Letters: Park closure affects vendors’ livelihood

Dear Mr. President and Vice President,

I am writing to inform you that today (Dec. 24) an unannounced closure of the Little Colorado Tribal Park has negatively impacted locals and our worldwide visitors have missed a great opportunity.

The biggest impact is on our own Navajo people. My grandmas and aunties showed up today ready to work, only to be turned away at a locked gate. This appalling action by the LCRTP only adds injury to insult since our vendors were already told they would be able to sell today from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Our local economy is already affected by the slowing winter season. Every day is vital. Winter is harsh and demanding on the morale of our people. This is only the most recent in distasteful actions of the LCRTP. Recently a meeting was held on Dec. 12 in regards to the closure of the park for improvements. However, none of the vendors or representatives was informed of this imperative meeting. The plans entail a closure for months during a busy season.

There needs to be transparency and collaboration in such projects, especially since so many of our local vendors’ livelihoods will be drastically affected. Mr. President, it has been over one year since I have tried to work with the tribal parks.

It is beyond apparent that the unprofessionalism in the management of the Little Colorado Tribal Park is detrimental to our local economy. I implore you to step in and stop this damaging management. We are pleading to have a change now! Cameron people can suffer no longer at the dictating of their lives. This is not a healthy way of living and we need change now. Thank you for your time and may you have a joyous holiday with your loved ones.

Candis Yazzie
President
Dzil Libei Community Inc.
Cameron, Ariz.

We are still Diné without ceremonies

The article “Working to save ceremonies, hataaliis” (Dec. 27) stirred up issues for me. I found myself to be upset about this article.

Why are we now trying to save ceremonies? It’s too late! We should have started to preserve these ways since the signing of the treaty and made it a part of the treaty. Now we have already been assimilated into the Western or white man’s culture. Our Navajo spiritual beliefs are no longer for many Navajos.

The preachers along with the U.S. government did a good job of making sure we no longer know who we are. Are we hybrids of who we were? This is harsh, but is it reality? Is this what the article is saying? Those who have lost the language, culture and beliefs are no longer Diné. This is rejection and betrayal of the worst kind. I refuse to accept this. I will never tell my children and grandchildren they are no longer Diné.

This is sacrilegious. The Holy People would not agree. Fear has taken over many Navajo people about our origins, again, thanks to the preachers and the government. Fear about our beliefs keeps us imprisoned and keeps us on the Long Walk. Our beliefs are not satanic. One has only to listen to the chants to know our beliefs are sacred and intact. I was one of the many victims of the concentration camps of the boarding school system.

I stood in line as a 6-year-old as my origins were stripped away. My hair was cut and I was given a religion. Some were given new names and I was punished if I tried to talk the Navajo language to those who did not speak English. I did not know much but I was trying to communicate. I was an urban Indian, born in San Francisco, while my dad worked in the shipyards. When we returned to the reservation my family fell apart. I ended up in boarding school going through culture shock alone.

I survived my childhood but it was no picnic. I was raised by relatives who were indoctrinated by the boarding school system and this perpetuated the message that our beliefs were superstitious and the Navajo language was not taught. It was explained that they wanted us to talk English without an accent so white people would not make fun of us. It was like a huge cover up in order to take control of indigenous people and take their land – the Big Lie.

Fortunate for me I was awakened in my mid-20s and saw the Big Lie. It was through the American Indian Movement that I became aware of the truth. Many people thought that AIM was a bunch of troublemaking Indians but they had a message to the indigenous people of this land. The message was “Wake up and see the truth of what happened to us Indians; it was genocide.” See that our ways are not satanic. See that our ways are in fact a sacred way of being and living in respect of all living things. See that we had a sacred mother who gives us life daily, named Mother Earth.

I was one of the fortunate ones. My journey took me to see the truth and the love of the Creator. It was called a vision where I found my way to the Lakota people and their Sun Dance ceremony in 1983 in our own homeland, Big Mountain. It was the vision and teachings of the legendary Chief Crow Dog, Sun Dance chief and road man where I found spirituality and healing. I could not wait for the “hataaliis” to complete their apprenticeship. I needed it now. It was long past due.

My survival depended on it. I do not judge our hataaliis for not being there for us. The oppression and destruction by the so-called “Great White Father” was devastating. After the imprisonment of our people and the Long Walk many were left without hope. It took a while for us and other tribes to recover. Some never did and became extinct. These events are the historical trauma that tribes all have in common and still exist today in the form of mental illness and addiction.

The article speaks of losing identity as a Navajo if not knowing the culture, language, beliefs and that the ancestors will become foreign to us. It has been my experience (70 years old) that one never loses identity even if one loses his/her culture, language; we never become foreign to the Holy People. We are recognized by the turquoise we wear. If we know the Holy People by names they are not foreign to us.

There is a place called “beyond culture” where the universal exists for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality and gender. We all know this place. It’s called truth, love, hope, faith and other virtues. I do not live in fear of losing. If one is meant to be a medicine man or woman, it will be. Medicine people are not made, they are born. Hozho na has gle’, Hozho na has gle’, Hozho na has gle’, Hozho na has gle’.

