Letters: Critic is right: Almost all support Bears Ears

Last week, Maryleen Tahy, a former candidate for the San Juan County, Utah, Commission and a Blanding, Utah, resident, submitted a letter sharing her experience with the San Juan County Democratic Party and accusing the party of being taken over by Utah Diné Bikéyah (“Utah Diné Bikéyah takes over Democratic caucus,” April 5, 2018).

As chairman of the San Juan County Democratic Party, I would like to respond to her claims and set the record straight.

First, I’d like to thank Ms. Tahy for her candidacy and for stepping up to represent her community. After a federal court ordered county commission and school board districts in the county to be redistricted, ending decades of radically influenced gerrymandering, Native Americans in San Juan County have an unprecedented opportunity to be truly represented in our county government, and delegates at the San Juan County Democratic Party’s Convention had the opportunity to choose between six Native American candidates for two county commission seats.

This election could mark the first time more than one Native American has served on the county’s Board of Commissioners and we are grateful for all the candidates who ran for office, including those who were not nominated at the convention.

On Tuesday, March 20, San Juan County Democrats held caucus meetings in eight locations across the county and delegates were elected at each of those locations only by other caucus attendees in their county commission districts.

Over 200 people attended these caucus meetings countywide — an astounding record number. By all accounts, these elections were held fairly and impartially.

The Democratic Party Convention rules are similar to the Republican Party’s procedures. The only major difference is only registered Republicans are allowed to participate in the Republican Party’s caucus meetings and convention, but the Democratic Party is open to any registered voter, including Republicans and Independents.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
The Bears Ears in southern Utah is the subject of a controversy over how to preserve the area.

Ms. Tahy is right about one thing: Almost all of the delegates elected are supporters of Bears Ears National Monument. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone since a majority of Utah Democrats and Independents strongly support the monument (http://www.utahpolicy.com/index.php/features/today-at-utah-policy/15099-52-of-utahns-say-they-support-reducing-bears-ears-and-grand-staircase-escalante-monuments), but also because 98 percent of Navajos in San Juan County support the monument (http://utahDinéBikéyah.org/locals-support-keeping-bears-ears-monument-in-place/).

These delegates then voted for the candidates at the convention they agree with on the issues and the candidates who received the most votes were Willie Grayeyes in District 2 and Kenneth Maryboy in District 3.

Yes, these two candidates are heavily involved with Bears Ears and with Utah Diné Bikéyah, and perhaps that’s why delegates chose to support them.

When so many Utah Native Americans and Democrats support the work of the Utah Diné Bikéyah and the Bears Ears Coalition, it’s no wonder our candidates reflect those values. We’ll see proof of this when voters cast their ballots in the primary election on June 26 as well as the general election on Nov. 6.

It’s not a conspiracy when elected officials share the values of their constituents: it’s a conspiracy when that doesn’t happen.

As chair of the party, I reiterate to Ms. Tahy and to democrats in San Juan County to strongly support our democratic candidates in the county, state and federal elections. The principles of the Democratic Party are unity, harmony and peace. Ahehee’.

James Adakai
San Juan County Utah Democrats
San Juan County, Utah

Letter spreads fake news about Utah Diné Bikéyah

Within Utah Diné Bikéyah, healing is a paramount principle in our efforts to protect the Bears Ears National Monument. Part of healing is bringing forward injustice, identifying it, and directly addressing it.

As such, we would like to address last week’s Navajo Times letter, “Utah Diné Bikéyah takes over Democratic caucus,” which spreads fake news about our organization, including the elders, traditionalists and indigenous community members we serve.

In “Utah Diné Bikéyah takes over Democratic caucus,” Ms. Maryleen Tahy claims that our small organization was in some way involved in the loss of her election at the county convention. This accusation is totally false.

Utah Diné Bikéyah has no involvement in the county election process. In fact, according to the Internal Revenue Code, “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

As such Utah Diné Bikéyah follows the word and intent of the law and will never publicly support or oppose any candidate, or become involved in political campaigns.

