Letters: Election office needs to screen candidates

There are over 300,000 members of the Navajo Nation and a percentage of that population has experienced being elected to a number of political positions. My point of reference is in the election process of the Navajo Nation and that is the key point that I like to address. I am sure of the 300,000 or more of us have realized there are glitches in our Navajo Nation election process. I want to address these important issues to the general public so that they can be aware. I am hopeful that changes in the Election Code can happen quickly by pressuring the lawmakers to amend the election laws.

My No. 1 concern is with the campaign reporting mandate. The current statute says that candidates shall submit their campaign reports up to 10 days after an election. The campaign reporting should begin before and after the primary and general elections, including financial reports on contributors and donors that include their business names, public or private, so that voters will see where these candidates are getting their money. In this year’s Navajo presidential election, the voters see large billboards along the roadways on and off the reservation, including full-page ads and media leverages.

These cost a lot of money and I wonder, where did they suddenly get this money? What if the contributions came from a Navajo Nation enterprise, terrorist group, or companies that want to do business on the Navajo Nation and favor a candidate that will support them? For a Navajo environmentalist, what if a large donation to a Navajo presidential candidate came from a fracking industry? Without seeing who the donors are before the elections, we are then blind to the facts. My No. 2 concern is screening candidates and ensuring they do not have any past or current criminal records.

Unfortunately, the Navajo Nation Election Office remains the same on following the antiquated election laws. They continue to trust every applicant that submits their notarized affidavit on face value only. That is a dangerous way to conduct official business and is susceptible to a lawsuit. You cannot trust Navajo applicants running for public office by a simple “handshake.” You have to screen them. In the last Navajo Nation presidential race, for example, there could have been three or four candidates disqualified for not speaking fluent Navajo at a preliminary screening conference.

The screening could have saved a lot of time and money. Instead the tribe spent wasteful efforts on court hearings, meetings, delays, printing, and firing the Navajo Nation Board of Election supervisors. My No. 3 concern is enforcement of submitting campaign reports and meeting deadlines. There should be penalties for late reporting and failing to file a campaign report. Included in this mandate is to have the Navajo Nation Election Administration analyze each report, checking for candidates’ discrepancies and inaccurate reports. My opinion is that if a candidate is to challenge him or herself to run they should have the mental and intellectual capability to do these reports.

This type of a system will ensure that the Navajo Nation is setting rules for accountability and transparency. Although the Navajo Nation government is not all there with computer literacy, it would be very helpful to the general public if every campaign reporting were captured online.

The state of New Mexico has that set up. If the Navajo Nation wants to copy the state of New Mexico campaign reporting system, please contact the New Mexico Secretary of State office and I am sure the staff will guide you on how they have their system in place.

Ray Begaye (Former New Mexico state representative)
Shiprock, N.M.

Make a difference – vote!

There is an obvious absence of people who have lost faith and trust in their government. Why vote? many say. What difference will it make? Will my children get a better education, will there be any new jobs, will we receive better health care services, will the housing shortage be solved?

Will our government leaders be more responsible? Will the Navajo Nation take serious risks to invoke growth or will we instead let the Department of Justice run the nation (the proverbial fourth branch of government)? Where have the leaders gone? Where are the risk takers like J.C. Morgan, Deshna Clah Cheschillege, Henry Taliman, Sam Ahkeah, Howard W. Gorman, Paul Jones, Arthur Hubbard Sr., Raymond Nakai, and the many others who aspired growth during dreadful historical occurrence of stock reduction, war, economic depression, termination, land disputes, and assaults on our sovereignty?

We need a resurgence (a rising again into life) of people to take our rightful place. Return even when your government fails you or when your leaders don’t deliver. Believe again. You are the owners. You may not enjoy the dividends personally today. But you get to say you made a difference in an era when one day your children, grandchildren will ask you while reading history, “Grandpa (Grandma) what did you do?” You can respond positively and say you stood up and made your voice heard. You did so for tomorrow and the future generations you cannot think of now. You were there at the revolution. You didn’t acquiesce by doing nothing or letting your vote go to waste.

Many say they honor veterans. Prove it: Vote! They fought for our basic civic duty (right). You can participate in your future or be an observer only. Do what your fathers/mothers, your uncles/aunts, your grandparents did. Vote! Do so even when you think now that you don’t care.

Help us return to what we all believe, yet for a new future ahead where your voice makes a difference. The Navajo Nation is yours. Now … do your part on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Deswood Tome
Window Rock, Ariz.

