Letters: Education should be free on rez

A recent Navajo Times article reports that only 6,486 students out of 12,887 who applied for scholarship funding in 2017 were approved while 6,401 were turned away.

This data does point to where our bureaucratic values lie. This data also sends a more powerful humane message that maybe the life conditions for a good percentage of our people doesn’t really matter. Economics and education go hand-in-hand. You cannot have a sound economic system without a sound education system.

Poor education leads to poor economics, poor economics leads to poor education. To leverage their economic system, highly economically successful countries make huge investments in education (i.e., Nordic countries) to the point of having the nation/country itself pick up the near total cost of K-16 education. In most all cases, these countries pick up the tuition for higher education. In these countries, education is not viewed as a tool to be bartered in the market place but more as a fundamental civil right to one’s wellbeing in a society. Who would not invest in their child/ren’s education and essentially deny their children the tools necessary for a suitable livelihood?

Just by looking around our socio-economic environs, it seems we are long past time that proper and effective education should be made available by our institutions, Diné College and Navajo Technical University, at no cost to our people. A greater investment in education is needed by our Navajo Nation in order to develop healthy socio-economic conditions for our people. It is better to invest in people than to just expend annually for other high-risk return-on-investment.

It is common knowledge that our conventional K-18 education system has been carefully engineered culturally, socially, economically and linguistically to where students who graduate are destined to repeat their unequal stratified education in the greater society only in the form of unequal socio-economic conditions. The cherished assumptions justifying bell-curve educational programming must be changed as education is critical to our economic development.

Our unequal educational outcomes in the real world translate to huge disparities in health care delivery and outcomes, in nutritional disparity where our local grocery stores are lined with unhealthy food choices, in life expectancy, incarceration rates, housing and other critical life conditions that matter for our people.

Several of us in 1976 worked to open the then Navajo Community College in Tuba City and Kayenta the following year as branch campuses for greater economic opportunities for our people. Our intent was never to maintain the stratified life outcomes. The 49 percent denial to better economic opportunities for our people could very well constitute a civil rights matter but clearly this form of investment, scholarship awards, tells us that the current staggering public health issues and other life conditions faced by our people will continue with our current and future generations. The layers of wealth creation go hand-in-hand with the strata of social and economic inequality that too often makes for nothing more than continuation of searing social-cost statistics, especially for our children and youth.

We should not have to take from the less fortunate just to build a fortunate life for a few.

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

Biigha on feature stories

Bii gha hey, Asdza Cindy! Translation: Kudos, Ms. Cindy! Two articles in a single issue of the Navajo Times (Feb. 1, 2018) mark Ms. Yurth’s ubiquitous presence on our Diné rez. A fantastic article on former rez dog Halley (So’bitse nineezii) who now lives on a boat in the bay area of California, and an absolutely outstanding article on Raymond and Tuggy Dunton and their new venture at former Farmington Methodist Mission truly place a delineating focus on what all Diné have been waiting to read since 1882: Paternalism to Partnership. Raymond and Tuggy, you are the most deserving Diné leaders who are continuing to serve as models for us all in your new Christian assignment of educating us to start looking at relationships as partnerships.

Cindy, who has done an interview on my treks to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, needs to know that I have now done 112 trips in a little over five years — 18 rim-to-rims, including seven rim-to-rim-to-rim. Not bad for an old sheepherder who will be 74 in two months, eh?

Cindy, blessings on you for serving as vice president of the Blackhat Humane Society. Please note that I have a beautiful rez dog Australian Shepherd with blue and brown cracked eyes. I adopted her in July 2008 at Hard Rock, when the Chicago Cubs were in first place in their division of the National League Central. Instantly she was named Cubbie. She was malnourished and had no hair, had pathogenic ticks in her ears and had skin mites and tapeworm. She absolutely loves to run 10Ks at 7,300 feet elevation on N89, north of Flagstaff, where my wife Deb (we’re going to celebrate our 50th year of partnership in June) and I live with Cubbie and five egg-laying chicks.