While three of our 10 board members are seeking or already hold public office, they are running as individuals and do not bring these issues into our organizational meetings or work. As a nonprofit, all of our board members are volunteers and serve the purpose of advancing our charitable mission.

UDB does not participate in elections, but we are trying to do a lot to support Native communities in San Juan County and across the Four Corners region.

Since 2012, UDB has focused on community planning and cultural preservation through ethnographic mapping, education and policy change. We listen to and work with grassroots communities to identify and advise local community leaders on how to carry goals forward, especially across jurisdictional boundaries such as county, state and federal lines where Native rights are misunderstood on both sides of our treaties.

In the past, much of UDB’s focus has been on cultural ties to our indigenous lands off-reservation, including the successful designation of Bears Ears National Monument in 2016.

Our current programs include arts, economic development, traditional foods, youth, as well as defending and modeling traditional stewardship values at Bears Ears. Each of these program areas is aimed at supporting and advancing local community desires and we do this through collaboration across all political, economic and jurisdictional lines. We believe coalition building is the path that will finally lead to much needed change in our severely neglected reservation communities.

UDB’s mission and vision is to “Preserve and protect the cultural and natural resources of ancestral Native American lands to benefit and bring healing to people and the Earth.”

Healing is paramount principle to our organization in everything we do, and we encourage concerned citizens like Ms. Tahy to join us in our community building efforts such as helping to realize the cultural benefits of defending Bears Ears National Monument, enrolling friends in an entrepreneurial training program this summer to build the local economy, learning about farming and repatriation of our Native potato, or signing Native youth up for workshops to strengthen tomorrow’s leaders.

We need more volunteers, especially those with skills that Ms. Tahy has in letter writing. Please join us, and learn what we can accomplish together by visiting www.utahdinebikeyah.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.

Honor K. Keeler
Assistant Director
Utah Diné Bikéyah
Salt Lake City, Utah

One day stands out: Sovereignty Day

As I sit here looking at my calendar for April, I see a month of deadlines with quarterly reports due, federal and state income taxes due, but I also see a day of importance to the Navajo Nation, a day in which the federal courts recognize the sovereign nature of Indian nations; a day in which the Navajo Nation won a very important tax case before the Supreme Court of the United States.

On Tuesday, April 16, 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Kerr-McGee v. the Navajo Nation. In this case, Kerr-McGee challenged the Nation’s ability to enact a tax on the activity that Kerr-McGee was conducting within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

Kerr-McGee believed that the Navajo Nation did not have the authority to enact a tax. Kerr-McGee felt that laws like taxation needed approval from entities like the Bureau of Indian Affairs and probably felt that they could exert some influence at that level to reduce that forthcoming taxation.

This case made its way through the judicial system, first with the taxpayer winning an injunction at the federal district court, but Navajo winning at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So McGee took the gamble and appealed to the Supreme Court.

The decision of the court was a unanimous opinion in favor of the Navajo Nation and all Indian nations. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the decision, citing Merrion v. Jicarilla Apache Tribe, “that the ‘power to tax is an essential attribute of Indian sovereignty because it is a necessary instrument of self-government.’”

Thus, as sovereign nations, tribes have the ability to self-govern and can enact laws, statutes, ordinances, regulations, etc., without the approval of the BIA or the secretary of the Interior to tax activity occurring within their boundaries.

Furthermore, Burger noted that it was the policy of the federal government to promote tribal self-governance. And what better way to exercise self-governance but for a tribe to enact, administer and collect taxes from activity occurring within the boundaries of its reservation.

Thus, the Navajo Nation Council declared April 16 as a tribal holiday, calling it Navajo Sovereignty Day.

The actual day of observance of this holiday has been moved to meet the needs of the Council. Now, Sovereignty Day is no longer a tribal holiday on the Navajo Nation government calendar. Yet the importance of this day is still relevant as taxation brings in millions of dollars to the Nation to operate its many government programs and services which serve not only Navajos but non-Navajos.

The Navajo Nation now has eight taxes (Possessory Interest Tax, Business Activity Tax, Oil and Gas Severance Tax, Hotel Occupancy Tax, Tobacco Products Tax, Sales Tax, Fuel Excise Tax, and lastly, the Junk Food Tax). Each of these taxes assesses a tax upon a specific area of activity that occurs within the Navajo Nation. Many of these taxes replace the state in application of the tax, like the Fuel Excise Tax.

