Letters: Most boring fair Elder Festival

The Navajo Area Agency on Aging sponsored the most boring Elder Festival on Sept. 7 at the Navajo Nation fairgrounds.

The headquarter agency office should have the most exciting, largest, energy and exercise elder festival for the whole Navajo Reservation-wide elders.

There were no elder songs and dances. No elders were allowed to sing as a group. No best dressed for male and female elders.

Navajo elders are not familiar and not interested in Hopi and Apache dancers. Every year it’s always other tribal dances on the program.

Also, a country/western dance is boring to elders. Most elders don’t know how to dance western, maybe when they were young.

There were a few games for the elders with the children all at the same time. That was fun and the elders got a little bit of exercise. There was no exercise for the elders by any health educator. What happened to all the health educators and exercising groups?

That’s why the elders were just sitting bored, increasing their glucose and cholesterol. But the meal (cold sandwich and a little piece of melon) was good.

A big thanks to our councilman, Steven Begay, who paid for our buffet dinner at Quality Inn, for District 14 elders. God bless him.

Hopefully Northern Navajo Nation Fair will sponsor a better, exciting, song and dance, and exercise Elder Fest on Oct. 5. We are looking forward to this fair as well.

Lois Becenti
Coyote Canyon, N.M.

NHA board was grossly removed

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the issues raised by a well respected former leader of Navajo County, Arizona, and the Navajo Nation Council, Mr. Percy Deal (“Republic does not deserve SPJ award,” Sept. 7, 2017). His points are well taken.

I would like to mention the part he did not mention which I feel is important and should be taken into account. U.S. Senator John McCain who was responsible for leaking the issues to our tribal leaders, President Russell Begaye and Speaker Lorenzo Bates, who took the false investigation report above and beyond reasonable limits.

As a result, the entire Navajo Housing Authority Board of Commissioners were grossly removed.

In light of the above, I firmly believe an apology should be made by President Begaye and Speaker Bates and give credit where due. Mr. Ervin Chavez is correct in stating an apology is appropriate. It should be done without further due.

Failure to do so reminds me of the 2014 presidential election when the Navajo Nation Supreme Court trashed more than 10,000 votes.

The issue I am still concerned about is demolition of the house that belonged to my late parents Glen and Grace Charleston by NHA in Tuba City, more than eight years ago to build a new NAHASDA house.

My last visit in the latter part of July 2017 and it just breaks my heart to see only piles of rubble at the site. It’s action time for NHA to build a new house.

In conclusion, I would like to state what does it take to give NHA a wake up call. Thank you.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Climate change getting harder to deny

As Hurricane Harvey and Irma slam into the United States, the effects of climate change are getting harder and harder to deny.

A few months ago, I travelled from my community of Lupton to Washington, D.C., to tell my elected officials that cutting the Environmental Protection Agency and withdrawing from the Paris agreement are part of a national prescription for sickness — not wellness.

As a parent of two children, living on the Navajo Nation, it is important that we try to mitigate the effects of climate change that many of us are witnessing.

Like other families, I want the places where our children can live and play to be free from pollution and hazardous waste. I don’t think that anyone voted in the last election to Make America Dirty Again with dirty air, dirty water and increasing climate change.

I joined hundreds of people from across the country for Moms’ Clean Air Force’s Annual Play-In for Climate Action. We were there to tell Washington to take urgent action on climate change and air pollution, which threaten the health and future of our children. Without leadership, our children and our communities will get sicker from pollution and climate change.

My daughterÊand I had an eventful day where we met with Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Gallego, Rep. Grijalva, Lauren Kennedy, Sen. McCain staffer, and Matt Sifert, Sen. Flake staffer, and we asked them to stand up like a parent would against any polluting agenda.

Parents won’t relent in fighting for what is right for their children. Nor should our leaders.

Kern Collymore
Senior Youth Coordinator
Little Colorado River Watershed Chapters Association
Diné Bikéyah Community Leadership Program
Lupton, Ariz.

IHS provided hurricane assistance

Hurricane Harvey has inflicted historic rainfall and flooding, affecting millions in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma moved across the Caribbean and made landfall in Florida last weekend. The high winds caused water surges, flooding and additional rainfall made this one of the most powerful U.S. storms to date.

