Sage once had great providers, beautiful campus

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 3, 2013

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As a lifelong resident of Ganado and someone who grew up on the Sage Memorial Hospital compound, words cannot describe how glad I am the Navajo Times reported on the many wrongdoings of the current leadership at Sage Memorial Hospital. I remember Sage in its prime, the campus looked beautiful, there were many great providers, and many great services were provided to the community. Sage Memorial Hospital is now a hospital in shambles, run rampant by nepotism.

Before the arrival of Razaghi, Sage was a place of quality healthcare services and now, there are very few medical providers, the waiting times are abysmal, and the hospital campus looks like an eye sore, to put it frankly. Some Ganado residents seek healthcare elsewhere because they say Sage wasn't what it was before. They either travel to Window Rock or Chinle and despite not having transportation. Not only have patients abandoned Sage Memorial, but so have former and potential employees. Former employees and community members work elsewhere and travel far distances for work because Sage Memorial is simply not an attractive employer. Sage is now the laughing stock of all area hospitals and its list of problems runs infinitely long.

First, Sage Memorial Hospital lies within the Navajo Reservation, therefore, it must act in accordance with the requirements of the Navajo Preference in Employment Act (NPEA), Title 15, N.T.C., Chapter 7. They are clearly in violation of these provisions. There are so many qualified and experienced people from the Ganado community, but they are not hired. The Office of Navajo Labor Relations needs to conduct a thorough investigation as to why Sage is not hiring Navajo people, and why Sage has terminated so many qualified and experienced Navajo employees. I have friends and family who wrongfully terminated and deeply hurt by this.

Second, it comes as no surprise that 638 funds were misused and most likely allocated to fulfill the personal needs of the CEO. 638 funds are intended primarily for salaries, wages, and benefits. The employees at Sage are paid peanuts in comparison to other hospitals across the reservation; and their benefit packages are a joke. Sage employees deserve to be compensated fairly.

Finally, the root of the problem: the board of directors. The board of directors know absolutely nothing about healthcare and the healthcare industry. They are complicit in this state of affairs because Razaghi entices them with lavish getaways and huge stipends for every meeting. This is appalling. They are only in it for the money and incentives, not to serve the people of Ganado and surrounding communities. Not to mention, Razaghi's administrative staff, or rather his puppets, are very condescending individuals, who use their titles to bully employees. They are just as inadequate with no qualifications or experience.

We, the Ganado community and surrounding communities, need to rise and take a stand against Razaghi, his administrative staff, and the board of directors. They need to go. This has been going on for far too long unnoticed. The hospital itself is still salvageable with proper leadership. I want Sage Memorial Hospital to be the hospital of choice for the community, a facility that provides quality healthcare and where its employees are not walking on eggshells, afraid that they'll lose their jobs. It's time we get some justice for all the damage done by Razaghi and his puppets. It's time we take back control and get these issues resolved. Thank you.

Alvin Begay
Ganado, Ariz.

One year ago -- the Escalade vote

My name is Renae Yellowhorse. I am of the Deersprings Bitter Water People Clan, born for Towering House Clan. My maternal grandparents are Salt and my paternal grandparents are Black Streak.

I reside in Tuba City and a registered voter at the Bodaway/Gap Chapter, home to my extended Navajo family (in southern Bodaway). This is my experience from one year ago today, Oct. 3, 2012, when the Bodaway/Gap Chapter approved a land withdrawal for the Grand Canyon Escalade project.

I believe the goal of this meeting was to force, fast track an approval for the Escalade. There were more police cruisers and police officers present than I usually see at tribal fairs. I believe the officers had orders from President Shelly's staff and the then Bodaway/Gap President Billy Arizona and Vice President Marie Chewing Williams to report any voices or question in opposition of the Escalade. If any spoke, they were tossed out, which included respected elder and former Coconino County Supervisor Louise Yellowman.

Perry Slim Sr., then Bodaway/Gap Chapter president candidate, is known for his loud booming voice. Slim, along with people who favored the Escalade, however were allowed to harass and yell at Escalade opponents at this meeting despite the security presence. I remember Slim sat next to Deswood Tome, President Ben Shelly's special advisor.

I remember the agenda, which proposed to rescind two resolutions that opposed the Escalade, was not handed out until the meeting started. Chapter officials read the resolution in English only when most southern Bodaway members don't speak or read English. They had no input.

The anti-Escalade people asked to postpone the meeting, but they were ignored. More time was given to non-Bodaway resident Arizona Rep. Albert Hale, who sponsored the resolution. Hale, in a summer campaign for the Escalade, repeatedly said money would come from wealthy off-the-reservation Bilagaanas to cover the cost of the initial $120 million Escalade.

