A memorial for Native veterans

November 21, 2012

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I am proud not just this week, but everyday, to be a United States Veteran. I served at a time when many questioned the purpose of our deployment and today the situation with many in the Armed Services is not so different. But because of the choice we made, we served without question, we served because we believe in preserving liberties, and we served with honor.

This week marks an important commemoration of a largely bypassed segment of our Armed Services Veterans – American Indians.

We are a group comprised of many tribes, with varying traditions and loyalties, but united in the common purpose of defending and upholding the values of the United States of America.

In fact, American Indians have served in all American wars, even prior to being considered citizens of this Nation, because it is our traditional homeland, our Mother Earth, and where our sacred mountains, rivers and living creatures of the Creator reside.

Interestingly enough, before this week there was not a known memorial honoring American Indian Veterans, but now there is.

Facing the western edge of the beautiful Heard Museum, a monument dedicated to American Indian Veterans who served in any American war was constructed by my company, Kitchell.

The Memorial was funded by TriWest Healthcare Alliance and designed by John Douglas Architects, and features the last monumental sculpture created by Chiricahua Apache artist Allan Houser.

Dozens of subcontractors and vendors helped bring the project to fruition, as well as the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Arizona Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

The Memorial is in a beautiful, pristine setting, allowing ample room for thoughtful reflection about what my forefathers and brethren from other tribes have experienced and sacrificed. I can think of no more appropriate place to honor these individuals than here in Arizona, at a site that is known for its international collection of Native American artistry.

As was noted by Heard Museum Board Trustee George Blue Spruce at the Memorial's groundbreaking, this exhibit "will be an educational exhibit for all populations, held in the highest esteem with gratitude and pride by all segments of our population."

I am appreciative that a monument has been established to honor my fellow warriors and where our children and grandchildren, along with non-Indian brothers and sisters can learn of our contribution to our homeland.

Jeff Begay
U. S. Army, Vietnam War Veteran
Phoenix, Ariz.

What about Thanksgiving?

Election is over! All the media ads, all the news, and the everyday humdrum of water cooler debate of whom is telling more lies is now over. Are we happy or even satisfied with the ending result.

The race between the two parties of Democrats and Republicans, this election was without any independent third party hats thrown into the ring. I was especially shocked the state of Arizona showed up on the election map as a red state, as well as, hearing some Republican Indian voters expressed that their political party could do a better job than the elected President Obama.

Hearing "Indian" people call themselves Republicans always brings a smile to me because I wonder how one could belong to a federally recognized Indian tribe yet willingly want to be attached to the party that continuously on an annual basis brings to the floor of Congress to terminate all treaties with the North American Indian tribes nationwide. The phrase "oxymoron" comes to mind when listening to all these "Indian Republicans".

I want to reflect on some history of this country's economic conditions of past U.S. presidents and their administration. Before the national debt became an issue and started to ball up into its current mess, under the last Democratic President Bill Clinton, the national budget had hundreds of millions in revenue in carryover. President Clinton and Vice President Gore created an initiative called the "White House Empowerment Zone" which gave the national carryover revenue back to the country to recognized cities, small rural communities, and Indian tribes to develop their communities by creating 10-year community plans. The White House Empowerment Zone funding happened in both terms of President Clinton – the first release in 1994 and then in 1998.

In 1998, during Clinton's second term, I personally attended the conference representing my tribe in the White House along with other tribes. I also met Hilary Clinton who is the first lady to have North American Indian art in the White House.

The Navajo Nation received monies in the millions in 1998 recognized as an Enterprise Zone on the reservation in the state of Utah. My tribe, Champion City under the 1998 White House Empowerment Zone initiative, was recognized to receive preference in grants nationwide. During the 1998 conference, I saw the positive economic impact of the 1994 White House Empowerment Zone money in Baltimore, Md.

After President Clinton, the Republican administration of President George W. Bush took only one year to wipe out the national budget carryover revenue and the country plummeted into debt beginning our nation's crisis.

Watching the second presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama said, "The nation went from a surplus to a deficit" but he didn't expand on what he was exactly talking about.

In the vice presidential debate Vice President Biden also mentioned this by making the claim that Ryan's party talks as if all this debt just happened to fall out of the sky into President Obama's lap. It astonishes me how political parties can literally detach themselves from the truth and believe their own rhetoric as well as lead other people to believe in their doubtful reasoning in leading the nation.

