In sight of NGS with no service

FROM THE READERS, February 23, 2012

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We live 28 miles from Navajo Generating Station with no utility services. Our community's preschool has been closed for over 20 years and our roads are in very poor condition.

Most of our community members have moved to Page, which was formed in 1957, and Lechee, which was formed in 1955. Our chapter was formally recognized in the 1930s.

These other communities are younger and more developed due to the industry that Page dam and NGS have brought to that once every desolate desert.

The 13th amendment was passed in 1864 allowing blacks, a minority, into the all-white society as their equal. One hundred years later, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed to reinforce this minority's right to be the white man's equal, again.

In 1948 we Navajos, a minority, were granted citizenship and allowed to vote in the U.S. government. Instead of dealing with the white man as his inferior we became his equal.

In 1969, 20 years later, the Navajo Generating Station was contracted to be built. It seems the U.S. government was trying to deal with the Navajos fairly then, but the white man's mentality of misconstruing deals to his advantage was exercised under the guise of several major corporations.

There were many promises made to surrounding Navajo communities then that were never fulfilled. Some placed their thumbprints on contracts they didn't comprehend.

Recently, 43 years later, NGS representatives have stated the reason those promises were never honored were because "Nobody ever came forward to ask for them appropriately."

At one time, we had a local leader that was an employee of NGS. He stated it was impossible to get help from NGS. Five companies own NGS and only serve people off of the reservation from Tucson, Phoenix, Nevada, and California, hundreds of miles away.

They have never helped my community who are 20 miles away, Coppermine Chapter.

Some of the public relations personnel unfortunately are from my chapter. One recently registered with my chapter. Where were they the past 43 years? They were hired specifically for this contract renewal.

There are 450 Navajo members out of the 325,000 enrolled members working at NGS, but this number compared to the health impacts of local community aren't even known, in addition to the environmental impact that is not even considered.

All we hear here is the loss of revenue to our nation from our leaders if this contract is not renewed. This revenue will eventually disappear, why not start preparing for alterative sources of income for our people already?

Such as:

  • 1. Increasing water prices to outside entities, because it's more precious than gold in the desert. 2. Increasing the price of coal.
  • 3. Increasing the land usage fees to outside entities utilizing our once "worthless land."
  • 4. Purchasing NGS ourselves and cut out the five middle men.
  • 5. Cracking down on fraud, waste, and abuse within our nation, etc.

No thorough, complete, and independent study has ever been done that's independent from the five major corporations. When our coal depletes these companies and most of the employees will move onto other ventures.

We and our future posterity will dwell on this land, just as our forefathers have done before us when these corporations are long gone.

Why did our ancestors sign the Treaty of 1868? They were thinking many generations ahead and I don't think they were selfish and hedonistic then as today.

There has been an attack on our customs and way of life and even on our Four Sacred Mountains. Why do we renew these contracts like they are not related? Why not refuse to renew these contracts until our cultures and traditions are recognized even though they do not coincide with the dominant society's beliefs?

I'm disappointed with these leaders that I feel are ignoring our concerns and they are not doing what is best for our people spiritually, physically, and emotionally, but are only focused about how they're perceived by the dominate society.

There are so many concerns within our Navajo Nation; these are a few I want to express. Thank you.

Chris Benally
Coppermine, Ariz.

Disillusioned about ranch bidding process

Our Navajo Nation government has always been plagued (through different terms of leadership) with allegations of corruption. When will this come to a halt, or will it ever?

Right now all you have to do is read all the area newspapers to find out who did what. Listed are allegations of money mismanagement, police misconduct, abuse of power in an official position, and the list goes on.

Does being a sovereign nation mean the policy is keep the money and run or lay low?

This all makes me wonder about the Navajo Nation that is not well informed or understand, does not think through some of the judgments or plans they make.

Hear me out, I am disillusioned about the planning and the thought process of the bidding system the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture and ranch program say they will continue to follow through with, (Jan. 29, 2012: Sandia Casino, Resource Development Committee meeting).