Sharon Manuelito
Window Rock, Ariz.

Another enterprise is not the answer

It is of interest to note in the Navajo Times article, “Haaji Naat’aanii Corp.?” (Dec. 13) that a tribal government would establish a $2.5 million economic development enterprise to jumpstart the Navajo Nation economy.

The question as to the likelihood that another tribally developed economic enterprise will or can transform a historically distressed economy becomes very important. It does not take a rocket scientist to see who the real benefactors are over the years with the usual massive infusion of people’s money into an entrenched economically distressed region.

The economic light at the end of the tunnel dims even more with transnational corporations moving into entrenched concentrated distressed economies infusing widespread “sweatshops.” If this Native indigenous history of dispossession isn’t grim enough, we have wealthy transnational corporations with their hedge fund venture capitalists waiting in line with promises of great wealth where in their world of “angel investors” only wealthy owners benefit while hollowing out family income for wage earners.

The hardships that our communities face did not come about overnight; rather, these searing social and economic conditions in Native communities nationally are very much the history of Native homelands. Globally the transformation of struggling countries to healthy economies and social conditions is at root a long-term investment where the socio-economic transformation comes from the primary governing entity, the government of the respective countries, playing a critical pivotal role to consistently leverage social and economic improvement for its citizens and its nation.

The transparency in use of scarce public funds are always critical to these ends and Navajo Nation funds as public funds, “people’s money,” and not private funds, must be subjected to serious public engagement. It is important for the public sector to see complete transparency and accountability in governmental initiatives that seek to help economically distressed communities. The long historical list of tribal enterprises, however well intended, should offer lessons on efforts toward a “quick fix” of our people’s social and economic conditions.

It is well established that the optimal economic roadmap out of distressed communities for many countries globally is education, and with Navajo Nation, both high-quality rigorous education and our own bona fide cultural education would appear to be in order. In our bona fide cultural education at home, there is always the constant reminder that education is a tool, “beeoonishi,” the engine of economic growth. As such, one would think that rigorous high-quality education as a long-term investment in people, in K-16 education system, would be a priority.

Countries that educate their children and their people rise to prominence economically over time, not overnight. Healthy communities buy advantages for their children in education, making massive public investments, subsidies, grants, student loans and changes in tax policies to support and strengthen their educational system. The power of public engagement, open dialogue on critical matters to these ends, while formidable, is at least far more promising than the power of silence, which lends more to distrust and dissolution of promising short-term tribal enterprises that too often wane and drift with each election.

As we look around, we can see that without public voice the end-point of promising initiatives, the relief of scathing social and economic conditions of our people, remain unchanged only to be handed to the next election for more tribally funded economic development enterprises.

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

Broadband bill redundant, unnecessary

Legislation 0373-18: An Action Relating to Resources and Development, Budget and Finance and Naabik’íyáti’ Committees and Navajo Nation Council; Approving a Funding Request of Three Million, Fifty-Two Thousand Dollars ($3,052,000.00) from the Síhasin Fund to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and Adopting the Síhasin Fund Broadband to Chapter House Expenditure Plan pursuant to CD-68-14 and 12 N.N.C. 2501-2508 2/3. I write this in response to the above legislation in opposition.

As a regulatory entity of the Navajo Nation, I oppose this legislation for the following reasons:

1. Five chapters listed on the PowerPoint are already connected to broadband. Why should Navajo pay for chapters who are already connected?

2. For the remaining chapters listed there is fiber at the chapters sitting on a pole outside the chapter. It should not cost $27,000 to connect the fiber the rest of the way. In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant received by NTUA indicated that the grant funds would be to connect these chapters. It has been over five years since the grant was received and five-plus years later these chapters are still not connected.

3. Most of the Eastern Navajo chapters will not benefit from this request.

4. Is Navajo violating its own procurement policies by not bidding this project out? NTUA is not the only commercial carrier that can provide this service.

5. Navajo should not be expected to pay for two personnel and operating expenses. The cost for this is usually included in the monthly reoccurring costs of $785/month/chapter.

6. The justification attached to the legislation is a PowerPoint presentation. It is not a plan — the presentation lacks important information (i.e., timelines, realistic costs per chapter location, what happens after two years, etc.).

7. How will chapters pay for the reoccurring costs after two years? Right now based on NTUA’s PowerPoint presentation, the annual cost for a chapter to keep on the service will be approximately $10,000 per year. I do agree with the concept of establishing a “Broadband Fund.” However, there should be proper planning and a strategy in place for use of this fund that can be used to leverage other opportunities as grants, loans, etc.

Here is a link to the ARRA grant as submitted as well as a fact sheet (https://www2.ntia.doc.gov/grantees/NavajoTribalUtility). I respectfully encourage the Navajo Nation Council to table or vote down this legislation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Teresa Hopkins
Executive Director
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission
Navajo Nation Office of the President/Vice President
Window Rock, Ariz.


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Categories: Letters