Clean up, decorate Navajo Nation capital

July 4, 2013

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Ya'at'eeh! Recently I took a mini-vacation to the rez from Phoenix. Prior to my visit, I hadn't been home to the rez for a couple of years. While there, one of my destination stops was to the Navajo capital in Window Rock. I believe our nation has chosen a beautiful capital city, and for that reason it should look very nice.

However, while at the president's office, I was dismayed at how poorly the property looked. There were weeds in front of the president's office and graffiti at the Navajo Code Talkers Memorial. I felt embarrassed for the tribe. To make it worse, while I was there for a few minutes, I saw some bilagaana visitors who decided to stop and visit the capital also.

Even though I may be an urbanized Navajo now, I still stay connected to the tribe and my roots through the Internet. I always read up on the Navajo Nation government website and Navajo Times online about how we need to take care of the land and clean up our parks, but has it ever occurred to anyone how our capital should be maintained and cleaned up?

The Navajo Nation has visitors from all parts of the world year around. Also, with the tribe trying to become more independent, it is vital we clean up and decorate our capital, because people will judge the capital, compare the people and conclude that the whole nation is the same way: Poor!
Navajo Nation should show some pride in its capital city, Window Rock. As a citizen, I am very pro-Navajo and I would like to see our Navajoland thrive. My recommendations would be to clean up the weeds, replace it with some nice flowers, and clean up the exterior of the building. I really like the stone building for the president's office because it looks historical, but the windows look dirty and grim from the outside.

Clean up the graffiti. There are little touches that the president's office can do to make the capital feel more "welcoming." Doing little exterior touch-ups on the president's office and the memorial does not need to cost a fortune, but it should look presentable to all visitors, especially for politicians and foreigners who do business with the tribe in those buildings. It truly needs to look inviting.

If anyone has ever been to Washington, D.C., or any other capital city in the world, you will see that all the Naataaniis palaces, presidential offices, or any other government buildings are nicely maintained.

I used to live in Pagosa Springs, Colo., and even the town hall of Pagosa Springs is better looking and well maintained than the president's office.

Hiring some landscapers and cleaners would create some jobs for the locals of Window Rock. Please, I urge the Navajo Nation to take this letter into consideration. Maybe it's just the culture that accepts the way the building looks, but if Navajo truly wants to become independent, little gestures and clean-ups can go a long way for the tribe. Our tribe should take pride in its capital city, Window Rock. Thank you.

Adrian Hedding
Phoenix, Ariz.

Junk food tax 'unreasonable, insensible'

Ya'at'eeh Diné! Not at our expense, but why should the general public have to endure a 2 percent sales tax on junk food? It's annoying that this increase is based on a medical condition, specifically those having and living with diabetes and obesity.

An article in the Navajo Times, June 6, by those seemingly proclaimed "experts" with the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance. This inane, absurd initiative by DCAA is insensible and so unreasonable as to be ridiculous. This initiative by DCAA is in some sense plausible to an extent. However, it'll be viewed or construed to be "counter productive" at best. Imposing this increase will not hinder the want and desire of the consumer. By what right does DCAA have to infringe or impede on the rights of others?

Of course, what did you expect from the people? You'll gain no support or favors by asking the people to pay more for your initiative. Get real!

This is a wake-up call for DCAA. Grandma, grandpa, and others with limited transportation will suffer. Given the fact they have little income with the never ending or rise in consumer goods it's either pay the bills or put food on the table. If DCAA's intent is to empower the people to take personal responsibility then perhaps DCAA needs to rethink their initiative about a 2 percent sales tax increase on junk food.

To petition the Navajo Nation for approval of junk food sales tax act is totally outright ludicrous. Why? Seek incompetence?

Having and living with diabetes for the past 26 years does not make me an authoritative nor do I proclaim to be an expert. Each of these ailments is treatable and manageable with controlled diet and exercise. Either condition has complex and intricate complications. At one point each was considered separate, however, they are explicitly associated. It was pleasing to read input by former chairman honorable Peter MacDonald Sr. (letters, Navajo Times, June 6, 2013) also concerning diabetes and obesity.

In closing, people need to take care of their health and be responsible. There are a set of young eyes looking to you for guidance and direction. Live well and be mindful of your health.

Michael Halona Sr.
Albuquerque, N.M.
(Hometown: Buffalo Springs, N.M.)