Look at the last Republican administration that was in the presidential office, they are living a life of luxury at the expense of the country's economy and at the lives of thousands of American soldiers whom died in wars for power, personal wealth, and greed. What was the lead Republican issue in this past presidential race? "Let's not allow the taxation of the rich and wealthy."

There are also the underlying thoughts of racism. Simply, the white race is now becoming the minority and they can't handle losing control of power and control of the country. What is the national tea party all about?

They support and helped elect more Republican senators, governors, and congressional members to represent their prejudices. Looks like a racial movement to me. We all are racist to some degree but like everyone else I live in denial and just call myself ethnocentric. I am proud of my heritage belonging to a tribe as one of the true aboriginal first people of North America. Being Indian, I make it a point to learn and pass along to my children the issues we, Indian people, still face and live within our modern society. This country involved itself in wars throughout history and in American history there is no other race per-capita than the North American Indian race that has fought for country and freedom than the Indian people. This fact is carefully kept from U.S. history classes as well as our Indian language winning wars for the white military services.

Some wars past and current, the countries involvement is based on democracy, freedom, and supporting a declaration of humanity. After hundreds of years of occupation of our lands no U.S. president has signed a declaration of humanity for the North American Indian people. For decades North American Indian activist attended the United Nations annually requesting for a declaration of humanity signature to help the healing of our inhumane treatment by the government.

Finally in the year 2010, President Obama signed the declaration thus acknowledging the pain and suffering the "Indian race" lived through at the hands of the U.S. government. This act allows our rights in all the freedoms enjoyed by all other races who immigrate to America and which the U.S. Constitution is based upon, like freedom of religion. The North American Indian people have lived and are still living under the oppression of lies of the U.S. government, just look at our demographics of unemployment, education, poor housing conditions, and poor health care. Our statistics are 10 times higher than the national average. When we try to help ourselves economically, the federal government and state governments want more by creating compacts. Our race like no other race is far more federally regulated in modern society.

What I find amusing now watching the presidential race is that the government is lying not just to us Indian people but also to their own people and the rest of the country. All the declining issues of housing, education, health care, class war, and economics are becoming close to the conditions we Indian people have been living under since the creation of reservations. But we are a people of much great strength, mainly our spiritual strength. We have been living poor all along and yet we know who we are and where we come from because of our traditions and customs, not like the melting pot of America, where the people who choose to forget about their ancestry. Next thing you know they'll forget what a pilgrim is and who helped them to survive. Look now at all the Christmas advertisements right after Halloween, what happened to Thanksgiving? I could go on and on about Indian history as I enjoy sharing it with the younger generation but will stop here. Yes, I guess you could say I'm ethnocentric and not any oxymoron.

Darren L. Snake
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Tribal system needs fixing

I am profoundly grateful to congratulate Ms. Candace Begody for her appointment to the position of editor of the Navajo Times. Her credentials make her a perfect fit for the position.

The appointment of the first female to a very important position is history making abroad. The Navajo Nation needs more young people like her so the nation can shift into fast forward and make progress. We need to get back into the forefront throughout Indian Country.

On the flip side, I would like to comment on the article "Tribe to return another $7 million to the feds" published last week. It is totally heartbreaking to learn that the nation is returning millions of dollars to the federal government during the economic downturn. It is embarrassing beyond reasonable limits and unacceptable.

More specifically, the issue of returning an enormous amount of funds to the federal government in the background of the former community development director does not merit a promotion to the chief of staff. The bottom line is the amount being returned causes a negative impact by denying weatherizing assistance to about 5,000 families on the nation. It is a failing grade.

By virtue of my past experience working with federal funds, I would think the returning of $7 million is due to poor management taking into account the weatherization is a minor repair program. Currently, there is an overwhelming need to weatherizing homes on the nation and returning the funds surely jeopardizes future funding.

It frustrates me to hear college students and senior citizens being told there is no money each time they make a 100 or so miles to go the tribal offices in Window Rock. And yet on the other hand, an enormous amount of money is returned to the federal government, which is more frustrating. There is something definitely wrong with the tribal system that needs fixing.

In light of the above, poor management is evident and just cause it exist to make changes in the key middle and upper management level of the tribal government. Poor surely places the current administration in total shame.

I can't say enough about limiting tribal employment to 25 years like the states do. The current managers have been in their positions way too long and they need to retire. It's time to make room for the young, energetic and high-caliber people in the tribal government.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to express views.

