Wonderful cuisine if you can just find casino

July 19, 2012

Text size: A A A


ary and I had the finest 4th of July dinner at Cedar Bow Restaurant across from Farmington in the Northern Edge Navajo Casino. I knew that someone other than a Navajo would do justice to the typical Navajo cuisine.

Executive Chef Michael Ablea designed what he called "Sheepherder Special". I call it the "Michelangelo Wonder". It is the tastiest plate of crafted Navajo inspiration. The smoothest grilled lamb ribs served with fire roasted green Chile, red onions and small red potatoes, corn on the cob, cherry red tomatoes bursting with flavor, Navajo tortilla and achee with hot Navajo-style coffee. This manmade wonder has got to be the best food in the west, even the whole continent.

Chef Michael says it's a Wednesday special but if served daily it would be the star attraction for the Northern Edge Casino, it's that good.

Speaking of Northern Edge Casino, I am totally awe-struck with the architecture and the Navajo design. Pull into the entrance and you're offered free valet parking service and doors are opened with smiles and "Yá'át'ééh" in Navajo. Walk in the lobby entrance and look up, it's a fantastic painting of the stars, and inside I was impressed with Thelma LeValdo, security personnel. She was friendly and helpful to the customers.

In spite of all the glitter and glamour of the casino I noticed an elderly Navajo lady sitting at a table in the service area, it was plain to see she was tired and bored. Whoever brought her must have abandoned her. I finally asked one of the security guards to see if she needed assistance. That is elderly abuse. The security personnel need additional training to recognize and alleviate that type of elderly abuse.

Also, finding the Northern Edge Casino is a challenge, there aren't any signs posted on major roads. I thought it was out among the cornfields.

Loren Crank Sr.
Montezuma Creek, Utah

Thanks to council for their vote

An open letter to members of the Navajo Nation Council:

I want to express my great appreciation and thanks for your steadfast leadership, vision, and respect for our Fundamental Law, on July 5, when you voted to reject the proposed Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement, and to reject the proposed federal legislations (SB 2109 and HR 4067) that tried to ratify the Agreement.

There were many things wrong with that Settlement Agreement and the way it was developed in secret and without the full, free and informed consent of the Navajo people:

  • Giving away hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Navajo water and Navajo right-of-ways for free to the Navajo Generating Station since 1968;
  • Not fully quantifying our rights to past, present, and future uses of LCR water, as required under the Winter's Doctrine of Indian Reserved Water Rights. One delegate said about the Settlement Agreement, "it is reverse Winters Rights" - it did not reserve our LCR surface water rights to us, but actually reserved those rights for non-Indian users, saying that we could only "use" the surface waters that "reach" us;
  • Not stating clearly that Navajo and Hopi have a property right now and forever to all 340,000 acre feet average per year surface waters flows of the Little Colorado River into the main-stem Colorado River - including Blue Springs;
  • Giving away Navajo priority rights to those surface waters;
  • Letting upstream users pump all they want from the surface waters' sub flow without limits or legal recourse;
  • Prohibiting Navajo and Hopi from marketing unused portions of the LCR to downstream users to finance our critically needed water and other community projects.
For these and other important reasons, the Navajo people voted very clearly against the LCR Agreement, in Northern, Chinle and Western Agency Council resolutions; and in resolutions of the Tuba City, Cameron, Leupp, Dilkon, Pinon, Houck, Coppermine, Navajo Mountain, and many other chapters. Members of the Navajo Nation Council, thank you for listening to the voice of the people with respect and true leadership.

What is certain now, is that the task must be completed. The LCR Settlement Agreement negotiations must be re-opened with all the parties including the Navajo and Hopi communities and villages represented at the table.

I do not believe that Stanley Pollack and those who developed the LCR Settlement Agreement in secret can be trusted anymore to lead or guide a new transparent negotiation process.

I am deeply concerned that even now while we breathe our deep relief and thankfulness that you soundly rejected the old Agreement, Stanley and his associates are continuing as they have for years to work secretly against the stated will and interest and concerns of the Navajo people - and without the knowledge and permission of the Navajo Nation Council.