Our Navajo Nation district court ruled this process unlawful in the Morris case. Does the decision of our court system mean anything? This seems to be an abuse of the ranch program's power to implement a contract that is still in dispute.

To proceed with this system would disregard any judgments made by the courts. That lease ranchers have rights and proven in 1996 federal court. In which the bulk of the Navajo Nation funding comes from the federal government.

The Morris family is ranchers just like myself and the remaining families who raise cattle and lease ranches from the ranch program. Many are watching our cases closely because we (they) all have worked for from one generation to the next may lose their leases and will have to sell their herds.

The NNDA commented that most of the ranchers are "weekend cowboys" and "ranchers as a hobbyist." But we could not do what we love to do totally on our budgets from the sale of our cattle. We need a full-time job to subsidize our ranch. They should be recognizing of improvements in the land we are entrusted with instead of tossing us out for someone who may not do the same.

It's a shame my (our) next generation may not carry on the pride, values, and work ethics. Not in wealth and monetary gains but from bounties and blessings provided by Mother Earth that success taught, hopes and dreams that may not carry over to my grandchildren.

It saddens me that we can't honor what our ancestors have built, and better ourselves for the future.

Justin D. Yazzie Jr.
Farmington, N.M.

Suggestions to meet unchallenged issues

I thank and congratulate Lisa R. Yellow regarding her letter to the editor, which was labeled "We have issues in Tuba City" and printed in the Feb. 16, 2012, issue of the Navajo Times.

Her letter brought focus on unchallenged issues in most of our communities within the Navajo Nation. We are outraged also but most of us have remained silent and, to a great extent, suffered in silence because of our "shah" orientation.

However, it is almost futile to advise how we can make positive changes in situations such as Tuba City as well as our other equally devastated communities because of claims the lingering aftereffects of the Manifest Destiny-driven colonialisms and imperialisms experienced by Native Americans are continually causing societal dysfunctions among our people.

I have a couple of suggestions, which hopefully address some of the issues in Tuba City and our other communities.

First, there is the concern with children. Then there are the complicating matters of alcohol and drugs.

As far as alcohol and drugs are concerned, especially in Navajo Housing Authority housing complexes, there should be intensive administrative as well as educational focus on the problems and there should be investigations of homes suspected of selling alcohol and drugs.

Raids should follow undercover investigations and per state-of-the-art strategic joint planning by Navajo Police and the BIA law enforcement.

Admittedly, these issues are being addressed, but most ineffectively, as indicated by Ms. Yellow. Alcohol and drugs in NHA housing can be more effectively addressed, but for some reason they are allowed to prevail unchecked by authorities who have full knowledge of the perpetrators involved.

Troubled children are being treated and counseled in isolation as if they live in a vacuum. Some are simply suspended from school: an unacknowledged illegal denial of education since there is no one at home to help them professionally. While on suspensions, they simply watch TV or get involved in other problems.

Local collaboration efforts should involve behavioral health, police, court, counselors, peacemakers, Navajo medicine man association, traditional counselors, school boards, parents (and able grandparents), or guardians in absence of parents, etc.

Furthermore, parents and the home environment allegedly are off-limits to the schools by policy although the issues or core of problems manifested by children are often in their homes: self-righteous parents with problems are often enablers and thus questionable role models.

Let me also emphasize that unfortunately many of our troubled children do not have parents.

Concerning problems within our communities, such as Tuba City, all stakeholders (residents of NHA housing and/or other such residential complexes) should at least be afforded the opportunity of orientation and/or education on the Navajo culture (clans, kinship, and language) to modify or lessen the feeling of living among total strangers from the very start until they move elsewhere.

Knowing your neighbors' clans should not be a breach of confidentiality because the Navajo clan system is not a confidentiality matter. It's a means of identification and positive means of promoting good relationship among most Navajo people.

