Letters: Don’t just exercise your right, execute it!

From day one I understood Deschene talking Diné. After all, he stated on the presidential application he spoke Diné. Why then after admitting fluency did Deschene’s campaign say to his people, in his Native language, “I am just learning to speak Diné” ?

As a lawyer, Deschene should have never said this because he contradicted himself. The argument is Deschene lied on his application, but the truth is he is young and inexperienced. Exacerbating all this is during a hearing involving a fluency test Deschene refused to cooperate and speak Diné after he did all summer long. Why is it so hard for everyone to understand this? Deschene basically disqualified himself.

So the law says you have to speak Diné fluently to run for president. How many years has this been the law? I think this should remain the law and should be extended further to apply to Council delegates, executive directors, managers, and all high ranking Diné government employees and elected leadership.

Whereas this language saved a lot of lives in the World War II’s Pacific Theater, heck the language saved the USA. Whereas the continued dissipation of Diné’s verbal fluency disserves all. Why do we want another law that tells our youngest generation it is OK for you not to learn and speak Diné? It is OK that you lose your traditional identity. We might as well do away with Code Talker Day.

So the lessoned learned now after the Diné voting majority feels hurt is not to whimper and say, “I will not vote” or “I am disenfranchised” . The Diné has to get out there and vote and Chris Deschene has to guide and show his people which side of the fence he stands, although be it the lesser of two evils: a man already given eight years (at the height of which a majority of his former colleagues were convicted delegates) who has chosen as vice a man with no governmental leadership experience and as the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Director, Sharon Pinto, basically says, “Has swindled about half a million dollars from the Navajo Nation” ; or a man with vision that tried to legislate against three year term limits whose running mate has demonstrated absolute competence and ethics as a community and county leader?

Well, time flies and four years are going to come and go. Deschene is young and time is on his side. If Deschene is going to saddle up again, right now is his time to prove how he will fight to cure a culture of lawlessness by the Council, the president, and the Supreme Court because there is so much unprosecuted white collar crime and incompetence in Diné government you just need a high school diploma and know brown nosing. Or does Deschene want to represent big interests like Desert Rock and resurface like Joe Shirley after he disappeared for four years? Deschene, please protect your people’s rights and help stop corruption.

The lessoned learned is that there is justice, except it takes a damn good fight getting it because it clarifies law and policy. The laws that are made now and are in place are unclear because of who we elect into these offices. I think no GED or high school diploma is needed. Earning a college degree has to be made another requirement to hold elected office or a high-ranking job.

Chief Yazzie is doing his best clarifying these laws and holding executive departments, the Council, and the lower tribunals courts accountable. We need more activism to help Yazzie and what this Voter’s Right Coalition needs to refocus on instead of replacing Chief Justice is to impeach or to recall the presidential or delegate elect if it is not who they want. Go collect signatures, if your elected lawmaking member is not doing their job the Diné can make law through petition or initiative. The Diné voters are the true governing body of the government in all aspects.

Don’t just exercise your right, execute it, and vote!

Hosteen Badonie Jr.
Chinle, Ariz.

Help students step confidently into the future

It’s easy to overlook what may be the most critical time of year in our schools – the short period in which students register for classes for the coming academic year. That period is now. And the choices students make will influence both their futures and our nation’s.

Choosing to take Advanced Placement classes is one of the best things students can do to become college and career ready. AP challenges students to work at their highest potential, and it can earn them college credit that will save them time and money as they continue on their path to success.

And the research is clear. Students who score a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam tend to earn higher GPAs in college, take more – not fewer – classes in their discipline, and are more likely to earn their college degree on time.

In the past 10 years, expansion efforts have nearly doubled the number of students who have been given access to the opportunities AP offers.

But we still have a long way to go, especially for American Indian students.

Only 12 percent of American Indian 11th- and 12th-graders in our public schools took an AP Exam in May 2014, compared to nearly 22 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders nationwide. We’re still leaving too much talent on the table by not challenging high-achieving students of color to reach their fullest potential. Last year alone, nearly 300,000 students with the potential to succeed in certain AP courses as determined by their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT didn’t take an AP course for which they were qualified.

That’s almost four out of 10 students with AP potential that did not take an AP course for which they showed likelihood of success. For American Indian students, that number is five out of 10.

Choosing AP can be a daunting decision, especially for teens who don’t know someone who’s done it before and don’t see many students who look like them in AP classes. We can help more students make the smart choice – one that can save them thousands of dollars in college expenses and, most importantly, set them on the path toward success.

