation resulted in a Board vote of 3 to 2 in favor of extending the contract of Don Levinski through July 2017 and with a salary increase from $110,000 to $125,000. The 3 yes votes were cast by Lupita White, president; Matthew Tso, vice president; and Christina Aspass, secretary. The 2 no votes were cast by Randy Manning and myself. Since that time I have been approached by parents, community members, CCSD employees, and my constituents requesting details of the reasons for my no vote in that they also were in opposition to the contract extension and salary increase. Based on these inquiries, as an elected official it is my duty to provide my reasons for the no vote as follows.

A major job requirement of Donald Levinski is for the retention and recruitment of qualified certified educators in ensuring the provision of effective and quality educational services for CCSD students. Since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, the CCSD website has documented 27 to 33 teacher vacancies at any given time.

On Nov. 20, 2013, there were 29 teacher vacancies of which 9 were for high school, 8 for middle school, and 12 elementary school. For the same date Aztec Schools showed 2 teacher vacancies, Bloomfield showed 2, and Farmington had 10 teacher vacancies. On Dec. 17, 2013, CCSD had 30 teacher vacancies with 8 high school, 10 middle school, and 12 elementary teacher vacancies. On Jan. 30, 2014, CCSD needed 31 teachers that included 8 high school, 8 middle school, and 15 elementary teachers. As of March 15, 2014, CCSD had 32 teacher vacancies, consisting of 10 high school, 5 middle school, and 17 elementary teachers. On the same date, Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington schools showed no teacher vacancies.

To put this in a more prospective, at the high school and middle school level a teacher vacancy results in having 125 students being taught on a daily basis by a substitute, and 30 students at the elementary level. In applying this to the teacher vacancies previously cited on the CCSD website, for Dec. 17, 2013, of 30 vacancies, with 8 high school vacancies it would equate to 8 x 125 = 1,000 high school students, 10 middle school vacancies of 10 x 125 = 1,250 middle school students, and 12 elementary vacancies of 12 x 30 = 360 elementary school students. This totals 2,610 CCSD students were being taught by substitutes and with a little over 6,000 students in CCSD, it results in about 43.5 percent of the student population. With teacher vacancies of 27 to 33 during the school year, approximately 40 percent to 45 percent of CCSD students were being taught by substitutes at any given time.

Due to the failure of the superintendent and his administration to retain and recruit certified teachers, throughout the school year, it is a major disservice to the students, parents and community of providing a sub-standard educational service. Mr. Levinski points out, as one of his achievements is the restructuring of the teacher salary scale to become competitive with other school districts, but still could not attract much-needed teachers. It can be surmised that there exist a much deeper problem within CCSD that has resulted in failure to retain and recruit teachers.

The superintendent has not been "open and honest" with the school board, in that, he submitted a letter on CCSD letterhead, without Board notification and approval to New Mexico Rep. Sharon C., dated Feb. 7, 2014. In this letter he states, "The majority of the School District Board supports the Governor's Budget on State Education". This letter was in regards to HB No. 3, for "Below the Line" funding that was contained in an Appropriation Bill for Public Education. In his letter he requests for Rep. Sharon C., to support this education bill based on such political support by the CCSD Board. Mr. Levinski, with his letter, misrepresented and oversteps the authority of the CCSD School Board. Also, he "misled" Rep. Sharon C., with his untrue statement regarding Board support of HB No. 3.

He also "misled" New Mexico Rep. Sandra Jeff who read Mr. Lewinski's letter on the floor of the House of Representatives during debate of this bill. It should also be noted that Matthew Tso, Board vice president, submitted a similar letter to Rep. Sharon C., dated Feb. 6, 2014, on CCSD letterhead. Mr. Tso did not receive Board authorization by official action to speak on behalf of the Board in violation of Policy No. 150; Code of Ethics for School Board Members. He also made the same false statement that the CCSD Board was in support of HB No. 3. Mr. Tso's disingenuous letter was also read by Rep. Sandra Jeff on the floor of the House of Representatives. (Note: There are no CCSD Board minutes reflecting approval of the letters of Mr. Levinski and Mr. Tso).

With the CCSD student population being over 90 percent of Navajo students, it would be assumed that the Navajo bi-lingual and emersion programs would be of priority, especially when research has proven that such programs result in academic growth for Native American students. In 2007, the CCSD Board established a 20 Year Navajo Language Revitalization Plan with a oversight committee of community members, parents, educators, and administrators. When Mr. Levinski became superintendent, he without notification to the Board and community members disbanded this committee. Since 2011, Mr. Levinski has had a turnover of three coordinators and now has a director to oversee this program. To date there is not a comprehensive Navajo and culture curriculum and no compiled data to analyze the current status of such educational services. This very concerning situation exists despite CCSD receiving millions of dollars from Johnson O-Mulley, Title 7 and Impact Aide from the federal government.

