Money spent in border towns is less opportunity for Navajos

May 30, 2013

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T oo long and much too frequently have our Navajo citizens been without any significant measure of any progression toward curtailing the exodus of their hard earned Navajo dollars to the border towns.

Much more troublesome is Navajo not allowing itself to fully exercise the value of its political status as a sovereign tribal government and of its financial and natural resource endowments on behalf of a topic that affects every Navajo – economic development.

However, it is my distinct duty to inform the Navajo public of several proposed policy measures have been structured to begin exercising the sacred public trust held by public officials – protecting the Navajo people for today and on into the future.

First, as a backdrop, in a sample research study conducted by the Division of Economic Development, in examining border town tax receipts for calendar year 2010, it was revealed that eight border town municipalities reported approximately $350 million dollars in sales taxes for that year. This tax represents goods such as groceries, clothing, lumber, and appliances.

The amount does not include fuel, property, cigarettes or hotel taxes but including these is easily an additional $300 to $500 million.

Calculating this amount in total sales or total dollars spent is $8 to $10 billion dollars. If the Navajo consumer were to represent even one-quarter of the total dollar spent this equates to $2 to $2.5 billion dollars spent by the Navajo dollar.

However, we know for a fact that consumers from Navajo make up half that amount – somewhere between $4 to $5 billion dollars are derived from the Navajo market.

This $650-$850 million tax collected by the municipalities are then made available to maintain government operations, public infrastructure, and to some extent leveraged to finance classrooms, colleges, clinics, housing complexes and parks. Conversely, the tax collected, also represents opportunities lost for our Navajo communities who desire the same amenities enjoyed by the border towns.

Devising policy on behalf of any constituent is always difficult and most often not without critics and naysayers. However, being entrepreneurial along with being diligent, makes for an interesting outcome - producing policies that begin the process of advancing the Navajo Nation.

Within the past few years, legislations for sales tax increase for economic development, the economic development growth fund, bond-draw authorization, import-export logistics port, Navajo community development financial institution, casino expansion, collaborations between Navajo enterprises, government offices and Navajo entrepreneurs, accessing capital markets and business licensing. These are a few policies devised to counter the outflow of Navajo resources while advancing the Navajo market by Navajo businesses and communities.

Communities that are LGA certified stand in the wings to greatly benefit. These chapters could leverage the outcome of these policies particularly when local taxes are maintained within the communities they are generated. Quite possibly local certified chapters can place themselves in the driver seat of economic planning and development in their communities.

And by no means is the work complete. Improving upon these new policies and enacting new economic policies that entice more Navajo entrepreneurs to participate and Navajo consumers to make purchases within our borders are the immediate next steps.

By the same measure as the Civil Rights Act, Indian Self-Determination Act, Navajo Agricultural Products Industries and even the Federal Stimulus Act, the Navajo economic policies enacted over the last several years will by no means be visibly noticeable within a short time. And most certainly it would be tested, as has civil violence, court maneuverings, budget reductions and even prejudicial harboring has been devised to contest those historical legislations.

Time and time again, and studies after studies by universities and foundations, report that existing small businesses create approximately 70 to 75 percent of new jobs within a local economy. A proper dose of policies and the patronage by Navajo consumers and purchases of Navajo goods and services by private and public entities would validate those studies for the Navajo Nation's economy.

We can only hope that we as a nation can be brave enough to make the first step and even stronger as a people to begin our future today.

Raymond Nopah
Chief Financial Officer
Division of Economic Development
Window Rock, Ariz.

Officials blame sequestration for closing of schools

The superintendent and the school board of the Window Rock Unified School District took action to mortgage impact funds into school year 2022, then when it became clear that this action affected the district's cash flow they placed all of the blame regarding the negative cash flow on sequestration and the county treasurer error.

So far the superintendent, nor have any of the board members, stepped forward and admitted that this impact of negative cash flow and planning to cut three schools, including the popular Navajo Immersion School, is really self-inflicted and the result of bad budget management and basically being asleep at the wheels.

The school board, for its part, apparently did not understand how mortgaging impact funds into year 2022 would impact their cash flow. Had they done their diligent duty by asking the hard questions they could have put a stop to this nonsense and we would not be talking about closing three schools and putting hundreds of people out of a job and making it difficult for students to get a good education.

The student handbook lists that parents are the first teachers of children, and that cooperation, communication, trust must exist between the school and community, and that all parents and community members should serve as responsible role models for children. And, the Governing Board of Education will work with district and the community in making education policy decisions. And, the school district and the community will work together to provide a safe, orderly and wholesome school environment that nurtures growth and promotes learning.

The school board has not asked for accountability requiring the superintendent to set the example at the highest level The children in our schools today are the future leaders of our community and our nation. Let's teach them to work hard, be honest and most importantly, give credit where credit is due. The superintendent for years sent her children to a private school and here again, the school board took no action and allowed her to remain while saying to the very people she is responsible for: "I don't trust the Window Rock School educators and therefore I am sending my child to a private school." I, however, will continue to draw pay and run your schools, just don't expect me to subject my children to this system.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

Providing dental care on the Navajo Nation

From an early age, growing up on the family farm, my parents encouraged and emphasized that I should learn compassion, acceptance, and the belief in doing good. It became ingrained that we would be respectful of the land, diligent and obedient to our faith and traditions and most importantly supportive of the family and the farming community.

My parents were loving and my father as stern in his discipline philosophy. The farm and the land came first because of the "way of life" and the income potential for the family. We worked hard, and we worked together.

As a dental hygienist, I was now a part of the Navajo Nation of the Native American Indians. I learned of their approaches to health and traditional healing with customs handed down in time. My general impression of health and health care in IHS Facility was that the oral/dental, and systemic/body health has no link. There was however, respect for traditional Native American Indian healers/medicine.

On the reservation service unit dental clinics, the EFDA (expanded function dental assistant) is trained to place restorations, clean teeth, take impressions, apply fluoride treatments, expose radiographs, and much more.

The training is that of approximately one year of study with 80 percent being on the job, hands-on training. While this may be frowned upon in western standards, it is a means for reaching the large Native American Indian populations, and provides some form of dental care. Despite licensure, this delivery system fills a void outside the insulated traditional and elite model of dentistry.

The dental hygienist does provide the experience/education for "higher status" of prophylaxis/cleanings for the Native American Indian patient. The Native American Indian priorities are not on oral health. It is difficult to treat a large population of people to move towards prevention, when so many other priorities and disparities exist.

As a dental hygienist, we know that a link exists between a clean, healthy dentition and the ability to retain teeth throughout one's lifetime, as well as total body health. Recently, there are several studies that show a relationship between periodontal disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Disease in the mouth/oral cavity can lead to serious disability and in some cases contribute to death.

In my career as a dental hygienist, I recognize that there is diversity in all of us, whether cultural or otherwise. All practitioners need to be sensitive to the differences in values, beliefs, and priorities of others, especially those we serve. They need to be empathic in patient's perceptions, traditions, and cultural norms; strive to understand and bridge the barriers of diversity.

Carol Jaworski
Tohatchi Dental
Tohatchi, N.M.

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