Navajo language issue goes way back

At the most recent presidential forum, there was some discussion in regards to the learning of the Navajo language in modern day society. It seems like the issue was not properly addressed probably mostly due to the time constraint. However, this issue goes back a long ways to the beginning of the modern-day society.

Back in the 1950s, in spite of federal government opposition, the founding fathers of modern day Diné education established what is known as: Diné philosophy of learning, aka Diné philosophy of life. This policy was simply known as the “both and” philosophy. It simply stated that Diné children shall be taught both the English language and Navajo language as part of the Diné education curriculum. They established the Rough Rock Demonstration School and later Diné College as a model of their dream for their people and the unborn. These schools developed reading materials in the Navajo language.

The Navajo language shall be preserved. However, they were talking about more than just talking and teaching the language, orally. They were talking about Navajo literacy — reading, writing, and speaking Navajo.

They said we not only need to speak the language, we needed to read and write it also. We must be proficient in both languages, not just English.

Today, we have the opportunity to not only read, write, and talk English, but also the opportunity to read, write, and talk Navajo. We just need to be vigilant in our efforts to learn to read, write, and talk Navajo and encourage our children to do the same. And if we do not reach that goal ourselves, our kids, and their kids shall also get their opportunity not to forget the Navajo side in us in the future.

The good thing is the written language is being used regularly by local media, organizations, and businesses in their dealing with the Navajo public. As I was checking out at a local supermarket, I asked the obviously Navajo-speaking, middle-aged cashier what the Navajo writing high on the wall said. She tried to read it then said she did not know. The young bag girl that was listening to us suddenly read it aloud.

Interestingly, it is out there and the above scenario kind of gives us an indication of where we are going on this policy decades later. In this regard, I commend your Navajo Times for being in the forefront in this effort — for regularly using Navajo written words in delivering the news.

Thank you.

Raymond Yazzie
Tempe, Ariz.

No one has addressed N-aquifer, Upper Colorado basin

I have yet to hear any strong commitments to protecting the N-aquifer and Upper Colorado River Basin after December 2019 from further industrial use. Water, as you are aware, is the most precious element.

Without water there is no life. Peabody and Navajo Generating Station have used most our water for the last 45 years. Currently there are talks to continue the operation after December 2019 for another 20 to 30 years or until all the coal is depleted.

Our leaders want to bring in a new owner before the local elections and the current sitting Republicans with Trump in control. Allowing Peabody and NGS to continue, means a total of 75 years of denial to our water. This is a failure of leadership for the Navajo people living in the impacted homelands as opposed to only benefitting the workers and corporations to make more money.

Peabody says the Navajo and Hopi tribes will be devastated if the mine closes. We say we have been devastated the last 45 years in every way. Beginning with much harm to our Mother Earth, our water, environments, our herbs and plants, our cornfields, our livestock and wild animals, our sacred offering places, and our health.

We are now in the midst of one of the worse droughts due to climate change that is brought on by fossil fuel industries. Enough is enough. This has got to end.

There is truly a better way, which is to go renewables. It’s cleaner and does not use water, it is sustainable, will provide jobs, economic development and revenues. All of the southwestern states and cities, including Arizona are moving away from fossil fuel to renewables. Why are we prolonging coal operations? Coal is definitely no longer economical.

A true leader looks ahead into the distant future, to ensure there will be plenty of safe water to meet the needs of today and 200 years from now. In the replacement lease agreed to by SRP and the Navajo Nation one year ago, the nation negotiated over $169 million in revenue, over $168 million worth of assets, including 500 MW transmission lines and lake pump and 950 AFY of water from Colorado River with a promise for future support for more water.

All this will be null and void if a new owner is approved a lease. The state of Arizona and other communities south of the reservation will take their share of water. They will take what is ours without asking. When are we going to hear from the candidates that they are ready to stand up and fight for our water against the industries and outside communities?

Percy Deal
Big Mountain, Ariz.

We need a Diné urban office

I am Chahta – Diné (Táchii’nii) – and I worked for the Navajo Nation government from 1971 to 2001 for the Division of Education, Division of Natural Resources, Division of Community Development Legislative Affairs, TANF, and Office of Management Budget and Policy Analysis. This letter is addressed to the presidential candidates who are using a Band-Aid approach to issues.

To put the Navajo government in the hands of the people you must change Title II to say, “The Navajo people are the Governing Body of the Navajo Nation,” not the Navajo Nation Council, which is the lawmaking body. Then every four years the Navajo people can make amendments to improve the government to their benefit. The Navajo tribal government was created solely to approve natural resource leases which is now all gone, so the Council did a good job of giving away all of the billions of dollars of resources with little to show for it. The budget is now three-fourths federal ’93-638 fund dollars.

