Letters: Republic does not deserve SPJ award

The following letter was sent to the Society of Professional Journalists, care of Joe Skeel, executive director of the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, in Indianapolis:

Greetings from the Navajo people. I am a former long-time member of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors in Navajo County, Arizona, and a former member of the Navajo Nation Council. I write to you today out of a serious concern that I have regarding an award you will be giving to the Arizona Republic newspaper on Sept. 9, 2017.

I request that you rescind the “New America” award to the Arizona Republic for the negligent and gross errors in their series of stories on the Navajo Housing Authority this past December and earlier this year.

A recent investigation by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development found that these stories were mostly wrong. In fact, in your own press release about the award you restated the false perception that the 90-unit subdivision is an NHA constructed project. The HUD report clearly said the NHA was merely the funding entity and had no legal authority over the project:

“The Arizona Republic performed a significant public service by exposing how the Navajo housing program wasted millions, including a 90-unit subdivision that was ultimately bulldozed without ever providing a home for anyone. The series also provided possible solutions through the example of tribes that apparently have adequately managed their housing funds,” said the judges’ comments.

As an organization representing the news media, you have probably heard by now through Associated Press news stories that the Republic completely botched their stories. Please read the stories from recent issues of the Navajo Times. Also, please read a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that investigated these outrageous claims by the Republic.

The HUD investigators found nothing was wrong. In the process of publishing these stories, they have heaped hatred and racist contempt upon the Navajo people. In fact, just recently, the Republic ran an editorial that criticized the Navajo people for being dependent on the federal government, and that the federal/tribal relationship is one that creates a welfare state — basically telling the world that Navajos cannot help themselves and are dependent. They are running amok based on false information about a tribal nation.

Percy Deal
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Government trying to take people’s land

The following are my personal opinions, and don’t represent my business, but as a steward of Canyon de Chelly/Canyon Del Muerto.

My great-grandfather signed the Peace Treaty of 1868 that released the Diné from slavery and captivity. And when he signed that Treaty on April 1, 1868, an agreement was made between Barboncito and Gen. William Sherman, that over 700 Navajo men would get “allotted land.”

Back then land allotments were made by the government in order for these landowners to prosper from minerals such as oil, coal, natural gas, copper, silver and other natural minerals.

Each Navajo man was allotted 70 acres of land and the headmen, or chiefs, were allotted 150 acres or more so when all added up it amounted to 1.5 million acres, stretching from Ganado, to the Four Corners, and into western New Mexico.

And a few years ago the Navajo Tribe and other Native nations found out about this deal and decided to file a lawsuit, Cobell v. USA, where the U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of the Native tribes and issued the order to pay back the Native tribes for the land allotments that have had federal accounts open for land use since 1868.

When the Navajo Tribe accepted the funds on behalf of the Diné they did not share that compensation with the Canyon De Chelly/Canyon Del Muerto residents. Not one penny has been put back to benefit the people who actually have land-use permits.

Now the tribe has developed and passed laws to “take away” ancestral land that families have farmed and owned for 150 years by making up stories about people that have “abandoned” their farmland and they see that as a chanceÊto steal from Canyon residents, and they take pictures of Canyon residents’ landÊto prove to the government that the Navajo are no longer using the land.

Now the tribe is developing the Joint Management Plan for Canyon De Chelly/Canyon Del Muerto, and they are not consulting with Canyon residents or the president of the Joint Management Plan that was legally elected in a Chinle Chapter vote back in 2006.

The tribe has put this task in the hands of Division of Natural Resources Director Bidtah Becker. Mrs. Becker has ignored all pleas to listen to our concerns and she has teamed up with NPS superintendent who has been working only with the Navajo government officials, as she has previously stated at meetings, and not with the Navajo guides of Canyon De Chelly.

Mrs. Becker has continued to ignore offers to help change the current system of abuse by her director and staff of the Tseyi Diné Heritage Center at Canyon De Chelly National Monument.

Mrs. Becker and the director of the Navajo Parks and Recreation are not promoting or developing any businesses, except thoseÊof their relatives that run tours here in Canyon de Chelly, which I think is illegal, and nothing is being done to alleviate the problems caused by the park staff.

If the Joint Management Plan is to be developedÊonly by the Navajo Nation government and the NPS then the plan is not of the people or by the people, as intended in a democratic society.

And they say “We will use k’e” to take away poor peoples land, and I for one will not stand around and allow these government people to dictate policies developed to hinder and steal.

The Navajo Nation government is operating like a communist/socialist country right now, because they don’t want the public to have private land. They want it all community owned, so it benefits nobody, but who do they intend to help?

The definition of k’e is a way to recognize clan and family relations when you meet and greet another Navajo for the first time. How is that to be used to ease the pain of losing land and authority?

Is Mr. (Mike) Halona saying that some families will get preferential treatment because of k’e? Is it k’e when the office secretary at the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation in Canyon de Chelly encourages and promotes the harassment of Navajo tour guides?

Not all tour guides, as they have some that are their favorites and steer business towards these businesses that they like to promote.