The Indian Health Service is working to assess the needs of local service units, tribes and tribal organizations to assist with health care and medical needs for those affected by the storms. Fifty-eight U.S. Public Health Service officers assigned to IHS have also deployed or are on alert for imminent deployment to assist and more are expected to join the effort.

The officers come from across IHS and represent 11 of the 12 IHS area offices. The Public Health Service officers are providing support with efforts such as delivering pharmaceutical supplies, assisting those who rely upon electricity-dependent medical equipment like wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and blood sugar monitors; evacuating hospital patients; and staffing Federal Medical Stations.

In the aftermath of the storms, it is important to remember the impact that a natural disaster has not only on the physical body but also the mind. A group of 36 mental health team members continue to provide emergency support in the form of direct clinical behavioral and mental health services, including individual and family crisis intervention, staff and workforce protection counseling, emergency on-call service and disaster case management.

Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are professional and para-professional medical personnel organized to provide rapid-response medical care or casualty decontamination during a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other incident in the United States.

The efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irma took place for several days. Some of the tribes affected include the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Catawba in South Carolina, Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, Eastern Cherokee in North Carolina and possibly as far north as the Pamunkey Tribe in Virginia.

IHS coordinated responses, resources and worked closely with tribes, federal agencies and other organizations. IHS provided needed emergency management supplies like generators and water pumps to tribes and to assist during Hurricane Irma.

While tribal nations have tribal members who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, FEMA is encouraging all tribal nations to encourage their affected members to register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov for FEMA assistance. The Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 also provides immediate crisis counseling to people affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

IHS takes great pride in providing help to tribal nations and to all members of the public who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey or potentially by Hurricane Irma and Jose.

Please stay aware, heed all warnings, protect your health, avoid floodwaters and seek help when needed for injuries and to cope with traumatic stress.

Leonda Levchuk
Public Affairs Specialist
Indian Health Service
Rockville, Md.

Mr. Whitmer is providing misinformation

Mr. Lamar Whitmer’s letter to the editor on Sept. 7, 2017 referred to Mr. Reed’s letter as a campaign of providing misinformation (“Letter continued ‘campaign of misinformation'”). Unfortunately, Mr. Whitmer is the only one providing this misinformation in the falsehood of tourism and economic development.

In my 40-plus years of working directly and indirectly with the Navajo Nation, state and U.S. government, I have never seen such misguided and information from an outside non-Navajo developer.

These promises are similar to ones made by Kit Carson, during the Long Walk and Commissioner Bennett of the Bennett Freeze Era.

Lamar Whitmer and his Escalade partners seem intent to drive our grandmothers, grandfathers and their families from their ancestral homelands in the disguise of tourism and greed at the benefit of our Diné people in the Bodaway/Gap community.

Here are some true facts I wish to point out as I meet with our Diné families and others that would be impacted by the Escalade project:

Fact 1. Diné grazing permittees and families that reside and graze their livestock in the affected area have never given their consent and approval, nor will they ever do so.

This project is being done in the reverse of tribal law and tradition. A true developer would go to the affected grazing permittees and local residents first to obtain permission utilizing our Ké concept.

Instead, the developer chose to go directly to obtain Window Rock’s consent (which is not proper). Political horse-trading was done in Window Rock and local consent was not respected.

Fact 2. There is no viable feasible study done on the Escalade project on the tourism numbers they allude to. A “due diligence” was never done to determine if such a project can sustain itself.

The SAS reviewers, OMB (letter dated Aug. 19, 2014) and Navajo Nation controller (letter dated Oct. 17, 2014) highly question the viability of the project as a “high risk.”

I understand the honorable Council Delegate Phelp’s comments on tourism and if this Escalade project was done correctly it might apply but under the SAS reviews it still remains highly questionable and still a very high risk and the Navajo Nation should never underwrite and fund such a questionable project.

The Navajo Nation Department of Justice also deems the Escalade project as legally insufficient in their review letters dated Aug. 24, 2016 and Dec. 24, 2016.

Fact 3. The present Bodaway Chapter officials and administration do not support the Escalade project and they are a “Local Governance certified chapter” and in the letter from chapter President Don Yellowman (dated July 12, 2017) states the “Proposed Escalade Project is not in our Comprehensive Community Land Use Plan.”

