Water bill is a terrible deal

July 5, 2012

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am writing as a Diné resident who lives on Black Mesa, hauls water daily and cares about the future of our people and Mother Earth.

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed Little Colorado River water settlement agreement (S.2109) now before both Navajo and Hopi tribal councils.

Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, aided by their puppet Navajo President Ben Shelly and attorney Stanley Pollack, are once again peddling a terrible deal that will hurt our communities all in the name of corporate greed.

This is a repeat of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute. The settlement that Kyl is pushing basically forces both tribes to accept bad deals by holding our water supply hostage so he can give his buddies at SRP and Peabody a parting gift.

The Navajo Generating Station and Peabody would like to get all the leases and agreements they need rubber-stamped all so NGS is allowed to continue to operate with impunity.

Senators Kyl and McCain are set to force our tribes to accept this settlement that would grant NGS and Peabody everything they want in direct violation of our human rights.

In fact, the Navajo Nation's Human Rights Commission recently issued a resolution opposing S. 2109 as a direct violation of the human rights of all Diné.

The resolution says, "the United States of America and the Navajo Nation government comply with the international human rights standard of free, prior and informed consent as it relates to the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012 by ensuring that adequate and significant time is set aside to inform the Navajo people and ensure that they have a direct input in the decision to approve or disapprove the settlement act."

The Diné did not have a direct voice nor were they allowed to exercise their direct right to participate in the decision making process on Diné water resources.

I urge all Navajo Nation Council delegates to vote against S. 2109 and fire Stanley Pollack as the water rights attorney. Instead of bowing down to outsiders like Peabody and SRP, we should focus on building a green economy for the Navajo Nation to create jobs that are safer for our families' future.

There are many possibilities: eco-tourism, wool processing plants, making our own flour, growing our own food and hay, developing solar and wind energy, etc.

We should focus on bringing clean energy economic activity for our people instead of allowing big outside corporate interests to continue to violate our rights and pollute our communities.

To exercise our true sovereignty, the Navajo Nation has to develop its economic independence, but first we must consider healing our historical oppression that contributes to our social ills. Voting no on S. 2109 would be a first good step.

Marie Gladue
Black Mesa, Ariz.

Navajos, relative newcomers, have sold out

I just returned from a trip where one of our goals was to assist a Zuni elder (Grandfather Mahooty) in blessing the Sipapuni (Place of Emergence), revered by the Puebloan peoples.

Roughly 10,000 years ago, the Puebloan people transitioned from Kuskurza (Hopi term for the Third World) to Tuqaqachi (Hopi term for the Fourth, or current world), emerging from a chamber where they were kept safe by the "ant people."

This is sacred ground, as sacred to the Puebloans as the Wailing Wall is to Jews, Mecca is to Muslims, and the Church of the Nativity is to Christians. It is the holy land of the Americas.

We could not conduct a ceremony however because the area was continually crisscrossed by helicopters carrying loads of "who knows what" directly into the area, crossing over this holy place, defiling it, a profanity in action.

We were angry and puzzled. Why would helicopters be flying over this sacred ground? Who would have the temerity to desecrate such a holy place? What was going on?

It seems the answer is quite simple. Some Navajo, relative newcomers to the area, with no ancestral ties and with repeated, demonstrated disrespect for the Puebloan people, sold out.

This holy land is being desecrated because a handful of Navajo tribal leaders place status and wealth above everything else, including some of their own people.

They're building a resort, complete with a tramway, restaurant, and a glitzy hotel ("Targeting the Confluence," June 14, 2012). In defiance of indigenous Navajo, and in spite of protestations from Hopi and Zuni elders, the National Park Service and common sense, the Navajo Nation has decided to develop the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River on the east rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

First Peabody Energy destroys the ground water. Then uranium mining operations poison the few remaining springs. And now, the final insult, the destruction of their holiest of holies!

It matters not to this handful of Navajo that sacred ground will forever be profaned. It matters not to the Arizona government that the Puebloan people will lose, for all eternity, their place of worship.

And it matters not to the federal government, which has certainly turned their back on the Hopi, Zuni, National Park Service, and all who believe that America protects one's freedom of religion.

Does it matter to you?

Ronald Regehr
Moab, Utah

Something needs to be done about trash

Yá'át'ééh my Diné people and friends, my name is Mary Gray. I am of the Manygoats Clan, born for Bitterwater Clan. I was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation. I go home to visit my family once every two years or when I can afford it. I now reside in Media, Penn.

