Finding meaning, clarity through Diné prayers

December 06, 2012

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O ne of the many increasing health issues that should be put into proper context is cancer. In Diné society, it is against the Diné blessing way to linger upon or even talk about this fast-spreading bad physiological phenomenon. However, for the sake of beating the odds or overcoming this health issue, I will attempt to put it into a healing context. Perhaps, it is time to do this.

Historically, modern science has continually conducted medical research in attempt to find a cure but no major breakthrough has ever been made, thus far. In the interim, have we, as Diné people, become so dependent on modern medical research that we have forgotten our power of expression?

Unfortunately, many Diné people have tragically become victims of this form of fatal illness and have lost their loved ones. Fortunately, some have been able to overcome this illness.

Perhaps it is a matter of some sort of semantics. From a linguistic philosophy standpoint, the Diné people have called this illness Lood doonadziihii – a sore, infection, or mass of tissue that can't be cured. From a Diné language standpoint, is this the underlying reason why cancer has become stubborn, prevalent, and can't be cured?

Despite the conduct of traditional Diné "Lightning Way" – Na'at'oiji and Hochxo'iji "Evil Way" and other forms of purging ceremonies, it appears we have not changed our mindset – we have created in the back of our minds.

Furthermore, our Diné traditional parents and grandparents have taught us to be mindful and to be careful in what we say and how we say it. What you think and say will bring a bad prophetic sign upon yourself.

In our prayers, why can't we start to call it Lood nidoodzih – a tumor, growth that can be cured?

Now is the time to rebuild faith, implicit trust, and confidence in our Diné language. The Diné people were given a sacred and omnipotent voice by the supernatural powers.

In fact, during the creation of Diné man (white corn) and woman (yellow corn), a rainbow was placed inside the mouth of both creations to provide sustainable moisture. This was done so that, today, we can render the power of expression from within and without our daily lives. It is about keeping our Diné language alive – saad naas hoolyeel, saad naas hooldil to allow for positive growth and the finer expressions in life.

The Diné people can continue to recite their prayers, hadaalte nidoodleel – become whole again, doo at'e nidoodleel; naadzi' dooleel – it will become healed, naada'algai saad nidoodleel – it will become words of white corn again, naada'altsoi saad nidoodleel – it will become words of yellow corn again, tadidiin ashkii saad nidoodleel – it will become emitting words of corn pollen boy again, alnilt'ani at'eed saad nidooleel – it will become emitting words of grower girl/corn beetle girl again, sa ah naaghai saad nidoodleel, - it will become protection way words again, bik'eh hozhoon saad nidoodleel – it will become blessing way words again, tadidiin saad nidoodleel - it will become words of corn pollen again.

The quintessential, inherent, contextual meanings, and clarity, in part, are within these phrases.

Anthony Lee Sr.
Lukachukai, Ariz.

Singing the blues for Pius

We lost Pius Whirlwind Soldier last week. Renowned Lakota blues guitarist, frontman for the Sioux Savages, lead guitarist to The Blue Canyon Band, Cody Bearpaw, Richard Quintana and many other Native musical groups.

Pius entertained us for over 40 years across Navajoland. I first met Pius (aka Poncho) during my Mormon mission in Tuba City, the summer of '72. We clicked right away. I was versed in Hendrix, and Poncho's group, The Country Gentlemen, worked the Navajo Reservation as a western band. I'm ashamed to admit that at the time I didn't care much for western stomp but Poncho was intrigued with my rock guitar style and so I gladly took him on as a pupil.

I had foolishly assumed that Poncho's band performed music that really wouldn't interest me. Then Mr. Whirlwind Soldier introduced me to his band at a Tuba City Community Center dance. They kicked off their first number (Waylon Jennings most likely) and these four guys just knocked me out.

