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Letters: Reasons why I did not learn Diné bizaad

Letters: Reasons why I did not  learn Diné bizaad

I have been asked why I did not learn Diné Bizaad as a child. Now I know there are many reasons why our youth do not learn about Diné history, culture, or language.

One reason I know, which I myself was guilty of, is not seeking that knowledge. Then again how is a child supposed to focus on that when they have such a high probability of growing up in poverty; having absent or uncaring parents; broken clan relations; seeking substances to alter their mental status; or being required to write, read, and speak in English.

However, I think another reason for this lack of knowledge is because we have had undedicated leaders in the past, especially in our current puppet style of governance, who have not made it a personal matter themselves to make sure all our educational institutions teach our people’s language, history, and culture.

This same thing can be said about many community leaders, especially those who have managed many of our youths schools, who chose not to recognize the power our indigenous languages hold.

Who would rather be employed through the states and listen to what the states and their Department of Education Superintendents require for school curriculum in our very Diné Bikéyah. These community and government leaders seem to have chosen not to treat our language as a living entity and instead wish to leave it up to a family system to teach it, which for many youth is a broken system. Instead of focusing on the overall community aspect that involves the very process of educating our youth (i.e. those “educational institutions”).

Then there are those who think we need to just preserve what little of our language is left, instead of revitalizing it and having it flourish.

These same people probably don’t care how we only have about five schools out of more than 150 schools on the rez that are Navajo Language Immersion schools where a majority of our youth attend public schools that are dictated by state education departments, but yet they eagerly send their kids to these schools because their sports program is the best or basketball gym is the biggest.

These leaders seem to be out of touch with our communities and in some cases, refuse to recognize how many Diné families have been torn apart from cultural/religious brainwashing, poverty, and/or socio-economic issues. It seems these leaders have been blinded by the degradation many of our communities have faced to the healthy cohesive function they once use to thrive with, especially with our language.

So can you see that this is also why a child would not fully know their indigenous language, culture, and history?

Hopefully, this “Dawn of a New Day” will actually be a paradigm shift and focus on providing all our youth with an equal opportunity to learn their history, culture, and especially their language, by having it be the dominate knowledge they learn in their educational path and having it fully visible within their communities.

 Elijah Allan
Shonto, Ariz.

Response on audit of Wide Ruins

Please accept this as a response to your article published on Thursday, May 14, 2015, titled “Auditors find problems at Wide Ruins Chapter”.

The report clearly indicates the chapter was audited for a 15-month period beginning Oct. 1, 2012 ending Dec. 31, 2013, with an expenditure of almost $750,000.

In reading the article and being a former president at Lupton Chapter, I thought Wide Ruins Chapter was getting some special treatment from the Navajo Nation Council when it came to allocation of tribal funds for each fiscal year.     … The amount of dollars coded seems to be outrageous, but to put things in perspective the expenditures reported are for a period of over six years of chapter operation.

When I was the chapter president, in our meetings with the Local Governance Support Center staff, it was announced numerous times, the chapters within the Fort Defiance Agency all had their housing committees and veterans organizations organized.

It was also mentioned there were a great number of chapters who had their Community Land Use Plan approved and certified. To my knowledge, Wide Ruins and Lupton chapters were among the first to form these committees and getting their Land Used Plan certified for full implementation.

As a chapter president, I have always questioned the intervention of all outside sources, especially if it involved our financial operation and system. It is my opinion the reporter should have taken time off to visit Wide Ruins Chapter for verification of all financial transactions he quoted in his report.

As a chapter official, I do recall questions that were never resolved when we were audited at Lupton Chapter in 2007. The position was “The auditor general is always right.”

… The auditors will always question and have great concern when they come across staff bonus, incentives, and salary adjustments. Of course, the travel cost will always be an issue and the cost for major equipment will be cited even though it needed repairs or replacements. I found the little payout made as staff bonus, incentives, or salary adjustments are permissible and allowed, as in accordance to the Navajo Nation Personnel Policies and Procedure.

As a chapter official, I have always said, “For God’s sake, look at what the bordertowns pay their city managers.” Their average salaries are between $80,000 to $135,000 when we continue to pay our staff meager salaries. We, as a nation, need to get more competitive and get out of the rut that continues to classify us as a Third World country.

I believe the auditor general is in a position to say, “The local chapter staff are overworked and underpaid and should recommend salaries increase, new positions and work towards creation of townships.”

She would easily suggest do away with the regional offices since it’s only another level of bureaucracy, duplication of services and waste of tribal funds.         … In addition, I know selecting a sole source for professional contractual services is also permissible with proper justification, especially if it involves extreme emergencies, personal safety and the well-being of the general public.