Navajo Nation is not business friendly

It's a sad day to see the dissolution of the Navajo Chamber of Commerce. This is an indication of the business climate here on the rez. The various departments of the Navajo Nation government continue to conduct business as they please with no restraints. What regulatory entities that are in place are ineffective and do not have the competence to fulfill their roles as overseer and enforcer of the procurement code.

After 20 years in business and trying to procure work from the tribe all those years and coming up with very little because of politics, bureaucracy, and corruption, my company is compelled to seek for nothing but the crumbs of the contracts that are designed for and awarded to off reservation mega companies that can promise perks to the awarding authorities and all the so-call economic stimulation goes home with the off reservation contractors.

The incentive to do business for the tribe pretty much goes away when the tribe seeks every opportunity to disqualify a Navajo veteran owned, priority one certified company by technicalities and even awards your hard work to become the low bidder by awarding to the friend of the department despite the fact that they lack the required licensing and bonding.

I bring these things to light that there might be a change. Otherwise we have fooled ourselves as a people when we thought we had rid ourselves of the bad element by eliminating the 64 Council members. We have saved only the ones that were the quickest on their feet. This is a Navajo business beware situation. As it stands, there is no incentive to start up or keep a business on the Navajo Nation. It is not Navajo Business Friendly!

Thom Curleyhair
Mesa, Ariz.

(Hometown: Chilchinbeto, Ariz.)

Addressing drought

The Navajo Nation is experiencing one of the worst drought in memory. Livestock are dying of thirst in the Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico portion of the Navajo Reservation.

The Navajo livestock owners are hauling water, some two or three times a day. I, myself, haul water twice a day, one for sheep, the other for horses and cattle. Each trip is 20-plus miles.

I don't know what our leaders are doing. I understand President Shelly and his vice president were watching a white man tightrope walk over the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. They must be blind to this serious situation.

An emergency plan needs to be developed immediately to address this urgent situation. Livestock owners must sell some of their livestock before they become casualties. I sold some stocks in May. This is necessary because the natural feed such as grass are all dried up and have no nourishment in them.

This weekend I traveled to Santa Fe. There is smoke on most of the mountains (wildfires).

The governors of the surrounding three states must be notified immediately of our situation as well as congressional, counties and other elected officials. There does not appear to be any plan at the local and Window Rock levels. Our public officials must be all sound asleep.

To be prepared, we must develop our water resource similar to NAPA that utilizes the San Juan River. There are several large aquifers beneath our land all untapped except for the Navajo aquifer beneath Black Mesa, which was developed by Peabody Coal Co. The people on Black Mesa, Kayenta, Shonto, and other communities are using that source water.

Every spring, Navajo medicine men used to place offerings at local springs as well as the Colorado and San Juan rivers. They traveled by horse to the sacred mountains to place offerings, praying for rain for their people. Who does that these days? Probably a few or none.

Yesterday I placed offerings at Rock Spring on Black Mesa. Medicine men were not paid to do this, just food, provisions if they will be doing for several days or travel to distant places. If we don't do this, the Holy People will think we are not concerned about our situation. I hope our leaders will immediately develop a comprehensive plan to address this serious situation.

Daniel Peaches
Kayenta, Ariz.

Giving away Navajo resources

Old-time Diné leaders got us home from Hwéeldi by standing up to General Sherman in 1867. Today, the nation continues to be oppressed by exploitation from inside and by outside interest groups and the U.S. government.

Our trustee Bureau of Indian Affairs is silent and the Bureau of Reclamation continues its path to side with outside interests against Navajo people. From within our own Navajo Nation certain departments and programs have done nothing but assist Department of Justice positions of doing nothing or giving away of Navajo resources to the outside interest groups. Below is an inside example on water, for which we need leadership to correct.

Najam Tariq runs the Technical, Construction, and Operations Branch of the Water Resources Department. I met him in the 1980s and have considered him a friend of the Navajo people. Since then he stayed to help Navajo people with his expertise as the principal geo-hydrologist and on the surface he is a good man yet lately he is reportedly assuming control over the people's Water Code Administration, a regulatory program and a small program with huge responsibilities to regulate water use and well drilling permits, water conflicts, and revenue generation from commercial water use.

The WCA has been administered for 15 years by Bennie Williams, whose program set records for revenues collected working with Dr. Jack Utter, who helped the Navajo Nation Council in 2012 and the Navajo grassroots against SB2109 and HR4607. He now serves as the primary hydrologist under the program. These two gentlemen are true compatriots of the Navajo people.