The College Board’s All In campaign is a multifaceted, coordinated effort to ensure that 100 percent of American Indian, Latino, and African American students with AP potential enroll in at least one matched AP class.

We are joined in these efforts by the Council of the Great City Schools, along with the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and 61 school districts nationwide. While this broad support is essential, research has shown that the most powerful factor that turns a potential AP student into a registered AP student is the spirited encouragement and enthusiastic support of a teacher, counselor or school administrator.

In other words, adults who work in schools have enormous influence and can, by reaching out to students of color with AP potential and encouraging them to take AP classes, quite literally change the education trajectory of these students.

We need to challenge all students to own their future.

The class of 2016 has the opportunity: 491,508Êstudents in the class of 2016 who took the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2013 showed potential to succeed in AP courses. 381,792 of them attend public schools.

In the coming weeks, as students plan their coursework for next year, I urge educators, counselors, administrators, and families who stand at the doorsteps of opportunity to open those doors and help every student step confidently into the future.

Pamela Agoyo
Director
American Indian Student Services
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, N.M.

Use of Yei design: It is only wrong when it goes viral

In the Navajo Times article titled “Tribute or Theft?” Shondiin Silversmith explains how a Navajo Yei design was portrayed during the New York Fashion Week.

Marjan Pejoski says the dress was Native-inspired and mentions that “his lineup is a tribute to the primal woman indigenous to this land.”

Navajo Times has also tried countless times on their part to get a response from Pejoski and his public relations representative, Kelly Cutrone, but have yet to respond. The article then goes more into depth of about why the Navajo indigenous people are upset with the Navajo Yei design being used. From a Navajo point of view the interviewees have all concluded that the Yei design being used is disrespectful to them for reasons that it is a spiritual and sacred design.

Focusing on the Yei design, the people overlook the cause of appropriation and a slight racism. Sure the Yei design is sacred and a spiritual asset to the Navajo people, but do we really need to blame one person for using the design? No, we don’t.

There are many other people who have used this design on other priceless artifacts, yet no one has come forward about what is wrong about it. It is only wrong when anything pertaining to indigenous people goes viral. Sometimes I feel Native American people should first look in their local communities about what the underlying cause of a problem is before they bring it to others’ attention. Sometimes the solution can be found within the reservations themselves.

Instead of focusing on how Pejoski has used the Yei design in his fashion line, I feel we should also understand that we are quick to judge someone without knowing the intentions going into it. If Pejoski is to apologize for his actions, will it make anything less tense and better?

We live in a new century and technology has evolved more since the older generation. Pejoski may have gotten the idea online or somewhere he has seen it. Honestly, who is to know all of the tribal and spiritual designs of every culture?

I, for one, did not know that you had to be ordained in order to use the design into a rug only, nothing more than that. Does that make me anymore less a Navajo? No, because some teachings from generation to generation do not get passed down, you usually find out something was wrong until it has been done.

So to resolve further conflicts to come about indigenous cultures, there should be a website or program designed for people looking for the truth of indigenous cultures nation or worldwide. Maybe then this type of misinterpretation won’t happen again.

Tierra Tohe
Blue Gap, Ariz.

Demand higher quality of food

We need to wake from the post-colonial slumber that has blinded us and made us sick. There are several manifestations of post-colonial stress disorder syndrome which plague Native America with confusion, laziness, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide. All of these are preventable, inter-related, and symptomatic of post-colonialism.

For the sake of a limited word count, I will focus on food. Food ties into all of these ailments and is often consumed not only for sustenance, but also as a form of self-regulation, self-gratification, or self-medication. That is not so bad in and of itself, but the food that we turn to for the most part is the problem. Post-colonial food is high in calories and low in nutrition. Studies show Americans are consuming high rates of processed, fried, fast, and subsidized food, which are making us sick and unhealthy. Poverty compounds the problem.

We, as consumers, customers, clients, patients, and parents need to demand the best food for our children and ourselves. Our school and institutional food programs could be vastly improved. We could subsidize organic farming, institutionalize garden to cafeteria programs, and have NAPI supply our unique food needs with our traditional food. There are tribes in other environments that we could trade with for food. There are millions of dollars in grants to fund a food revolution that could move us from dependent, unquestioning, unhealthy consumers to self-determinate, sovereign, food secure people like we were for thousands of years before assimilation.