"They are eagerly waiting behind the San Francisco Peaks," he told us. "They shuttle money around with rakes."

The anti-Escalade people asked for a list of the investor's names. Hale ignored them.

In less than an hour, the pro-Escalade crowd started yelling for a vote. Chapter leaders refused to listen to suggestions for a fair count given the chaotic meeting. Then vice president Marie Chewing Williams counted the vote twice because the first vote turned down the Escalade and Slim and others started yelling for a recount.

On the second count, Williams walked outside the chapter house for yes votes. She left for the outdoors with 15 yes votes and re-entered with more 33 votes. She counted no votes inside the building and did not go outside although Yellowman and several others were being held outside by the police.

There were people who wanted to speak still and had their hands raised in protest. I watched in disbelief as Williams counted those as yes votes. Then the bizarre happened. She refused to count my vote although I had my voter registration paperwork. I also watched her ignore the vote of a young Bodaway Afghanistan soldier and her sister. That's what I witnessed in the narrow 59 to 52 approval for the Escalade.

The Navajo Nation requires solid community support for large development projects. Even President Shelly asked for such. I believe the Shelly administration chooses to ignore the narrow seven-point margin, which does not fulfill the definition of solid support. Over a year, I have renewed my efforts to tell people about the Escalade, which is proposed to be located near sacred sites.

My great-grandmother told my mother that where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers meet is where life begins for all people. When life ends, that's where we all go. My uncle Woody and my father Arnold left this world in March. I know in my heart, they traveled home where their umbilical cords are buriedÑat Ts'aa tah, among the Sagebrush.

How about developing the area along US 89 where there is plenty of space and tourists, who travel between Page and Phoenix? Why can't the Navajo Nation Economic Development Department ask the Confluence Partners to look for investors who would restore or redevelop the Gap Trading Post, the Cedar Ridge Trading Post or the Bitter Springs? Why not place a Starbucks at the old Gap café?

Renae Yellowhorse
Tuba City, Ariz.

Preserve quality, culturally relevant education for Diné youth

First the usual disclaimer - these are my personal views and not those of any current or previous employer or client.

In the 50 years or so that community-controlled schools have been in existence, they (with the Navajo courts) have been in the forefront of the effort to maintain and enhance Navajo language and culture. Whatever agreement is ultimately reached among TNN, DODE, the BIE and these schools must preserve the school's ability to continue to provide quality culturally relevant education to Diné youth.

This is not to say that the schools have been problem free. They have had more than their share of problem educators who tend to wander from school to school inflicting their harm in numerous communities and schools. And there have been (and probably are) many school board members who are far more interested in trips to Laughlin and collecting meeting stipends and travel money than in education.

The goal must be to preserve what is unique and great at the community level, and at the same time provide real cost savings at the DODE level. Such things as accounts payable and payroll, human resources (recruitment, retention and employment issues), procurement and some auditing and routine legal services could all be done at the DODE-TNN level without compromising the ability of schools to genuinely reflect the communities they serve.

Lawrence A. Ruzow
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Navy vet learns of Code Talkers

My name is Neva Stuck. I am a home-school mom and Navy vet. I never learned about the Code Talkers in school and the role that code talkers had in the war. My uncle, who was a sailor, told me a bit about some fellows he once met and spoke about these really talented Code Talkers that were fromÊsome reservation and how brave they had been during battle, but he did not know any more than that.

Now I know in my homeschooling adventure and use of the InternetÊas well as Hollywood's help, I have learned that the men my uncle spoke about were Navajo men. I just wanted to say thanks to them for being brave, for being warriors in the face of adversity, and for taking those steps so long ago and enduring what they did. I know it was not easy and no one can ever thank them enough.

Neva Stuck
Parkersburg, W. Va.

Pros and cons to purchase of Navajo Mine

Isn't it ironic that Navajo Nation will spend time, effort and money on a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for utilizing the word "Navajo" for their apparel (particularly underwear) when BHP Billiton has been utilizing the word for BHP Navajo Mine for 50 years?

Both give a negative connotation of Navajo but which is more damaging?

The issue of Urban Outfitters is that the organization gave the perception that their apparel was Navajo. Obviously it is bad taste but how damaging is it to our people?

Whereas Urban Outfitters is facing public ridicule for their bad decisions, Navajo Nation is trying to pursue purchase of Navajo Mine. The pros of BHP Navajo Mine are employment (86 percent Native American) and royalties.

