Don't turn Confluence into tourist zoo

June 28, 2012

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aving made at least a dozen trips (to both rims, to Toroweap and four trips down the canyon from Lee's Ferry to Diamond Creek) to enjoy the majesty of the Grand Canyon, a sacred place for so many tribes and to so many non-Native Americans, I cannot imagine the Navajo Nation being a party to turning the confluence into a tourist zoo ("Targeting the Confluence," June 14, 2012).

The canyon cannot remain a sacred place and maintain its charm, majesty and mystery if we keep tearing away at its very soul.

Such an action would, I believe, desecrate the canyon and disgrace the Navajo Nation.

Bernard P. Friel
Mendota Heights, Minn.

Confluence project very, very bad

Dear President Shelly: Please allow this e-mail statement to serve as my expression of discontent that development at the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River is being taken into consideration ("Targeting the Confluence," June 14, 2012).

As a lifetime member of Grand Canyon River Guides, a resident in the West, and a citizen of the USA (and planet earth), I think that the proposed development of a resort, tramway, etc., at the mouth of the Little Colorado River is, for a litany of reasons, a very, very bad idea.

I'm pretty sure you're going to have a bunch of letters similar to this one to pour through, so I will be brief and not reiterate ad nauseum what you're sure to be reading over and over (and over).

The damage done to this marginal wilderness area will be beyond repair and corporations, rather than Navajo, will be the beneficiaries.

I'm just a bit puzzled that the proposal has the credibility it does, and that it is even being considered.

Geoff C. Carpenter
Bosque Farms, N.M.

Development plans are hypocritical

I moved to Flagstaff 40 years ago from New England where my family has lived for nearly 400 years, 16 generations. One thing I brought with me is a respect for the knowledge and wisdom of elders. They have no ax to grind but they have life experience.

Over the years living on your nation's border, I saw that same wisdom in many ways in the Native American culture until recently. Now I am seeing hypocrisy, say one thing but do another.

I see road signs and off-road tracks defacing your lands and now casinos and the proposed breaking of the silence of the Little Colorado confluence.

Yes, we all need to make a living and progress, but many of the ways you are exposed to are not good ways. Remember that progress is only an opinion and not a fact.

Nat White
Flagstaff, Ariz.

River is not for sale

Water is sacred to life. It would be a desecration to God if you should pollute it, like what the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement plans to do with it.

Their plan is to continue to run their big old dirty power plants with our water. With what little rainfall we receive annually out here on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, water is even more precious to us. You cannot even put a price on it - it is priceless.

The Little Colorado River water is not for sale at any price, because our very existence depends on it. Our future generations need a source of clean water as well, let's save some for them, too.

Senator John McCain is an Indian giver. He will secretly steal back the things that he so publically gave to the poor Indians.

Elmer Muzzie
Pinon, Ariz.

Navajo disability rate among highest in U.S.

Did you know that between 35 percent and 45 percent of Navajos have disabilities? If you didn't know that, then you are in good company.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Native American Disability Law Center and the San Juan Center for Independence, 59 percent of respondents did not know the rate of disabilities in the Navajo community.

It is, in fact, one of the highest in the country. It also means that an estimated 40,000 Navajos have a disability.

As a whole, the rate of Native Americans with disabilities is 22 percent, compared to an overall national rate of disability of 19 percent. Even higher is the rate of Navajo elders with a disability over 64 years old - 70 percent.

The purpose of the survey conducted by the Native American Disability Law Center and the San Juan Center for Independence was to assess the general public's awareness and understanding of the issues facing Navajos with disabilities.

Ninety-three percent of those surveyed were Navajo. Forty percent of those surveyed thought that disabilities are obvious. When the statistics of the prevalence of Navajos with disabilities are presented to the general public or to Navajo government officials, there is almost always surprise and the questions about "Where are they?" or "Who are they?"

There are many persons who have physical, mental and emotional disabilities that are not visible in nature such as diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorders, bi-polar disorder, learning disorders, etc.

These conditions are generally referred to as "hidden disabilities" for which there is a lack of awareness by the general public.

On a more positive note, the vast majority of those surveyed - 95 percent - did not think it is all right to use the words "retarded" or "crazy." These words are always hurtful and used negatively or to put someone down. It is positive that our community recognizes that they should not be used.

Additionally, most people - 89 percent - agreed that it is wrong to use a parking space designated for a person with a disability.

The positive responses to these two questions show the general public's high level of sensitivity for Navajos with disabilities. Such sensitivity may be also be the reflection of the Navajo cultural teaching of having respect for a person with a disability. Such people are "special beings" from which many life lessons can be learned.

