Letters: Diné Boholniih is dying

Diné Boholniih is dying. Diné Boholniih, meaning, “The people are the power and authority,” is a mantra popularized by Chairman Peter MacDonald. This powerful concept that has been a reality of our Diné people from our ancient times is now being eroded away. We are at a major decision point in our Diné life journey and we are taking a wrong turn.

The Naabi Committee denied the request by the Diné Medicineman Association to be allowed to give a voice into decisions on fracking activity. This request was made to assure that the tribal leadership had the benefit of all valid perspectives when considering the dangerous business of fracking. The medicine people’s request was on behalf of the Earth Mother and the many of us who believe that we have the rights and authority to be heard by our leaders.

The Naabi Committee has declared that money is more meaningful than the knowledge of elders who have a greater understanding of the earth than most of us. The Naabi Committee’s rejection of our right to be heard is in violation of Diné Fundamental Law. It is clear that climate change is rapidly changing our world and our lives for the worse.

Those of us who consider these things realize that our grandchildren are going into a world that will be greatly more difficult than the lives we live. The probability of this increases, as we keep going the same way we are. The more damage done to the earth will be cause for increased suffering by our future generations.

Fracking and burning coal expedites the tragedies of climate change. The future of our grandchildren, our earth, is in the hands of shortsighted politicians and bureaucrats. We have indeed come into dangerous times.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Diné musicians treated badly, disrespected

I’ve been a Diné musician all my life. Went to the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California, back in the 1990s and spent 10 years in Hollywood, playing professionally in bands and being a tech, a music tech. Since that time there were only a few Diné bands and musicians and the tribe never promoted them or hired them. They got treated badly, disrespected, and used.

For Diné women it was worse. They got paid way less and I seen my wife get told by Diné bands that are all men that Diné women don’t belong in music. I wanted to say something but my wife lets her music do the talking for her and her band. Ever since I started playing, our tribe and leaders have never promoted or hired their own people. This is one of the biggest untapped natural resources we have. As a tribe we lost our music during the Long Walk.

Many songs died with the people that were killed, songs that will never be sung again or heard. That is called historical trauma and we, as a people, have not healed. But all is not lost. We have a lot of Diné musicians and bands that deserve to be on the road making a career out of it.

What is sad to see is all the older, superb, and talented musicians working at jobs where they are not living to their full potential. I have talked to both camps, Nez and Shirley, and all I get is talk. Nez doesn’t seem to care about Diné musicians at all. Lizer seems to listen and is interested. I tried talking to the Buu and Shirley camp and got no messages or response at all.

I’m at a loss for words. All my life I tried to get our leaders to listen, to bring home the music to our people. Music is a special medicine that heals the soul, mind, and heart. I personally know a lot of musicians that were saved by music.

We Diné musicians need our very own performing arts center with classrooms, recording studio, and stage to promote the next generations of Diné musicians.

We need a Diné musicians union with our own office that gets paying jobs for all Diné bands and entertainers to get them working. I have invited both camps to hold a meet-and-greet and invite all musicians to get their side and their questions.

But both camps, Nez and Shirley, seem not to care about Diné musicians. Prove me wrong — you want my vote, get off your lazy behind and address Diné musicians and entertainers. An office for a Diné musicians union would work and be successful for our musicians and entertainers.

Thanks for your time.

Richard Anderson Jr.
Gallup, N.M.

OnSat was thoroughly investigated

As attorney general during the Joe Shirley presidency, I must respond to Vern Charleston’s letter (“Casinos have been a disaster,” Oct. 11, 2018), accusing former President Shirley “and his attorney general” of bringing up the discretionary fund abuse investigation in order to turn the tables against a Navajo Nation Council investigation into Shirley’s dealing with the OnSat Corporation.

Charleston states that to be fair to Jonathan Nez, Shirley’s involvement with OnSat matter should be thoroughly investigated. As a matter of fact, the Office of Attorney General thoroughly investigated the OnSat e-rate program but found no wrongdoing by Shirley. OnSat lost its contracts and prosecution was initiated against a certain former employee who left the reservation. Dale Stephens was not subject to tribal court jurisdiction thus not prosecuted.

On the other hand, the Navajo Nation Council, based on a separate investigation, placed Shirley on administrative leave on grounds that his involvement with OnSat “adversely affected the confidence of the people in the integrity of the government of the Navajo Nation,” speculative charges with which I disagreed in writing.

The Navajo Nation courts agreed with me by declaring the administrative leave action unlawful. I took the discretionary fund abuses by tribal officials very seriously and made the decision to bring in a special prosecutor once I found that there were good grounds to believe that the Navajo Ethics in Government Law was violated. Under the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer must exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client.

Appointing a special prosecutor was an independent judgment I exercised on behalf of my client, the Navajo Nation and its members. It was my job and I had to take care of it.

Now here’s a good question: Why isn’t Jonathan Nez on administrative leave? The authority certainly exists in Title 2 for the Navajo Nation Council to place a president or vice president on administrative leave for unlawful conduct. As to prohibited conduct, the Navajo Nation Ethics in Government Law states that, “No public official shall use, any official or apparent authority of their office or duties which places, or could be perceived as placing, their private economic gain…before those of the general public, whose paramount interest their office or employment is intended to serve.”

Using vice presidential authority to take immediate family members on a tribal plane for entertainment purposes certainly resulted in personal economic gain to the vice president. If this allegation in the complaint is true, this is a per se violation of the Ethics in Government Law.

