In recent weeks, some have followed the new U.S. President-elect with some interest. As soon as he won the election, he started selecting his potential team of the cabinet, directors, department heads, advisors, etc., before he even stepped into the office. This is called being proactive.
On the contrary, with almost two years into his term, the Navajo Nation president has yet to fill some key and necessary positions of directorship. The only known appointments were his personal friends for some positions, obviously because of their political support. Some positions were created for them (i.e. ambassador, personal legal counsel, etc.). This resulted in him having a reported total of 23 staff assistants. This is almost as many as we have council delegates. Past presidents had four or five. On the other hand, he does not want the Navajo Nation Council delegates to have staff assistants, evidenced by the recent veto of their budget.
The point of this letter is to say there has been minimal or next to nothing in progress on the Navajo Nation coming directly from the Office of the President and Vice President. However, there have been a number of photo opportunities like photos with NBC’s Al Roker, flag posting in Standing Rock, etc. This seems more like an egotistical self-serving promotion.
Recent actions have been very disturbing and one has to wonder if there is any real thought process, communication or teamwork going on in Window Rock. For example, the budget dilemma. The Navajo Nation Council approves a comprehensive budget, only to have half of it line-item vetoed. When challenged by the Council, the president concedes and restored almost all of the budget. This embarrassment could have been avoided had he read the documents carefully and signed when on the jurisdictional confines of the Navajo Nation. The recent departure of the controller is also depressing.
Perhaps things would have turned out more positive had the two governing bodies of the supposed three-branch government worked together as a team for the benefit of the Navajo Nation. With this dilemma, the president apparently entered into a “private arrangement” with the controller hereby working only three days a week while still drawing a hefty salary comparable to a full-time employee. This arrangement was reportedly unbeknownst to the Navajo Nation Council, thus, the removal action.
Now, the big question is, who is going to be allowed to keep the purse strings tight on our finances and control rampant spending?
What an opportune time for a plea to go out to our young, educated Diné people to return to your homeland to lead us in the right, truthful direction before the nation goes totally broke and homeless. We will truly support individuals who run for chapter, council delegate, director, and Navajo Nation presidential positions who truly desire “accountability, integrity, and transparency from our Navajo Nation government.”
A qualified suggestion to our Navajo Nation governing bodies, “Lead, follow or get out of the way!”
Tourism benefits Page in more ways than one
The Page tourism boom continues to amaze us locals. Horseshoe Bend is crowded year-round now with up to 200 people viewing the river overlook at a time. Happily, the Navajo Tribe has already developed the Antelope Marina complex and the revenue and Navajo Nation taxes from the Antelope Slot Canyon tours are at all-time highs.
Another hotel is under construction, but it is not a Navajo investment. Tourism provides more durable and resilient revenue than fossil fuels, historically, and there will always be people worldwide saving up for vacations. They will continue to travel to see the unforgettable views here.
But this rate of expansion cannot continue forever. Once demand is met with enough lodging and dining facilities, competition will become more challenging. At this time, with no new restaurants opening in over a year, dining is an important need.
I hope the Navajo Nation is aware of the high volume of guests in Page and is considering the immediate business possibilities of such as buffet-style dining or a food court as well as opportunities for photo tourism or cultural exhibits, ecotourism, or even a theater like the Tusayan Imax.
Additionally, housing is needed for Page and LeChee residents employed by the rising tourism industry. Creating and maintaining lodging for workers and their families is another possible source of Navajo Nation income.
There are currently many opportunities to invest in long-term revenue (and jobs) if the Navajo Tribe acts before this current tourism boom stabilizes.
Praise for exposing possible wrongdoing
Praise goes out to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee for referring the shocking results of the $3 million audit probe of the Department of Water Resources to the Nation’s chief prosecutor in the White Collar Crime Unit.
The committee, council, auditor general, president, and Division of Natural Resources are all under the microscope now to make sure this is done right.
The Gallup Independent article on this (Jan. 20, 2017) names Najam Tariq as the DWR director. Officially he’s not the director, a Navajo man is. But Tariq, whom I’ve met years ago, obviously runs the place.
I read the audit attached to the proposed Council Legislation 0351-16, which if ever passed, will sweep the audit under the rug, in a huge cover-up. Our people are fed up with corruption. The council has been focused on it in recent years, and rightly so, but the executive branch has its own exploitation questions.
Here are the shocking conclusions, including quotes, taken from the audit.
- The “DWR could not demonstrate exactly what was accomplished with the $3 million appropriation.”
- “A reliable accounting of the $3,000,000 … was not available.”
- There was not an accurate expense listing. (In other words, most or all of the expected receipts for spending $3 million dollars are missing.)
- The audit could not show that the $3 million dollars was properly spent.
- The audit discovered that there was no process in place to trace expenses from the $3 million dollars.
- The audit showed that 91 percent of the mass of expenditures were not properly specified or tracked.
- The audit also showed that some 98 percent of the expenses sampled and tested by the auditors could not be traced to specific completed jobs. (Nearly $2 million of expenses were directly sampled by the auditors.)
- The audit concludes by saying that “best practices” and “generally accepted accounting practices” were not employed. This means that the most basic, absolute bare minimum money spending and tracking standards were not followed. The audit could not prove what happened to our people’s $3 million.
