Disappointed in prez's conduct

Ambrose Teasyatwho Sr.
La Plata, N.M.

April 19, 2012

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I am disappointed at our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly for telling our Navajo people to "hush up!" and then walking away from a crowd of protestors resisting the water settlement in Tuba City last week.

If our president is going to handle this type of situation in this way, then he should have shouted "hush up!" to McCain and his entourage for wanting our most precious - resource water.

Our water rights, equally our human rights, are non-negotiable, Mr. Shelly.

I would challenge you, Mr. Shelly, to do some research on our water rights...

Also, if you really want to know who John McCain is, you should ask former Navajo Nation President Kelsey A. Begaye and Andrew Kelly Jr., two Vietnam veterans who proudly served our nation and our country.

Next, don't rely on the tribal lawyers, be your own lawyer and figure it out on your own. If you have love for yourself, love for your family, love for your people, love for the land then you will do what is right by stopping this Senate Bill 2109.

Water sustains our quality of life and it also helps nurture our whole being because we can't survive without it.

In conclusion, Mr. Shelly, be a real leader, protect your people!

A true leader should be respectful

After listening to the Vice President Rex Jim's state of the nation address to the spring session of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council on KTNN's live remote broadcast and the subsequent questioning by Council members, I had to write this letter.

Mind you, I'm usually one of those people that reserve personal opinion but lately that's been a difficult item.

The president while taking questions from the Navajo Nation Council members, became angry in tone while talking to issues related to his report. Literally, I felt a true leader should be respectful and show restraint especially while in the realm of public and serving at the helm of this great nation.

I wanted to hear a clear, coherent, intellectual response, instead I heard a beaten man berating and outright accusing the Navajo Nation Council members for his missteps in the handling a very important issue on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012.

In his words to the Council, "You threw me under the bus" and goes into "I am your leader and as your president, etc."

The questions regarding the recent water rights commission town hall meetings really took the president for a spin, especially when one Council member asked a simple question why the future hearings are being limited to only a few people. He flew into an accusation that a few people are creating disinformation and discourse at these meetings.

The entire public episode finally ended when honorable Alton Shepherd from Ganado stops him on a point of order. Now, it appears most of the scheduled meetings will be limited to a few speakers. So my question is what happened to the purported U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People standards that were to be utilized?

What happened to the Navajo people's fundamental laws? Where is fairness, transparency and the right to speak under the First Amendment? A warning to my people while President Shelly is rampantly on a path to self-demise.

Remember that outside interests are happily awaiting Navajo people step into a "trap" by endorsing the SB 2109 and companion bill in the House of Representatives. During the legal responses, by our Attorney General Harrison, omitted a provision on the 1952 congressional approved McCarran Act.

Although the states have all in-stream Indian water adjudication proceeding the appurtenant state courts are required to apply federally Indian laws which recognized inherent 1908 Winters Doctrine rights, the Council delegates are led to think that it is better to settle water rights claims then proceed through Arizona judicial system on the LCR adjudication.

When your own attorney general fails to provide full information imagine why past Councils approved some seriously flawed resolutions giving away water rights that upended our sovereignty.

At best, these types of shortsighted public misinformation and policy and behavior are unacceptable at any level of governance especially when you are placed at the helm to lead and interpret laws for Navajo people into the next decade. The Navajo people deserve better and not misguided leaders that place blame on others due to their own misgivings and misdeeds while serving our Navajo people.

By the way, did you know SB 2109 has a provision under Sec. 105, Waivers, Releases, and Retentions of Claims (a), (1), (A) halfway down in general paragraph it cites the following: as part of the performance of the respective obligations of the Navajo Nation and the United States under the settlement agreement, are authorized to execute a waiver and release of any claims against the state (or any agency or political subdivision of the State), the Hopi Tribe, or any other person, entity, corporation or municipal corporation under Federal, State, or other law for all- (i) past, present and future claims for water rights claim for Navajo Land and of the Navajo Nation outside of the State, whether held in fee or held in trust by the United States on behalf of the Navajo Nation, arising from time immemorial and, thereafter, forever.

This is not misinformation, folks. Simply put, "waiver" means to give up. Release our inherit rights? No deal! Put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig.

There are several provisions in the bill for retention, however, once the Council approves in whole or recommends agreed upon settlement or amends, the above citation will remain as federal law, which will prevail and govern Navajo people's water into the future.

The current so-called hearings are structured by our own Navajo attorneys to blindfold you into believing this a good deal for our people. Therefore, k'waasini, I am asking our elected Navajo Nation Council to disapprove the settlement agreement in whole.

