Waive election fees for future tribal candidates

January 10, 2013

Text size: A A A

I attended the 2013 Eastern Navajo Agency Chapter Officials, Land Board members, School Board members, and Election Board Inauguration on January 7, 2013 at Wingate High School in Fort Wingate, N.M. What caught my attention and wanting me to write this letter was a speech made by Navajo Election Administration Director Edison J. Wauneka.

Wauneka stated in his speech that before in prior elections all positions would fill up right away with candidates. Then continued the speech by saying that, the problem is lack of candidates in the 2012 local election, and by saying the candidate are reluctant due to outcry from their constitutes.

I think I know a solution to the problem, people are being charged too much. I ran for McKinley County Clerk as a democrat in 2008, and my fee was waived. The filing fee is $50, but it was waived.

As a Democratic free nation and a citizen of the United States aren't we obligated to lead the people without paying an outrageous fee of $400? If I calculate right 110 chapters x 3 officials = 330 x 2 candidates each = 660 X $400 that's $264,000, let alone for the 3 chapter officials with average of 2 candidate.

Not to mention the number of school board, land board, grazing officials, election board and education board positions, the fee would hit about $300,000 to $450,000 for local elections. It should be the obligation of the Navajo Nation to utilize General funds to pay for the election, not candidates paying the fee.

Instead of giving money away through discretionary, why not invest in our elections? You plant a seed it will slowly grow and the fruits of that seed will be beneficial down the road. I challenge the 22nd Navajo Nation Council, Mr. Shelly, and the Navajo Election Board of Supervisors to change this, to encourage upcoming generations to take the reins for our people. It doesn't have to end with the old, but start with the young people through teachings of our elders, medicine people, pastors and mentors.

I also challenge the young to take on that responsibility of public service; there is always no right or wrong or right and left when learning to lead the people. You make your leadership through commitment and dedication. My late great grandma Elsie Becenti from, Pinedale taught me well, and it is through her that made me, who I am. It is through her, I learn the needs of my people. Finally it is through her I have learned my language, history, songs, and prayers of the holy people.

I challenge the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo Election Administration and Board to reform the outrageous fees. Lower the fee and democracy will prevail. Thank you for reading my letter and May you have a blessed 2013, and may the Holy people bless our people and government.

Titus Jay Nez
Churchrock, N.M.

Guardianship law needs changes

The Navajo Nation does not currently have a statute that protects the rights of individuals facing guardianships based on a perceived disability. Navajo statutes in regard to adult guardianships are meager, with little to no guidance on how to proceed in order to guarantee the protection of rights of adults who are the subject to adult guardianships.

The current code was written in 1945 and hasn't been updated. There are only five short sections concerning such guardianships under Navajo Law, Sections 801 et seq. under Title Nine of the Navajo Nation Code, further, there are no rules of procedure for guardianship proceedings.

When a person obtains a permanent guardianship over another, the ward is consequently deprived of his/her individual liberty. By its nature, appointing a guardian restricts a potential ward's ability to make independent life decisions.

For example, the ward can no longer make independent decisions regarding basic needs, such as education, housing, and medical treatment. Rather, their guardian makes these decisions for them. The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has held that due process requires "fundamental fairness in a Navajo cultural context," and that "strict standards of fairness and equity…are inherent in Navajo common law."

Consequently, an individual subject to a guardianship proceeding is entitled to due process with the highest standards. Current Navajo law covering adult guardianship violates this right to due process: the law's lack of specificity and clear procedures do not adequately protect an individual's liberty interest.

There are no clear guidelines to help the court determine the guardianship process, whether a guardian is necessary, and what controls should be imposed upon an appointed guardian.

To address this problem, the Native American Disability Law Center in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities, proposes to draft an Adult Guardianship Act for the Navajo Nation. The proposed Act will be crafted with Navajo cultural traditions in mind.

Under current Navajo law, a court must decide after a hearing if the alleged incapacitated person is "incapable of taking care of himself and managing of his property."

The statute, however, fails to define "incapacity". The Act proposed herein will define incapacity, specify a standard of proof and establish a procedure or process to guarantee that a potential ward receives proper notice of the guardianship proceeding.

The proposed statute will provide guidance for the court and the participating parties on what evidence is necessary to show capacity or lack thereof, which party has the burden of proof, and any presumptions that can be made. The Act will give Navajo courts the ability to limit a guardianship, and specify the terms under which a guardianship can be limited.

In this effort to address this major disability issue and need regarding the proposed Adult Guardianship Act, the Law Center and NNACOD welcomes comments and input from interested persons. Your comments or input can be sent to Hoskie Benally Jr. at hbenally@nativedisabilitylaw.org.

Hoskie Benally Jr.
Native American Disability Law Center
Farmington, N.M.

DOJ hiring another bilagáana lawyer

I've seen an email copy sent this fall by a Georgia lawyer to Navajo Department of Justice. He discusses wanting to work for DOJ plus getting $12,000 moving costs.

