Closing of NCI will have dire consequences

April 23, 2013

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I write for the countless individuals who will be impacted by the closing of NCI ... employees, families of clients, the city of Gallup and lest we forget, the Navajo Tribe. How will they be impacted you ask?

The most important individuals of this imminent disaster are the clients - the homeless, alcoholic addicted individuals who will be roaming the streets of Gallup asking for handouts of food or alcohol (like they do now), the roads leading back to the reservation will be lined with alcoholic individuals, the reservation communities will also be affected (think more crime and DWI deaths).

Our own people (the Navajo Nation tribal government, Behavioral Health) do not want or wish to fund a center that has tried to help these sick individuals conquer and battle a disease that has affected our people for hundreds of years. Instead they open casinos to start another type of addiction (gambling), which will eventually enable more individuals in our nation to alter their way of life (if it already hasn't).

Individual Navajos are also at fault in this ignorance, many tend to believe the problems will just go away if they don't see what is happening. It won't happen to them, it is not their problem.

Ignorance is bliss for the Navajo Nation, Navajo tribal government and the departments (Behavioral Health) who fund and line their own individual pockets as opposed to those who are in dire circumstances.

In Native circles there is a saying "All my relations." The saying does not only imply human beings, but all of life surrounding us. The sad thought to this situation is, we as Navajos are all related in some way through our clan system. Navajos have gone far from caring for each other, to the thought of "Only me and my own needs."

We have long forgotten our traditional teachings and have entered a way of life that the bilagáanas built and taught us. It is never too late to help people who are crying out for help, we all can make a difference in our own Navajo Nation reservation communities. It starts with a grassroots movement to communicate the knowledge of changes we want on the reservation or in the world.

Look back into our rich history of leaders who fought for our survival and our traditions. Addressing historical trauma that took place in our Navajo past will begin the healing process. Look into your own family background and find your own history.

We Navajos need to become Indianized (again). If you want to change the Navajo political system you must be part of that change. Look at the water right issue, the countless headlines in the Navajo Times of money being stolen by Navajo officials in the chapters and in the tribal government, on and on with bilagáana-type corruptions. It is time for a new way of thinking and a new type of change for our people.

Maralyn Yazzie
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Navajo Times buried HIV article

On May 20th, the New York Times carried a 1,000-word story on an alarming increase in HIV rates within the Navajo Nation. A photographer supplied the paper with pictures of a Gallup clinic and Dr. Jonathan Iralu, listed as an "infections disease expert," who was also interviewed in the accompanying story.

Globally and in the United States rates of new HIV infections have dropped, but within the Navajo Nation it has increased 20 percent since 2011, according to the Times' story. At the end of the New York Times' article, Iralu is quoted warning about a potential epidemic unless action is taken.

But if you are a Navajo Times reader you might not know anything about this story, even though the paper broke it 10 days before the New York Times did. Why? Because unlike the editors of the New York Times, who felt the story was important enough to publish alongside world and national events, the editors from the Navajo Times buried the story and an exclusive interview with Dr. Iralu on Page 7 of the paper in a section called "News 2."

The Navajo Times editors put a story on auditions for a Navajo-dubbed "Star Wars" across 80 percent of the front page of that week's paper with reports on allegations of political corruption vying for the rest of the space. This has got to be one of the strangest and worst editorial decisions in the history of the Navajo Times.

Other stories that beat out reporter Alastair Bitsoi's HIV articles were: "Diné teen featured in 'New Mexico True' campaign," "Twin Arrows officials host 'soft opening,'" a story on BHP, nearly an entire page with photographs and graphics dedicated to Huerfano Chapter and something on police training in Window Rock accompanied with huge pictures of leaping dogs and people being tasered.

What is concerning is the fact that the Navajo Times failed to properly cover and make known this important and worrying development to its readership. I've had conversations about how the Navajo Times covers news with the editors and publisher of the paper before. They are always defensive and rarely admit error. Former editor Duane Beyal told me in so many words that Navajo readers couldn't understand complex words. I would argue by extension that the editors also believe that Navajo readers can't handle regular news and need to be fed fluff articles.

Part of the reason why it's so difficult for us to solve social problems within the Navajo Nation is due to our inept media institutions. Like the Navajo Times, KTNN listeners are likely to hear a George Straight song before they learn anything about increased HIV rates across the reservation (George Straight being another cover story for the Navajo Times).

The increase in HIV rates in the Navajo Nation is alarming. But also troubling is how our media institutions, especially the Navajo Times, dropped the ball on this story. We need to also hold our media institutions accountable.

Andrew Curley
Kayenta, Ariz.

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