Please continue what you have started:

  • Immediately remove Stanley Pollack's authority to speak or negotiate on behalf of the Navajo Nation, or to control and manage any aspect of water rights discussions or negotiations, he has lost the right to that trust;
  • Immediately secure competent independent legal counsel - as requested again last week by the Chinle Agency Council, and before that by many others - to ensure that an appropriate continuance is in place in the LCR Court - and to review all aspects of the old LCR Settlement Agreement and of the Utah Agreement Stanley is working on in secret - and of the San Juan Settlement that slipped through without the people's full, free, and prior informed consent - to help the Council and the people understand fully every aspect of what is acceptable (what to keep), what is not acceptable (what to get rid of), what is missing (what should be in the new Agreement) - and to advise the new negotiations processes (LCR, Utah, Colorado main-stem; re-opened San Juan);
  • Ensure that community voices are included in any future water commissions and negotiating teams and technical teams - and ensure that these entities and the DOJ are henceforth fully and transparently accountable to the Navajo Nation Council and to the Navajo people;
  • Ensure that positive creative thinking is included in the new Agreement - Navajo water banking and aquifer recharge on Navajo soil, starting with the N-aquifer; full market compensation for all Navajo waters used by others (NGS, Peabody, Phoenix, San Diego, and the others); retention and storage of all wash and LCR surface flows in full transparent collaboration with our Hopi neighbors; and many other provisions that will emerge as the creative energy of the people are brought to the table and respected;
  • End the secrecy which has only served Stanley and non-Navajo water users: authorize our excellent hard-working Navajo program staff to help every Navajo chapter and community have full access to the mountains of water project information and technical data that has been piling up in Water Resources and DOJ offices for decades - that is Navajo information paid for with Navajo money - it must be protected from Pollack and taken out of his control - and now for the first time ever it must be available to the people as we all work together openly to develop a new LCR Settlement Agreement that will support a prosperous green future.

Byron Huskon
Window Rock, Ariz.

Native American water rights a priority

Former Hopi Chairman Ivan Sidney provided information with a straight talk to the Hopi people making it clear that Winters Doctrine (1908) provides water for the needs of Native Americans who reside on federally reserved lands. (Gallup Independent, "An open letter to the Hopi people," July 3, 2012).

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly also made a statement or message to the Navajo people however, his information focused only on the necessity to approve the proposed Senate Bill S.B.2109, although, the bill lacked "quantity and quality," for the future of all his people. A few chosen sites were listed with needs. (Navajo Times, "Court would not Protect our Interests as does the Little Colorado Proposal," June 21, 2012).

But, as Natives with water rights, we should all agree with Mr. Sidney that the water rights go hand and hand with the whole Navajo and Hopi Reservation. Water rights to Native Americans are not lost through non-use of the water, either surface or groundwater. And we need to remember that Native Americans with water rights will always have priority, because we were here first. The right is based on the legal foundation of tribal sovereignty and this is written in the doctrine.

It is quite obvious that the proposed settlement focuses on Central Arizona Project designation for non-Indian reservation lakes and dams and if it passes, the people with water rights will continue to gain only a trickle of water. Also, the people might be paying for what was once theirs in the pass.

And at the moment bulk water filling stations on the Navajo Reservation are in desperate need of a development, of a permanent reliable water distribution system for the nation. Because, half of the people haul water for use and it is just the way of life in Arizona's rural water-hauling country.

It is unfortunate that we lack true leadership with wisdom within the Navajo Nation government that is deserving of our trust. Our Navajo leaders today, in the land of the code talkers, talk about how water is sacred, and at the same time their intention is to waste water with Kyle and McCain.

It is better that Navajo and Hopi leaders put a lid on Arizona Senator Kyle and McCain's proposed Senate Bill S.B.2109 and its cousin sponsor by Ben Quayle H.R. 4067. Why, because the bills lack "water quantity and quality" for all the Navajo and Hopi people. The settlement would not satisfy the needs for today and the future generation with ideas for tribal conservative businesses such as tribal drinking water, fish hatchery, trout farm program, or another Navajo agriculture project for the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation. The youth of tomorrow have to learn to get creative with water resource planning. Therefore, let us make our leaders protect our water rights for what would be beneficial for the people.

