Letters: Money paid to Zah ‘outrageous figure’

Edward T. Begay, Ervin Chavez, and Leila Help Tulley wrote a nice guest column where they justified the money Navajo Housing Authority gave to Mr. Zah based on Peterson Zah’s accomplishments.

Mr. Zah should be lauded and commended for his tireless work when he was Navajo Nation President and for establishing the Navajo Trust Fund, as well as the many other contributions he made during his tenure. However, despite this, the money he was paid is an outrageous figure. Even the Navajo Nation president does not make this much in four years.

To put this in perspective for the readers, currently the average yearly income of the Navajo people is among the lowest in the United States with $20,005 as the median income and 42 percent of the people live below the poverty level.

The bottom line is there is no justification for this.

Even with the help of Mr. Zah, the NHA is still in dire straits and in disarray. It is true the federal government provides the funds for housing development under the HUD program, and yes, the money should be spent by every fiscal year (every September). However, NHA says they are confined and there are many obstacles in their way. Despite this and many scathing reports NHA continues to give themselves pats on the back saying they accomplished the “impossible” by building 538 units and repairing 878 units.

The question is: Where are these units? Every time I drive to the Navajo Nation through Dilkon, Window Rock, Navajo, Rough Rock, Crystal, Fort Defiance and so forth I see no change. When I drive down the street of my old neighborhood in Fort Defiance or Rio Puerco I see buildings that are barely standing, abandoned housing with spray paint, run down streets and buildings. What are they doing for our people?

In any company or agency, the first people to go are the upper management and then a review of the company is set forth. The new management should look at all the people who work for them and should restructure to ensure the best people for the jobs are in the right places.

There is no need to hire Peterson Zah or the former delegate and waste tax dollar-money the Navajo people for their services to accomplish the “impossible.” The Navajo Nation needs to just hire the right people for the job and if they are unable to accomplish the duties and requirements set forth then start over again.

Sean Alvin Begaye
Fort Irwin, California

Chapters in need of transition

Y’aa’teeh shí ké doo shí diné.

It seems our local community chapters are in need of a good transition. I just witnessed our newly elected officers run their first planning meeting.

First of all, three newly elected officers missed the November, December, and January chapter meetings. Now they come in and all they kept telling us was the front office was a mess – their only excuse.

Our past secretary/treasurer messed up so they had to step down and our chapter account manager specialist had to be removed. Both had no known outside experience dealing with accounting/book- and record-keeping. So someone had to be called upon to fill both positions, to answer calls, do front office work, and she had more than 25 years outside experience, more than all put together. She resigned when the new team elected stepped in only after the inauguration.

Our new secretary/treasurer and front office person has no known outside experience. I wonder why we elected those without experience?

Our communities need a lot of healing and when a transition takes place it should be for the better of the people. We still need Zah and MacDonald to sit down, chat and see what comes out of this again for the betterment of the future of the people.

Ashem Dayea
Pine Springs, Arizona

Give me Trumpka over Trump

We have Donald Trump, the inexperienced real estate mogul who somehow got into office even though he lost the popular vote in the election by three million votes.

As you have seen for the beginning of his term, our fragile government is in total chaos. My own message to the public a couple years back was to caution American voters to stop handing over governance to businesspeople. They don’t think at all like working people. The very first

thing they want to do is to hand out corporate welfare to the corporations and the billionaire class and to make our government weak when it comes to consumerism for the people.

The last thing we needed was a businessman in office and I think people are only now beginning to see why. There will be mid-term elections coming up and working men and women must learn who their true friends are in government. Look no farther than the Democratic Party who traditionally votes on matters of import to the working class people, 50 to 100 percent of the time. Not so with the Republicans.

Wake up America, give me Trumpka over Trump any day.

Lawrence Hill
Boynton Beach, Florida

Nation lacks economic development plan

A candidate campaigning on economic development on the Navajo Nation is a common tactic used to lure voters and we have seen this played out since candidates have challenged each other. But it’s another thing when the current president makes claims of having to turn properties for profit and has instilled heavily schooled young Navajos to his cabinet, to convey to the general public conflicting approaches of his economic plan.