Thus, the Escalade project is also in violation of the Local Governance Act of 1998.

Fact 4. Mr. Whitmer also states in a previous interview with the Navajo Times that there is support of the Navajo Nation Council for the Escalade project. Yet at the NABI Committee (comprised of all members of the 24 Navajo Nation Council) they voted 14-2 to oppose the project.

To date, there are probably only 2-4 Council delegates that support the project. I agree with Mr. Tacheeni Scott’s letter dated Sept. 7, 2017, in that “what part of no do the Escalade Partners not understand?”

In contrast to the Kayenta Solar Energy Project, NTUA took the first crucial step in working directly with the Todacheenie family to properly obtain the consents (grazing and ancestral home sites). I commend NTUA for understanding this most vital step and developing a unique partnership and collaboration with the affected families. Escalade partners have never done this initial step.

In closing, Kit Carson may have thought he defended our strong and proud Diné people when he led the campaign to round up and march our Diné people on the Long Walk, but in the end our Diné chiefs and grandmothers persevered and we returned and continued to live within our sacred mountains today.

Our families that continued to Save the Confluence will again persevere against this unjust atrocity and genocide called the Escalade project.

Moreover, Gen. George Armstrong Custer did not listen to his advisors and marched into the Little Big Horn and we all know what happened.

With all the standing committees and NABI Committee voting a strong no to the Escalade project, I predict that during the fall session of the Navajo Nation Council or when they get to it, it will be “Escalade’s last stand.”
I strongly urge the Navajo Nation Council to stand firm on their vote and say no again.

Larry M. Foster
Window Rock, Ariz.

No sunset to the relocation program yet

Please publish my humble combined response to “Looking forward to the sunset: tribe gearing up to closure of U.S. office of the Navajo and Hopi Relocation” and “NPL grazing officials take steps to restore permits”, and other subsequent publications.

I cannot see the two referenced stories as separate. They are accounts of similar devastation, stated in prior publications on the plights of my people in the Joint Use Area, the Bennett Freeze Area, the courageous role of Katherine Smith, Big Mountains, the forgotten people and others.

These stories all have a common origin: Lawsuits, which pitted the Navajos against the Hopi over land the two tribes were using peacefully. These lawsuits commenced misery that continues today with no sustainable solution in sight.

The feds who had trust responsibilities for the welfare for all Native Americans seemed only too happy to literally rip the Navajo people from their homeland and environment they loved and worshipped.

Relocation work was to place families or relocate them in groups, ultimately to locations foreign to them. Some were relocated to border towns, where they eventually lost their modern homes due to poorly communicated processes, as well as systems in these border towns that continually take advantage of the people.

Neighborhoods with ready access to drugs and alcohol, countless liquor licenses, all perpetuating substance abuse that takes many lives each year.

There are people who struggle to survived as told by the news article by Cindy Yurth. Perhaps those still struggling and we, as leaders, should be urging the feds that there is no sunset to the relocation program yet. As far as we know, there is no accounting of those who are drifting off their homelands, or those who simply returned to the “big rez.”

We should also ask, do the feds who schemed the relocation as trustees have sophisticated means of measuring their success? Do they have periodic evaluations to justify their alleged expenditures of “billions” appropriated or to plan the “work” yet to be done?

I ask these questions not only because I see that the federal relocation is still unfinished business.

Finally, I suggest that the Navajo Nation retain Cindy Yurth or another investigative reporter to do a comprehensive and historical report of the fed’s relocation program and its total impact on the Navajo and Hopi people from the beginning of the program until now. I would think that the whole fiasco is not only inhumane but a complete failure of trust. The suffering and hardships have been documented and the unfinished business is self-evident.

I am voicing my concern with high hopes that true justice can be achieved with involvement of the strong survivors of the cruel uprooting. Sen. John McCain reportedly is urging that Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act should be ended, closed or terminated and that no more funds be appropriated to address the inhumane impact caused by the feds.

McCain’s campaign to close the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Program is very discouraging because he gained positive publicity bragging about the Navajo Code Talkers. He should be made aware that many of the code talkers’ relatives are a part of the Navajos negatively impacted by said infamous relocation program.

The Navajo Nation should not have to pay for the 37 years of said devastation, but should at lease pay for initiation of action against said culprits, especially since our tribe is currently tendering millions and millions of dollars to purchase two multimillion-dollar ranches without doing any homework.