Through awareness of clans, it is possible to realize that you are living next to and among relatives although you are away from biological family members or established mentors.

Information about clans should be available without having to probe. Clans are also a means of social control in matters such as selection of a mate and need for respect for one another's rights.

Knowledge of clans can enhance respect for property rights and respect for elders and others in housing complexes and communities. Awareness of the clan system can even send a signal of what is proper or not proper to a down-and-out alcoholic or drug addict.

The Tuba City resource collaborators (stakeholders) should act to make a difference as suggested by Ms. Yellow, and collectively urge that:

  • Current Navajo Nation Council Delegate Josh Butler of Tuba City must work and succeed in getting the Council to admit that its major (or number one) problem is alcoholism and drug abuse among its people, and that thousands of its people below poverty in socio-economic status.
  • The Navajo Nation should officially admit that the thousands of its people below poverty level are scourged by alcohol and drugs which lead to criminal violence such as the recent drive-by shooting in NHA housing that resulted in the death of an innocent victim of our community. There is also rampant gang-related almost everywhere which need to be stopped.
  • The job of our Council delegates is to make the Navajo Nation goal for everyone the same as that of Alkali Lake Tribal Community, which is maintaining total sobriety.
  • The Navajo Nation should obtain consultation from people who cleaned up or are assisting with continued sobriety as in Alkali Lake.
  • The Navajo Nation and collaborators (stakeholders) should develop and implement an overall tribal plan, similar to the old "Tribal Action Plan," and abide by the plan collaboratively and more vigorously than was done when the Tribal Action Plan which was designed and implemented in the 60s and 70s. The new plan should include all ages.
  • NHA should recognize people like Ms. Yellow, get their ideas, and enlist their help in making positive changes in Tuba City and elsewhere.
  • NHA and stakeholders should provide training for all stakeholders on community organizations and methods of getting organized involvement.
  • NHA should start and continually nurture neighborhood watch and neighborhood policing by obtaining funds for such efforts with respective collaborators.
  • The Navajo Nation Council should develop and implement more effective laws regarding current problems with alcohol and drugs.
  • Collaborators (stakeholders) with NHA should set up model alcohol and drug-free housing projects that can be emulated by others in strategic locations, etc.
  • Collaborators should obtain funds, including the millions that the Navajo Nation Council claims to have in its purse. And to enlist the help of a community organization catalyst (or specialist), (much like Mr. Gerald Knowles, who was the behind the scenes person in the development of the Kayenta Township).

If all of the foregoing and more are achieved, the Navajo Nation will have begun to get on top of the problems of alcoholism and drug addiction among its people.

Kenneth Chester
Montezuma Creek, Utah

Remember Iwo Jima

Today, Feb. 23, 2012, as Americans we commemorate the raising of old glory atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in the Eastern Pacific during World War II.

The unfurling of the American flag over enemy territory signified the end of one of the most grueling and ferocious battles our American troops have ever fought in any war.

It was on Iwo Jima that every Marine fought above and beyond the call of duty and where "uncommon valor was a common virtue."

The battle for Iwo Jima was considered to be the turning point of the Pacific Theater and was a determining factor of the Japanese surrender and the end of World War II.

Many of these fighting men who served in the Iwo Jima campaign consisted of boys who became men almost overnight, were your neighbors from Gallup, Grants, Farmington, Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, the Navajo Nation, Zuni, Laguna, Acoma, Hopi, and throughout the Southwest.

And of course, the Navajo Code Talkers were there sending messages that the enemy could not decipher.

Iwo Jima is also a place of great significance to all Americans, whether we're family, relative, friend, or fellow veteran to the men we lost in this specific campaign.

It is my hope and prayer that when you were raising your flag this morning whether at home, school, post office, fire station, hospital, city hall, county complex, law enforcement building, federal building, community center, chapter house, senior center, or wherever, think of the Marines, and the stars and stripes that unfurled atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23. 1945.

H.R. Ahasteen
Chinle, Ariz.

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