This means that these facts in themselves, if proved, constitute a violation of the statute and there are no legal excuses. The ethics complaint against the vice president is a serious charge, because the potential penalty is disqualification from public office for five years, and must be thoroughly investigated now.

Otherwise, if Nez is elected president, the future Navajo Nation Council will hold the charges over him, making him a weak president. It is not out of the question that the next Navajo Nation Council could prosecute or remove Nez, if the ethics charges are not prosecuted. Since 1989, this has happened twice to a sitting Navajo Nation president and once to a Navajo Nation speaker. In summary, carrying on the election now without resolving the ethics charges against Nez now could be a waste of time and money not only for the candidates but also for the Navajo Nation.

It’s starting to look like the 2014 presidential election again.

Louis Denetsosie
Window Rock, Ariz.

What has been done with multi-million dollar budget?

A multimillion-dollar budget, $767 million, according to the Navajo Times (Sept. 23, 2018), “Council OK’s last budget; tries to safeguard funds,” was once again adopted by the Navajo Nation Council with “… $33 million going to the chapters.”

Although critical priority health and human services may have been funded, this huge budget cannot obscure the fact that much of our population continues to seek greater economic/job opportunities or if employed having found a small victory in making ends meet. Enough has been said about the entrenched endless list — the unacceptable high unemployment rate, road conditions, infrastructure, issues with housing, education, the need for a self-sufficient economic plan/development, banking/impact investment system, health care, on and on.

Questions as to what has been accomplished with the preceding year expenditure budget should be of the highest priority yet accountability for the funds expended seems to be an elusive topic for many in far too many organizations. The intent here is not to point fingers but to shed light on the elusive question as to what has been accomplished with the multimillion-dollar budget adopted each year by the Council and other organizations in our communities.

Historically, we’ve always had a governmental entity with a bureaucracy in place only now we see a huge bureaucracy with the budget as reported reaching $767 million with some $33 million going to the chapters. Yet, as we look around our communities, the compelling ground-level question on the endless list seems to remain well hidden. It is long past time to turn living-room conversations to results-driven budget, the outcomes from the expenditure of scarce funds, public funds or otherwise. The one blatant message from all this would appear to be that the current process of budget allocation and expenditure should not be allowed to continue to fund and support the existing economic distress index — the endless list.

While there are always enough pointing fingers to go around, this convenient bureaucratic and/or political answer gets in the way of the hard, hard work needed to address and solve the staggering community socio-demographic issues and challenges. Maybe we should look deeper for meaning in the adage, “…show me your budget and I’ll show you your values.” It is a given that the U.S. runs a combined highly competitive, high poverty economy, but it just seems Native peoples should not have to tolerate nor condone having to take the brunt of the alarming increase in race-based socioeconomic inequality.

Clearly, with the multimillion-dollar budget process as is, our children and grandchildren are destined to repeat the cycle of the nation’s most persistent disenfranchised sociocultural language group in America.

In the interest of our current and future generations, I’m certain many are asking when do we demand demonstrable-results budget allocation and accountability for the expenditures of scarce funds? When do we strengthen public policy to abate deep economic disadvantage and not have to pass the endless list to the next generation?

Harold G. Begay
To’Nanees’ Dizi, Ariz.

My values: Honesty, accountability, integrity

Please publish this letter to help me express my appreciation to all who have spoken and continue to speak on behalf of the upcoming election. As the potential new Council delegate who represents Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Hardrock, Pinon, and Whippoorwill in Arizona, I want to thank those who have written in my favor as well.

I promise not to let you all down. My values of honesty, accountability, and integrity with true respect and concern for my Navajo people and our traditional ways of life is what I believe will help me to be a great leader.

These values and principles that guide my platform, as well as the very same teachings that I received from my parents and extended family throughout my childhood and later in life at the hogan level in Black Mesa, will guide me always. In my tenure as the fiscal director of the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, I relied on these childhood teachings that enabled me to accomplish and succeed on behalf of the Navajo people.

I have never mismanaged or wrongfully appropriated tribal funds. The values and principles I was blessed with as a child prevent me from being dishonest. This is proven in my record with the Navajo Tribe. If elected, I will address many of the reservation’s problems and issues as much as I can without neglecting the people in my precinct. There is a need to protect our environment as well as our natural resources (water, air, earth, and so on). I also want to see more appropriations for my people who were comprehensively uprooted due to greed.

Much is left to be done before the Navajo and Hopi Relocation Act expires. Another concern of mine is the Peabody Coal Mine. Many of the former employees have health issues due to black lung cancer. They need serious attention, attention that Peabody must provide in ways such as scholarship funds for current/former employees’ children and extended health care. Dirt roads need to be paved along school bus routes, support for Diné grassroots organizations to focus on Diné Be Iina, support for Navajo veterans, water/electric line extensions, quality education for all Dzil Yijiin School, repair the windmills and restore reservoir, etc.

I am aware of the immense responsibilities that Council delegates and other elected leaders have to assume as well as the many challenges they face. These challenges will be difficult, but I believe I am up to the challenge. I am asking for your support Nov. 6 to be the new Council delegate representing Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Hardrock, Pinon, and Whippoorwill in Arizona.

Thank you, a’hee’hee.

Jimmy Yellowhair
Black Mesa, Ariz.

Looking for Virginia, Della

I am attempting to contact my aunts, Virginia and Della. Last known residence was in Kayenta. I am omitting the surnames for their privacy. Virginia and Della, if you see this request, please call me at 505-444-3336. Thank you.

Tammie Blackwater
Farmington, N.M.


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Categories: Letters