Nothing like human-interest stories. Keep going, Cindy, Raymond dóó Tuggy, and the Harley-Davidsons with new New Mexico plates.

Tacheeni dóó Deb Scott
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Signs should be in Diné bizaad

To Vice President Jonathan Nez, Good afternoon, vice president. My name is Kendrick Nelson McCabe. I’m a 30-year-old full-blooded Navajo veteran of the U.S. Army for seven years. I am currently living in Fairbanks, Alaska, with my wife, Teri McCabe, and our two dogs. I’m also in my senior year at the University of Alaska majoring in social work and a minor in anthropology.

My family is from Fort Defiance, and my mother and father, Henry Jr. and Marlo, are living in St Michaels. I’m writing this letter to inform you of a possible language protection idea in order to assist the younger generation in assisting with their daily contact with the language. If at all possible in the budget of the reservation, I’d assume the essence of learning is constant exposure.

Whenever I come home I’ve noticed it’s entirely English everywhere I go, except a few key places such as the Bashas’ store in Window Rock, which has Navajo words along with English words. I was curious, if it was possible, to have Navajo in combination with English words in constant view in public. For example, having the “Stop” signs around the reservation. Not only have the word in English, but have the Navajo word attached for stop “Altse.”

I’m aware this would need to be coordinated by or with the Department of Transportation for installation. In addition, I think it’s necessary to have this especially around the elementary schools and middle schools, maybe even the high schools. I realize this would have to be in coordination with education officials, but I don’t foresee any objection to exposing young Natives to more of the language. I’m entirely in the belief that exposure leads to learning. It is a learned behavior.

As much as I’d like to believe that the Navajo language is passed down through genetics it’s just not true, it starts with home and society. This being said, the neighboring towns just outside of the reservation would do well in following this. Neighboring towns being Albuquerque, Farmington, Gallup and Flagstaff. If any other incentive is needed, having Navajo words in their own community be it stores, theaters, malls, or even streets would maybe add to the idea of more tourism in Arizona and New Mexico.

This would lead to more funds for the growing generation such as after-school programs specializing in language learning, supplemental homework instruction, or a gathering of young Natives to reinforce growth of self, family and our society and distance from harmful ways of coping such as alcohol and illegal drugs. Grand Canyon having languages of the indigenous people would certainly profit in tourism attendance from the curiosity of visiting non-Natives in the state.

The problems of the indigenous here in Alaska are not that different from the challenges faced by the indigenous of the Lower 48 population. Land issues, alcoholism, rising STD/HIV/suicide rates and the issue of identity of the younger generations. I write this to you as a concerned young Navajo, ever hopeful in the prosperity and survival of the Navajo people.

I will CC this email to the DOT and education members of the Navajo Nation Cabinet in the idea that it ups the chances of this being read by an official. I know you are a busy man, but from discussions of Navajo issues with my parents, they seem to prefer your community service approach and cite you as being a great example of what a leader should be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and considering the suggestions I have made. If these suggestions are already in the process of being made a reality, I greatly appreciate the foremost thought in the younger generations as they are the future and the legacy of what we leave behind. Again, Thank you.

Kendrick Nelson McCabe
Fairbanks, Alaska

Thank you, Window Rock

I am writing to thank Window Rock residents for spreading joy to children around the world this Christmas. Through the generosity of the Window Rock community, the Northern Arizona Area Team was able to exceed our goal of 10,100 by collecting 10,233 shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, which is an 11.98 percent increase from the 9,130 shoeboxes packed in 2016.

Northern Arizona volunteers transformed empty shoeboxes into treasured gifts filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys to be delivered to children around the world affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. These children, many of whom have never received a gift before, learn God loves them and has not forgotten them.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 146 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories. It’s not too late for people to make a difference. Though the Northern Arizona drop-off locations are closed until November 2018, shoeboxes can still be packed and sent year-round to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters at 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC 28607.