DOJ is now trying to hire this bilagaana lawyer in another violation of the Navajo Preference in Employment Act. He's Joe Hardy, and may already be here. What are his qualifications?

Hardy's from Georgia, he's a University of Georgia law graduate, he practices aviation and entertainment law, he's an actor and former private investigator, he's not a member of any bar association in the West, he's not a Navajo Bar member, and he has no Indian country experience.

DOJ's bilagaana lawyers, Stanley Pollack and Kathryn Hoover (she's from Georgia and Hardy's law school), appear to be sneaking Hardy into their water rights unit. These two always pull deceptions.

It was Pollack and Hoover who gave U.S. Senator Jon Kyl the fraudulent Navajo water wagon picture and story he presented on the Senate floor on Feb. 14, 2012. Kyl used the picture and story to aid him in introducing Senate Bill S.2109 for the Little Colorado River. The picture fraud by the lawyers was exposed in May 2012.

Jack Ahasteen also published an excellent political cartoon related to it on Oct. 25, 2012, in the Navajo Times.

The two lawyers secretly signed the "Agreement in Principle" document that pre-dated S. 2109, and that Kyl used to say Navajo approved S.2109. The "agreement in principle" was a written promise from the lawyers that the nation supported S.2109.

But, there was no free, prior and informed consent of the people or the Council. This dishonesty violated our human rights. These two lawyers' employment here and the hiring of Joe Hardy are additional violations of our human rights. We need to replace them immediately with loyal Navajo lawyers.

It appears Hardy's only qualification is he knows lawyer Hoover. Why are she, Pollack, and DOJ supporting hiring an unqualified bilagaana lawyer who doesn't know us or our rights?

The Navajo Council and Human Resources must investigate why DOJ is trying to stick us with another bilagáana lawyer who'll take our money and then help waive most of our rights and economic opportunities.

DOJ has in it a gang of disloyal lawyers who look down on us and are co-conspirators against us with politicians like Jon Kyl, big corporations, and southwestern states.

These lawyers and the Navajos who support them are steadily destroying us. Our children deserve chances to live here and have the opportunities that the nation has made possible for the corporations and states. The nation and the lawyers give away huge rights and resources to outside interests at bargain basement prices. It goes on like a broken record.

Why do our leaders not do the right thing? We must support them in doing better. We must be forward looking and soon elect leaders who will never let DOJ hijack our nation again.

This is supposed to be the Navajo people's nation, not DOJ's.

Bryon Huskon
Window Rock, Ariz.

NAPI keeping Navajos in poverty

I know why my people are living in a poverty-stricken reservation with more than a 50 percent unemployment rate.

I moved back over three years ago, excited to open my feed store in Crownpoint, and buy hay from Navajo Tribal Enterprise NAPI. It is so unbelievable NAPI denied me this economic opportunity.

I made complaints to the Resource & Development Committee, my chapter house officials, and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. Not much happened as of today.

My real problem started when I sent a letter to a career politician, Ed T. Begay. He is known to the news media as a modern time leader in economic development on the Navajo Nation. He never responded to my complaints about NAPI CEO Tsosie Lewis is unfriendly to Navajo business.

Close to a year, he responded with a $300,000 lawsuit. He is suing me for ruining his good standing in a community and claims my words are so sacred that it violated Diné Fundamental Law and affected him mentally alone with his CEO Lewis.

With all the blessing from President Shelly, they hired a white lawyer to practice Diné fundamental law that was created by our holy people in Shiprock District Court to get these leaders $300,000.

I accused NAPI CEO Lewis, and he is responsible for the hay price to skyrocket in March 2011, which put a huge amount of financial burden on elders with fixed incomes. Most elders cannot tend to their sheep any more so they keep them fenced and feed them hay.

Navajo ranchers were not happy about it. Mr. Lewis blamed the drought when NAPI is using our water for free and as much as they need. Actually they sold all our premium hay to Japan and sell the poor quality hay to Navajo ranchers.

Tsosie also claims self-determination does apply to him so he don't have to abide the Navajo Business Opportunity Act or Navajo preference.

CEO harassed my wife and I with his top officials and put my wife in shock for a couple of days. She has begged me to leave the reservation where we live peacefully and financially well off before we came home. I refused, if they did this to me, I am very sure there are more victims out there, and I intend to fight this ill practice of our government in keeping our people in poverty and use poor Navajo people to get federal funding.

Tsosie also writes to my Congressman Lujan, "Lester is woefully ignorant and it would simply be imprudent of NAPI to do business with Mr. Lester Begay on the terms he demands and unfair to the rest of the citizenry as well."

My point is, Navajo tribal government uses Diné fundamental law to override our Navajo Bills of Rights, and so they will keep us as peasants while they live lavishly with our money. We must protect our freedom of speech and protect our holy people's law to keep us in a harmony way.

Lester Begay
Burnham, N.M.

Back to top ^