Horses must be cared for in Diné way

WINDOW ROCK, August 29, 2013

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D ue to many inquires I receive about how I feel about horses being hauled away by officials taking place now, and on comments being made traditionally on these horses, these questions related to me as I conducted Diné Blessing Way ceremonies throughout our land.

I was reluctant to express my views publicly but I had many discussions on horses being rounded up at different locations because officials say, "The law or procedures are being violated by horse owners."

These instructions were pointed out to me by my late parents and grandparents: 1. Take gentle care of moke (monkey), this horse was used for herding sheep every day. 2. Zhinniis (blackish) were used to pull a wagon and as work horses. Another work animal was: chiih (one with a long head and nose), the mule. 3. There were two horses named Liba' (grayish). I remember these horses because we used them for long travel, and raced them around our hogan. And one bore a colt every year. And lastly my dad used jali' (listeners, the ear ones) for hunting, one being a pack horse.

I remember herding these horses for water about eight miles from our hogan every two days. The horses' ornaments, saddles, feed bags, etc., were in one place in order. We had kernels of corn in a barrel, which we fed them and a nice round huge horse corral.

I remember my dad and other men branding two of the horses. My dad told me his brand by drawing it on the ground. This brand was displayed on all the horses. At one time, my dad traded some sheep for a young horse, which was butchered and my family had horse meat for awhile. There was bologna made from horse's intestine stuff with chili, fat, and corn meal. I still remember this delicacy being my favorite meal.

You have to treat a horse like the way you want to be treated. You never mistreat your horse. You talk and whistle to your horse. The horse will know the sound you make and you will also know your horse's call. Make sure your horses are nearby and gather them in your own use land area. Tend to your horses if a mishap, accident, or sickness occurs. I remember seeing my dad doctoring a horse with a natural herb.

Now, I see horses on the side of roadways daily. Most of these horses' ribs are showing with back hip bones sticking up and their tails and crests tangled with weeds and twisted together. There were horses that got hit by a vehicle or ones that got stuck in cattle guards who all died. Most of the stray horses I see are all untamed. Their hooves are not trimmed and look like it's been growing for years.

I hear comments like "That's my grandson's horse, and that one belongs to my son who is in the Army for the last 10 years." These horses have never been ridden.

I wonder if these officials that are rounding up the horses have notified publicly of their enforcement or made an announcement for giving a certain amount of time for people to surrender loose horses, or unwanted horses?

There are certain areas I agree with the reduction of horses on the loose and I agree with horses having a special place in our Diné way of life. I recall my dad saying the government turned loose big stallions, great white-face bulls that were branded with "US" brands. The government did this to upgrade livestock owners. Now our own tribal government is destroying life of our horses? What's next that they will start destroying?

Our tribal officials should also include cleaning up the trash along the roadways and on lands where trash were discarded. Or have these officials that violated laws be responsible for their action and have them ordered to pick up trash.

So, I passed on my horses to my grandchildren and gave them these instructions: Take good card of them, touch them, talk to them, ride them, give proper attention care so they are happy healthy horses, and make sure all are branded and are within our own allotted land. I told them that all creatures, yes, including horses, have a purpose in life. They were placed before us with their own natural sacred laws.

Why I pass on my horses is because of old age and I cannot physically care for my horses any more, but I still help in buying feed. So far my grandchildren are abiding by it. One of my grandsons has learned our Diné Blessing Way horse songs and he knows how to bless his horses with Diné corn pollen, mountain tobacco, and pray with it. He has learned them well. These horse blessings are unique, sacred, and a blessing you give to your fine horse. These horse songs and blessing are not made for public gathering or add on to it to sound nice.

Now, I tell those that read my comments on horses, you decide how you care for your horse. May your conclusion be just and positive for your gentle lovely horses.

Richard Anderson Sr.
Crownpoint, N.M.

Why was Zah not recognized?

I attended the Navajo Nation Affordable Care Act Conference at Twin Arrows last week. While President Shelly was giving his welcome address, Mr. Peterson Zah walked in and sat 20 feet from the speaker's podium directly in front of Mr. Shelly. I am sure some of us waited to have President Shelly acknowledge Chairman/President Zah, a leader with an impeccable political history, a man who has never been alleged to have done the Navajo Nation any wrong, and the person principally responsible for establishing the Permanent Trust Fund that now contains $1.2 billion dollars. President Shelly completely ignored Mr. Zah. I felt offended. Vice President Rex Lee Jim gave a good speech with substance and I said to myself "the vice president is his own man and he understands protocol and he will recognize Mr. Zah," again I was disappointed. The protocol of leadership dictates there should be recognition of former leaders, particularly one with the stature of Mr. Zah. It's a matter of basic common courtesy. In my 38 years in tribal politics, that's always been the norm, even political adversaries publicly acknowledged each other. That is honor. This may be a minor matter, a trivial thing, but such a deliberate slight of one of our renowned leaders speaks volumes. Trying to understand why this happened or didn't happen, the only thing I can deduce is that it is arrogant self-importance. As leadership how do we expect our citizens to not abuse each other, to stop the violence, to live in harmony and be respectful if our leaders can't show respect. There are those among us who advocate getting civility back into our government and our politics but it is only wishful thinking if our top leadership doesn't comprehend the concept. We deserve honorable leadership.