In Lupton’s case, we had to hire a medicine man for traditional prayers, chants, and cleansing ceremony for our administrative offices and complex. This was handled as a sole source and it served its purpose. During our audit at Lupton, I have also noticed the auditors are more receptive to the negative influence that they encountered while conducting their review.

I thought they were supposed to be impartial and conduct their assessment in a professional manner. By the way, Lupton Chapter passed the audit with flying colors and was all made possible by our staff and my other colleagues.

With these notations and inquiries, the article mentioned above should have been titled, “Wide Ruins Chapter finds problems with the auditor general”.

Paul Begay
Lupton, Ariz.

Why we oppose the Grand Canyon monument

As the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, I want the public to know why the commissioners of one of the nation’s premier wildlife conservation organizations strongly oppose the creation of the 1.7 million-acre Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.

The commission’s opposition is based on the negative impacts such a designation is likely to have on wildlife management across this vast expanse of northern Arizona. A need to “fix” current management practices simply doesn’t exist. Even the Center for Biological Diversity recently stated that this area already is being effectively managed, thanks to cooperation by several state and federal agencies. The commission completely agrees.

The creation of the Sonoran Desert National Monument in 2001 is a cautionary tale. In 1999, Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists counted 103 bighorn sheep in the Maricopa Mountains within the monument’s boundaries. When the monument was designated, the department was allowed only limited access to provide new and sustainable water sources for wildlife.

Over the next 11 years, AZGFD experienced detrimental delays and prohibitions for many critical wildlife management actions while the Bureau of Land Management developed an overarching area management plan. Today, surveys indicate fewer than 35 sheep roam this area.

Without a doubt, lack of access was a contributing factor to the steep decline in the sheep population. This harsh lesson shouldn’t be repeated with any wildlife species anywhere else in Arizona.

The costs associated with creating – and maintaining – a national monument may well prove to be prohibitive. A National Park Service report shows the Grand Canyon National Park already can’t afford $329 million in deferred maintenance, yet this proposal would add to that financial burden.

The proposed Watershed area spans 1.7 million acres, compared to Grand Canyon National Park’s 1.2 million acres, begging the question: If the federal government can’t operate and maintain a world class national park at 1.2 million acres, how can adding 1.7 million more acres to manage have a positive impact?

Transparency – or the lack thereof – also is a major issue in this process. Where are the opportunities for input from Arizonans directly impacted by a monument designation?

Any such designation should come only after a robust and complete discussion among Arizona stakeholders. The department’s mission is to speak on behalf of the well-being of wildlife that doesn’t have a voice. Unfortunately, in this process, Arizonans don’t have a voice either. Arizonans deserve a transparent public process.

The 1.7 million acres already being successfully managed will instead be subject to deferred management, budget shortages and increased bureaucracy. As chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, I respectfully submit that these lands should continue to be responsibly managed under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and BLM and should not be designated a national monument.

Robert E. Mansell
Arizona Game and Fish Commission
Winslow, Ariz.

 Yazzie should be praised for retiring as chief justice

First the usual disclaimer, this letter represents only my personal views and not those of any past or present client or employer.

I think that all of us who work with the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Nation itself owes Retired Chief Justice Herb Yazzie a big Ahe’ee’ for his decision to retire May 15 and spare the Navajo Nation a “show trial” before the Navajo Nation Council.

By the end, all of the parties had descended to name-calling and discourtesy to the extent that many of us wondered if k’e and hozho’ had disappeared as Navajo values.

As to electing judges, I hope your readers appreciate how difficult the work of a district or family court judge is. A Navajo judge must handle an ever-increasing caseload, most of which is sad, alcohol (or drug)-related domestic violence, crimes, dysfunctional families and economic problems leading to repossession of personal property.

And the Navajo judge must deal with this caseload with a woefully inadequate rehabilitation and recovery system; a badly underfunded law enforcement program, a continually failing housing program, chronically poor schools and extremely high unemployment.

To think you can expect dedicated Navajos to take the relatively low salaries of district and family court judges; undertake the daily struggle to do justice with inadequate resources, and also face the electorate and campaign is wishful thinking at best.

To create a Supreme Court that requires its members to be experienced lawyers; members of the Navajo Nation, bilingual, law school graduates, state bar members and accept a salary less than half of what they can earn in the outside world where one does not have to run for re-election is more wishful thinking.

Lawrence A. Ruzow
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Yazzie retirement comes as no surprise

Lo and behold, look who decided to announce his retirement one day after the inauguration. He must be shameful of his court decisions and rulings. The announcement is no surprise to 30,000-plus voters.

