Change focus of panhandling debate

WINDOW ROCK, May 29, 2014

Text size: A A A

The recent ill-fated initiative embraced by the mayor of Gallup, "Change in my Heart, Not in my Pocket," received critical and appropriate responses by several Navajo citizens concerned about the campaign's racist undertones in addressing panhandling in town.

One such response, by University of New Mexico professor Jennifer Denetdale, characterized the initiative as a "bad cowboy movie," raising the Technicolor film image of Gallup merchants calling out the alarm, "Circle the wagons, Navajo panhandlers are coming!"

Much like old cowboy and Indian Westerns, the initiative presented troubling stereotypes while overlooking the humanity of Native peoples, in this case the heart wrenching alcoholism and homelessness. Furthermore, the initiative ignored the leading actors of this bad cowboy movie: Gallupians who own bars and liquor stores, actors who have a heavy hand in contributing to Gallup's unflattering image.

Several months ago, the debate on how to address alcoholism came to the forefront of Gallup's socio-economic issues. Then the focus was on the sustainability of Gallup's only detoxification center. One side presented the argument that the center was mismanaged and therefore should be shuttered.

The other side argued for resources to save lives and provide treatment. Appallingly, one journalist, in an op-ed, figuratively suggested that alcoholics should be facially disfigured as a teaching lesson. At that time, as now, scurrying unnoticed by Gallup's leadership were bar and liquor store owners.

In an op-ed for a Gallup paper, I ventured into the fray and offered a few suggestions for Gallup's leadership to consider. The first consideration was for Gallup and law enforcement to crack down on alcohol sellers selling to intoxicated individuals with hefty fines, and for repeat offenders the revocation of liquor licenses. Other recommendations included increasing the number of substance abuse treatment programs that focus on healing people.

In response to the racist undertones of "Change in my Heart, Not in my Pocket," I now offer a counter initiative for Gallup's leadership and merchants: "Money in Navajo, Not in Gallup." This focus of this initiative would be to re-direct the millions of dollars that Navajo people pump into Gallup's economy every payday weekend into the Navajo Nation.

This initiative would help the mayor and merchants of Gallup to understand more clearly that racism and ill-conceived initiatives, and economic exploitation that feeds off of our homeless brothers and sisters, will not be tolerated.

The "Money in Navajo, Not in Gallup" initiative may also help Gallup merchants to understand their aggressive business panhandling, otherwise known as advertising, that employ stereotypical characterizations be rethought to respectfully portray Native people, not cartoonish figures, lifeless mannequins, or marketing messages for tourists to come and see "Indian cities" where they can buy authentic moccasins made in China for the entire family.

Without a coordinated and holistic approach to addressing Gallup's alcohol problem -- one that considers all of the factors contributing to this challenging problem in a manner that recognizes the humanity of our homeless brothers and sisters -- an economic boycott of Gallup and its unsavory past rife with racism, violence, and exploitation, may prod Gallup in a more enlightened direction.

Milton Bluehouse Jr.
Ganado, Ariz.

Please put aside political rhetoric

As we approach the threshold of the 21st century, I wish to express my thoughts to the candidates running for public office.

Please put aside your political rhetoric of future glory. Heard it before coming from a borderline sociopath describing his grand delusions of an unrealistic idealism of social change and salvation. And stop swaying the people by telling them with what they yearn to hear. Stop lying to them. Speak from the heart.

Maybe this time we, the voters, will not be at fault for our poor decision-making skills at the voting booth. As you step forth, I thank you and all is not compromised, for we still a rare breed of unwavering individuals within every phase of our social structures.

Even with what they went through these people are still dedicated, honest, hardworking, and have sincere compassion for the young and old. As frustrating and time-consuming it may be they continue to work with the system, at times making it work.

As you can see, our reservation is plagued with numerous corrosive social problems, too many to mention. What good are rules of order for a society when those entrusted, including its citizens, overlook, excuse, supersede, or do nothing to enforce them?

If we continue down this path we will only find ourselves confronted with the most bizarre and very disturbing challenges. If we are to survive our own demise, there needs to be a stable foundation for our society, beginning with ourselves and family. If not, perhaps when we arrive at the brink of collapse we would have no choice but to readjust, or it may be too late to submit to real change within ourselves.

