Courtesy and respect needed

July 26, 2012

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F irst the usual disclaimer - the view in this letter are my own personal views and not those of any past or present employer or client.

I was saddened to see the departure of editor Duane Beyal. He served the Times and the Navajo Nation with distinction and courage. In reading the Times' story about all the awards that Navajo Times reporters and feature writers won from the Native American Journalists Association, it is clear that Duane brought a lot more to the times than his valedictory essay took credit for.

The importance of men and women of courage to the Navajo Nation and the critical need for courage has been highlighted by the recent debate about the Little Colorado River water settlement proposal and the un-Navajo nastiness of some of the critics of the proposal. Good men and women can disagree and do so with profound confidence in their own beliefs, but there is no reason for the nasty attacks that were made - and continue to be made - against President Shelly, Speaker Naize, Attorney General Tsosie, Representative Albert Hale, and distinguished attorneys Christopher Clark-Deschene and Stanley Pollack.

I have said in past letters and discussions that I do not know if the proposal made by Senator Kyl was good or bad, but surely a civil discussion rather than the un-Navajo violations of Navajo values of k'e and hozho was what the proposal merited. As the Hon. Allen Sloan - the senior judge in the Navajo judicial system - has said for decades, "disagree courteously." (After the issue has been resolved, the people on both sides of the issue will still be Navajos who need to interact with one another and will still be related and showing courtesy and preserving relationships is what thoughtful Navajos do.)

Surely the president, speaker and attorney general deserve praise, not criticism for trying to bring reality to the discussion - just as Duane Beyal and the Navajo Times staff do to the news each week. Outside commentators on Navajo history invariably bring up "Navajo pragmatism" as one of the strong aspects of Navajo culture and tradition and a strength that has enabled the Navajo people and their nation to not merely endure, but to prevail and succeed. Pragmatism teaches that a reasonable and common-sense approach to issues produces far better results in the long run than an ideological one.

None of us has any obligation to accept the advice that leaders, lawyers, doctors, engineers and other professionals and leaders offer, but each of us has the obligation to treat all the people with whom we deal with courtesy and respect.

Lawrence A. Ruzow
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Can't see through transparency

Transparency... President Ben Shelly wants more transparency for the Navajo Nation?

It's very strange to hear those words echoed from a former Council delegate who participated in taking $8,850 from the Navajo people for his own interests and trying to shove a water deal down the throats of the Navajo people by showing police force and intimidation at all the water forums to discuss the matter. Not to mention the infamous address after the closed-door meeting with Senators Kyl and McCain when the president told his people to "shut up". Where was the transparency at all those occasions?

Let's see, Webster's dictionary defines transparency as 1: something transparent; especially: a picture (as on film) viewed by light shining through it or by projection 2: the quality or state of being transparent.

If Webster is correct (which I believe it is) then the president must be mistaken transparency for its antonyms: cloudiness, opacity, opaqueness, turbidity, and turbidness, because we haven't seen or had any thus far from this president and his administration.

I tend to think he is playing politics with us by trying to tickle the ears of the Navajo people and pull the wool over their eyes. If he wanted real transparency, then he should start with himself by admitting his wrongdoings and ask his people for forgiveness. Pay back the $8,850, be honest and upfront with the nation about the water deal and foremost not talk or act as if he is above everyone else on the great Navajo Nation. No one is above anyone, we all make mistakes and that includes the president of the Navajo Nation.

It's not how you govern, it's how you treat your people, and the rest will fall in place because you serve at the will of the people. This goes for all elected officials. Election time will soon be here and we will remember who tried to mislead us.

For now, the only transparency I see is the stumbling and darkness going on with our Navajo Nation government. So take off those glasses of cloudiness, opacity, opaqueness, turbidity, turbidness, and replace them with the true transparency that our nation deserves and lead us to have a great government for the people and by the people that we can be proud of. We are already proud to be Dine' and you can't fool us as the politicians do from the outside.

Randall Benally Rio Rancho, N.M.

Veterans Act needs new support

Comrades and fellow veterans, we're all patiently waiting for the final outcome of our Veterans Act. It's been around for 12 years since the idea of a Veterans Act went into motion by some of our elder veterans and went slowly due to us veterans not working together. Finally it came down to a public hearing with everybody ready with their input, recommendations, ideas, philosophies and concerns to be addressed.

Through all of the five agency public hearings we tried our best to accommodate everybody, whether it was positive or negative, and after the completion of the public hearing all the notes, recordings and documents were forwarded to a consultant who transcribed it into an analysis report.

This was reviewed by VSO and agency commanders, next it was again forwarded to the consultant, who through all the recording, notes and documentation put the draft of the Veterans Act together. This was sent out to the agency commanders and some chapter organization commanders for their review.