I was impressed by the way these young men stood their ground on that big stage, delivering gut punch after gut punch in their unique country-rock style. But it was more than that; you could hear integrity in the music, these guys had roots and a clear vision of where they were headed. Thanks to Poncho, I was an instant member of the new band, The Sioux Savages.

Even though Poncho and I began as student and teacher, it wasn't long before it was the other way around. I heard him pull off feats of amazing magic that would have scared to death any guitarist with a lick of sense. He did a great bird whistle after a particularly wild song. I began calling him Bird Fingers. It fit. His fingers just flitted around the fret board as delicate as a bird's wings.

Poncho told me things that I'd never heard. (Since I was a white boy, that wasn't a terribly difficult thing for an Indian to do.) But he went way beyond culture. Poncho taught me that it was always about the emotion, feeling it. "Indun' Blues," he called it. I never had a closer friend nor a more worthy opponent than Pius Whirlwind Soldier. I finally left the Sioux Savages in 1980. But Poncho kept right on going.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to play with Poncho one last time. It was just he and I. He still had that old Telecaster and I was stunned at his mastery of the instrument. We played for two solid days, rarely stopping to sleep. We'd each found our respective places and ginned-up some great music. Unfortunately, it was never recorded, so you have only my word to take for it. But I wish you could have been there.

The Rez has lost a real musical treasure. Though, I understand he has several young protégés working to catch up. Put on your racing shoes younglings, Bird Fingers has one hell of a head start.

Marty DeLand
Corona, Calif.

MacDonald addresses Kayenta school

Kayenta Community School held a parent/staff public meeting followed with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 21. Some 300 people attended the dinner.

The speaker was Peter MacDonald, former chairman of the Navajo Nation. MacDonald emphasized traditional teaching as a very important part of Navajo youth development in today's environment.

He said, "60 or 70 years ago, traditional teaching took place in the homes, but today there is very little traditional teaching at home, therefore the school is the only other alternative for traditional teaching."

"Traditional teaching is really based on a challenge to a young person that to succeed one must be strong in body as well as in mind," he said.

"Today too many young people as well as adults seek the easy way out; they don't face life's challenges directly," he said.

MacDonald said technology is a tool, like a shovel or a hammer, but it does not teach a person how to be successful in life.

"In the past the path in life was clear, but today life is full of conflicting obstacles and full of uncertainties so much that a clear path is no longer there," he said.

"Because parents are just as confused, the young people turn to alcohol, drugs and gangs which destroy their lives before they have a chance to find their path," he said.

"Today, parent education is just as important as a child's education. Community education of parents and foster parents are both needed and necessary in today's social environment," he continued.

MacDonald said he is working on a book on economic development and education as a total for surviving in the future.

Daniel Peaches
Kayenta, Ariz.

'Foreigners' wreaking havoc on Navajo

In a Nov. 15 letter to the Navajo Times, non-Navajo attorney Larry Ruzow complained about a letter appearing in the Times the previous week. That letter was co-written by former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Tulley Haswood and former Navajo Nation President Milton Bluehouse Sr.

The Haswood-Bluehouse letter talked about "foreigners" (non-Navajos) who wrongly control us. It listed Navajo Department of Justice Water Lawyer Stanley Pollack, DOJ Lawyer Kate Hoover, and Assistant Attorney General Dana Bobroff. It also listed Minerals Department Director Aktar Zaman and Department of Water Resources Director Najam Tariq.

The Navajos listed as mixed up in elevating these "foreigners" over Navajos were Attorney General Harrison Tsosie and DWR Director Ray Benally. Yes, you read it right. Both Mr. Benally and Mr. Tariq are listed as DWR director. The first is supposed to be the DWR director but he's AWOL most of the time, leaving the non-Navajo in his place.

We thank Mr. Ruzow for reminding us about him. He's a minor figure, but he's still one of the foreigners who tries to control us and one who perennially supports "foreigner" control of the Navajo people.