Leaders with wisdom would fight to protect the people's water rights for beneficial use by all. A trusted leader with wisdom would be the likes of the late Navajo Chief Manuelito, Barboncito, and Gandhi of India who hated politics. Finally, Ivan Sidney, former Hopi chairman can be added to the list of leaders with integrity.

Erma Yellowman-McCabe
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Appreciation for trip to Oklahoma

Two weeks ago I traveled to Oklahoma City, Okla., to participate in the Jim Thorpe Native Basketball Tournament. Our team, Chizzy Knees, played in the 14-and-under category. We won our first four games and lost the fifth game, which put us out of the tournament. Although we did not win the tournament I had a great time and it was an experience for me plus I had never been to Oklahoma City. I love the game of basketball and I am thankful that I was able to play in this tournament.

I would like to thank Duane Aspaas, Max Bighorse, Matt Tafoya and family, Zane James, Andrea Thomas, Kevin Mitchell, Leo and Elvira Mitchell, and Wheatfields Chapter House for sponsoring me. I am thankful for my parents, Jennifer and Pierce Mitchell Sr., for driving me there and for always supporting me.

I would also like to thank my teammates and my coach, Thurman James. Finally I thank my grandparents, Nelson and Sarah James, and other family members for traveling all the way there to cheer us on. With their support I was able to compete and represent the Navajo Nation.

Kalian Payson Mitchell
6th grade
Tohatchi, N.M.

Time to throw away the knee pads

Now that Senator Kyl has failed to use the Little Colorado River Settlement to save Navajo Generating Station, Central Arizona Project, and Kayenta Mine, I suspect he will now use the 2004 Arizona Water Settlement Act to get Congressional appropriation to build a pipeline from the San Juan River to Gallup and onto Window Rock.

Navajo Nation is a party to the 2004 Act. Under the 2004 Act, Navajo is entitled to around 6500 AFY of water from CAP. This water can be drawn from the San Juan River.

In return for the project, Senator Kyl will demand an extension of the NGS site lease to at least 2026. This is when the Kayenta Mine lease expires.

The senator will also demand that Navajo waive its claim to 34,100 AFY of water stored in Lake Powell. Under this scenario, the Hopi Tribe will be left out of the picture, but it does not matter to the senator as long as the NGS keeps operating after 2019, when the lease expires.

The problem with this scenario is the growing opposition to Peabody strip-mining. Peabody is facing serious problems that could shut the mine prematurely. This is making Peabody, Salt River Project, and Central Arizona Water Conservation District, extremely nervous. I will not be surprised if they offer Hopi and Navajo equity position in their operations.

If all efforts fail to save NGS, the U.S. Congress can use its power of eminent domain to keep NGS and coalmining alive, regardless of what Hopi and Navajo say. NGS is a critical part of Arizona's energy security; power from NGS is essential to operate CAP, therefore, NGS has to be saved.

In preparation for a worst-case scenario, Black Mesa Trust has prepared a Concept Paper to save NGS. It calls upon the DOI Secretary Ken Salazar to convene a blue ribbon task team to begin a process to transition NGS away from coal, and instead, use a mix of solar energy, hydro-electricity, and natural gas.

To access a copy of BMT's Concept Paper, visit our website at www.blackmesatrust.org or request a copy to e-mail address kuuyi@aol.co.

Congratulations to the Navajo Nation for a great victory, our Independence Day. Thanks to the Navajo legislatures for their courage and wisdom. Your decision reminds me of a story told to me by Peter McDonald. He said in the old days, the Navajo legislators attended Council meetings wearing bow-guards and carrying a spear, like warriors. Today, he jokes, the Council delegates carry backpacks. In it are kneepads, which they put on to kneel before big energy executives. Tell your legislatures to throw away the pads, put on bow-guards and pick-up the spears.

The days when corporate executives struck secret deals with Navajo and political leaders is over. Now they have to contend with grassroots people, villages, and chapters, and they do not know how to do it.