The tribal government was designed to fail so it is failing and all its resources drained. The churches and federal government have intentionally and deliberately tried to destroy the Navajo language. You control the people by religion or money, so the churches are controlling the people with religion and the federal government with money and then throw in alcohol and meth. I would advocate holding Navajo healing ceremonies at the Dean Jackson Arena every Sunday morning to re-establish the holy people that we are. There are many issues to be addressed but the Navajo people must take control of their government and education. A society that does not control its education does not control its destiny.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I am here at a coffee shop in Old Town, Albuquerque, writing this letter with tears in my eyes for the Diné people that I would lay my life on the line for. I put together a Native American Embassy but there is a need for a Navajo Nation urban office to help the urban Navajos to survive.

Ralph Davis
Albuquerque, N.M.

Tso, Ellison stand above the crowd

There is no question Diné people are united in wanting more major growth and development. Based on what we have observed from the recent presidential forums there does not seem to be a consensus on who will emerge as the front runner through offering much-needed realistic and well defined goals.

There is an urgency because it seems all too often candidates make statements that they will make the difference when campaigning but are unable to deliver. The fact of the matter is we know exactly what some of them are capable of and what they’re not. For example, we know from past performances Russell Begaye, Jonathan Nez, Joe Shirley Jr., Tom Chee, and Alton Joe Shepherd are mostly all talk.

Their major accomplishments are spending millions of the tribe’s scarce funds. The sad thing is they have nothing to show for it. If you listen carefully, they all still sound very much as they did when they first ran for office – nothing has changed! After having spent years in office they show signs that they have not grown or stepped up their leadership to demonstrate that they are much better than when they were elected.

Point being, they have not increased their knowledge about what it will take to create jobs, improve education, increase tribal revenues, improve the efficiency of the tribal government, or improve health care, etc. Unfortunately, for as long as they’ve been around, there is absolutely no creativity coming from them for addressing the most urgent of issues facing the Navajo people.

I am especially concerned about the spend-happy and continuous taking of funds from the trust funds that Delegate Tom Chee is advocating. The weakness in his platform for too many years has been our insistence of carving an ever-increasing number of slices from a shrinking economic pie. His proposal about spending more funds now rather than increasing revenues is in actuality a competency issue. Instead of following that failed mode, we must grow our economy and increase the size of the pie by helping the unproductive become productive.

From what I hear talking with fellow voters, the best choices to pay attention to and see how they emerge to convince and unify Diné voters are former judge Tom Tso and Emily Ellison. They demonstrate wisdom and intellect, which will help in their understanding of issues and growing as a leader.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

Confronting racism with dialogue

Yá’át’ééh. As a young Diné woman being born and raised on the Navajo Nation, I would like to share an incident that recently occurred, in hopes to shed some light on these types of situations. This past week my mother, older sister and I went to a local trading post in the Northern Agency. My older sister and I were dressed in traditional attire in respect of a ceremony that took place earlier that morning. While looking at some items, an older, white gentleman came to the counter and said to my sister and me, “How beautiful you both are!” and then proceeded to jokingly say how we both were “kidnappable.”

We stood there in disbelief. Another Diné woman heard the comments and shook her head, disapproving of what this man said. As we were checking out, the woman told us that the man often made those kinds of comments. I decided to go over to the man’s office and motioned for my sister and mother to come with me in support. As I walked into his office, he laughed and said, “Did you change your mind about being kidnapped?”

I immediately told the man he should not be making comments like that, especially in front of our mother. I then shared with him how Indigenous women have the highest rates of kidnappings and rape, and the horrible reality that this has gone on for generations.

My older sister then shared how we as Diné people come from a matrilineal culture and that we, as women, are sacred because we are the ones to birth children. She reminded this man that he came from a woman. We stated that since he is a white man, he has power and privilege and because of this he should have respect for our land, our people and our precious women. Lastly, I told him that this “joke” was probably not the first time he had insulted our Diné community members but that I hope this is the last time and that we, as Diné women, are going to use our voices when needed.

He finally apologized. Although there was more to this conversation, there are certain things I want to highlight. As a young Diné woman learning to use my voice, I am hopeful our community can learn from these encounters and how it is possible to have these conversations in a good, non-violent way.