We would say to Mr. Ruzow, welcome to the ring. His comments on the Haswood-Bluehouse letter were naturally offensive from a Navajo viewpoint. His current employment with the Office of Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation in Flagstaff, and his normally low profile, have camouflaged him and his ideas to keep us under "foreign" control.

Our people are waking up and saying to people like them, "No more theft of Navajo resources and our future."

It's not us but he and his "distinguished" friends who are the "know-nothings," to use his term. His referred to the "foreigners" mentioned above, and the Navajo defectors who support them, as distinguished. If these people are so great, and brought in so much good for us during their employment here, compare the reservation communities with Flagstaff, for example. The difference is like night and day.

Peabody Coal, for example, with "foreign" DOJ lawyer support, gets away with paying Navajo a measly 12.5 percent royalty, when it should be up to 50 percent.

The other rip-offs by Mr. Ruzow's "distinguished" friends are the minimizing of our water rights through things like the defunct Senate Bill 2109 (Little Colorado River Water Settlement Act-Agreement)

Then we should take into consideration the oil and gas of Aneth, Utah, that Navajo is getting ripped off on; the rights-of-way for the 300 miles of NGS power lines (tens of millions of dollars worth for free), the 83 miles of railroad ROW for NGS for free, the Four Corners Power Plant and nearby coal mine that Navajo signed away at dirt cheap prices.

We could go on about the damage done by people like Ruzow's "distinguished" friends. We got used to it in the past, and people like Ruzow and friends have come to expect submissive obedience from us. He may not realize it, and his "distinguished" friends may not, but that kind of expectation is a racist one.

Ed Becenti
St. Michaels, Ariz.

Government should take a cue from Depp

The Forgotten People are pleased to see the generous donation of Mr. Johnny Depp, which is a great gift to the future generations of our Navajo people. Mr. Depp has demonstrated once again that he is a deeply caring humanitarian, deserving of our support and admiration. We are truly grateful for his excellent skill and talent as an actor and as a man with a great spirit.

The occasion of Mr. Depp's kindness and generosity reminds us of the need to come together as a people and focus on the needs of our children and our elders. Towards this end, The Forgotten People have called on our United States and Navajo Nation governments to recognize the inalienable rights of all people to clean air, water, and the right to exercise our will to preserve our homelands and protect our sacred sites.

Specifically, we have called upon our elected leaders to protect us from the cancers inflicted on us by radioactive uranium debris still blowing in our winds and landing in our streams, our homes, and our bodies.

In terms of our water rights and rehabilitation of the former Bennett Freeze it's time our governments take responsible long-term and holistic economic development approaches that support the preservation of our resources, traditions and culture; that's supported by our people.

It is time for our leaders to end this imposed plague on our people and homelands. Our agenda is to promote life, not end it. We fear their lack of just action for humanitarian purposes demonstrates a different agenda.

We hope that on this joyous occasion we will rededicate ourselves to resolving that we will be free from exploitation from those who don't share our concern for our Mother and the many blessings she bestows upon us daily. The Forgotten People remain committed to improving the environmental, social and economic conditions that currently plague our people. It is time all people come together…this is a global concern. Let's think like our Creator meant us to think, globally without borders. Pollution knows no boundaries, like our water and air.

On this occasion we call upon and challenge our government(s) to follow the example of Mr. Depp and commit to supporting our children and the survival of our people, as he does. Education is key to empowerment. Empower your people with truth.

The Forgotten People and all the people need for Mr. Shelly to pass our resolution that we the Dine have inalienable rights to clean air, clean water, preservation of our motherlands and protection of our sacred sites. Support a radioactivity detection network as proposed by Forgotten People, to be installed to protect us and our children from the poison winds that carry the pollution from the past uranium mining.

We thank our Creator for sending Mr. Johnny Depp to the Navajo Nation and supporting the wellbeing of our people into the future. He is a man of true vision and pure intentions.

Raymond Don Yellowman
Forgotten People
Tuba City, Ariz.

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