A special thanks

November 18, 2012

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I wish to extend a special word of thanks for all that participated in welcoming back Army Purple Heart Veteran Earl Milford from his travels to Phoenix on Oct. 28. For many of you that weren't aware, Earl traveled to Phoenix to be inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame and receive the prestigious Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame medallion.

The medallion is the highest honor awarded by the governor to an honorably discharged military veteran of the state for achievements outside the military service that significantly benefit and provide inspiration to other veterans. I wish to thank the Fort Defiance Chapter staff and officials for working diligently in securing donations for the event and setting up the chapter house to comfortably accommodate all that attended. They also donated their time to host the event. The contribution of the meal and refreshments was much appreciated. The Navajo/Hopi Honor Riders provided the motorcycle escort. There were traditional songs, excellent entertainment and the guest speakers included Arizona House of Representative Albert Hale, Navajo Nation Rex Lee Jim, Apache County Supervisor Tom White Jr., New Mexico Senator John Pinto, and Navajo Nation Speaker Johnny Naize. When we submitted Earl's application in April of this year, we had a wishful vision of the day one of our own could be recognized with such an honor. Thank you our Navajo leaders for your kind words, our mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, that sustained until your soldiers retuned, and to all the veterans for your sacrifice that we may live in peace. God bless you and our families. (Editor's note: Former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye was also honored and inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame.)

Kirk Arviso
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Black Mesa Trust opposes development

Black Mesa Trust firmly opposes any type of commercial development along the Little Colorado River. The reason why Black Mesa Trust opposes the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement is Hopi Tribal Council's failure to protect the Little Colorado water that feeds Siipa'puni, which is one of the holiest places on earth. Siipa'puni is not the only religious shrine; there are at least a dozen shrines situated along the Little and Big Colorado River, which I am not at liberty to reveal. The Escalade Project will desecrate an area considered sacred to Hopi, Navajo, and other tribes indigenous to the Colorado Plateau. For this reason BMT will join Bodaway/Gap Chapter and Diné warriors in opposing the project designed to enrich the rich just like the snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. Like Diné opponents, BMT is not anti-economic development. We are against outsiders coming onto our lands to enrich themselves at our expense, like Peabody Energy, Salt River Project, to name a few. I personally feel there are so many potential obstacles the foreign developers and their Navajo partners will have to overcome that the project will never become a reality. These include allegations of ethical and conflict of interest charges against Navajo capitalists, who stand to profit economically using their influence, which comes with their political positions. I know the Hopi Tribe will spare no dime challenging the desecration of our Mecca, our Jerusalem, our Vatican, and our holy place.

Vernon Masayesva
Founder and Director
Black Mesa Trust
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Disability issues on the Navajo Nation

According to a Navajo Disability Awareness Survey, conducted in December 2011, by the Native American Disability Law Center, with assistance from the San Juan Center for Independent Living, Gallup Office, 93 percent of survey respondents thought that a person with a disability wants to be "Respected" and wants the same "Opportunities" of a person without a disability. The participants of this survey were 93 percent Navajos of the general public. In 2007 and in 2011, the Law Center conducted a Needs Assessment Survey with persons with a disability, family members and service providers, which resulted in identifying public building accessibility on the Navajo Nation as one of the top 5 disability issues. On the other hand, only 29 percent of the general public who responded to the Navajo Disability Awareness Survey indicated that public building accessibility was a major disability issue. In 2011 and 2012, the Law Center with assistance from the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities conducted building accessibility surveys in 5 major communities on the Navajo Nation. Surveys were conducted in Window Rock, Crownpoint, Shiprock, Chinle and in Tuba City. The findings of these surveys were compiled into a published report by the Law Center entitled "Opening Doors". This report points out that Navajos with disabilities have much difficulty getting into public facilities that provide services to Navajos with disabilities, in that, they could not get out of their vehicles because of muddy parking lots, there were not any designated parking spaces, could not get to the building due to unleveled and graveled parking lots, could not enter the building because doors were too heavy, there was not a ramp or the door was not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Due to these physical barriers, Navajos with disabilities, are more likely not to obtain needed vital assistance or are unable to access benefits, because they literally cannot get into the doors of disability service providers that are responsible to serve them. Other deficiencies that were identified included, no designated parking spaces and posted signs for disability parking, insufficient parking space for a van to lower a wheelchair lift, curve cuts and cross walks were not visibly marked or painted, ramps were too steep and made of materials that became slippery when wet, restroom stalls were too narrow for wheelchair entrance, and more. This significant Navajo disability issue is in non-compliance of the NN Vocational Rehabilitation and Opportunities for the Handicap Act of 1984. This Navajo Code mandates that all private and public entities within the Navajo Nation provide site accessibility and other related accommodations that make for easy access for needed disability services. It should be noted that of Navajos between the ages of 21 to 54, about 30 percent or 25,500 have a disability and over the age of 64 years of age, 70 percent have a disability. This equates into a significant number of Navajos with disabilities that are negatively impacted in having much difficulty in accessing disability services due to structural and other physical barriers that hinder a Navajo with a disability in entering a public building that houses a disability related agency. The Law Center, the NN Advisory Council on Disabilities, and NN Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, are currently making efforts to collaborate with pertinent NN Entities to begin addressing this disability issue. Resolution of this major disability issue would truly result in having "Respect" for Navajos with disabilities and provide the same "opportunities" afforded to other persons without a disability.

Hoskie Benally, Jr.
Farmington, N.M.

More students need scholarships

In the Navajo Times issue that ran on Sept. 20, 2012, the article "Navajo Nation $80,000 for scholarship fund," by Shondiin Silversmith, points out that Peabody Southwest donated $80,000 to the Navajo Nation. The article goes on to explain that the money will be put into a scholarship fund and ultimately help Navajo college students continue their education in secondary institutes. The article also explains how the money donated to the scholarship fund will give the scholarship office more money to disburse to students who study at in-state, out-of-state colleges or universities. The depressing part is that the money will not be enough to give financial aid to the students that were denied this academic year alone. Every student has their own challenges when it comes to paying for college. Every spring they ask the Navajo Nation to help fund them as they go through school. The student submits an application to the Navajo Nation Scholarship Office and it's decided if they're "worthy" of receiving financial aid from the tribal funds. Why is this? Why is it that being a member of the tribe is not enough to get the help? The best solution for this problem is not to overanalyze the background of a student, but to split the money that is available equally among the eligible students. The number of students that receive aid is more important than the amount of money the students get.

Charmaine Laughing
Chinle, Ariz.

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