Vernon Masayesva
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Chapter should shape its own destiny

This is a comment about the campaign to sell a proposed luxury resort/gondola tram in Western Navajo by the Scottsdale-based Confluence Partners LLC, also known as Fulcrum Group.

Fulcrum Group LLC started an assault of full-page color ads in the Navajo-Hopi Observer whose appearance can only be described as follows: a glossy brochure full of ideas, charismatic community presentations and 'dinner' for its audience. This is all to make money off a business off an idea proposed called the Grand Canyon Escalade.

The Partners are middlemen who will sell their plans to investors for an amount of money that as yet has remain undisclosed. The Partners themselves don't have the money but off-the-Navajo Nation investors (like Donald Trump) will pay for the construction of the resort and tram.

However, eventually, the Navajo Nation will be saddled with debt owed to investors over a glamorized tourist trap. Does this not sound familiar of another Arizona tribe struggling with an investor over money and who is responsible for unfinished roads and a water line?

I don't trust the Partners because not so long ago three men - Scottsdale Political Consultant R. Lamar Whitmer, Arizona Rep. Albert Hale, and former Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael C. Nelson - came to the People of the Confluence as Fulcrum Group, LLC. Ivan K. Gamble, LeChee resident, also is a partner.

Many in our group were sold on Whitmer's tram proposal at first because of his glowing promises to rebuild the Bodaway community; paved roads, homes, water and rehabilitating old sheep camps danced in their minds.

Hale and Whitmer told us that the local people mattered and would have the ultimate say over whether a feasibility study or development at the Confluence would begin. They shared a diagram of a map that showed the local people at the top.

As time moved forward, none of the local people signed a piece of paper that would have allowed for a feasibility study despite the Partner's pressure. The land users changed their minds about the development in September 2011 because the group performed due diligence and thus communication ceased between the group and the Partners.

The land users then started to talk about drawing up their own environmentally-sensitive plans. Thereafter, the Confluence Partners lobbied President Shelly's office and hammered out a memorandum of understanding, which they begrudgingly unveiled in March 2012. The new plan showed an expanded tourist site, which included the river walk at the bottom of the canyon and room to add more land in the future.

The Partners, in addition, had changed their name in November 2011 and filed the name change in the Gila Bend Sun newspaper, far away from the Navajo Nation.

I urge people who have already listened to the Partners or plan to attend the dinners to be aware of these slick salesmen.

Last month, the leaders of a Western Navajo jewelry organization were invited to a behind-closed doors dinner at Little America in Flagstaff. People heard from Deswood Tome, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's liaison, and Whitmer.

Whitmer touted the 2,000 jobs that will become readily available upon the project's completion with a $70 million payroll per year. In addition, the partners claim the development is expected to generate $28.5 billion over 75 years.

Fulcrum Group LLC promised money to cover training for jobs that could become available at the resort.

Those in attendance were told how the Bodaway/Gap Chapter could rebuild their community from the revenue, and by the end of dinner, several guests walked out in a trance contemplating the plan; they saw their kids and grandchildren blissfully working and gushed so enthusiastically about the powerful presentation that they had difficulty snapping back to reality. When they arrived home, they realized this is merely a sparkling idea filled with ingenuity slapped with a price tag.

Of the $28.5 billion, $5 billion would be shared with the Navajo Nation and local chapters, and of the $5 billion they promise to the local chapter and Navajo Nation, this would be absorbed by other expenses which include the salary and benefits of police officers that they claim will guard sacred spots and other workers to operate the resort. Nothing is mentioned about how much this operation would cost per year.

The plans don't show how solid waste will be contained at the bottom of the canyon where cafes and restaurants will be located; leaving me to guess waste will enter the Colorado water, which will then float to Los Angeles.

In addition, there is no firm plan about where water will come from to accommodate visiting tourists. We have heard that water would be piped in from Coppermine Chapter or Tuba City, begging the question, why would two separate communities located in a desert agree to lose precious water to benefit tourists and non-tribal members alike (Whitmer and five other partners are non-Indian and non-Navajo, not to mention the multitudes of visitors intrigued by real Native land.