Much less no hint of an economic director’s report or strategic plan for economic development has been made for her staff or the Navajo people to see. She lacks not only a viable written document citing major development plans that her department is pursuing, but a well written strategic plan that (1) aligns vision, mission and values; (2) defines strategic direction; (3) aligns functions to Navajo Nation goals; (4) sets goals, priorities and performance measures; and (5) tracks progress on key initiatives that would help all parts of the Navajo Nation with economic development.

Her only comment, “I did not come to clean up a mess, and that’s what it was.”

What does she think she was hired to do?

The Dineh Chamber of Commerce is correct in their assessment of the “new” Economic Development director, which is to remove her. Jefferson Begay, president of the Chamber went on to say, “The current director (Deschinny) is not helping. In fact, she is basically fighting. She isn’t in the same frame of mind to be supportive,” and if you think the administration can be ever more elusive of its campaign claims for more jobs, more development, one only has to read the July 20, 2015 “One Nation One Voice: Common priorities of the Navajo Nation government signed by the three branch chiefs,” where again campaign political catchwords of job creation and business opportunity, partnership, bank, energy, economic zoning, revenue generating and investment are provided without further explanation, even after hiring an Advisory Committee (from prestigious universities), executive staff assistant (with economic development experience), and now wants to form an Economic Development Task Force.

The president has stated recently in a Navajo Times article that his administration has developed a plan which consists of 1) Leveraging the Permanent Trust Fund and Sihasin Funds; 2) Creating a holding corporation with a mandated dividend to the Navajo Nation; 3) Increased support for Navajo small businesses and 4) Developing a resource road map to invest in new energy opportunities that align with our vision of economic sovereignty.

The executive branch is not even speaking to the legislative branch at the moment. Does the Council know of this plan? The Council has called upon President Begaye through letters, through verbal requests, and by other means to sit down and resolve issues such as the line-item veto authority, and more important issues such as the potential loss of coal revenue, the potential loss of power plant jobs, the need for housing in the Former Bennett Freeze Area, settlement of water rights, and secure funding for public assistance.

Instead, President Begaye continues to voice his issues through newspapers, radio messages and social media. His campaign promise to work with the Council and their committees to move issues forward doesn’t seem to be working. This is just an example of progress being halted due to the unwillingness of President Begaye to communicate regularly and effectively with the Navajo Nation Tribal Council, after an open invitation was provided by the Navajo tribal Speaker and the tribal council to sit down and have an open and honest discussion.

As a business owner, I met with President Begaye, Vice President Nez, Peterson Zah and Robert Joe prior to them taking office and one more time after they took office, and had a recent meeting face to face with the “new” administrative assistant for Economic Development, Juan Massey, to offer my 47 years of business experience. I attempted for several years to work with my tribe, the Diné, but to no avail, so we chose to work with another tribal government, the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, whom we use for sovereign immunity, nation-to-nation negotiations and we pay the tribe on a monthly basis a substantial fee for this service.

We wanted to do this with the Navajo Nation so we then established a relationship with an international country and ended up doing all their economic development for their country. In the last three months, we’ve established a credit line with the World Bank and several U.S. companies amounting to $3 billion. We are currently building 15 solar farms, a wind farm, a hydropower plant, a gas-fired power plant, four-star casinos, an American Indian bank, total broadband installation for the country, a new airport to promote tourism, expansion of their power plant and export of oil and gas. We are currently looking into mining their many resources (gold, copper, titanium, diamonds, rare earth and more). My company is 100 percent Navajo owned, super 8(a) corporation and Buy Indian Certified, which allows us not to be bonded.

Mr. Peaches is correct when he states that there is not a plan at the local level, which should be shared with the surrounding states and at the national level. It is disheartening to know that there is not a plan in place to address this issue. Our leadership should be more proactive by developing a strategic and tactical plan, master plan, market intelligence services to address financial needs, competitive strategies and trends around the world (i.e., manufacturing of alternative energy solutions on Navajo lands and not concentrate on coal; fossil fuel is on its way out).

