Disappointed with leadership of two council delegates

August 2, 2012

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I witnessed a very sad series of events inside the Navajo Nation Council Chambers on Thursday, July 26, 2012. I saw the degeneration of leadership by two council delegates - Leonard Tsosie and Katherine Benally. I am a member of the Navajo Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.

I had not been to a tribal council committee meeting in recent months. I had only heard about the kinds of things that the two said and did from others. When I heard things from others, I was somewhat skeptical and unbelieving. All of my skepticism completely disappeared on July 26, 2012, during the Naabik'iyati' Committee meeting at the NHA's presentation of a report about how Delegate Tsosie and Delegate Benally unilaterally changed the NHA's FY 2013 Indian Housing Plan to benefit just their own chapters without having to comply with the process that everyone else had to comply with. They took out other people projects to do that.

As I walked towards the council chambers, I ran into Delegate Tsosie outside and he began speaking with several of us who were headed inside the chambers. Tsosie abruptly stated in Navajo "So you came here to watch me get a beating today. Is that what you came to see?"

I was startled by Tsosie's words, even if they were in jest. I was brought up and raised by the traditional teachings and wisdom that you do not ever talk about or say such morbid things about anyone - not even yourself. I, and many others, were taught to be respectful to all people. We were taught to be careful when talking to others and in public.

Immediately, I said in Navajo to Tsosie, "What are you saying? You don't talk like that. You are a leader."

Tsosie did not say anything in response. He then quickly left. I was stunned at his words as an elected leader. I felt violated. At the same time, I was also deeply saddened that one of the Navajo Nation leaders would talk carelessly and irreverently like that. It is still disturbing and bothering me today. So, I had to write this letter. I wonder if the people who placed him into office really know what Tsosie says and does to other people here in Window Rock. I wonder who raised him and taught him how to talk like that.

As the meeting started, I noticed that both Tsosie and Benally quickly took control of the committee and discussion by the use of various means. They would take turns interrupting other delegates as they spoke. One or the other would yell out "point of order" or "point of privilege". They did that repeatedly not allowing other delegates to complete what they were saying. They were also allowed to speak more often than others who had their hand up a long time. When Tsosie or Benally spoke, they would scold or chastise the other delegates. By using such tactics, the two frustrated and prevented the thorough discussion that was intended.

When Tsosie interrupted other delegates who were speaking, he lashed out at them challenging them and intimidating them by peppering them with questions asking where is your documentation, where is the rule I violated, what law did I violate? etc. Tsosie was overbearing and domineering over the other delegates. He controls the delegates and the discussion by intimidation, fear, and lashing out at anyone whom he believes to be stepping out of line.

Benally uses the same tactics as well. At least twice during the day, she pounded her fist on the desk in front of her after an angry outburst at the other delegates. Just as Tsosie, Benally repeatedly uses intimidation, fear, yelling, and lashing out at other delegates to control the rest of the council. Toward the end of the day, Benally went so far as to yell out to the other delegates, if you do this, "You are walking on the fighting side of me."

Again, I was startled to hear that from another elected leader of the Navajo Nation. Shortly thereafter, Benally walked out of the session. The meeting then ended by losing a quorum.

Both Tsosie and Benally believe that the end justifies the means. In other words, they both say that as long as their goal is just and righteous, they can do whatever they want to anybody at any time to get to the end result they desire. They believe that they are above the law. They believe that they do not have to follow the rules like everyone else. They believe that they do not have to answer to anyone including the rest of the 22 council delegates. If they don't get their way, they throw temper tantrums and become verbally abusive to others. They scold and chastise to get their way. They are a runaway train. They say and believe that they are the ultimate power and can do anything they want as long as the end goal is just.

A Naat'áanii has a responsibility to conduct himself and herself thoughtfully and carefully and with respect for all people under the principle of házhó'ógo. Respect for all people and házhó'ógo is for all people - not just your home chapters. What I saw and experienced in the council chambers on July 26, 2012, was not respect for people nor házhó'ógo. It was the degeneration of leadership in the council chambers.

Wilson Ray
Farmington, N.M.

Why doesn't Sacred Wind receive funding?

In its recent decision, it was disheartening to learn that the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted against Sacred Wind Communications' request for support from the state Universal Service Fund. SWC is the only rural phone company in the state that does not receive any support from the fund. This issue is important to me since I was a member of the PRC when SWC applied to replace Qwest as the service provider in Eastern Navajo communities, an area long neglected.