The Navajo Tribe should do something about trash that we see every day when traveling all around the Navajo Nation. It's so embarrassing to see all the trash that the Navajos throw out of their car windows and don't care about Mother Earth.

You should have Department of Transportation be responsible or have prisoners pick up trash. Something needs to be done.

Does anyone remember the 70s commercial with the crying Indian? I vividly remember that commercial and I thought to myself, wow, it's the first Indian I ever saw on television.

The commercial saddened me about Mother Earth and how the white man was polluting. Today I'm speaking about what I see and that Navajos are actually doing just as much littering as the white man.

You throw your trash out the window of your car. In my eyes you are disrespecting Mother Earth. That isn't right.

Lastly, I want to mention one more thing. Maybe we can get our juvenile delinquents to pick up trash for their community services. That would be a great idea.

Mary Gray
Media, Penn.

Raise salaries to attract outstanding candidates

The way the Dineh Nation compensates its president and vice president is in need of major reform so much it underscores the importance of providing salaries generous enough in that we will be able to encourage outstanding Navajo candidates to consider seeking the highest offices.

Everywhere I go, I hear Navajo people complaining about the lack of leadership from our current leaders. It's not rocket science to recognize we are so far behind.

Navajo voters tend to accept that things will never get better unless we elect new leaders. And how long have we been waiting for that to occur?

There once was a time when the Dineh Nation was a leader in major areas including negotiating water rights, but we have fallen far behind. It seems natural for people to believe things will always remain the same.

The president and vice president are good and caring people, but together they are the most appalling leaders I've ever seen when it comes to explaining their positions on major issues facing the Dineh Nation and their reasons for supporting such positions.

They're even weaker putting their issues in context, connecting with people on a gut level through leadership, and lacking substance what the course of action ought to be and why.

I submit if we had stronger leaders it would set the bar higher and cause the Dineh Nation Council and the entire tribal government to raise their performances to a level that they will be challenged to keep up with the president and vice president. There's a difference between real, principled leadership and careful managerial skills.

We should be appreciative for leaders like Dwight Witherspoon and Leonard Tsosie who I believe are handiest for what we need to see in order to establish a higher level of governance. Problem is they're only two people and not the president or vice president.

Presently, the president receive a base salary of $55,000, and the vice president $50,000. I do not believe we can continue to offer a very low pay for the two highest offices, and expect that we will be able to attract quality Navajo candidates who could completely transform the Navajo Nation government into a well-run system. We have to have some sort of balance in that equation.

It is understandable we walk a fine line between providing a salary that can attract talented public servants and acknowledging public cynicism about leaders' pay. To achieve that balance, delegates over the years have added financial benefits beyond their salaries - items like per-diem payments and committee allowances.

Such a convoluted system is not ideal particularly when it is not working to our best interest. It's not easy to raise pay, but not doing so encourages delegates to do things where they treat themselves differently and it looks bad. It'd be a lot better if we just did a straight salary adjustment starting with the president and vice president's compensation packages.

The truest test of whether the president and vice president's pay is reasonable would be to do a comparison to other tribes. I would suggest we rank below many of our neighboring tribes regardless of size and scope involved.

I personally would like to see us begin a petition to bring this type of advancement as part of our government reform initiatives and thus initiate a process for electing highly qualified leaders to the highest offices.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

Create an Imax theater instead of a resort

While I would like to see the Navajo Nation enhanced financially, I think the concept for developing the east rim (of the Grand Canyon) might be inconsistent with tribal values and would degrade the part of the canyon in question ("Targeting the Confluence," June 14, 2012).

In addition, I believe that sometimes this sort of development results in certain individuals receiving favors from developers while long-term benefit to tribal members turns out to be far less significant.

Why not consider creating a virtual experience that would not ruin the nature of the confluence forever - an Imax theater, easily accessible, with related businesses, for instance?

It would cost far less than building the infrastructure necessary to bring tourists into the canyon.

Technical advances have reduced the cost of creating the Imax experience by millions of dollars from the time when the theater on the canyon's south rim was installed. Since then, the theater has offered 12 shows per day, 365 days a year, for up to 488 people at each half-hour showing. It's simple and profitable.

Tourism exerts a powerful influence. It can present nature through the eyes of the culture. Will the nation showcase that part of the canyon as a gift to be treasured or one to be re-purposed as a theme park?

Anne O'Brien
Phoenix, Ariz.

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