We are also currently spending millions on bad food that meets federal and state standards. Self-determination provides the authority to raise the standards and we should.

Food security options and possibilities are endless for tribes. Food security needs public education, political will, and local action. The only thing stopping us from changing how we think about food, improving our relationship with food, and eating better food is us. We for the most part, are in charge, and have the legal authority to initiate and/or legislate change. We have Navajo schools boards that possess the power to change school meals for the better. We have a growing body of evidence-based research that shows when communities become food secure, they also become healthy. Change starts with us.

We as consumers have the most power, we need to demand higher quality food all of the time. Do we want to continue down the course of federally regulated sickness or chart a new self-determinate, food secure path toward Hozho?

We all have a stake in this and need to talk and walk toward Diné food security.

Matthew K. Tafoya
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Chief Justice violated Navajo law with decision to require fluency test

I am deeply concerned about the Navajo Nation Supreme Court decisions that invalidate Navajo law, and violates the rights of Navajo voters and the Separation of Powers.
The election issue is not whether voters supported Dr. Joe Shirley, Jr. or Mr. Chris Deschene. The issue is about the rights of Navajo citizens to elect their own leaders free of the political interference of the Court.

Chief Justice Herb Yazzie violated Navajo law with his decision to unfairly require a single candidate to take a Navajo language fluency test. The test was developed without any standards to ensure its fair administration.

Case in point: The complainant’s attorney requested Mr. Deschene to explain how Navajo law is made. The problem is that fluent Navajo language speakers who do not know the Navajo legislative process could not explain how Navajo Nation law is made.

What constitutes Navajo language fluency was never fully explored. Navajo language fluency for a Navajo medicine-person is not the same as Navajo language fluency for a clerk at Basha’s grocery store. Three of the most important elements to determine Navajo language fluency was never pursued by the Court: 1) an impartial standard to determine the type of Navajo language fluency that would be required; 2) the fair development and administration of a Navajo fluency test; and 3) the equal application of the Navajo fluency test to all Navajo candidates.

The Court’s order points to a fundamental failure to provide a fair and impartial decision, and it sends a troubling message that the Court will selectively apply the law. The Court did not consider the application of all relevant Navajo laws such as the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights. Nor did the Court examine due process protections when it removed the Navajo Nation Election Board of Supervisors.

Paradoxically, the complainants claimed that the “Navajo Nation is a nation of laws.” Were this the case, the logical conclusion begs the question: Where, in the Court’s decision, is the application and analysis of the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights and application and analysis of all relevant Navajo laws? The Court must apply all relevant Navajo law and the laws of other jurisdictions for Questions of First Impression, such as the Political Question Doctrine. This Doctrine would have barred the Court from hearing this case where the resolution of the matter falls squarely with the Navajo Nation Council. This would have avoided the election crisis that is now a Navajo government crisis.

Equally disturbing, the court violated Hozhooji, a basic principle of Navajo Fundamental law, by using sacred Navajo cultural stories in an adversarial manner, thereby perpetuating disharmony. Chief Justice Herb Yazzie characterized the crucial efforts of the Navajo Council to provide leadership and to restore order to the Navajo election crisis as a “feeble” attempt. In so doing, the Court callously joined in with Mr. Jordan and Mr. Jones’ raucous characterization of the Navajo legislative branch as a “coyotes” and a class of respectable Navajo people as “cult” members.

The Navajo Nation Council cannot allow this miscarriage of justice. The Navajo Nation Council cannot simply look the other way. To do so is to invite a dangerous slippery slope precedent whereby the Court is emboldened to overstep its power and to dissolve the Separation of Powers.

If the Court’s power remains unchecked, it is conceivable that the Navajo judiciary becomes the only branch of government where the legislative and executive functions of government become subservient to the Court’s all-consuming power. It is also conceivable that, if left unchecked, the authority of the Navajo Supreme Court will further violate the rights of Navajo people, as it did when it disenfranchised thousands Navajo voters and the right to elect their own leaders.

I urge the Navajo Nation Council to vigorously protect its legislative authority and to uphold the recently passed Navajo laws. I urge the Navajo Nation Council to establish a special committee composed of Navajo law makers, representatives from President’s office, the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, and the Navajo Nation Bar Association to review of the decisions made by the Court. Based on findings of the violation of Navajo law, I urge the Navajo Council to remove Herb Yazzie from the Court.

Milton Bluehouse Jr.
Ganado, Ariz.


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Categories: Letters