The director of Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation is also related to several personnel in the office and businesses here in Canyon de Chelly such as the horseback tours. All thisÊnepotism is disrupting the professionalism of this tourism industry.

The current home-site lease regulations are intended to harass and intimidate Diné to force them to pay fees to a greedy and corrupt Navajo Nation government. The government should promote private Navajo entrepreneurs and businessman to alleviate the current unemployment rate, as the Navajo corporations will never work.

Save Canyon de Chelly from Navajo Nation government takeover. Speak up and stand with the residents of Canyon de Chelly/Canyon Del Muerto.

Adam Teller
Canyon de Chelly, Ariz.

Elders passing without sharing teachings

What a peaceful five-fingered Earth people (Native) we once were.

U.S. government left us here in the desert to survive. Now our own government is trying to control us again.

Mother Earth gave us life into natural nature with the Holy People’s blessing to practice our spiritual prayers. Our sacred home was given to us within our Four Sacred Mountains and what they represent. Our elderly used to know the philosophy from their elderly by word of mouth.

Some elderly passed too soon with these ancient teachings without having to share with their children. For those elderly who could not share their stories, many of their children don’t understand the meanings of the legends and teachings.

So many elders die from neglect or illness. Some elderly were a burden to their families and put into nursing homes to eventually die of loneliness. Some are made to become mean and bitter because they were physically and emotionally abused.

The same situations are apparent with our children, which make them confused and lost.

I was born in Canyon de Chelly, a very respected and sacred place. My father, sister and brother had their picture taken by Ansel Adams at our home in Canyon de Chelly in 1941.

Winnie Henry
Canyon de Chelly, Ariz.

Letter continued ‘campaign of misinformation’

Mr. (William) LongReed’s Aug. 31, 2017, letter asked for clarification about Grand Canyon Escalade, but instead continued the opposition’s campaign of misinformation.

First, Mr. LongReed’s claim that Cameron is within Escalade’s 15-mile non-compete zone is completely untrue as Cameron is actually 32 miles from Escalade, and like other Navajo communities, will benefit from Escalade’s increased tourism draw.

Second, the $65 million for the road, power and water infrastructure is an investment for which, at build-out, will create 3,500 jobs, and the Navajo Nation will receive estimated annual revenues of $40 million to $63 million.

The infrastructure will go through an area that the Bodaway-Gap residents designated for community and housing development in their land-use plan. Lack of jobs is the biggest obstacle to housing development. Building Escalade will provide those jobs.

Grazing permittees will be dealt with as the infrastructure rights of way are identified and the environmental and cultural clearances are being conducted.

Third, Confluence Partners, Escalade and its visitors will all pay taxes, just as other businesses on the Navajo Nation are required to pay.

Finally, does anyone doubt that Escalade will be successful? Last year the Grand Circle hosted 23 million tourists. Of the 23 million tourists, 6 million went to the Grand Canyon National Park’s two visitor centers, and more than 1 million went to Grand Canyon West — the Hualapai Tribe’s visitor center.

Grand Canyon National Park tourism supports 9,779 jobs in the Northern Arizona area and has a $904 million cumulative benefit to the local economy.

Why shouldn’t the Navajo people have a Grand Canyon visitor center and have a fair share of Grand Canyon jobs and revenue?

Council Delegate (Walter) Phelps recently stated, “Millions of tourists travel through the [Navajo] Nation every year and we need to capture that huge market. The opportunity is there and all we have to do is capture it. Capturing the ecotourism market can change the economics and state of the [Navajo] Nation.” We completely agree!

The Council and the president have a choice: They can listen to the anti-everything/no-sayers and do nothing, or they can work with us to create 3,500 jobs and as Delegate Phelps put it “change the economics and state of the [Navajo] Nation.”

R. Lamar Whitmer
Managing Partner
Confluence Partners LLC
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Escalade: Playing hardball with soft money

Kindly print the following open letter to former Dineh Nation President Albert Hale and his two Anglo associates who currently are presenting an ultimately bold and very contentious request of the Dineh Nation to present $65 million upfront in a long-term project to build a railroad to the Colorado River-Little Colorado River Confluence in order to transport folks to one of the most scenic places on Mother Earth.

They are proposing that the Dineh Nation receive only an 18 percent profit on the upfront cash in the billion-plus project with the three project officers receiving 82 percent. It is time to have a baseball talk.

Dear Mr. Hale and Confluence Project Partners:

No! No! No!

Those were the answers the Cleveland Indians gave to the Jacoby Ellsbury-led New York Yankees in the 12-0 score in their baseball game on Aug. 28, 2017. Sorry, Jacoby (my Táchii’nii Clan brother/nephew), for that grand thumping — nothing pretty about that.

That is the same message many concerned Dineh Nation voters wish to send to three modern-day dreamers.

No $65 million start up cash, no Confluence railroad resort casino, and no Confluence liquor bar.

You are trying to play hardball with soft money to be found nowhere on Mother Earth. Three strikes and you are simply out.

Finally, what part of “no” do you freeloaders-to-be not understand?

Tacheeni Scott
Flagstaff, Ariz.

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Categories: Letters