Thus, April 16 continues to ring out in importance to the Navajo Nation.

So, as the 16th approaches, buy Navajo. Support the businesses that operate within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Shop at Bashas’, Lowes, Ace Hardware, get your gas at the local Giant or Navajo Petroleum convenience stores, eat at the local Denny’s or Burger King, and know that the taxes collected from your purchases are being used to operate the Navajo Nation government.

Happy Sovereignty Day to all.

Mark C. Graham
Gilbert, Ariz.

A dark sickness flows in air, water

“Mustard-colored water flowed this week into Cement Creek, a tributary that runs through Silverton and into the Animas River.”

A dark sickness is flowing through the air and water pipes, giving the Navajo people no mercy to live, which is causing cancer and health disorders.

Elderly and young adults are fighting the battle to provide a clean water supply for their children and this dark sickness is spreading like wildfire.

You ask: Are the Navajo Nation and the federal government doing anything about it? No!

The government is not doing anything to stop this situation, even though they are still investing in fossil-fuel energy. The Navajo people must move to change and protect their environmental resources from fossil-fuel energy and the dangers it creates.

Many Navajo people have no water supply in their homes due to the fossil fuel pollution. This water pollution increases the percentage of Navajo people living without clean water and, according to the Navajo water project Dig Deep, “40 percent of Navajo people live without water.”

Furthermore, some of the Navajo people still use the polluted water. Navajo people want clean fresh water.

“Verna Yazzie, who runs an Airing in Monument Valley, takes an 18-mile round trip when she needs water. She goes to the watering hole a few times a week and said she has to go off-roading for six miles to get to the nearest water source.”

It is not just the water supply being affected by the fossil-fuel pollution. Besides the water pollution, livestock and crops of the Navajo people are also affected. Our livestock need water in order for them to grow and survive. We also need water to survive.

“If these farmers don’t get water in the next week, they’ll lose their crops.”

This is a common problem for Native tribes, that they see it all too often.

In addition, the roads on the reservation are in horrible condition — there’s nothing but dirt roads. If it is snowing or raining, the roads will get bad and then the people have a hard time getting water to their homes. As a result, people get their vehicles stuck and potentially can harm themselves.

There is a nonprofit organization that supplies water to the Navajo people on the reservation. However, there is a little amount of water that could be supplied because there is only one water truck that goes through the communities. Also, it takes the truck two weeks to one month to deliver the water, depending on the weather.

The nonprofit organization is called Dig Deep. They provide water for the Navajo people in which they install water systems in every client’s home (Navajo water).

In conclusion, so many Navajo people are afraid of change in the Navajo society. Because there is too much greed in the Navajo people’s minds, I believe it makes them unfocused on protecting their environmental resources that gives us food, water, and other materials from the environment.

It is not just the Navajo people losing their way of life, it is the government of the Navajo people that, I feel, is causing the pollution. The government is interested in money rather than helping the Navajo people protecting their environmental resources.

The Navajo Nation government needs to stop investing in fossil-fuel energy and invest in renewable energy that provides clean and safe energy and water across the Navajo reservation. Nature and water are life.

Maile Pino
11th grade
Alamo Navajo Community School
Alamo, N.M.

We can no longer stay in this ditch

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce sat and chatted with Republican sympathizer Cindy Yurth at the Navajo Times office and not once did he directly utter the word Navajo (“Pearce says he’s the one to pull NM out of the ‘ditch,’” April 5, 2018).

It’s also very interesting that the candidate said New Mexico is stuck in the ditch. I agree. For the last seven years, the state of New Mexico has been stuck in the rut with the policies and rudderless administration of Republican New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, giving Pearce’s assessment credibility.

On the Navajo Nation, the Republican Martinez administration has done so much to put the Navajo Nation portion of the state in the ditch. Recently, she has slashed millions out of the state budget for needed infrastructure and development, leaving local cash-strapped chapters to fend for itself.