Our Indigenous communities have endured enough. We must use our voices with honor, dignity, love and compassion; knowing our ancestors are proud of our actions. On our way home, my mother, sister and I pulled off to the side of the road and made an offering for this man so that we could let go and move forward with our day in a positive way. We prayed that this man begin to understand himself, his own healing and how to respect us all.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your own story, feel free reach us at 3warriorsisters@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: The author wishes to remain anonymous – an option we grant in rare cases – and we allowed anonymity due to the overall purpose of her letter, which is to create a dialogue through email.

Maybe Navajo should incorporate

Fifty years ago, casting a vote was less complicated. Distance to polling places was the only challenge. We had a smaller population and we had a good idea how we were related to the candidates clan-wise. Clan relationships were important and elected officials had great respect for kinship or k’e. Leaders had special regard and love for their clan families and we all benefited by voting. Times have changed and much of it is not for the better.

Clan kinship to some extent is out the window, as we have divided ourselves into voting groups: Navajo voters, Diné voters, and the vanilla variety voters. Sadly, our voter turnout has declined under these conditions. The voting groups are unique in their own way. What separates them are the degrees of personal virtue and vice. Opinions are formed on an individual’s education, ideology, traditional teachings, and religion.

Platforms of candidates are generally health, youth, education, elderly, and veterans. Lately, housing has become a platform item. These topics are the vote-getters, so candidates honky-tonk around with these issues at campaign rallies. We still have candidates who have rung some questionable bells in their past leadership efforts and those are some big bells they can’t un-ring. Vote for them if you wish – just vote.

So far there are only three candidates that have mentioned some substance of interest: self-reliance, dividends, deregulation, and justice. But hopefuls will say anything to gain your vote. Then again, they might know what they are talking about and do what they say. Vote the issues and cast that vote.

Whatever voting group we are affiliated with, we should take the time to become aware of where the United States is headed and how our Diné are being dragged along in that ideological turmoil.

Our right to vote is about the only thing we have some control of any more, but even that is regulated by voter ID, voter registration, and voting places. So, exercise that right. Get out and vote. As Diné, we should be aware that today we live in a completely corporate environment. All around us everything has been incorporated: towns, cities, businesses, and every organization in existence.

The United States of America is now recognized as Corporate America, all made so by voters. Maybe the Navajo Nation should give some thought to acquiring corporate status and become a large city-state. Maybe by doing so our Diné would have total control and validity when government-to-government agreements are drafted. This would only be done to protect our Diné future economy and financial interests by means of corporate law, treaty and constitutional rights. Doing so might get the federal government’s nose out of our business and lives. That can only happen when we vote.

There are many options that can help and protect our Diné, but we cannot continue this course of the status quo, as some of the hopefuls have articulated for. That direction can only endanger our Diné.

That means we can’t continue to have our Diné controlled by Washington policies and taxpayer dollars. As Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

I’m also voting for one of my clan relatives. I still believe in the power of k’e and the power of my vote, and the power of prayer.

Wally Brown
Page, Ariz.

BIA mismanaged grazing permits

BIA managing our trust records is the root of its federal mandates and policies. It does not help when those entrusted to assure good relation with clients are the ones contributing to mishandling grazing permits. The following are facts of BIA continued administrative failure at Fort Defiance Agency Natural Resource Branch.

In 2005, BIA Navajo Region ignored a request to perform program review and audit of Fort Defiance Agency Natural Resource Program. Instead, regional director allowed mismanagement of grazing permit administration.

Oct. 6, 1998, BIA allowed violation of 25 CFR 167.13 (trespass grazing permit) by allowing 25 CFR 167.8(c) violation (holding a grazing permit in more than one district) and BIA failed to follow Negotiability of Regular Grazing Permits provision No. 9. NRGP provision No. 9 states a joint use approval of grazing area within the boundaries of two districts must have approval by the adjoining district grazing committee.

Agency range specialist failed to advise District 18 Grazing Committee and Navajo Nation Probate Court that the agency must perform field investigation to ensure the trespass grazing permit in District 18 is corrected before renewing permit. In 2003, agency resource manager enforced an administrative hold on a duplicate permit request for the trespass grazing permit until the grazing committee approved the use of the two grazing districts per NRGP provision No. 9.

Oct. 8, 2008, Jerome Willie, agency range specialist, issued duplicate permit without the two-district grazing committee knowledge of the trespass permit. Furthermore, BIA allowed violation of 25 CFR 166.400. BIA issuing trespass grazing permit also allowed unauthorized use of Indian allotments for grazing without allotee’s consent and without compensation as required by 25 CFR 166.400. BIA issuing yearlong District 17 grazing permit into Indian allotments in District 18 without compensation is violation of the federal law. Jerome Willie failed to advise the region not to approve duplicate trespass permit when the permit was re-issued in 2008.