Duane "Chili" Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Coal has not made Shiprock prosper

I was in the audience at Shiprock Chapter on Sunday, Aug. 25, at an informational meeting provided by Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, and an executive group from BHP Billiton regarding issues on the pending purchase of BHP-Navajo Mine to the Navajo Nation.

Without notice, our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly arrived and was given some time to speak. In his brief, he referenced BHP Mine as a move "forward" and aspiration for a "clean coal" production when Navajo takes ownership. Ironically, he commented he was against the Environmental Protection Agency and their stringent requirements for mine cleanup and he was planning to meet with them at "District 9 in San Diego." Mr. President, District 9 office is located in San Francisco, not in San Diego.

Besides the Shiprock Council Delegate, Russell Begaye, there was a few other Council delegates who were present, acknowledged, and provided some time to speak. As Russell Begaye spoke, he challenged the people of Shiprock Chapter to initiate movement toward sustainable change. He has witnessed our partnering with BHP and the coal industry, which have not been profitable for the Shiprock community, as they are still struggling to survive. He is grieved by our Diné people who are using storage sheds as their homes. Revenue from BHP in the last 40 years has clearly not improved the economy in Shiprock. Maintaining more of the same is not the answer.

As I sat there, I thought back to 40 years ago, when life was prosperous in Shiprock and surrounding communities were self-sufficient. There were two hotels, Natani Nez Lodge and another one on the east side of town, each included a restaurant. The third eatery was Bonds, a retro (today's term) burger/soda counter with a jukebox.

Located along the San Juan River, Shiprock was thriving with farmland and farmers had the opportunity to show their prized produce at the fair. There were rows of pitched tents with produce piled outside advertising sale to fair attendees. The environment was cleaner, the ground was fertile with grass, and there were plenty of trees providing shade and respite for weary travelers.

If you come to Shiprock today, all of what I recalled is gone. Where Natani Nez Lodge was located is now a flea market.

Sylvia Clahchischilli
Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.

Leaders, listen to the youth!