The "end product "of any school district is the graduation rate of students, which is the final indicator of the effectiveness of the provision of educational services for our students, parents and the community. A major job responsibility of the superintendent is to maintain a high percentage of the graduation rate from year to year. In 2012, the CCSD graduation rate was 71.7 percent, to which Mr. Levinski used to no ends as resulting from his educational leadership, in comparing CCSD to other school districts in the Four Corners area.

According to a recent New Mexico Public of Education Report, the graduation rate for 2013 dropped to 65 percent, which is a decrease of 6.7 percent and placed CCSD last on the list of the Four Corners area school districts, which includes Gallup schools. The above four areas of major deficiencies are obviously serious acts of misconduct and job performance by Mr. Levinski, that do not warrant a contract extension and salary increase. Many CCSD employees have been terminated or discharged for far less violations than that of the superintendent. There are other documented misconduct and poor job performance that need to surface through a comprehensive external investigation of all pertinent parties by the New Mexico Public Education Department, New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and/or the Northern Navajo Agency Council that represent the chapters located in the CCSD District.

Any response to this letter from Mr. Levinski is expected to be the usual "spinning" of details and facts to justify such deficiencies and may include personal verbal attacks for which he has set precedence with certain Board members.

Hoskie Benally Jr.
Board member
Central Consolidated School District
Shiprock, N.M.

Take ‘governing body’ language to voters

After release from detainment the appointed Diné leaders were wise to stick with the idea of safely returning to their homeland. Thus, before long after Hwéeldi – Treaty of 1868 experience about 55 years actually – Diné were released and returned to homeland a startling prospect materialized. They were, however, still unfamiliar with the white man's way, including not quite understanding the new English language.

Unprepared by their trustee in 1923, black gold liquid was discovered on their arid land in northern Diné country they were rushed to judgment. It was at this time when the outside big energy companies were eager to take out this chidí bik'ah. So, the Indian Affairs being entrusted was quick to jump at gathering Diné Indians selected but not voted-in headmen. They were summoned for local resolve and advised to call themselves a "business council".

In another 14 years in about 1937, there was a proposed constitution, which was rejected by the Secretary of the Interior. It was realized that Diné Council appointed by Indian Affairs was deemed unsound Tribal Council since it was not sanctioned by Diné electorate.

It was reported in that following year federal secretary presented to the appointed Council what its government called rules for the Council. Interestingly, in this new rule for the Council there was a clause that stated with an idea the "governing body", but it was made clear that it did not explain the meaning of its exact authority as being a prevailing group.

And of course, we know what occurred in 1989, a tribal government unrest. The Tribal Council became Navajo Nation Council. Thus, since that time it has been the position of Navajo advocates that the Navajo Nation Council is not a recognized sovereign of our Navajo people. It is said that because the Navajo electorate have not voted in sanctioning the Council's authority through a referendum ballot.

Unfortunately, our Diné in general have not really become aware of this significant flaw of the present tribal government. In other words, as Navajo electorates we have not been given a chance to decide what our "will" is, in reference to being part of our right to self-governance in taking charge of this Diné Nation.

Moreover, Tribe's Title II Amendment was not ever brought before Diné voters to endorse their power of they the people so they could be part of their self-governing endeavor. It is quite evident that this statement "the governing body" needs to be returned to the Navajo people.

This could be done through the Diné people sanctioning it by a referendum vote. Where on the other hand, any one of the three branches could singly decide to do whatever they think is in their interest. This is the prevailing problem in Diné governing of Navajo Nation's government and if it is not corrected by the Navajo electorate, the dilemma of disordered governmental system will continue.

Diné need to understand the dire importance of this predicament in "keeping in check" is a burden of responsibility of our tribal electorate. The real understanding of "we the people" must be realized by all Navajos, especially the younger generation. It is their rightful authority being foremost guardian electorate who has the power of "the governing" accountability.

And the idea of Navajos having "sovereignty" or having the answerable governing power called "the willpower of the people". This very integrity must and needs to be respected by all its elected leaders in which when they take office to make an oath to uphold the Diné's agency.

Where on the other hand in the present situation, the federal government and earlier Tribal Council tried to undertake in assigning one of the branches to be the "governing body" of the Navajo Nation. Therefore, the Navajo people should be the essential "governor" of the Navajo Nation, as it had been previously valued in Diné's historic times. It was a period when "naalchi" or "naat'áanii" was esteemed leader to guide Diné Nation before the white man came into our territory.

Along these lines, it might be because of that first fabricated Navajo government in earlier days that this present epidemic of hunger for public cash is unbecoming in the face of accountability notion. It would be devastating if and when Navajo electorates though unskillfully go to the polls to nominate the same politicians into office again.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be wise for our Navajo electorate to vote in putting a fresh slate or to start with a harmless precaution instead of guessing?

Needlessly, some may still try to embarrass our nation no matter what, but it is only by our prayers that the good will prevails eventually. So, take not carefully and ask questions of each candidate and then truly pray for guidance. This election might be the most critical time to be extra levelheaded of what's said to avoid any fallacy. It is vital we do this round each four years election cycle in an insightful manner.

Adolph June Jr.
Kaibeto, Ariz.

Back to top ^