Now, for the disclaimer, I am not highly educated in water law or beyond righteous nor morally correct by any means. But one thing I stand for is protecting the best interest of our Navajo people yesterday, today and forever. So in all due respect, Mr. President and Navajo leaders, kill the bill.

Byron Huskon
Window Rock, Ariz.

The Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission supports S.B. 2109, the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement Act of 2012, recently introduced in Congress. If passed by Congress, the legislation would approve the settlement agreement negotiated by the water rights teams for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.

The settlement would put an end to litigation that began in 1979. The decision whether to support the settlement comes down to a choice between litigation and settlement.

The settlement includes many benefits that cannot be secured through litigation.

The major benefits of the settlement:

  • Address the need for dependable drinking water supplies in southern Navajo Reservation communities in Arizona through construction of groundwater delivery projects;
  • Preserve the waters of the Little Colorado River for future Navajo development;
  • Protect the Coconino Aquifer that underlies the Navajo Reservation for Navajo use;
  • Provide that the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe will jointly manage the Navajo Aquifer and washes - resources in which the tribes have a shared interest.

The settlement would also lay the groundwork for a future Colorado River settlement by reserving part of the Colorado River water set aside for the settlement of Indian water rights claims in Arizona for a Navajo Colorado River settlement, and by authorizing funds to complete a feasibility study for the Western Navajo Pipeline Project that would deliver Colorado River water to Navajo communities in the Western Agency.

Finally, S.B. 2109 includes an option to secure water for Navajo communities in eastern Arizona to be delivered through the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. For this option to occur, the Navajo Generating Station must continue in operation until 2044. This will require, among other things, that the Navajo Nation approve the plant site lease and other necessary operating agreements.

A settlement means that the water rights of the Navajo Nation to the Little Colorado River are permanently established. Critics have charged that the Navajo Nation should not waive its claims for water rights. If the claims are resolved through settlement, waivers are executed to ensure that the settlement is permanent and no further claims for water from the LCR can be made by the tribes in the future.

If the claims are resolved through litigation, the court will enter a permanent binding decree, which will prohibit additional claims for water in the future. Under either scenario, once the water rights of the nation have been determined, all additional claims to the LCR are waived.

The Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission has determined that the water rights to be obtained under the settlement may be greater than the water rights that could be obtained in litigation.

Moreover, litigation of the nation's LCR claims will not result in the construction of drinking water projects, a reservation of Colorado River water, or the ability to deliver water to Arizona through the Navajo-Gallup Project.

The Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River settlement agreement must be approved by the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe before the Congress will take further action on S.B. 2109.

The question that the Navajo Nation government must ultimately decide is whether the Navajo Nation is better off with the proposed settlement or without it? The water rights commission believes the nation is much better off with the settlement.

To eii baahastí doo bidin hoyee. To eii bee iina.

Benjamen Cowboy
Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission
Window Rock, Ariz.

Sellout tribal officials should be impeached

First let me say I love my tribe. We're not perfect, we have a lot of problems - what tribe doesn't?

We have greedy politicians hungry for money willing to sell the soul of our tribe for money and that is wrong.

To McCain and Kyl and Pollack and the U.S.: enough already, enough! You have tried to exterminate us off the face of our Mother Earth, and now you want to steal our very soul of our tribe, our water.

As a registered tribal voter (408068) I say all tribal officials trying to sellout be impeached and we fire Pollack for treason, too.

And we keep our water rights forever and if any state or company wants to do business with our water we can lease it to them but we as a tribe have full control and can shut them off at anytime.

We start negotiations at one dollar a cup for leasing. Our leaders have no right to give away what belongs to the tribe as a whole. No leader has that right. You are elected officials and you are supposed to be fighting for every inch and every drop of Diné water and land for our tribe's future.

Think 100 years down, 500 years from now. Don't think in the present.

If I was your president I would tell McCain and Kyl where to go and I would have Pollack escorted off the rez for life for treason.

It enrages me and it embarrasses me to see our leaders as nothing more than mere cowards who won't fight for their people. Instead you are stabbing your people in the back by hiring an outside firm to have (the bill) pushed through faster.

Grassroots people like me can smell your misinformation a mile away. Please, I ask you leaders to really think about this. Think 500 years from now. Do you want our people begging for water, buying water? That's stupid. The water rights belong to us and we shouldn't pay for what is ours and we should never give it away.

Richard Anderson Jr.
Grants, N.M.

Listen to the people, Mr. President

Hush up and listen to the people, Mr. President. I don't understand why you are trying to keep a very important issue behind the scenes. Why not have the meeting at a chapter house or the community center?

For you to be shouting at your own people behind what appears to be some well-balanced law enforcement officers is outright poor leadership. If you're not able to tolerate pressure, I would urge you to step down from the presidency or you will face a recall.