However, the cons are local decreased air quality (increased respiratory conditions in both human and animal, visible local haze), regional decreased environmental quality via coal combustion waste (leaching into water ways, windblown sediments to local residents, etc.), unknown distribution of royalties, high consumption of water, representation from BHP Billiton or NTEC has not occurred at all 110 chapters (tribal monies for purchase should require all tribal opinions), unknown longevity of Navajo Mine infrastructure, uncertain future of coal (environmental standards, price, etc.), and the list goes on.

If we are concerned about how the word "Navajo" is utilized then why are we letting BHP Billiton utilize it for a coal mine that has done more damage to our people than a set of tacky underwear?

As a Dine' youth, I would like to see Navajo Nation pursuing investments that instill values, such as innovation, forward thinking, health oriented and being in hozho with our people and land. I truly believe that when our Navajo leaders make decisions that align with those values, more of our educated youth and off-reservation Dine' people will return.

Lastly, is purchasing BHP Navajo Mine innovative, forward thinking, does it insure the health of our people and is it Hozho?

Holly Barton
Youth Outreach Organizer
Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment
Dilkon, Ariz.

Times' editorial cartoons a Diné favorite

Jack Ahasteen's Navajo Times editorial cartoons are a Diné favorite. Many elderly say things in Navajo like "Ahasteen gives us sensible news we can see, trust, and smile at."

Jack's May 16 cartoon relates to unfair negotiations over the Navajo Generating Station lease, but the cartoon can be applied to almost any exploitation of the nation, by changing one character's name and adding a missing label. I'll give details later.

The Sept. 19 Navajo Times had an article "Signing ceremony seals agreement to conduct tribal water study". It's about 1) how the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation 2012 report on the "Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study" somehow left out the Basin tribes, and 2) a new agreement with tribes to make up for this. But it's obvious leaving us out was no mistake.

The Times article was upbeat with quotes about "good faith" by Interior, about how the agreement for a make-up study "helps to honor the federal trust responsibility" by Navajo official George Arthur, and how "this is important" by Navajo water lawyer Bidtah Becker. Interior ends with, "The study helps us deal with a new reality. Our goal is to make sure no one goes thirsty."

Native people are not "a new reality". We're the first reality in this half of the world, though we're often treated as last by society, by our Interior "trustee," and sometimes by our own people and employees who represent us. That's what happened with the BOR study.

As for making sure we don't go thirsty, there's much more to water rights than drinking water, which is maybe 1 percent or less of western water use. We need water for agriculture, industry, livestock, environmental, investment, revenue, development, and municipal uses.

To overlook us was impossible. The reservation touches the San Juan and Colorado Rivers for 200 miles. We had legal and other representatives with the BOR study teams and the outside has been aware for 100 years we have water rights. Professional reports from the 1970s to 1980s have titles like "Navajo Water Rights: Pulling the Plug on the Colorado River" (check the Internet). But since then there's been a cover-up of our big rights. It's centered at the Navajo Department of Justice.

Listed below are six nation-related names associated with the BOR study:

1. George Arthur, longtime nation representative to the Colorado River Water Users Association and BOR, and DOJ servant. 2. Jason John, Water Management director, member of the original BOR study's Steering Team, and DOJ servant. 3. Cathy Condon, the Internet lists her with the McElroy Law Firm, retained by DOJ long ago and paid millions. Cathy was named to the BOR's Steering Team with Jason John. 4. Bidtah Becker, DOJ water lawyer before, during, and after the BOR's study. 5. Stan Pollack, DOJ lawyer and controller of our water rights, Water Commission (more servants), and too many other things. 6. Interior, our "trustee" who did the study, and close DOJ partner.

Once more, it's no mistake we were left out. We can't be missed. We're as big in the Basin as a bear in a hogan. Our representatives and Interior guided the study, but away from us.

The 2012 BOR report says the river is the Basin tribes' "lifeblood", but we're all excluded from the study. This intended failure, for the nation, is DOJ and its partners again reducing our water rights.

Ahasteen's May 16 cartoon has two characters: a mafia-like organ grinder named "NGS" and a "Navajo Nation" monkey leashed to the organ grinder. The organ grinder could be re-named Jon Kyl, Arizona, Peabody Coal, Interior, or any exploiter. The key is that the monkey's leash keeps it, meaning us, in economic and political captivity while we hand over valuable benefits. For "NGS" or other exploiters the leash from them to us should be labeled "Pollack, DOJ, and partners".

Only when the leash is removed can we transform and have greater self-determination and be our real selves, a sovereign Native Nation from among the proud, intelligent, capable, and entitled First Peoples of this hemisphere.

Bryon Huskon
Oak Springs, Ariz.

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