The praiseworthy Budget and Finance Committee did, however, make one mistake. They accepted Mr. Tariq’s “corrective action plan.” The plan is a joke. Najam Tariq is not a rookie manager. He’s been here 35 years. There have been similar allegations associated with him, DWR, or close associates over the years, but this looks like the first time that any leaders will have ever had one properly investigated. The committee should have waited until a full and proper prosecutor’s investigation of DWR is over. If a proper investigation finds no wrongdoing at DWR, then fine.
Let the prosecutor move full steam ahead on the truth. Our people, and DWR too, deserve no less than the truth on this very troubling matter concerning the alleged “missing millions” as some are starting to call it.
Rock Springs, N.M.
Other side of Bears Ears victory celebration
I’m writing you to let you know that you were very wrong in the article “Bears Ears victory celebration draws hundreds.”
In the third from last paragraph, you stated that the opponents were nowhere to be found. Well you need to know we were there. There were 15 of us. I was the one that walked up and gave a paper to Mark Maryboy right after he was done speaking and also Russell Begaye right before he spoke.
We did not bring signs or wear our shirts. We came to be respectful but were soon disappointed with all the lies that were told. We were there to help inform people and give them a copy of the proclamation so they could read it and form their own opinion. You actually have a bunch of us in your picture with the article. Third from the left in the standing group is a woman with short hair, that’s me. Next to me on the right is Daniel Shirley, sitting down is Grandma Betty Jones and her granddaughter April Charley is standing there with the phone recording the celebration.
Kenneth Maryboy knew we were there and said to the group that the open mic was cancelled due to us being there. We brought up the fact that they did not have any translators for the elders. We had an elder that wanted to speak and suddenly the open mic was not an open mic anymore, even though Mark and Kenneth Maryboy speak fluent Navajo. We stood at the back doors for two hours handing out the proclamation and another paper to help people understand there is no co-management.
Let’s focus on our children’s health and wellbeing
There are few greater responsibilities before us than to care for and ensure, to the best of our abilities, the wellbeing of our children. Their vulnerability and innocence requires a level of intensity and focus dedicated to their protection and advancement.
As we begin new legislative sessions, and welcome new and returning elected leaders, it is critical that children, particularly Native American children, are central to policy and budget considerations. This responsibility is not a departmental, jurisdictional, or sector-based responsibility. In fact, it is one that crosses all sectors and requires the thoughtfulness by all leaders when making decisions and investments.
Unfortunately, on the Navajo Nation and across the United States, our children are facing huge health challenges. In fact, if they continue at current rates, it will lead to the first generation of young people who could live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. It is no secret that Navajo children face:
- High rates of childhood obesity
- Increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions related to heart disease
- Decreased rates of physical activity
- Decreased access to healthy foods and safe places to play
This critical reality requires that we, not just our elected leaders, make youth health a priority and that we make targeted investments in key areas of prevention. Allow me to make several priority policy suggestions proven to help improve the health outcomes of children:
- Improve the nutritional quality of snacks, lunches, and drinks in schools and early childhood settings;
- Reduce consumption of sugary sweetened drinks (e.g. soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, Kool-Aid);
- Protect children from unhealthy food marketing;
- Increase access to affordable, healthy foods;
- Increase access to safe places for physical activity; and
- Increase children’s physical activity levels (e.g. in schools, youth programs)
One of the most impactful ways to help ensure the probability that Diné children will grow up healthy is to invest in and make priority Navajo youth health. Study after study reveals that prenatal, early childhood, and youth development investments in health, nutrition, and physical activity are worth every penny. In fact, the financial return to the tribe, state, or community alone makes such investments a smart choice.
As we move forward in 2017, lets have our budgets reflect our values and make youth a priority.
Justin Kii Huenemann
President and CEO
Notah Begay III Foundation
Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.
Someone to stand for our students
The presidential election was fraught with heightened emotions, personal attacks, and vitriol that reached new lows. Individuals and groups on both sides of the aisle
fought tooth-and-nail for their candidate, at times losing sight of what actually matters. At the end of the day, we all want to ensure a safe and positive future for Americans. It is a new year, and time to move forward as one together, which is why it is important for Sen. Tester, and all those in the U.S. Senate, to work together to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education.
Part of ensuring that positive future includes expanding options in education so that students are not relegated to failing schools. Betsy DeVos is a 30-year school reformer who is a qualified and experienced advocate for children, especially at-risk kids who fall through the cracks. DeVos has worked tirelessly to expand school choice and to give parents more control over education decisions. Though some have criticized her support for school choice, DeVos believes in providing the opportunity for a path to success for all students in all communities. Quality education should not be a privilege that just those who can afford it are able to access.
DeVos has advocated for both improving public schools and for providing another option to parents and students who feel trapped in the current system. Public schools are important and should be supported, but when a school fails to provide a quality education to a child, there should be another option. It’s encouraging to see Montanans embrace this open-minded approach, rather than resisting change for the sake of resistance.
DeVos will bring a fresh perspective to the federal education department. Through her work to expand school choice, virtual schools, school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts, thousands of students have already been able to access a quality education that would otherwise have been lost. It would be shortsighted to neglect these ideas that would allow our own children to tap into these opportunities.
When it comes to education, we do not have the luxury of waiting. Our kids need to be able to compete on a national level now, and if they cannot receive a quality education, then we are setting them up to fail in the long run. DeVos will fight for education equality and better academic outcomes for all communities. We have seen public schools fail, and we have seen them succeed. Montana needs the support of its leaders, like Sen. Jon Tester, to confirm DeVos as education secretary so she can stand for our students.
Montana Family Foundation