Case in point: the Navajo Generating Station in Page. I know two national companies willing to take on this task and start producing clean energy. What is our tribe doing to keep producing power from the Navajo Generating Station and keep the jobs? The Navajo Nation does not have to use their own funds. What are the long- and short-term goals of the Navajo Nation? Does the Navajo Nation understand the intricacies of their economic development ambitions of the goals that they establish and do they have the insight to formulate a specific action plan to meet those financial and strategic goals?

It is quite apparent that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, so let’s just do another plan (to be shelved, after a lot of money is spent) and by that time the summer would be over and the drought conditions could be addressed in an emergency session with all department directors next year at the “new” Twin Arrows Casino, during the months of July and August. As I keep saying, if you don’t have a plan, then any plan will work.

I propose a challenge to the tribal council leaders to assist and call upon chapter leadership to mobilize a movement through their resolution system calling for an end to idle, ineffective Division of Economic Development to be replaced by an effective and systematized one, and possibly outsource a professional private business developer. A reliable, sound, and operable economic development deployment plan will not only create jobs, stop the “brain drain” occurring in which intelligent and educated Navajo youth are leaving the reservation for good jobs in cities across the United States, but most importantly to alleviate poverty. A serious approach in analyzing this situation would require a group of specialists to study why the nation’s social and economic development is not progressing at all.

Where’s the transparency? We, the people, have not seen anything of any significance other than empty promises and a loss of income from taxes that are not being collected such as the Pumpkin Patch agreement and the Antelope Point “The Point” agreement where millions are owed the Navajo Nation, but no collections are made. The Point owes the Navajo Nation over $14 million in back taxes and the Navajo Nation asked LeChee Chapter to pass a resolution to write off the taxes. The companies have breached their lease agreement and could be asked to leave, but still they remain with their non-Navajo employees. Come on guys, open your eyes!

Meanwhile, the administration, if you count its campaign promises prior to the primary election of August 2014, has not produced any specific plans several years later of how it will change the economic landscape of the Navajo Nation. We can help.

Without any plans Mr. President, your four pillars do not seem to be addressed, which should make it difficult for you to awake to the “New Dawn” you envisioned of your leadership, but you could watch the “Sunset” as the outgoing president.

Joe Bergen
Page, Ariz.

Don’t mess with our name

I am writing in reference to the proposed name change by the Navajo Nation Council. I have considered the various perspectives and arguments about this issue and many concerns emerge about changing the name from Navajo Nation to the Diné Nation. Please consider my stance on keeping the name as is based on the current definition, historical context, and cultural considerations.

According to the Navajo Dictionary, the current definition of Diné is often limited to the reference of the men or male gender. For example, Diné ayoó naalnish (A hard working man) or Doo lado’ Diné nineezdah (The man is tall). This current definition does not fully capture the cultural context and its intended meaning. During Hajineí (the emergence), we were identified as Nahokaa’ Diné’é and not merely Diné. Nahokaa’ Diné’é is considered any breathing being on this earth. Also. during Hajineí, it is said that the Navajo started to plant corn and they would tend to their cornfield each day. Navajo can also mean hard worker.

Many years ago, my parents Paul and Lorena Williams, of Steamboat, Ariz., took a landmark case to the United States Supreme Court (Williams v. Lee). This landmark case set a precedent for Navajo and Native American sovereignty. The following has been documented: “The Williams v. Lee (1959) United States Supreme Court case signified the legal resurgence of Native America in Federal Indian Law and in particular, the renaissance of the Indian sovereignty doctrine, inherent tribal sovereignty…” (Ball, 2010).

I am sharing this because my parents experienced hardship during this time and relied on traditional or cultural beliefs. My nali man, a well-known medicine man, performed Hozhoojí during this time. He would always encourage my parents that everything would be fine. He would say the opposition might have monetary resources, but we (as a people) would always have our powerful prayers. During the ceremony, he would pray using the words Nahokaa’ Diné’é niiglí (we are). My parents eventually prevailed and won the case with such prayers and support.

I share these stories because it’s important to consider the historical and linguistic context of how we self-identified and how our elders/medicine people referred to us. If the current Navajo Nation Council wants to spend money and resources on this issue then this is a problem. I strongly believe such resources and funding can be allocated to other pressing issues in our communities (i.e., a referendum election on regionalization, education, etc.).

Paul Williams Jr.
Steamboat, Ariz.


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