In addition, the plan is touted by Fulcrum Group LLC as an idea engineered by Hale, a 'truth' I highly doubt because according to the famous memorandum of understanding, Whitmer is in charge of the Confluence Partners and would thus be the sole producer of ideas. This is confirmed by documents filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

My belief is this: Hale is the charismatic Navajo fronting for the project. This is the same state lawmaker who endorsed the Navajo-Hopi 2012 water settlement although his own people opposed it, the same former Navajo President who stepped down in 1998 to avoid prosecution over the misuse of tribal funds and rebranded himself as a state lawmaker involved in the Escalade.

My opinion is that Hale has knowledge of Navajo law and access to President Shelly. As such, he has interpreted the people's participation in the project to fit what his partners' want, which is to place the Escalade on a fast track.

However, what Hale seems to ignore is the fact that the Escalade is causing disharmony among the Bodaway land users; campaigning by browbeating people in the Navajo language and importing a medicine man from elsewhere to tell the locals their classic Navajo faith is dying to convince them to buy into the project is unacceptable.

This is a reflection of how the Partners operate and I'm disappointed in Hale's leadership.

My definition of a Navajo leader is to stand for the people, unite the people and be a voice for them instead of watching them fight against a development, which does not have 100 percent approval from land users. When Hale was Navajo Nation president, he prized local control; why is he now determined to out-muscle the local Bodaway community for the Escalade? When development is not wanted, why shove it down their throats?

I am asking people to beware of these salesmen, who for several months bought numerous colorful full-page ads in newspapers chock full of false promises. I say it's time for the local Bodaway Chapter to shape their own development and destiny.

Dee Wilson
Tuba City, Ariz.

Grant applications need to be filed

I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude for the efforts put forth by the Apache County District II Administration in seeking additional funding for improvements to our communities.

Under the direction of Supervisor Tom White Jr., we essentially maintain an ongoing relationship with the community chapter officials and residents as well as organizations within the chapters and senior centers. We have also established working relationships with our state legislators and our counterparts within the transportation industry.

These counterparts include officials from the Federal Highway Administration, Arizona Department of Transportation, Navajo Division of Transportation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Department of Roads, Housing and Urban Development and the Northern Arizona Council of Governments.

Although we continually hear the recession in our country has caused deep cuts in transportation funding, there is still funding available in the form of grants within government set asides. These funds that become available are mainly to promote transportation needs such as safety, mobility, preservation and enhancement of economic vitality including safe routes to school. Federal legislation requires ADOT to coordinate, cooperate and consult with Native nations in the transportation planning process.

Anyone having worked with ADOT or the Northern Arizona Council of Governments will acknowledge they do an excellent job in their consultations, technical and planning assistance, but they can't read our minds. No one will see these funds at work if we don't take the initiative to plan and submit a reasonable grant application.

Projects we desire have to be studied, planned and categorized as short, medium or long range plans. Projects that are more costly will require a longer time and have to be included in the County, Tribal Transportation Improvement Plan as well as the State Transportation Plan. Planning studies by a certified firm are required on most projects.

A good example, the BIA will welcome any improvements within their right-of-way, however, appropriate studies have to be completed such as traffic counts, 'inter-section analysis' or pedestrian study for crosswalks and routes to school, etc.

This year we are pleased to announce Apache County District II Administration is presently engaged in the process of four grants totaling $783,000. Two of the grant studies are for the Fort Defiance area in the combined amount of $265,000 and one for the Ganado community in the amount of $15,000.

Each of these communities are identified as predominate growth centers in Apache County District II. The grants will focus on current and future planning for economic and community growth in each community as well as preparing a multimodal short range plan to meet transportation needs for which funding can be reasonability identified.

The third grant totaling $503,000 is for a multi-use trail to encircle the entire Tsaile Dine College campus. This grant initiated in Supervisor White's earlier term will go out to bid for construction by the month of August and expected to be completed this year.

In summary, under the leadership of Supervisor Tom White Jr., Apache County District II has proven willingness to collaborate with entities serving the area communities in an effort to meet transportation and community needs. The only way a partnership will work is if there is committed participation from all parties.

Thank you for your time in reading this letter and let's work to make a difference.

Kirk Arviso
Window Rock, Ariz.

Back to top ^