Since 2004, some progress for improving telecommunications services in underserved areas like Eastern Navajo has been made by SWC, but inadequate phone service still exist in remote areas due to the environment such as terrain, plus the challenging land use processes involved.

I also was on the Commission when the state Universal Service Fund was created to provide financial support to rural phone companies whose customers could not otherwise afford the high costs of service in remote areas. This issue has significant financial benefit to all rural areas, including Eastern Navajo region. Other rural companies receive USF support - why not Sacred Wind?

At its hearings, the PRC raised a variety of baseless issues to deny SWC the USF support - all intended to keep NMUSF from growing. These baseless issues such as: SWC is not a rural incumbent phone company, SWC is not adding enough new customers, and SWC is putting too much investment in infrastructure is proof that the PRC has shown a lack of knowledge about what it takes to install infrastructure on tribal lands, plus their indifference to the people most in need in northwest New Mexico.

What the PRC has done by rejecting SWC's request is simply to harm Navajo customers in its attempts to disrespect Sacred Wind.

Lynda Lovejoy
State Senator
District 22
Crownpoint, N.M.

Elected officials need to listen to the people

Christ all Friday! A prudent just decision by the Navajo Council in rejection of the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement was a no-brainer. A reasonable person with relative intelligence would conclude that this wasn't in the best interest of the Hopi-Navajo tribes.

The ruling by the Navajo Council was unprecedented - given the fact since 2002 they had next to nothing to crow about. Although the decision was in favor of the people, we are left with insolvency concerning this measure. It's assured to come to life again in the near future, if not tomorrow.

Granted we give thanks, appreciation to the Council. However, credit in reference to this decision belongs and lies with the Diné. It's through your voice of opposition, resistance to a measure that infringes on your rights and livelihood/existence. What's even more extraordinary and remarkable is that the Council acknowledged the peoples will - now that is what's really "unprecedented". After all, it's the Council's "fiduciary duties" as elected officials to act upon and for the will of the people. Evidently this Council may have earned points with their constituents, however, this decision on SB 2109/HR 4067 doesn't relieve them of their conduct of unbecoming.

Next is this Laurel and Hardy (Shelly, Jim) administration. Is there anything plausible, exquisite, elaborate that a reasonable person may construe in favorable mention of this administration?

Following the Council's decision July 5, 2012, it's consequential that Mr. Shelly would oppose the will of the Diné. After the 2010 election, Mr. Shelly, you stated that "the people have spoken". Apparently the people have spoken again, expecting the support of their administration and Council. We, the constituents, are your employer.

We are in a whole body of people of our own culture, beliefs, traditional values, and language. When your livelihood and sovereignty is threatened we expect our elected officials to litigate our opposition - no work against use. That being said.

Mr. Shelly, there is no "I" as we are a body, together we fall, together we are triumphant to those who oppose our will. This being our will - you've opposed us, your own people. So if it's the will of the people so shall you fall of your own incompetence. You can apply that "I" with old lady Shelly on your own time.

As for Mr. Jim, you're nothing more than a footnote. As far as leadership you're not viable - a follower and rightly so as incompetent.

There's so much more, but space is limited and others have opinions too. Shi Diné your opinions, sentiments of value - express it through your media. Everything relative to your well-being involves you.

Mike Halona Sr.
Albuquerque, N.M.
(Hometown: Buffalo Springs, N.M.)

Inspired by student who begins 95-mile roadside cleanup

I was inspired by the story about "Student begins 95-mile roadside cleanup".

Though I was disappointed to hear the lack of enthusiasm on part of many people on the reservation, I wasn't surprised. You see I live in Maryland and through the years I would go home to the Shiprock area and the first thing I would notice are the bottles and cans littering the roads leading into town. How's that for advertising who you are as a people?

Beginning from the Colorado state line which sports the welcome to Navajo Nation sign and all the way into Shiprock the sides of the road glisten and gleam with multi-colored bottles from various alcoholic beverages and for special impact you'll see a whole six pack with its scattered contents.

As a young child I used to herd sheep along that old Route 666 and I know a lot of tourists travel that road. I wonder what they think or what type of stereotypes our roads confirm for them. When we used to move to our summer house outside Shiprock, I remember my father would have us pick up trash from the highway all the way to our house over a period of several days. My parents would say we didn't want people to wonder what kind of people we are with all the beer and whiskey containers scattered along our road.

Image is everything, getting all dressed up is meaningless if you're surrounded by trash. It's comparable to the saying that actions speak louder than words.