Vern Charleston
Shiprock, N.M.

Economic growth through broadband

The great leap that we, American Indians, need is here. It has been here for quite some time and on many levels, economic, education, health, entertainment and general better life ways. This great leap requires one thing and that is free broadband access on American Indian lands.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 90 percent of American Indians lack high-speed Internet access. The Internet is and continues to be the economy of the future – one that supports new and better jobs, and will enhance American Indians global competitiveness. We must expand the availability and adoption of broadband access in American Indian lands.

In the near-term, investments in broadband infrastructure help create jobs and business growth by supporting the installation and upgrade of fiber-optic networks, wireless towers, and other high-tech components. Public computer centers provide much-needed training and broadband for those without access to this empowering technology in their homes. Sustainable broadband adoption efforts help to educate American Indian populations about the benefits of broadband and enable them to become proficient in computer-related skills.

In the longer term, expanding broadband access and adoption facilitates economic growth and innovation, especially for small businesses, enhance health care delivery, improves public safety and lays a foundation for long-term economic development in American Indian communities throughout the United States.

Broadband reduces geographic barriers and the costs of doing business. The Internet offers the opportunity for anyone with a connection and an innovative idea to create and grow a business. Online retail sales in the United States totaled an estimated $169 billion in 2010 alone. Can you imagine Indian Country with just one percent of that?

It is high time that American Indian governments supply free broadband to its members and even non-members. I always hear and read much talk about economic development and helping the people from American Indian governments yet right in front of us is a real key that everyone can use to gain economic subsistence, if not anything else.

This huge digital exclusion of the American Indians is in itself a form of genocide on many fronts and we have no one to blame but our leaders, chairpersons, representatives and government. What are they scared of?

That we American Indians might empower ourselves economically, academically, and worse, may not even need them anymore. Imagine that, our collective minds attached together over vast distances, looking out for ourselves like modern smoke signals. Broadband now!

Nathan Lefthand
Tempe, Ariz.


Influential, powerful voters are ignored

Obama's 2012 win for a second term as president was in large part due to minority voters. Political pundits and mainstream news sources are giving credit to Latino, Asian and African Americans as the source for these votes; they are ignoring one group of minority voters, Indians.

While driving through southeast Utah and northern Arizona I was pleasantly surprised to see so many Obama/Biden 2012 signs on the reservations. I hope that in the future more Indians will get organized and involved in state and federal elections. We need your input because if anyone knows what is best for this country it is the original people. State politics are as important as federal and there are several old-timers still in office that believe termination is the best thing for the Indian (Doc Hastings, Washington Congressman) and that pot hunters and looters are just carrying on the family tradition (Orrin Hatch, Utah Senator.).

Indians need to work together to remove these people and others like them while getting more Indians into local, state, and federal office or at least encourage and support Indian "friendly" candidates.

It is time to wake white Americans up to the fact they have been neglecting one very important minority in their list of influential and powerful voter blocs, Indians.

Dixie Dringman
Rock Island, Wash.

As a supporter of the suggested economic development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project, I feel obliged to unambiguously set the record straight in reference to letters posted in the Navajo Times by Tresha Yellowhite and Daniel Peaches.

Yellowhair was misleading and misinformed of the facts and there is much ill informed letters that are currently circulating that are causing much confusion, pain and uncertainty around our community. Yellowhair statements of those who oppose the confluence development do not live in the area where the proposed site of the Escalade Project is very true. With many supporters of the development like Betty Tsinijinnie, a local elder who strongly supports the idea of economic growth and the future of the youth that live in the area. But for her support, Tsinjinnie was a victim of a vicious verbal attack from opponents of the project outside of the chapter house.

Peaches comments, "Louise Yellowman was roughen up…" was misinforming as those who witnessed that Yellowman was merely escorted out by two female officers from the Navajo Police Department. Those who were present witnessed Yellowman charge through three rows of chairs towards chapter officials and slam her hands on the counter that was disruptive and in a threatening manner where officers were asked to escort her out. If Peaches was there physically as a witness, even he could have told you we are all treated equally in the eyes of the law.

Peaches also says, "The discussion on the issue on KTNN was 99 percent against the proposed development and 1 percent in favor." That is because an anti-development organization called Canyon Trust paid for the advertisement on solicitation of the opponents, to further their own agenda. Just so happens, I and another supporter got on the airwave discussion that was not intended for us as supporters.