We must remember the successes for the Ramah people and Cobell for even a larger community of Native American were both based on the findings of by two accountants.

Personally, I am concerned about the damaging impact of the federal relocation program. I can feel their pain, anguish and sufferings caused by forcible removal from the peaceful environment they never wanted to leave. Thank you for hearing me out.

Jimmy Yellowhair
Black Mesa, Ariz.

Speak up at WRUSD board meetings

On Aug. 2, I attended the Window Rock Unified School District school board meeting. A retired teacher with roots in the Window Rock community, I found several actions of the board to be deeply concerning.

Five people spoke during the “call to the public.” I was shaken when the board president roared out a time warning to the first speaker that she had seconds left to speak because a huge projector screen near her displayed a three-minute countdown timer.

Barked out time warnings continued for the next two speakers and seemed to be an effort to silence anyone speaking against the superintendent’s/school board’s decisions. This feeling was supported by the fact that the board president did not interrupt the fourth speaker — a pro-superintendent district employee.

I was amazed that a group of elected governing officials who have a duty to protect people from bullying appeared to be OK using a tone that felt verbally abusive on respectful community members expressing serious concerns.
Arizona law, public bodies must be cautious not to halt a speaker because of the speaker’s viewpoint. (Space here does not allow for all that I found in reviewing the ARS as they relate to public school board meetings.)

At no time was there disruptive speech or behavior by the speakers. Yet, I feel that some were rudely interrupted with a blatant “bullying” verbal tactic by the board president to throw off the concentration of each speaker.

The interruptions stole precious seconds from the speakers’ allotted three minutes, causing the third speaker, a former principal speaking out about being denied his due process by the superintendent, to be unable to complete his prepared statement.

The fourth speaker gave favorable comments about the district’s administrative staff. She was not interrupted. OML states that all people are to be treated equally. It felt like the people were silenced to intentionally suppress information they did not want the public to hear.

The last employee speaker tried to inquire about the future of the student AVID program. The board president loudly interrupted the speaker, stating that he had not followed the established chain-of-command. The speaker was never allowed to finish his statement preventing the audience from hearing his question/concern.

I observed three security officers and wondered what threat existed/was believed to exist that required such presence with less than 40 people. The security presence felt like an implied threat toward the audience.

Arizona law supports the public’s right to be heard. The right is not limited to residents living in the community. Any party with an interest in any issue may address the WRUSD Governing Board with concerns.

I sincerely hope that more stakeholders will speak up/ask questions at WRUSD school board meetings to take back their rights as concerned citizens for the protection of their children, dedicated teachers/staff and themselves.

Christine Saffell
Eagar, Ariz.

Big government creates big problems

We as a nation of Diné have got to learn and learn quickly some very basic nature of government.

We need to remember why the tribal Council was reduced from 88 to 24. If the reason has slipped anyone’s memory, it was because of corruption.

As Diné voters we trust our leaders to educate themselves to all that is going on in the world and how it will impact our Diné. We trust them to be knowledgeable about all forms of government and how good government will benefit our Diné.

Whenever the number of government positions is increased, big government is created. And big government only exists to serve itself. There is enough evidence of that already.

Big government has always caused big problems for its citizens. Big government has always been the cause of the greatest evils in the world. We can all recall, big government means big corruption.

If we have learned anything from our history we should know that there has never been any lasting value in big government. It corrupts families and individuals, it destroys character and the very nature of being human or being Diné in our case.

The bigger the government, the smaller the individual citizen and his God. Big government has always made society morally poor. People end up caring less for one another, it produces selfish individuals, less hard workers and less responsible people.

There is a significant difference between being alive and living, just as there is an enormous difference in having a house and having a home. These are crucial factors that big government will never take into consideration while shackling its citizens. That is the nature of the beast called big government.

If there is a real need to increase positions in the tribal government, do it at the chapter level where the Dine’ have all the necessary control. Window Rock does not have all the answers.

Our leaders should be warning us about the dangers of big government. If they are not, then they are most likely already corrupted. There is literally no trap as deadly as the trap we set for ourselves. Big government is such a trap.

Wally Brown
Page, Ariz.

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Categories: Letters