Times branches out into national coverage

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 9, 2014

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The practice of newspapers reporting on the first baby of the new year has died out for more than two decades, killed by federal laws that mandate privacy for hospital patients.

That wasn't true 50 years ago so the Navajo Times had no problem learning that the first baby of the year came into this world at exactly 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1964. In fact, there was a good chance of this baby being the first baby born that year in the whole United States.

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The honor went to Carol Archie, a healthy 6-pound, 8-and-a-half-ounce baby girl born to Juanita Archie, who lived in Skunk Springs near Jeddito, Ariz.

"The doctor (at the Keams Canyon Hospital) who delivered the baby, Dr. Jim Scott, was as excited as a person who plays the horses and who finally won his share of bets," the paper reported.

For having the first baby of the year on the reservation, the mother received a gift from the Navajo tribe of a homemade cradleboard from the Navajo Arts and Crafts along with an extra basinet and blankets from the tribe's public relations office.

As 1964 began, the Navajo Times was still selling for 10 cents each at the newsstand or four dollars a year by mail subscription.

Times Business Manager Chet MacRorie pointed out that 1963 had been a good year for the paper as far as promoting education among Navajo youth was concerned.

"We received approximately 5,600 letters, mostly from young Navajo students from the various schools and colleges as well as from members of the Armed Forces," he wrote.

These, he said, are the leaders of tomorrow and he was proud of that because of their interest in the Navajo Times mainly that they were showing a grasp of issues and a willingness to wrestle with today's issues.

The Times was beginning to branch out a little by its third year of publication, adding a little national coverage of stories that the paper's two main writers - MacRorie and Marshall Tome - thought their readers would like to know about.

For example, in this issue, after getting a lot of letters and phone calls from readers wondering how the paper felt about Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater running for the U.S. presidency, MacRorie decided to reprint an editorial that was run the week before by the Albuquerque Journal.

The editorial didn't endorse Goldwater or oppose him but just pointed out that he had no Republican competition for the nomination and wondered whether Goldwater would have been better off facing the recently assassinated president John F. Kennedy rather than his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

This was a time when very few Navajos voted in off-reservation elections and many of them who did, voted Republican. It wasn't until the early 1970s when then-chairman Peter MacDonald made a pact with the unions that the tribe started pushing Navajos to vote as Democrats in exchange for union support of the Navajos in the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

As he ran for president, Goldwater still had a lot of supporters on the reservation and he would brag about his ties with both the Navajo and Hopi reservations because of his family's involvement in reservation trading.

In fact, one of the statements he would make often throughout his life was that there was not one area of Navajo land in Arizona that he had not walked on at some point in his life.

Another of its stories that week spotlighted movie actor Marlon Brando who was the only non-Indian who attended a Denver meeting of the National Indian Youth Council at the end of 1963.

The paper pointed out that another person who attended that conference was Herb Blatchford, director of the Gallup Indian Community Center.

The University of Utah College of Medicine announced a milestone this week.

During the past six years, doctors there had operated on more than 1,000 Navajo children to correct ear infections.

The article pointed out that almost one out of every five Navajo children had chronically draining ears, caused by deep-seated infection, more than twice the rate for not only non-Indian children but children from other tribes.

The doctors attributed this high rate to "inadequate nutritional practices among the Navajos."

"The Navajo diet consists principally of carbohydrates, especially chocolate and soda pop, and contains very little Vitamin C," the article stated. "The fruits and vegetables raised by their Navajo ancestors no longer are grown."

Utah doctors said the ear problem is so common on the Navajo Reservation that it is now "accepted as a part of life."

So many Navajo children get serious ear infections that the IHS had a practice of flying them to Utah for mastoid surgery where doctors rebuild the hearing apparatus and, in many cases, return the hearing to normal levels.

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