In keeping with Navajo cultural teachings, we must consider our brothers and sisters with disabilities and include them in our government and community.

We can only achieve this if we are aware and understand them and give them a "seat at the table" to ensure that their unique needs and issues of accessibility and accommodations are integrated into the economic, political, societal and cultural decisions being made.

Hoskie Benally Jr.
Native American Disability Law Center
Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities
Farmington, N.M.

Cobell, SB 2109, etc.

The number four is usually the magic number and the limit in hashing out issues according to the Navajo way. I would like to comment on multiple issues I feel are critical and couple them together in one letter.

Cobell vs. Salazar: This is a very important matter to the Individual Indian Money account holders. The late Ellouise Cobell and current account holders were victorious in this landmark settlement with the federal government in the year of 2011.

Despite the victory disbursement of payments was halted due to an appeal by a few individuals and causing a delay at the present time. On May 13, 2012, the federal district court dismissed the appeal and allowed the appellants 90 days to petition for a rehearing to the U.S Supreme Court meaning the appellants have until Aug. 13, 2012 to do so. In the meantime what do the account holders need to do?

(Regarding a petition drive to counter the rehearing) I feel it is still necessary to do the petition and move forward with disbursement of payments. I would like to see the petition drive materialize. The account holders need to come together on this important issue and get the disbursement done. We deserve it.

S 2109: This particular issue has been causing a controversial issue by the Navajo people weighing in on the proposed bill. As a result, the cons have outweighed the pros. However, our tribal leaders are ignoring our opposition and supporting it. The bill has been beaten to death by the people and should be trashed the whole nine yards. The position of our tribal leaders shows how short-sighted they are.

On the other hand, the Navajo Nation's attorney general recently stepped up to the plate and told us we don't understand the contents of the bill and express his support. His statements are beyond reasonable limits and unacceptable. I would like to remind the attorney general that some of us older folks have a college education and know how to use a computer. All we have to do is click on the Internet and get the information we are seeking.

My advice to our tribal leaders is if you can't stand up to the federal government and defend our sovereignty, it's time for a new leadership. You have failed to uphold the laws of the Navajo Nation, which is in violation of the oath you accepted when you took office. Shape up or ship out. The Treaty of 1868 is at stake.

The new Navajo Nation Council: Do we have an accountable council or government now? is a reasonable question to ask. We realize the new council is spread thin and serving on multiple committees.

A mid term performance evaluation is due by taking a look at their operating budget and compare it to their performance. It seems like their operating budget remains at the level as the previous council. Shouldn't they have a smaller budget?

They would have been better off had the previous council taken the time to listen to the people about government reform rather than combating it. A 40- or 44-member council might have been a suitable number.

In light of the above, I appreciate the opportunity to express my views on these critical issues.

Vern Charleston
Shiprock, N.M.

Drive safely this summer

With the summer season well underway across our great New Mexico Land of Enchantment, the beautiful Navajo Nation, the pueblos and the Apache Nation lands, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage a safe and fun-filled summer for each and every family.

This time of year we travel more frequently and spend much needed quality time together while valuing our commitment to each other as a family. Though we enjoy the warm weather and family time, we need to ensure our safety by making sure that we refrain from the use of alcohol and driving.

Families are important to each of us so I encourage you, my constituents, don't run the risk of hurting another family, instead be healthy with respect for each other by refraining from alcohol usage while driving on public roads.

When preparing to travel, make sure to get plenty of rest prior to starting any long road trips. Prepare for every possible challenge you may encounter on your trip by packing safety items such as water, batteries, a radio, jumper cables, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and an extra cell phone battery.

Be sure to let other families or neighbors know where you are traveling and keep hydrated during these hot days of summer.

With careful planning and remembering family as the foundation of our everyday lives, it can be a fun-filled summer.

I want to see every family travel together safely and return home safely every day this summer. Be safe and have an enjoyable summer.

State Sen. Lynda Lovejoy
Crownpoint, N.M.

Look for a friend of mine

I would like information on locating a friend of mine. We both served in the U.S. Navy, 1987-1988. We were on the USS Mount Vernon. His name is Willard Light, a gunner's mate at the time.

Mr. Light, from the Navajo Nation, stated he is from the Four Corners area. That's all I remember of him right now.

If anyone would know of his whereabouts, I would appreciate any information. I hope he remembers me.

My name is Christopher Mendoza aka "Comrade." I can be contacted at

Christopher Mendoza
Gilbert, Ariz.

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