I learned that the water resources management has begun to restructure its organization to place WCA buried under the technical branch. As disturbing as it may sound I learned of allegations of mismanagement of funds by DWR directors yet the Council without question recently appropriated TCOB another $3 million on top of regular appropriations of several million, without investigating first. It seems an investigation by oversight legislative body is needed. Our people deserve to be informed whether or not everything is OK.

The Water Code law became effective in 1984. What Department of Water Management is doing is contrary to the law's intent. As I know Mr. Williams has done the right thing and moved in the right direction while DWR management and others are minimizing the people's WCA, just like the Department of Justice minimizes our water rights. It looks too much like the DWR management employees are trying to please the dishonest DOJ. It's like the foxes taking over the hen house.

There's lots of Navajo talent inside and outside DWR. Tariq is a geo-hydrologist and should serve as such capacity instead of serving as a department director. Where is Mr. Ray Benally in this picture? We need honesty and Navajo control over Navajo water and our WCA. The best thing to do is separate the WCA from DWR, like Navajo EPA was separated from Division of Natural Resources. The WCA cannot properly regulate water if those needing regulation the most are controlling it.

Bryon Huskon
Window Rock, Ariz.

Grazing issues need to be addressed

This is a complaint involving allegations against BIA officials who have been creating land disputes and grazing land degradation for decades. Lately, Fort Defiance Agency Natural Resource manager refused to attend District 17 Grazing Committee meetings to discuss these issues with the committee. The Agency created land disputes for decades and blames livestock producers instead.

Mr. Jerome Willie and Calvert Curley we're asking to let grazing permit holders and land users hear what their office is doing to correct the overwhelming land disputes and grazing land degradation within Fort Defiance Agency.

In all dispute cases, the tribal Department of Agriculture requires formal complaint to District Grazing Committee and the BIA. On March 4, a tribal complaint form was presented to District 17 Grazing Committee.

Mr. Willie was made aware of issues presented to the committee. The complaints are the agency's failure to follow 25 CFR 167 regulations and 55 BIAM BIA manual. The complaint form specially outlined what relief is wanted and how to address the complaints. The committee should:
1. Ask BIA to comply with 25 CFR 167.6 (b) (c) to do range assessment and field investigations of grazing permit transfer requests and to get consent of affected permittees to justify why more livestock is permitted in deteriorated rangeland.

2. Ask BIA to comply with CFR 167 Negotiability of Regular Grazing Permits Provision No. 2 and No. 9 that requires BIA to insure enforcement of consent of affected permit holders before transfer of permits are approve for use in different use area.

3. Ask BIA to comply with its own rules by producing range Conservation Plan as directed in its 55 BIAM Supplement 2 (1.2B); and only after range assessment and available water resources are accepted for additional sheep units.

4. Ask BIA to enforce adjustment of carrying capacities when grazing transfer agreements and/or purchase of addition permits are presented to them for approval.

In reality, BIA must perform its federal trust responsibility and work jointly with grazing officials. Range, soil, water resources, wildlife, and horse population must be assessed by the BIA before grazing Plan of Operation is approved. The March 4 complaint also requested was for the committee to stop BIA from allowing livestock owners to write their own range use conservation plan.

We are told that District 17's range study was completed and awaits final report. But the contracted range study covers the whole district whereas individual grazing use areas are different depending on soil type, elevation, annual precipitation, wildlife population, wild unbranded horse population, etc.

BIA must stop blaming grazing committee's recommended actions. As a federal trustee, BIA can still reject recommended actions if requirements of Navajo Grazing Regulation are not followed. Any questionable issues should be resolved first.

Yes, technicians have obligation and responsibility to provide technical assistance to the committee for map work and field exercises of non-technical nature, but range assessments and range conservation plans are the responsibility of the specialist with a range science degree, not technicians, livestock owners, or land users. Even if range staff fall short of performing their tasks, agency range specialists and agency resource managers are expected to ensure the procedures are followed before it goes to the regional office for final approval of grazing permit transfers and farmland assignments.

The BIA Fort Defiance Agency and USDA NRCS plans to put on an educational workshop at Steamboat Chapter on July 8 for those interested.

Finally, taxpayers, watch what goes on with the federal work force, including agency branch managers and regional top management, as with assurance full eight-hour work attendance occurs, no late arrivals in the mornings, or taking care of personal business at home in the middle of the day. We the American taxpayers are concerned.

Nels Roanhorse
Oakridge, Ariz.

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