Thank you Dallas Peterman for drawing attention to a situation that is probably the most easily fixed thing that would also do the most for improving the image of Navajo people.

Helena Corpellotti
Upper Marlboro, Md.

Navajo casino should have started in the east

In our traditional ways everything starts in the east and as a person who likes the recreation of casinos I would like to see development of a Navajo casino located in the eastern part of the Navajo Nation - checker board area. Namely along U.S. Highway 550 route between Bloomfield and Albuquerque. There is a high volume of traffic and potential tourists passing through.

I enjoy playing and drive 99 miles either to Sky Ute Casino or to Rio Rancho to have my fun.

Please take consideration of a development of a Navajo casino in eastern Diné. Since the purchase of Counselor, N.M., community by the Navajo Tribe or the Largo Ranch that the tribe owns now those would be ideal spots or areas of development. This development would bring economic development to our area, as well as employment.

Besides, I would rather spend my money at a Navajo casino. If we as a nation approved gaming now, we should have started from the east.

Char Haroldson
Cuba, N.M.

Bureaucratic nonsense delays claim compensation Dear Mr. Ricky Tawater, senior claims examiner:

I am writing regarding the referenced programs, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Program, and Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation. More specifically Part E (Impairment Rating).

My attempt to claim compensation under the above program has been frustrating to say the least. My attempt to claim benefits have been delayed by bureaucratic nonsense, and frustrating by evasive answers to my inquiries when calling the DOL. I have navigated through seven months of bureaucracy for an approval of my claim, and now I am told it will be an additional 45 to 60 day wait on compensation for my impairment.

When questioning the further delay DOL responds it must be reviewed to make sure everything is in order before releasing the "approved" compensation. I emphasize approved because this was approved by the DOL on May 22, 2012, per a letter I received from the DOL. My question is, reviewed for what?

Shouldn't the doctor's diagnosis and recommendation be sufficient without further extensive review by the claims examiner?

My evaluation was performed by a qualified physician, who has a valid medical license and board certification/eligibility in the appropriate field of expertise (i.e. toxicology, pulmonary, neurology, occupational medicine, etc.) and has obviously met your criteria as several EEOICPA claimants have and are using him.

After researching DOL material on the EEOICPA, It states: "This program is designed to ensure eligible Claimants receive compensation in a timely manner." I do not consider an 8-to-12 month wait a timely manner. (Please see attached timeline of my Part E Claim.)

Regarding EEOICPA Part B: Countless individuals including myself are finding it difficult to obtain and retain a physician that can comply with the endless paperwork imposed upon them by the DOL.

My personal experience: After being in the program for the past three years, I have had to change primary doctors four different times. When questioning each doctor that has dropped this program the answer remains the same pressure by the DOL demanding more information on each and every prescription. Insurmountable paperwork, lack of clear guidelines and probably the most important complaint continual changes to the program without notification to either the doctor or patient. Doctors have been burdened with denials, which affect the immediate care of their patients.

It would be in the best interest of this program to explain their medical expertise in questioning a doctor's prescribed order.

The DOL has made it very difficult for these doctors therefore they drop patients from this program ultimately hindering the continuity of care for all individuals in this program.

If it is the intention of the DOL to limit patients rights to their benefits under this program they are succeeding.

To date, our surrounding communities have lost seven doctors: Dr. Alexander, Dr. Augustine, Dr. Patel, Dr. Vigil, Dr. Watson, Dr. Pitts (September) and all Northern Navajo IHS doctors. Also, Dr. Gammon and Dr. Ukanwa are accepting DOL patients on a limited basis only. We have also learned of doctors out of state that no longer accept EEOICPA patients, Dr. Swavans (Moab, Utah), Drs. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens (Moab), Dr. Key (Monument Valley, Ariz.), and Dr. Thompson (Montezuma Creek).

Can you justify the lack of critical care needed by all claimants, when the most difficult task is finding and retaining a primary physician that accepts EEOICPA Part B recipients?

I would like to request the Department of Labor and/or administrators of the EEOICPA Program (Part E and B) as well as our elected representatives meet in a location conducive to all affected and frustrated recipients of these programs to explain the endless delays and denials. We would like concise answers to all of our questions concerning the administration and oversight of these programs.

We gave of ourselves without knowing the ramifications to our health; it is time for the Department of Labor and our elected representatives to work for us in an honest and expeditious manner.

If you have experienced similar problems in your attempts to collect benefits under the above named programs, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Leon Tafoya
San Fidel, N.M.

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