Supporting colonization

June 27, 2013

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T he recent June 13 letter titled, "The Elders told us…" by Tacheenii Scott is simply misplaced nostalgia, wrong, and dangerous because it supports colonization. Here's why.

About 40 years ago on a hot summer day I walked into a small store on the edge of Holbrook looking for a half and half ice cream.

I walked throughout the store under the peering stare of a non-American Indian behind the cash register, and when I wasn't able to find the ice cream I proceeded to walk out when he started shouting, "Get out of here, you dirty redskin!" "Go back to the reservation, you damn redskin!" "Go back to your hogan, you stupid redskin!"

Needless to say, varying emotions ran through me - anger, hurt, confusion, and shock. I turned around to confront the worker, but he bolted into the freezer.

I walked out still seething with anger and in pain from the racist insult. The cashier viewed me in a narrow, stereotypical way rather than, an actual human being. To this day, I remember how I felt that awful day.

Mr. Scott asserts that American Indian stereotyping is a "wimpy racist issue" but he does not take into serious consideration how hurtful and damaging sports mascots and stereotypical images can be.

University of Arizona psychology professor Dr. Stephanie Fryberg has done research on the effects of American Indian sports mascots and stereotypical images on young American Indians and the robust results are astounding.

She found that American Indian sports mascots have harmful psychological effects on American Indian youth by promoting negative consequences for self-esteem, community worth, and their possible selves.

On the other hand, the non-American Indian youth exposed to American Indian sports mascot images had higher self-esteem than American Indian youth exposed to American Indian sports mascots.

In other words, non-American Indian youth feel good at the expense of American Indian youth. Knowingly and unknowingly, American Indian stereotypical images and sports mascots contribute to depression, low self-esteem, and poorly constructed identities in American Indian youth.

It has been proven that depression, low self-esteem, and poor identity can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, suicides, and other social pathologies. I believe that if we can change harmful American Indian stereotypical images to prevent at least one of our youth from feeling bad about how they are narrowly and wrongly depicted in society, then it is worth it.

I believe if we can prevent one American Indian youth suicide from happening then changing these hurtful American Indian stereotypical images is worth it.

I believe in teaching our young people about their true identity as American Indian people and respecting who they are and others, not glorifying hurtful American Indian caricatures, sports mascots, and stereotypical images.

We must protect our children by illuminating all representations of a misguided nostalgia of colonization.

Manley A. Begay Jr.
Tucson, Ariz.

Why not allow the 1969 NGS lease to end?

The next decision by the Navajo Nation Council relating to Navajo Generating Station is critical to the future of our nation and to maintaining our independence and fiscal sovereignty.

Even though representatives of NGS have offered an enticing increase in the lease, one would wonder if that is still a sum that is far below the true value of NGS.

Our leaders should ask themselves this question: "Do we want to continue taking a lease payment from the left over value of power sales or take an ownership position and keep the lion's share of the proceeds from the sale of power?"

Why not allow the 1969 lease to end, take over the facility and then solicit proposals from third party entities under a Public Private Partnership (P3) in which our nation is the owner and primary benefactor of the value from the sale of power and the third party entities operate NGS for the public good rather than the stock and shareholders of the companies that sell and profit tremendously from NGS power.

A careful review of the current lease provisions is warranted. In most cases a long-term lease, such as the current would have a provision requiring SRP and the other owners to remove all of the improvements to the property and return it to former condition. It is estimated that the cost for decommissioning the power plant and associated facilities would be in excess of the value of any equipment. I'm confident that SRP and the other owners would not want to comply with such conditions. This would provide significant leverage to the nation regarding this matter.

It is understood that there are significant capital investments required at NGS such as the proposed $500 million in nitrogen controls if plans are to operate all three units beyond 2024. The third party P3 entity that would operate NGS for our nation would provide the necessary capital for these and other improvements. The cost of producing power at NGS, even with these improvements, is still lower than other alternatives.

Navajo Nation could also decide to limit the purposes for which power is generated to power for essential services like water delivery to communities awaiting water pipeline and irrigation projects.

It is common today for third party entities to offer hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege to operate a facility that provides essential services.

This approach could also lead a more controlled and carefully planned phase out of NGS, should we move in that direction. If so, then we negotiate a short-term lease agreement to allow us to get off income and royalties.

The switching station and transmission capacity could be converted to serving a solar installation fulfilling the transition to clean energy the grassroots are pushing for.

The water currently used to power all three units could be used to meet the needs of our nation with ample power to deliver the water where it is needed most such as Western Agency and southwestern Navajo chapters. Financing our own water pipelines fortifies our stature within the southwest region and on the national level. At home, it enables us to revive our local farming and ranching activities.

The proposed long-term lease agreement currently under negotiation does not empower our nation. SRP's agreement still favors outside interests. We could sign the agreement only if our nation does not want to realize the extraordinary benefits of ownership.

SRP does not agree with our amendments so let the 1969 lease expire and let us take ownership of NGS. Have the federal government conditions such as site restoration costs and the decommissioning funds go to our nation. We actually hold the cards, and Central Arizona Project needs NGS.

In a recent public meeting, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District disclosed that NGS was the lowest cost power alternative even with all the issues that must be addressed. Their power demand would be met with one unit at NGS. Other irrigation projects, which provide water for people in arid areas, would also agree to participate in a sustainable solution if our nation took an ownership role. Aligning with irrigation interests can also provide much needed water for the nation as agri-business controls vast quantities of water on the Colorado River.

This is a drastic change from the current path, but these are issues that will affect our nation for generations to come and we must look beyond the immediate and take a path that is right and true for our nation.

There are many that would support this new path and understand that it would bring honor, influence, prosperity, and true sovereignty to our nation. It is time for us to take control of our own destiny rather than continually being at the mercy of the federal government and energy companies.

Elsa Johnson
Forest Lake, Ariz.

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