Ya'at'eeh shidine'e. Tábaahá ei Nishli, Bit'ahnii ei Bashishchiin. Kinyaa'áanii ei Dashicheii, Tsenabilnii ei dashinali. I am writing to you today to address some disturbing issues and concerns with our naat'aaniis (leaders) and our youth here on and off the reservation. First of all, I am 32 years old and come from Tohatchi, N.M. I am a parent, veteran, and leader in my own respected community of Tohatchi and District 14 (Tohatchi, Naschitti, Coyote Canyon, Bahastlah'a', and Mexican Springs). I am a firm advocate for young leaders, veterans, and my elders. I have come to the conclusion, through my own experiences in dealing with chapter officials, Navajo Nation Council delegates, and Navajo Nation presidents, that the youth are not being heard and most of all, not being respected. I hear in constant messages from these individuals "Where is the youth?" or "Only time the young people come around is for scholarships!" But the fact remains, if you (youth) don't come from a well-known family, if you don't hold a certain type of degree in education, or if you don't hold a certain title or position, these certain officials will not give you the time of day. Instead, the youth are intimidated, yelled at, and put down by their leaders and communities for having an idea, solution, or program they want to introduce to their communities. But the youth are met with these challenges and barriers, such as "Ahh! You're young!" or "Well you still have a way to go (experience)," and from those experiences the youth are reluctant to step foot in their local government or participate in any form of government, because of the experiences and comments we expose them to. Just recently, I have had the privilege of attending the Navajo Nation Head Start Summit at Twin Arrows Casino in Leupp, Ariz., and while I was there, I was fortunate enough to hear my naat'aaniis speak on behalf of our people and themselves. I was disappointed in some of the messages that they addressed to the parents, teachers, staff, and the people of Navajo Head Start. In numerous speeches from our leaders were "Go the extra mile!" or "The children are our future!" or "The first teacher is you (parents)". I guess what these leaders fail to understand is that we are going the extra mile, and if children are our future, then why don't you listen to us, and yes, we are the first teachers, but certain families face certain challenges such as single-parent homes, no jobs, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, teen parent(s), children being raised by grandparents, new veterans trying to reintegrate with their family and community, and also face dignity issues like this in famous comment "Everyone loves a soldier, until they come home and stop fighting …" Example: Veteran challenges of anger and stress, financial hardship, alcohol abuse and prescription drugs (sleeping pills, anxiety pills, depression pills, etc.). Our young veteran parents are deeply disrespected and not heard and our teachers and veterans face these issues every day and are growing problems that we face as Navajo people. Our leaders today need to get off their high chair, where they are used to being fed by hand, and need to get down to eye-level with their people. Our leaders "need" to listen, see, and experience what the youth are facing their people. I will always remember a quote from one speech I heard and it stated "In order to be a true leader, in which a leader must have experienced the hardship and the experiences of his or her people face, in order to understand …" This brings me to my next notion about respect. One Council delegate I heard speak and announce that, "New Mexico Navajos are spoiled!" and from that, the delegate read a list of money allocated by New Mexico state legislators that read in to the millions that help "New Mexico Navajos." I sat there, shaking my head and wondered is there really a difference between Navajo? I thought Diné was Diné? Is this why the Navajo Nation Council and President can't get along? I sat there and thought, maybe he should be reading the list of Council delegates that misused tribal funds for their own personal gain, which is also in the millions, while their Navajo people are still suffering. I took offense to his logic of thinking. As a resident and elected official from New Mexico, and having to work and talk with my New Mexico state legislators, who in their defense, often stop by their chapters of representation, do assist their chapter, and do make up a good portion of Native representation in Santa Fe. The Council delegate also forgot to mention New Mexico state funds do go to Window Rock and tribal government takes their piece of New Mexico money and it reallocates it back to New Mexico chapters, only if a New Mexico chapter is not certified. With that said, New Mexico is not spoiled, but very blessed to have young and older leaders that set the example of listening and helping their people. One of whom is our great State Senator John Pinto, World War II Code Talker, and highly educated and well respected Navajo in Santa Fe, among his peers, and also in her own right, is our State Rep. Sandra Jeff, who helps allocate major funding to Navajo. In respect Mr. Councilman, I ask that you ask Mr. Albert Hale to visit his chapters in Arizona and stop scrutinizing a "young" newly appointed, well-educated Navajo senator, and welcome him into his new position, because as I see it, it's the older guy picking on the young guy and Arizona needs all the advocates and representation it needs. In closing, I say to my young Diné people, please be vocal, stand up, and let your voice be heard. This coming election next year, vote for the person who hears you and not for the one who has the best stew, and in respect to those officials that do listen and make a difference and give that respect, thank you and continue that attitude. I know all leaders are not like this. I also forgot to mention some leaders that have been an inspiration in my life and got me where I am today. Thank you President Peterson Zah, the late Vice President Marshall Plummer, Hon. Jonathan Hale, Hon. Edmund E. Yazzie, State Senator John Pinto, State Rep. Sandra Jeff, chapter presidents Edwin Begay and Herman Morris, Angela Barney-Nez, Raymond Barney, Edison Jones, District 14 chapter officials, and most of all, my father, Franklin Thompson. Apologies if I have forgotten anyone who makes a difference in young Navajos' lives, you have given the example of what it truly means to hold the title "Naat'aanii."

Olin Kieyoomia
Red Willow Farm Board
District 14 Council
Navajo Nation Head Start Policy Council
Tohatchi, N.M.

NHA is dysfunctional

NHA Board of Commissioners has no mission, even the purpose of NHA is clearly written in Tribal Code Title 6. NHA BOC has completely failed to give direction and the Navajo Nation president has failed to recognize dysfunctional Board of Commissioners to carry out their duties and responsibilities to the Navajo people. NHA has failed to remedy unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions that are injurious to the public health, safety, and morals. Failed to alleviate the acute shortage of decent, safe, sanitary dwelling for persons of low income, promote economic growth and development activities within Navajo housing communities across the Navajo Nation. Navajo Nation Council recognized shortage of decent homes and low-income Navajos can't afford which forces Navajos to live in unsanitary, unsafe, and overcrowded homes. For this reason, NHA was established to aid in production of better housing and more desirable neighborhood and community development at lower costs. Assist in fostering a viable local economy and encourage self-sufficiency and self-reliance for the benefit of the Navajo people. Navajos applying for NHA homes are not treated as it's described in the Tribal Code Title 6. They are required to go to border towns and purchase a credit check, sheriff's office, other documents known as red tape, and in Ojo Armillio they ask you if you are related to Lester Begay. So this tells me NHA's dysfunctional way of doing business is not addressed as a bad government service issue but as personal business. Just a reminder, this is a federal funded project paid by taxpayers and Indian civil rights apply. Millions of dollars, paid to consultants, only tells me NHA CEO and Board of Commissioners does not know we have a shortage of housing on the rez. Consultant tells NHA, "34,000 homes is needed on the rez," and NHA decides to give $6 million dollars to Gallup, hometown of BOC chairman, to build homes in his town. If you are receiving over $90 million dollars a year to build homes, and all you are doing is making excuses and mudslinging with elected officials, why do you need more time when NHA CEO has been in office for more than five years and a 40-year experienced, career politician chairs the Board of Commissioners? They need to be replaced only if we want NHA to work. Division of Economic and all tribal enterprises has completely failed to bring a prosperous economy to the Navajo Nation. Even our land is rich with natural resource and human resource. Even though $571.6 million dollars operates our tribal government, mostly federal funds, and $170 million is collected as tribal revenue, we still live in poverty with more than a 60 percent unemployment rate and no business growth. With all this money to provide service to the Navajo people and assist all small businesses, it's not happening. Tribal government reverses the blame on local communities. "Shaa, that is all we want, it's time to take responsibility." Tribal officials would say to us when they have all our money.