Additionally, anyone can conveniently pack a personalized Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift at samaritanspurse.org/buildonline. Information about year-round volunteer opportunities can also be found on the website or by calling 303-745-9179. Thank you again to everyone who participated in this project and for those who do so year after year. These simple gifts, packed with love, send a message of hope and continue to transform the lives of children worldwide.

Mikayla Shoup
Operation Christmas Child
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Apodaca will fight for Natives

There are several races in the 2018 New Mexico elections that are wide open. It offers us the opportunity to get our government back on track of providing service to improve the lives of the residents of New Mexico.

First, I want to state the obvious. We must change our dirty underwear. That, being the Republican administration, who has lowered the standard of our state and country through bigotry and hatred. Frankly, I am embarrassed by the Republican Party’s racial demagoguery as their political strategy. As President Donald Trump promotes racial stereotypes, his fellow Republicans’ silence and defending him only discredit themselves. And it stinks! The Republicans have no business oppressing and alienating Hispanics, Blacks, Arabs, Native Americans and other minorities who make up New Mexico and America.

Trump has shown us that he is morally corrupt, so I ask, “Are the Republicans really like that as well?” And I ask the churches, “Is this the image of God?” A political party that alienates people is what we must get beyond. We must get back to the respectful state/tribal relationship, which the current Republican administration greatly undermined. It is an opportunity to turn New Mexico away from the Republican veto pen, which took away the trust Native Americans had for the state.

Democrat Candidate for Governor of New Mexico, Mr. Jeff Apodaca, is providing a new leadership that intends on getting the trust of Native Americans back into state government. He intends on being a friend of the Navajo people.

Mr. Apodaca informs the Navajo voters that he supports the WIND System agreed to by New Mexico and Navajo governments. This is an ordered system of funding or match funding on the five priority capital outlay projects of every Navajo chapter in New Mexico. It is the funding for these projects that Republican Governor Susana Martinez has no conscience in vetoing.

Mr. Apodaca also informs the Native communities that projects that received prior funding will be completed. He intends on appointing a representative from Indian Country and Northern New Mexico to the State Public Education Department Task Force on Capital Outlay Projects for our state schools. This matter of the Gallup-McKinley County and Zuni School Districts lawsuit against NMPED must be properly resolved. All our school district asks for is equality.

Mr. Jeff Apodaca also informs the Navajo chapters that he supports the New Mexico/Navajo Water Rights Settlement. He supports the completion of the Navajo-Gallup Waterline Project and the Cutter Lateral Waterline Project. He is in support of the Crownpoint Lateral Waterline Project, which is set to begin. These waterline projects are bringing water to numerous Navajo communities in New Mexico. This collaborative effort greatly enhanced trust between New Mexico and Navajo governments.

Mr. Apodaca also opposes the efforts of the Republicans: to disenfranchise Native Americans’ right to vote, to cut the Medicaid health programs, the senior citizens centers, to cut the school lunch program and the food stamp program. My gosh, the food stamp funding is less than 1 percent of the federal budget, yet the Republican Party blames it for the federal budget deficit. These are programs that provide services to Native Americans. They attempt to cut these programs because the Republicans say that Native Americans will never vote for them. That is totally wrong.

Mr. Jeff Apodaca is the Democrat candidate for governor that is listening to the concerns of Navajos and other Indian tribes. He is not embroiled in the toxic political atmosphere of Washington, but is concerned for the citizens of New Mexico. His campaign theme “Turn around New Mexico” is definitely something we need to support. And so, I am asking everyone to support and vote for Jeff Apodaca for governor of New Mexico. He is our friend.

Albert Shirley
Gallup, N.M.

Seeking my best college buddy

I am seeking information regarding Eddie Brown, a Navajo man, who would be about 72 years old now. He was my best friend in college. Eddie graduated from Eastern New Mexico University in 1969 with a degree in education. He was active in opposing police brutality in the 1970s in Gallup. He also taught school.

Contact me at 208-520-1121 or dminton@ida.net. Please use Eddie’s name in the subject line of an email. I will appreciate any information you may have regarding this.

Don Minton
Idaho Falls, Idaho

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Categories: Letters