Yellowhair, Peaches and many others are quick to express how local residents should respect our sacred lands and go further by advising with directions and guidance without ever setting foot on the proposed site. All of a sudden we have seen a surge of "experts" on how we should protect our sacred grounds and our emergence stories. I have not personally heard of any of these individuals to practice the traditional way of life with the offerings of corn pollen.

The supporters of the development are everyday simple people with the majority of us living within the boundaries of the Bodaway Chapter. Majority of the supporters are with limited western education, compassion, rich in cultural knowledge and we stand strong by our beliefs.

Unlike the opponents, ask any elected officials; we never did an in-your-face personal verbal attack or show any disrespect. Plus we never point to any other tribal officials as the bad guy simply because they don't share our agenda.

Most of us supporters do not have access to the latest technology. We are people with simply ambitions, which are to see our future generation to have a better future on our motherland. Most important we are about change, progress, and to move forward. As home grown supporters, you will never find us run around to seek solicitations from or to have fancy names like the Forgotten People, Grass Roots People, People of the Confluence, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club. You will never find us to solicit any support from other tribes such as our Hopi brothers and sisters. The mentalities of the supporters are to fix our own domestics issues right here at home.

As supporters of the development, we vehemently agree we need to truly respect our sacred grounds; we are well aware and capable of protecting the sacredness of the area. We know first hand on how offerings should be done and no self-proclaimed experts need to apply here. Our intentions are to give the sacred sites the proper offerings, blessings, and protection it truly needs and deserves. I will promise to all opponents of the development that Mother Earth will not shake violently and rest assure that none of us will not be running for dear life.

Nowadays, the word "sacredness" is being thrown around too loosely, without knowing its true meaning. It's sad but true. Furthermore, we are deeply saddened that the opponents would be so insensitive to our Navajo spirituality and culture. Some of them no longer practice or believe in our ancient customs but are quick to jump on the bandwagon of "sacredness" and hide behind the teachings of grandparents shamelessly.

The fact is the most sacred site the Salt Trail lies 6.7 miles where the proposed confluence development site is proposed. The Escalade Project is considered to be culturally respectful where we will have the areas considered sacred fenced off, blocked off, well preserved, and well protected.

We should work towards an economic development that encourages our youth to aspire towards independence as many of our people are struggling with poverty and have become dependent on assistance from local, state, tribe and federal programs. We have the right to determine the success of our own future.

The role of our tribal government, individual Native American entrepreneurs and outside investors and businesses is vital in stimulating a strong economic growth for our area. The reality of life on the reservation is a high unemployment rate and extreme poverty, even our fiercest opponent can acknowledge this fact as we live in area that could benefit from a strong economy.

Many communities lack the basic necessities of infrastructures such as roads and centers that support youth development. For example, a Boys and Girls Club, work assistance and GED programs and elderly care such as local centers that keep our senior citizens the care they need in our own communities.

With harsh realities of unemployment, deplorable living conditions that the many native communities are faced with, local residents are in strong support of the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project to improve the lives of many here in our area. We are in serious need of economic growth that our youth can build upon and keep our sacred sites protected.

All of us could move to the cities and enjoy all the perks of a city life, but no that's too easy. Besides city life is not home.

We the people and supporters that live in the area of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project respectfully ask to be allowed to make a decision that affects us deeply in hopes of having jobs, change and a chance of a better tomorrow.

Larry Hanks
Bodaway/Gap, Ariz.

Meeting the needs of our people

Now that election is over, what can we Diné look forward to?

We are in difficult economic times and to meet the need of our people, we must look for ways to create jobs with our natural resources.

NAPA by all means must be fully developed in order to generate jobs and revenues. The current level of funding by the BIA is inadequate. Using the Permanent Trust Fund of $100 or $150 million, we can fully develop the unused acreages, thereby doubling our capacity to grow more crops and generate more income.

Using our water rights from San Juan and Colorado Rivers, we can put more land into production as well as utilize fully our water rights. As we put our land into production, we can create more jobs and generate greater revenues for our economy. We have enough water and land to become self-sufficient.

Politically, we must get support from Congress and the White House as well as federal agencies such as interior, agriculture and commerce to put our plans into action.

Our philosophy as a people is survival based on self-sufficiency, self-reliance and seizing opportunities wherever and whatever form to sustain our people. We don't wait, we take action to address our needs and prepare our future by addressing and creating opportunities.

Daniel Peaches
Kayenta, Ariz.

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