The SB 2109 sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain is fishy and raises some paramount concerns. It's just another trick being pulled by the federal government and you should know how they treated us some 150 years ago. Don't be fooled by it and be regretful in the long range.

We know Sen. Kyl is retiring very shortly and let's not be fooled by his last-ditch effort by his proposed SB 2109. He is anxious and has a strong desire to reclaim the general counsel for the Salt River Project and that is his only intention for introducing SB 2109. He wants the city of Phoenix to receive the full benefits and keep us at a status quo. What about us?

The attorney that worked on the water rights settlement who tells the Navajo Nation officials SB 2109 is a good deal is plain wrong. The development of the legislation is premature and I urge the Navajo Nation Council and the president to demand more time until we have a full understanding of it before taking a position.

At this time I say, "No way John Wayne. You had your ways all these years. This is not Burger King you're messing with and you can't have it your way this time around. Give us more time to examine your SB 2109 fully before we take a position." We need our fair share in this deal.

Vern Charleston
Shiprock, N.M.

Lawyers the winners in water settlement

The Little Colorado River water rights adjudication was originally intended to settle claims to the river waters.

Both Hopi and Navajo filed a claim for a substantial amount of water. Today, 27 years later, the Hopi claim is reduced to zero.

My question to Stanley Pollack and to Navajo-Hopi water settlement negotiators is, what percent of zero is Hopi getting?

What started out as the Winters Doctrine aboriginal water rights adjudication has turned 180 degrees into a municipal water pipeline project with a heavy price tag, including millions of dollars spent on lawyers.

The lawyers have succeeded at making the settlement confusing and complicated by tying it to the 2004 Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Boulder Canyon Project, and now, Navajo Generating Station.

Even if the settlement is enacted into law, there will be plenty of fodder to lawyers to feast on.

Vernon Masayesva
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

SB 2109 'devastating' to tribes

It would be a devastating blow to the Navajo and Hopi tribes if they do sign SB 2109; it will harm the two tribes' sovereignty rights.

The benefit of SB 2109 is just another promise written on a document and how many promises were given to the two tribes in the past? One too many promises - there is no guarantee that a pipeline will ever be built to supply water to communities on both Navajo and Hopi lands.

Relinquishing our indigenous or aboriginal water rights for other non-Indian communities in California, Nevada, and Arizona, not to mention mining companies to the west, also is purely wrong.

The Navajo and Hopi tribe need to reevaluate SB 2109 and think of the consequences that both tribes might endure in the future, consequences that will impact our culture and land.

Water settlement issues are complicated and very complex. Both tribes do need to be well informed of the details pertaining to SB 2109.

If both tribes waive their rights to legal protection to surface and ground water supply in the past, now and in the future, they are also giving up their federal protection. They will expose themselves to state and county laws at the same time they are signing the agreement. Save our sovereignty.

Rick Shirley
Holbrook, Ariz.

How about a nice flea market for Chinle?

Will Chinle ever have a nice flea market like the one in Window Rock?

In 1868, the U.S. government told all Diné people to live on a reservation near the four corners. I don't think they said, "Be tight with your land so no one will build on it to start big businesses to bring lots of opportunities that will be knocking on your door."

Land issues is a major problem and Chinle can't grow further out because of greedy people not breaking out with land we're suppose to all share.

A lot of you know Chinle flea market has been getting booted out and moving here and there and does not have a permanent home. There is plenty of land west of the new stoplights recently installed on Highway 191 looking up at Chinle IHS.

Chinle Chapter officials need to withdraw all that land and forget about asking Window Rock and go head-on with local empowerment and start our very own big businesses that will bring jobs and good economic development for Diné people.

A lot of people come from around the world to see our backyard - Canyon De Chelly - I definitely would like them to see a good flea market and that goes for all people coming to Chinle from all directions.

We certainly need a full-fledged flea market. Complete with paving it, markings with numbers, restrooms, food court built and rent it out, paved parking spaces, security, entertainment space for Diné talent, a fee for sellers and vendors at $15 a day or more.

That money can cover water, electricity, trash and maintaining it with a very honest person who will oversee every second of what's happening.

It would have been nice if the last Diné president made a Walmart and indoor rodeo dome, so we could have seen our very own Ty Murray Invitational. It could have been used for other events like boxing, mud bog, concerts, basketball, UFC, WWF, etc.

But no, he just played us, man!

Why does he want to seek the District 1 seat for Apache County Board of Supervisors? I think he should stay out of the public eye and continue his silversmith work because he will never look into what I'm writing about - your history.

One hundred ten chapters continue to collect stipends for attending chapter and planning meetings and chapter officials continue to gain nothing from it and hear the needs of all Diné people. No wonder there's fewer people in the chapter houses.