During the agency commanders meeting in Shiprock to review the Act, the most dishonorable act was demonstrated by one commander (Tuba City), the review was still ongoing when this commander stood up and took a lighter out of his pocket and burned the entire draft of the Veterans Act to ashes while the other commanders stood by and watched.

This act has done great injustice and violation of our honorable statue, all the prayers (invocation, benedictions), philosophies, input, ideas and concerns of you veterans was treated with this all time disrespect, all the efforts went down into ashes. What was on the commander's mind?

These five agency commanders have no standing or foundation whatsoever, they don't even have a plan of operation, job descriptions, or any authorities, yet they're telling the veteran organizations and population that they are operating as commissioners. They are not even appointed or commissioned as commissioners. What they are, are representatives of their agency veterans population.

The other problem is they are marching around Window Rock saying the veterans are telling them this and that, yet the Chapter Veterans Organization are saying none of the agency commanders are visiting them during their organization meeting.

The grassroots level veterans are complaining that the commanders are stealing their voices saying we don't support the division, Veterans Act and many other projects. I say about 60 percent of the grassroots level veterans don't know what a Veterans Act is because the commanders and some VSO are not educating their veterans.

Everybody was looking forward to spring session, and now summer session to get the Act passed. With this act of disrespect we might have to wait a little bit longer. The only people keeping us afloat are the DNVA personnel. We know because we worked with them every day when the commanders meet only once a month and start throwing their weight around.

We entrusted them with trust, professionalism, maturity, wisdom and honor. With them not being diplomatic I say it's time to re-elect new commanders who will work with us.

Come on comrades, we can revive the Act and go forth again. There are more to this, but I'll let the rest be until the Act is revived.

Earl Milford, Commander
Fort Defiance Agency
Tse Hootsooi Twin Warriors Society
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Calm before the storm

There is a calm before a storm and it's been building for the last two years. When this storm gets here, the winds of change will belong to the Dineh Nation's younger voters, 18-35 years, males and females.

The days of current Uncle Tom-a-hawk Council delegates, carpet-bagging high-dollar attorneys, same old cavalry Washington, D.C. policies and Navajo wooden Indian leadership must go.

These major issues remain at a standstill today. Misuse of tribal money by former Council delegates could have been resolved if they simply agreed to go to court as soon as possible since they claimed they had nothing to hide. Now who knows how much it's costing to prosecute them with most of the misused money never being recovered.

Also stalled is the pending final outcome of our Dineh ranchers case against the close bidding policy which resulted in ranches being booted off their land without input. The policy in question was authored by Council Delegate Lorenzo Bates approved by committee chairperson former delegate George Arthur and rubberstamped by former Council delegates. Accountability by Mr. Bates and Arthur still remains overlooked. Ranchers have only the ruling in district court striking down the policy in their favor.

Finally, and most important, the Hopi-Navajo Little Colorado Rights Settlement. Dineh water like Native water rights across Indian country is first and foremost ours. By treaty, and sovereignty supreme power or authority of the Navajo Nation people, not to who currently sat in the halls of Congress or Navajo Nation government.

More to the point: Dineh mother earth gives us water, life, all life. Providing food, shelter, and clothing their land. True Dineh do not put a price tag on their mother, we cannot do this. We will not be railroaded into a Washington, D.C., same old cavalry policy resulting in the stealing of our resources. Once water rights are sold it's gone forever. This notion of it can be readdressed through Congress is a proven joke. Dineh land, water, culture, tradition, and language is far older than America. That's why we hold it sacred. Who is Washington, D.C., to tell us what to do?

Non-Indian attorneys will walk away, win or lose, with tons of money regarding this settlement.

Have we already forgotten Washington past policies, the Long Walk, kill the Indian - save the man, termination, assimilation, relocation, forced sterilization of our women, self-determination and civil rights violations?

Too many of our young warriors have stood up, voiced their objections and fought for us. Many giving their lives and it's also true many more Navajos stood by doing nothing. Current leadership can't and will not fight for us. Appeasement, surrender, sell out on demand are their tools for so-called promises of buckets of money in the future. Any future water deals should be with the consent of Dineh Nation and from the position of strength, not appeasement. Corruption at all levels of government is common with silent wooden Indian leadership.

We now have a new generation of voters, strong, ready, and hungry for change. Many combat war veterans from the two recent wars, Dineh officers, NCOs, and specialist enlisted men and women combined with non-military college degreed professions have the skill, strength and power to get the job done in creating better solutions. How about, Dineh had enough of our current situation? Fed up with the tribal bureaucrats in power? Time to get the old red out.

This storm is coming!

In closing, clean this mess up of those who would sell their mother. The days of the Indian sitting on their blankets in the middle of the road selling goods are over. Navajo Nation government either go forward, backward, or get the hell off the road for a change. Voting corrupt officials out of office at all levels of government is a start for a healthy change.

Gary Bernally
Hogback, N.M.

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