Lester Begay
Burnham, N.M.

Twin Arrows did not respect reservations

Three weeks ago the Chinle Nursing Home scheduled a meeting at the Twin Arrows Resort & Casino. Five rooms were reserved and a deposit was submitted. The morning of the scheduled conference, we were notified that our reservation was cancelled. Apparently the rooms were taken over by the Navajo Nation Council who needed rooms for each Council delegate causing the resort to cancel our reservations and several others who had made plans to stay there. This is a selfish and uncaring action by the Council, to disregard the plans that others had made for the rooms. If room reservations were full in advance, the council should have been denied and could have made reservations elsewhere. This reflects badly on the Navajo Nation and the resort and caused much extra stress and anxiety for the staff. Not to mention loss of income for the tribe (who paid for the rooms?).

Wallace Hanley Window Rock, Ariz.

Our Dine' people funds whether it's general funds or the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund is being mismanaged by our elected leaders including the president's office and the council delegates. The Navajo Nation has been assigned a taskforce and their goal is to "develop the area of (Twin Arrows Casino)," said Derrick Watchman, CEO Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. Navajo Nation is proposed to use/borrow up to an estimate $160-plus million to build a shopping center, theatre, museum, gas station, grocery store, Laundromat, apartments, etc., basically build a small city called "Twin Arrows, Ariz.". What about rehabilitating the 10,000-plus Dine' residents from the former Bennett Freeze area? For over 47 years, the former Bennett Freeze area still has very limited improvements and our Diné people continue to live in severe social and economic problems. Our Dine' people are living in sub-standard conditions in dilapidated homes because former restrictions prohibited new housing construction or any repairs. These former Bennett Freeze residents need rehabilitation, not Twin Arrows, Ariz. Navajo Nation leadership has lost their knowledge, wisdom, values, principals, and practices as a Diné leader. Our elected officials are not helping our own Diné people, including every child and every elder by respecting, honoring, and protecting them with a healthy environment such as hogans for FBRA families. All former Bennett Freeze residents are in need of homes, clean water, electricity, clinics, schools, senior care, fire department, police department, and roads. In order for the communities of the former Bennett Freeze to excel, flourish, and lead towards a prosperous future, our leaders must address and maintain the general health, safety, and welfare by establishing the infrastructure in the respective communities of the former Bennett Freeze are not Twin Arrows. Our local leaders in Window Rock have forgotten about the Former Bennett Freeze Area residents and communities. Since our elected leaders are not addressing the needs of FBFA nor are they correctly spending Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund intended for Dine' it's time to re-elect leaders that will help the former Bennett Freeze people.

Calvin Johnson
Leupp, Ariz.

Where was the Navajo Tribe's representation in the recent meeting for Farmington's new animal shelter? There was an open public meeting a few weeks ago to discuss the direction for leadership in helping this new facility. According to the Daily Times, the Navajo Tribe was asked to attend and no representative came. There was even video footage of an employee from the shelter telling the news stations that people from Shiprock bring in animals in their vehicle trunks, trash bags, and garbage cans. If we truly practice our culture, then how can we be quiet about hearing how our tribe treats animals? We need to come together to help our domesticated four-legged friends ASAP. Cats and dogs are overpopulating the small shelter and opening a bigger new facility will help, but we are not talking about the obvious problem. Overpopulation is happening at an epidemic rate all over the Navajo Reservation. Do we need our Navajo Nation government to direct some funds in helping spay and neuter cats and dogs? How can we voice as a tribe to allocate special funds for such a project? How do we not have more animal shelters on our reservation? I never believed when I would hear people tell stories of counting dead dogs on the highway everyday as they traveled from Farmington to Shiprock. I know dead dogs, skinny hungry dogs, young female nursing dogs, and puppies or kittens left in boxes in the middle of nowhere happens all over the reservation. This needs to stop. What messages are we showing to our people and tourists that want to visit our reservation? Maybe I missed the memo on avoiding any responsibility for the mistreatment, overpopulation, and disregard of dogs and cats on our Navajo Reservation.

Wendy Atcitty
Farmington, N.M.

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