She has also ditched efforts to enhance quality education and health care needs, by sidelining needed funding and personnel for area schools and health-care facilities.

As a lifelong New Mexican who is Navajo, our state can no longer remain in this ditch as we endure the last remaining days of an administration, which has done nothing to pull us out of this ditch.

In 2015, the newest Republican candidate for governor, Pearce, sponsored federal legislation, which was solely aimed at the Navajo Nation and targeted the tribe for punishment. His legislation would have reined in unspent funds from tribal housing programs, which were carried over from other fiscal years.

As we all know, the Navajo Nation has housing needs. Navajo elders need housing. Navajo veterans need housing. Navajo students need housing. Navajo families need housing.

He sponsored legislation which would have ditched all of those needs and punish the tribe in the amount of $81 million, in the name of tribal housing reform. The nation called his legislation “troublesome” and it was obvious that he had no consultation with tribal leadership and only demonstrates a lack of understanding of the mechanics of our right to self-government.

Today, the state of New Mexico is in the ditch. But, the resolution to that is not to elect another ditch digger. Electing a Republican governor is not the solution to the problems of the ditches from the existing Republican governor.

As a Navajo voter I will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate who has the best plan to build a bridge over those ditches. A candidate who is best suited to work with Navajo leadership and respects tribal sovereignty.

I am done with an era of Republican ditches and those who dig them. I am ready for a New Mexico governor who is ready to build quality relationships and communities, a governor who is not afraid to work with our tribal leadership and proudly say Navajo is her friend, whoever she is.

Steven James
Sheep Springs, N.M.

Bates, Peabody are wasting time

I am concerned about the conflicting and misleading information Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates, Nathaniel Brown and other Navajo Nation officials have made, as well as legislation they are pushing through Council relating to the Navajo Generating Station’s 2019 closure.

While federal, state and utility owners, like SRP, have made public statements that they are closing NGS at the end of 2019, due to the unprofitable coal generation of NGS, Navajo Nation officials like Bates have been giving Peabody miners false hope.

Mr. Bates and Peabody Coal Company are wasting precious time, spending resources on looking for new owners. These efforts only benefit Peabody Coal Company, not Navajo workers. Given that Peabody is entirely reliant on coal, of course, they are trying to keep Kayenta Mine and NGS going.

We need to make sure Peabody and Navajo Generating Station owners are assisting workers to develop their skill capacity by creating education opportunities so they can pursue other employment outside of the coal industry and ensure their health insurance package are in place before the closure.

NGS is closing because the market price of coal has become too high. The fact that no company has stepped forward to buy NGS to this day speaks to how untenable the “Yes to NGS” campaign led by Peabody is.

Not to mention, if a buyer were to step forward at this date, it would most likely be years before NGS could resume, because the environmental impact statement for Kayenta Mine and NGS has been placed on indefinite suspension, since the day the owners decided to shut down NGS. Any new owner would be legally obligated to complete the expensive EIS.

This is all about economics. If Salt River Project found a cheaper way to keep NGS open they would have done so. We should know because we (Navajo and Hopi) have given them the cheapest price for electricity and water for all these years.

There is a better way — we can transition to renewable energy sources. We need our Navajo Nation leadership to support these initiatives. Peabody’s lies are doing more harm than good and they are stifling our optimism for the future.

We need more initiatives like the Kayenta Solar Farm. It is a 27.3-megawatt facility that will be serving the community of Kayenta. The Kayenta solar facility employed 278 people at the peak of construction and Navajos comprised 80 to 85 percent of the workforce over the 10 months construction of the power plant, security structures and sub-station with a $10 million in combined payroll. The multiplier-effect provided $15 million to the community as a result of construction of the solar facility.

In addition, there was over 4,700 hours of formal training in technical, general and safety training over a 10-month period. Due to the success of the Kayenta solar facility there is currently another 27.7 megawatts solar facility on the drawing board.

Why support obsolete 20th century energy production? The 21st century is the time for clean safe renewable energy.

Lori Goodman
Dilkon, Ariz.

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Categories: Letters
Tags: Bears Ears