Herb Yazzie knows he created a massive chaos in the Navajo presidential election and chose not to deal with the serious and significant allegations against him and he knew they were going to be stretched out over the years to come. His only goal was to make sure Chris Deschene didn’t get elected as president.

Also, now we know who was behind the presidential election chaos all this time. Joe Shirley Jr., who appointed Herb Yazzie as the chief justice, was not successful in his third bid for the presidency. Mr. Yazzie, deciding to announce his retirement at the spur of the moment, raises a suspension that a conspiracy played a role during the entire process.

I wonder who else was involved in this highly suspected conspiracy? My guess is the new president or some of his strong supporters. He had the backing of a former tribal leader. Were they paying the legal fees for the disgruntled candidates remains an outstanding issue.

Additionally, prior to the Nov. 4, 2014 general election during a heated campaign, the Joe Shirley campaign and supporters were complaining about Chris Deschene’s wife being non-Navajo. How about President Russell Begaye? Where is the first lady if any?

Further, Mr. Yazzie knew the tribal council members were taking a solid position to remove him and instead chose to retire. His decision to retire was in his best interest, otherwise he would lose his entire retirement benefits if he was removed.

Nonetheless, I would like to say the new president made a wise choice in selecting Jonathan Nez as his running mate for the vice president who gave him a positive boost to be successful. I hope they don’t turn back to back before they serve their four-year term.

Now that Herb Yazzie decided to retire, it’s a good time to make the chief justice an elected position. I urge the tribal council to pass the referendum that is before them without further due. We, the people, will be watching closely.

Thank you for this opportunity to express my views the latest development.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Diné College student responses to petition

As a student of Diné College, I for one, can agree with the employees who have been circulating the petition surrounding certain officials within the Diné College community. As I was attending the main campus of Tsaile, I began to notice certain discourse amongst some faculty and amongst the students itself.

I believe it began when I was made aware of the raise of tuition. I was surprised this change was even being considered. Being as it may, certain students do not have the financial gains to pay for these rising tuition.

Yes, they receive scholarships and Pell grants, but these financial aids do not really assist with the commuting students. Gas prices soar almost weekly, and yet the concerns of the students voicing displeasure with the raise was ignored. Students wish to better themselves and wish to do so affordably not be taken advantage of.

I was disturbed by the allegations of President George for placing her husband in a supervisory position without just cause. By doing this it sends a message to the students themselves that if their own president can’t simply run their institution then them themselves should begin to question their educational goals. It is by my understanding that this institution has been led by a Navajo, and yet places that authority to a non-Native is disturbing; it overshadows the college’s paradigm of Sa’anaaghei Bik’eh hozhoon.

Also, the traditional necklace that is given to the president is the symbol of the college itself, yet with Ms. George giving the authority to her husband is very disrespectful to that entity that was bestowed upon her to lead this institution.

The appointment of an unqualified individual as the dean of academics is very questioning. For the reason is I have come to learn that in order to get a job with the college one must possess the degrees to even be considered to be hired.

By the appointment of Abraham Bitok is very eye-opening to see that a former athletic director could quickly be delegated to this position. The actions taken by Ms. George, Mr. McLaughlin, and Mr. Bitok are very alarming not just to the faculty, but by the student body as well.

I am very gratified to speak for myself and stand up against these types of transgressions. If Diné College has taught me one thing, it is to be proud of yourself and your education. So that is exactly what I am doing, I have learned from two the best English instructors at Diné College who have taught me the progressive way to get my message across to others is in the form of writing and I commend those two.

So all in all the allegations against these individuals must be dealt with and I have said before I am contented to speak up. I have publicly addressed this issue and if I am retaliated against I will let the public know firsthand.

What ever happened to our main teaching of K’e?

Jay Ross Slivers
Lukachukai, Ariz.

Begaye thanked for visiting church

My name is Matthew Holtsoi. I am 15 years old and I live in Crownpoint.

On April 26, 2015, we had a special visitor to my church where my grandpa, George Jim, is the pastor. Pastor Jim noticed a visitor, newly elected Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, who sat toward the back row. The congregation was not aware of the new visitor, but my grandpa had recognized him. My grandpa brought him up and introduced him to us. We were all pleasantly surprised.

President Begaye stood at the front and everyone lined up and shook his hand. He shared some scriptures and words of encouragement.

I would like to thank him on behalf of the congregation of the First Navajo Baptist Church in Crownpoint, for stopping by and for his nice words. I also would like to wish him congratulations on winning the presidency and I hope he will visit us again in the future. It was very exciting for us all. We will always have him and his administration in our prayers.

Matthew Holtsoi
Crownpoint, N.M.

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