Where was thanks for construction workers?

February 28, 2013

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I was one of the many people who attended the festivities in honor of the Western Navajo Diné Justice Center grand opening. I was eager to attend because for months I had seen the project rise and wanted to be a part of history as the biggest facility of its kind on Indian land was unveiled.

However, I found myself very disappointed in the messages that were delivered by the many distinguished speakers. I waited patiently for someone to recognize the work force that put their sweat and blood into the construction of the multi-billion dollar facility and the many short and long-term jobs that were created.

Messages of what the justice center meant for reducing crime were aplenty as well as praise for the people who contributed to securing the money to make the project possible. As it came time for the closing prayer I held my breath waiting for at least a "bless the hands that built this facility" but it never came.

The ribbon was cut and I toured the courthouses and my disappointment was reaffirmed. Anyone who set foot in the facility could see the workmanship and pride that was put forth by the many men and women who got the opportunity to work on the historic justice center. The justice center was a blessing for my family and countless others because my husband, who works construction, was able to work locally, which can be rare for families living on the Navajo Nation.

Additionally, throughout the months that the justice center was being built I imagine that local businesses and road-side sellers flourished as they catered to the large workforce. Equally as important are the many permanent jobs that the justice center has provided and will provide once it is in full swing.

The justice center was in large part funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, an act whose main goal was to get Americans working. And if ever there were a place in America that needed economic development it would be the Navajo Nation.

I am grateful that our community received a desperately needed multi-purpose justice center that will lead to a safer community, but for many Navajo people, the justice center meant so much more. The labor force was critical in bringing the justice center to fruition, but I feel they did not get the recognition they deserved.

Natalya Robbins
Tuba City, Ariz.

Invest in communities, not mines

Energy and employment seem to be the most prominent areas of concern on the Navajo Nation. The government released plans on purchasing Navajo Mine, which has been in operation since 1963 by BHP-Billiton, an Australian Corporation.

Why is the Navajo government concentrating on purchasing an old coal mine, instead of investing in our communities?

"There is nothing to do" and "I want to go back but there are no opportunities" are the most common responses I get from Navajo young adults (18-30) on why they do not live on the reservation after they finish their schooling.

I am a graduate from ASU with a degree in sustainability and a minor in urban planning. Despite having a formal education, I can attest to how competitive it is to get employment and hard it is to relocate from urban city life to reservation life. Quite honestly, if our Navajo communities were better developed, then the allure of off-reservation life would decrease significantly.

The thing I miss most about urban life is road biking and the problem is safety from vehicles. There are hardly any sidewalks or bike lanes to emphasize pedestrian safety on the reservation.

If we, as community members, do not take a spare moment to physically enjoy our communities then why should we expect non-community members to appreciate them?

Developing a community with intention makes a community appealing to citizens and tourists. A successful public area should show the community happiness and lead to future business developments like coffee shops or restaurants.

Rather than continuing to be the workforce for non-Navajo entities, we should strive to nurture our own entrepreneurs.

The phrase "community with intention" may not make sense but every community is constructed around a focal point. Prescott, Ariz., started on Whiskey Row and to this day, it is still part of the focal point of the city. I think that the reason why Whiskey Row is so successful is because of its walkability. Viewing an area inside a car doesn't allow the individual to gain a sense of the community nor does it allow the community to gain any revenue.

Understandably, the reason to continue the Navajo Mine operation is employment. That is a worry for all decision makers but investing in our communities brings the probability of future development that will bring employment.

Additionally, if the government invested in mine reclamation, renewable energy, community oriented development and Navajo entrepreneurship, I have serious doubts that employment would be considered a valid issue.

In order to gain some of our educated youth back, we must change on many levels. As Navajo Nation citizens, we must change for our communities and our future generations by planning our communities to reflect our community identity and become competitive with off-reservation life.

We must demand change in our nation's policies to nurture Navajo entrepreneurship. The government and local decision makers should carefully listen to the demands of the public and start dialogues that will involve all groups. The government should become more transparent in their procedure and concentrate on community development rather than large commercial development.

Lastly, we all should increase efforts towards making our tribe sustainable and resilient as our land.

Holly Barton
Dilkon, Ariz.

Why are there no nursing homes on Navajo?

I find it hard to believe since the 1868 Treaty with United States government that Navajo Nation has never ever built a nursing home facility on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation sent out their elderly folks to border town nursing care to Farmington and Gallup. Why has the Navajo Nation never built nursing homes on the Navajo Nation for the elderly population?

Most elderly do not know how to use telephones and have never been off the Navajo Nation because they were born and raised on the Navajo Nation. They are so accustomed to Navajo nutrition like corn mush, and the menu at the nursing homes in border towns are not meeting our senior citizens' needs as to nutrition, diet and activities they are accustomed to doing in their entire life.

I find this a disgrace and embarrassing for our Navajo Nation to lack taking care of our senior citizens because deteriorating physical conditions of becoming old.

This should be aired on Navajo stations and supported by our people because we need to do better of taking care of our senior citizens and meet their needs and start advocating for our senior citizens on Navajo Nation. It is the right thing to do. Thank you.

Julia Zlitni
Centennial, Colo.

(Editor's note: There are a few elder care facilities on Navajo including the Navajoland Nursing Home in Chinle, and several more in the planning stages.)

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