Chinle Chapter officials, please make a flea market. If you can't hack it - get your jacket and bail.

Right now the flea market in Chinle is in a terrible place. LDS is on the left, north of that is mutual help housing, next to it is ADABI Shelter battered women and children, to the right of that is NHA housing, south of that is Ferrell gas, Chinle Junior High School crossing on Highway 191, and another church next to it.

Yes, it looks dangerous to have a flea market in the middle of these zones, what does this mean? More crime on the rise, scary!

There are no parking spaces, people are parking anywhere and police are giving tickets to those who are parked where it's completely prohibited.

The people at Chinle flea market are littering like it's the newly owned makeover trash dump. If you're a Chinle judge reading this, can you please order community service workers to pick up all the trash anywhere and everywhere in Chinle everyday so they can work off their hours?

The current elected leaders have no eyes and aren't willing to help, except they're always anxious to receive their next paycheck. Window Rock, can you steal some money for a good flea market for Chinle? Who cares whose land it is. Tear down that barbed wire fence and make it happen.

To all people that live in Chinle, if trash is not yours, pick it up anyway. That way we all won't live in a trashy little town and I'll do the same.

Chinle leaders, its time to retreat, regroup and regain your peace of mind. Do you all believe in yourselves to make Chinle grow or will you all continue to play footsie and throw lip service from behind your closed doors?

Joe Indian Yazzie Jr.
Chinle, Ariz.

A moment with Sgt. King

This true story may be important to the elders and children of your nation.

In January 1964 I was a member of the U.S. Army honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery and assigned to the caisson section, the horse-drawn unit, 19 in total (last of the U.S. Cavalry) that conducted officers' funerals at Fort Myer, Va.

Our assignments came on a daily list that we referred to as a "job sheet." I saw the name "Sgt. Jeff King" on our job sheet and asked our platoon leader why a sergeant was receiving the caisson honor as it was, then, reserved for officers with the rank of major or above.

He told me that Sgt. King was the last official U.S. Army cavalry scout and then it made sense.

I had already participated in the funeral of President Kennedy and would go on to ride for General Douglas Mac Arthur and former President Herbert Hoover.

For Sgt. King's funeral, as a junior rider, my duty was "swing rider" between the lead and wheel horses. My mount that day was a white horse named Powder Face.

As we left the Fort Myer chapel, with Sgt. King on our caisson, I realized I was doing something that would always be very special in my mind, a piece of American history who was probably very like the rest of the soldiers that day - trying to serve their country as best they could.

That connection with Sgt. King was the only time in hundreds of Arlington burials that my eyes welled with tears. I still don't cry and that was 48 years ago.

A year or so would pass and a man named Stuart Brown Jr. would write a book called "The Horses of Arlington." My name appears in it as well as a photograph of Sgt. King, taken at Arlington, atop a horse identified as Powder Face.

The ages don't appear on the job sheets so I had no idea of the lineage of this medicine man. I only recently read how he helped prepare the Navajo soldiers for wars, including the code talkers.

I don't know how to explain this to the Navajo children but I believe that Hashkeh-zilth-e-yah shared a horse and a piece of his spirit with me.

By the way, Sgt. King for a time lived in Crownpoint. My office is in Crown Point, Ind.

I don't remember all of my American history but I do remember that there was something almost mystical about the Navajos and Hopis. If you could have rode with me through Arlington National Cemetery that day, you would never doubt that.

Good night, Sgt. King, thank you for your service, thank you for the gift, and God bless the Navajo Nation for their contribution to our freedom.

Paul "P.J." Adams
Crown Point, Ind.

Thanks, retirement office

I am writing this letter to publicly thank the staff of the Navajo Tribal Retirement Office of Window Rock. The program put on by the staff was outstanding. This office needs to be recognized for its effectiveness. efficiency and excellence for what they do for the Navajo Nation people. I was very pleased.

We were all greeted with a friendly personal attitude like we really mattered. Many of us elders came from quite a ways and some of us were tired and they understood that and moved things along with a professional attitude. All the people attending appreciated that. They didn't have to do this but they did.

Furthermore the food was well prepared and delicious. The cooks and wait staff made sure we were well waited on. Coffee, juice, pastries and an equally amount of fresh fruit were in abundance. We were well fed and encouraged to eat all we wanted.

I watched as everyone was individually recognized, hugged as they received their well-earned retirement plaque. As the Navajo Nation thanked each one of us with a gift the dinner and the program said it all. Everything was done in perfectly good taste. I would honestly say the monies spent for this occasion was well spent.

Again thank you and may God bless you all.

Cecelia Tsosie
Farmington, N.M.
(Hometown: Teecnospos, Ariz.)

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