Regional director allowed livestock trespass onto Indian Allotments without annual rental fees as required by law. There is no accountability at Fort Defiance Agency, meaning the agency is not being responsible for decisions made, and not being held responsible for actions taken or not taken.

This is not the only time such wrongdoing was reported on Calvert Curley and his subordinate, Jerome Willie’s action of discriminating behavior, retaliatory management practices, and non-compliance of the Department of Interior on June 27, 2007, reminder to its employees on the significance of ethics conduct at the workplace.

The agency resource manager needs reminding that such trust-related action needs to be performed in strict accord with the laws, regulations, and policies. Otherwise, a breach of trust is evident.

The $554 million settlement to the Navajo Nation for mismanagement of trust resources is a result of poor performance by BIA resource managers. Broken trust and abusive government agency against Diné livestock producers need to be stopped. These are abuse of authority by government administrators. Calvert Curley and Jerome Willie have permitted abuse of trust responsibility with unjustified administrative actions.

The responsible leader for correction is the regional director who failed to take corrective action. Mishandling federal records at the agency proves the regional director does not recognize the significant of having standards of ethics for employees. The regional director needs to hold them accountable for their personal and professional conduct in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.

BIA Navajo Region’s failure to act on requests for rebuttal contradict the U.S. Attorney General’s March 19, 2009, federal agencies’ memorandum that emphasized “Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

Nels Roanhorse
Oakridge, Ariz.

Advice for controller: Answer your phone

I read with interest tribal controller Pauline Kirk’s outraged response to Cindy Yurth’s story on her background in tribal investments (“Kirk, Ryce have history of giving bad investment advice,” Juy 26, 2018), and I have a piece of advice: Answer your phone when a reporter calls.

As someone with more than 30 years in journalism, including several working with Yurth and other reporters as copyeditor at the Navajo Times, I wish I had a nickel for every public official who found herself in a load of bother that could have been avoided had she (or he) simply talked to the reporter while a story was still being researched. You, Ms. Kirk, are only the latest.

Why didn’t you respond to Yurth’s call? Why didn’t you tell your staff that no matter where you are, no matter the time, calls from the press are a priority? Your input likely would have greatly altered the original story, had you simply realized that talking is better than clamming up.

One thing I can tell you about Yurth, she did not come here looking to dig dirt on anybody. She likes to write features, and she’s really good at it, as a wall full of journalism awards can attest. But when the most important newspaper in the country prints a story that’s set right in your backyard, well, it can’t be ignored. Yurth is an excellent reporter, very careful in her reporting. You should not have assumed you didn’t have to talk to her.

The Remington story is peculiar enough without someone running around hollering lawsuit — I’d be interested in what law school you attended if you think you’ve got a case against Yurth or the Times. Your time would be better spent contemplating how you could have averted this PR disaster in the first place.

Kathleen Stanton
Mora, N.M.

Who takes care of the Navajo Nation Band?

Question: Who is responsible for putting together a budget for the Navajo Nation Band? Has this been done for the fiscal year? What were the funds for the current budget for the band? Both fiscal year, current and upcoming budget, what was all included? Stipend, lodging, mileage reimbursement, meals, and practice session? Beginning and ending budget.

Exactly how many events can they participate in? As of today, they’re only authorized three — Eastern, Central, and Fort Defiance Agency fairs. This is uncalled for.

There has to be more travel, as prior years the Navajo Nation Band went to the Obama inauguration, the Rose Bowl, the Arizona Fiesta Bowl, for example. Just this past week, there was no participation in the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial parade. Why? Is it because of who is in the leadership role, and the budget?

As you are aware, Navajo Nation Band is being bounced around like an orphan; no one wants to be responsible as a parent, grandparent, or have legal guardianship.

For real, set up a yearly budget in the range of $250,000 to $500,000 for a start. Also, set aside a motor coach for their travel to and from events. Set aside funds for the wear and tear for the motor coach.

These are our children, in-laws, brothers, and sisters from your regions (110 chapters) as they have the heart to do what they love – play, and march. The band even recruited new younger players by setting up an audition.

The three places as I mentioned is addressed in a memo from Ms. Tabahe, who supposedly works in human resource. The Navajo Nation Band should not be under human resource or Office of Diné Youth, as it’s mentioned. The Navajo Nation Band should be under the fair manager, or under the program of Miss Navajo as both represent the Navajo Nation. Wake up, smell the coffee.

Steven Kee
Ganado, Ariz.

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Categories: Letters