Former Council big shots MIA

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi Bureau

CHINLE, Jan. 5, 2012

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When my editor asked me to do a "Where are they now?" piece about some of the 88 delegates who lost their seats with the Navajo Nation Council reduction, I figured it would be what we in the news business call a "quick-and-dirty" - i.e., a reasonably good story that can be whipped up with minimal time and effort.

After all, it's not difficult to find people these days ... avoiding them is the problem.

Everybody's on Facebook and Twitter posting pictures of their lunch and their pets and their pets' lunches, and people as powerful as Navajo Nation Council delegates don't just fall off the face of the earth.

Do they?

Apparently, they do.

Try Googling Lawrence T. Morgan, the former speaker of the Council, for example. The former most powerful man on the reservation has completely disappeared.

Morgan has taken down his Facebook page, his numbers are unlisted, even his former staffers have completely lost contact with him. There's nothing about him on Google that doesn't date back to when he was in office.

I tried calling the chapters he represented, Iyanbito and Pinedale. The employees who answered the phone hadn't seen him since he left office and had no idea whether he was still even on the rez.

Using my finely honed reporting instincts, I noticed that the Pinedale Chapter president, Anselm Morgan, has the same last name as Lawrence Morgan. Anselm Morgan confirmed he is Lawrence Morgan's nephew. He had a phone number for the elder Morgan, but he wasn't about to give it to the likes of me.

"Why don't I call him and have him call you?" he asked, the tone of his voice suggesting there's no way Lawrence Morgan was going to call me back in a million years.

"Fine," I said.

I never heard back. I would have been pretty shocked if I had.

I thought George Arthur, who had been arguably the second-most powerful Navajo as the head of the Resources Committee, would be far easier to track down. It was all over the Native Web sites that he had been named president of the Colorado River Water Users Association.

I called the association only to learn that the only contact info they had for Arthur was a post office box in Window Rock.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that if the Colorado River Water Users are communicating with their president by snail mail, we're all in deep water. At least figuratively.

When Ervin Keeswood didn't return my Facebook messages, I figured this story was officially a lost cause.

We're the Navajo Times, not paparazzi. If there's one thing I've learned in my long reporting career, it's that if people don't want to talk to you, there's no way to make them.

The question is, why are these people, hardly strangers to the limelight, dropping so unceremoniously out of sight?

Are they so tired of public life they're going to lay low for a while? Are they plotting their next campaign?

Are they, as one of my Facebook friends suggested, still counting their slush-fund swag?

I have no idea. But I wish they would tell me how they did it.