These are the challenges and obstacles that our society is faced with that I wanted to convey to you.

With that I say to you, the candidates, no "experience" necessary or history repeats itself. Yes, if you want this time-consuming job of personal sacrifice, then stand with us and we will stand with you. We do need you, with your foresight, ambitious, benevolent, initiative, innovative, problem-solving skills, and loud mouth approach.

And to those who take office, remember, be mindful, and heed to our elders, our veterans, our handicaps, our disadvantages, and our youth as to their needs, for in silent reverence, they do appeal to your good conscience.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Article full of misleading information

As descendants of the great Sandoval, we are extremely distressed by Cindy Yurth's article on To'hajilee, "The 'Enemy Navajo' of To'hajilee strike up a friendship with Hollywood" (Navajo Times, May 22, 2014).

Sandoval and his band of Navajos in today's name is the Canoncito Band of Navajos. We are referred to at times as the Enemy Navajo or Diné Ana'’.

First of all, the article is full of misleading information on the Canoncito Band. The article shows lack of decent research and respect for the people of this community. It is simply irresponsible reporting.

At Tóhajiileeh, Jim Platero is a health administrator, not executive director of the chapter; Canoncito lies in Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Cibola counties, not in Valencia County. When the Canoncito Band returned from captivity at Fort Sumner, they found the Laguna Pueblo Indians and Mexicans had taken their property, not Zunis.

Private enterprise is non-existent on the reservation, not having "a cute bed and breakfast, Apache Canyon Ranch" and "Canoncito Gas." "The Lone Ranger" was filmed east of Canoncito, not on the reservation. These are but a few items that Yurth writes about in error.

Apparently she came to Tóhajiileeh and interviewed three chapter officials. She then recounted news articles about "Breaking Bad" and an airplane crash.

In historical times, Sandoval was headman of the Canoncito Band. His deeds included trying to establish peace between the Spanish and Mexican governments with the Dinétah (today's Navajo Nation). Was doing that "traitorous" and "treacherous" ? I say not.

He was a peacemaker. He was not the only headman. Other headmen led this band through the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. periods to the present time and we are proud of them.

The name "Enemy Navajos" (or Diné Ana'’) is a name given by other Navajos in 1818 to this band. To this day, people of the Navajo Nation refer to us as Enemy Navajos and for many reasons we wear that moniker with pride.

For many of us, it is unfortunate that the Navajo Nation government is interfering with the right of self-rule at Tóhajiileeh. Chapter President Secatero laments sentiments about how the Navajo Nation is unresponsive to requests for financial assistance and authorization for projects or as put forth by Jim Platero, being at "the bottom of the totem pole." It's a matter of a foreign government trying to govern over land and resources of a different nation.

The Canoncito Band has been seeking federal recognition since the early 1980s. At an earlier time there was recognition but the BIA had been tossing the band around between agencies so much that it now has a "unique status." We want to resolve this. But please, this time do diligence to research and be factual.

Yes, we are descendants of the great Sandoval, our headman. We don't appreciate anyone referring to him as "the treacherous Sandoval is looking down, or up, from wherever he is." He has gone back to his maker, Diyin, where he awaits us. To say that we, the Canoncito Band people, carry his sins is libelous.

When the Navajo Nation and BIA release their hold on us, we can "redeem themselves once and for all" in re-establishing our tribal status but not for "the sins of traitorous ancestor Sandoval."

Paul Platero
Canoncito (Tóhajiileeh), N.M.

Thanks for help with western song & dance

The final Western Agency Diné Social Song and Dance Benefit event was held at the Moenkopi Community Center on May 3, 2014.

Derrick Sloan and Eddie Jones did an excellent job as masters of ceremony. Central Navajo Wranglers hosted the song and dance expertly.

We personally would like to express our appreciation to all those that pledged awards for both categories of the dancers. Also, to all the people who brought groceries and items for raffles, your help smoothed out the whole program. There are too many to name is this short letter.

We appreciate and thank the Moenkopi Community Center for providing us the facility.

Derrick Sloan, Song and Dance President
Dee Yellowhorse, Vice President
Rachel Begay, Secretary
Lillie Sloan, Treasurer
Tuba City, Ariz.

Back to top ^