Leaders must help fight diabetes

WINDOW ROCK, Nov. 21, 2013

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The physical health of Diné is in peril.

Leaders have already been told of the alarming rise of diabetes and hypertension amongst us and the impact it has upon our bodies and minds. The leaders can remain indifferent and close your eyes as we become more obese, have difficulty ambulating, suffer nerve damage, lose kidneys, eyesight, and continue to allow the American taxpayers to bear the brunt of the disease that we can prevent and control. Who supports the Indian Health Services that struggles to meet our ever-increasing health issues?

The U.S. government funds IHS but their money comes from taxpayers from every state of the USA. Do we continue to ask Americans to pay for our wanton eating habits? To pay for our insatiable desire for doughnuts, candy, cake, cookies, sodas, and chips?

Leaders can face this health crisis, which you know will grow more critical. I am told that with great care diabetes can be controlled. The leaders can be affected, if not them, their loved ones. They need to make a difference now. Our health is as important as any issue they deem vital to the Diné.

Please declare an emergency and call for major changes.

One immediate step is to guide our people away from poisonous food, drinks, and sweets that entice our youth, just as alcohol entices the drinker. Asking schools to educate youth about the dangers of sugar and junk food is proactive but it will take years for the changes to materialize. Leaders have the power to legislate. They need to lift taxes on fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, bottled water, seeds, nuts, and nut butters; tax candy, soda, chips, and other junk food; and use the tax money to help local Navajo communities battle against these illnesses by funding community wellness initiatives preventive in nature. Fund youth initiatives that support healthy living.

Leaders can't afraid to make changes that will dramatically alter our negative lifestyle. American national leaders are also advocating changes. For example, Michelle Obama has taken on a visible leadership role against junk food, and even companies that cater to youth like the Walt Disney Production Company have begun as well. They need to be the leader their voters thought they were.

I am a 75-year-old diabetic who lives in Tse Daa Kaan, and with the help of two IHS doctors am regaining my life from the effects of hypertension and diabetes. In my aging years I now write and do art work, yet I wasn't aware of my previous creative demise until I started to regain my health. Help younger Diné live well so they can actualize their dreams and talents without the fear of losing nerves, kidneys, eyes, feet, and brain power.

Gloria Emerson
Waterflow, N.M.

Twin Arrows is a bad gamble

Our politicians preach to us that we buy Navajo. The Navajo Tax Commission web site states that "all purchases of Navajo goods and services benefit the Navajo Nation and the businesses within the Navajo Nation".

The multiplex proposed by Navajo Nation Gaming will not put any sales tax to Navajo Nation as the land is not trust land.

It is sad our council delegates and president have forgotten that Cameron and Tonalea are in dire need of a new chapter house, Kaibeto and Navajo Mountain need sewer lagoons, and Coalmine and Coppermine need a senior center. These places I mentioned need these funds instead of Twin Arrows.

Many say the reason our nation is not strong is because our tribal leadership has lost their ways with our Diyin. They have drifted away from their nahaat'a and the people have lost confidence in the naat'aanii's -- I agree.

Gas stations, feed stores, restaurants, RV parks, entertainment complexes, townhomes, condos, schools, and auto shops are needed in Chinle, Crownpoint, Ganado, Sanostee, and Tolani Lake. That's what I call nahaat'a and buying Navajo. Twin Arrows, which is many miles away from the rez, is a bad gamble.

Council delegates and the president need to focus on the needs of the people, not casinos. Náhoo-bííh is winning while our people lose.

Calvin Johnson
Leupp, Ariz.

Clinic should use technology

I have worked as a contract doctor at the Kayenta Health Clinic off and on for 10 months in the last two years. It has been very difficult for patients to get appointments and even more frustrating to get specialty care. I know that for non-Navajos it can be difficult to live on the nation for long periods of time, making physician continuity difficult. We miss our families, homes and culture. I am sorrowed each time I leave Kayenta as I have had the privilege to know some of the people and have felt their specialness.

The health problems of the Navajo can be very complex and often very rare. I had seen a few patients suffering from extremely rare genetic disorders for which there is little literature to help the physician in treating the patient. The rates of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are high. Many of the patients should be under the care of a specialist, but it is often difficult to get an appointment and then very costly to travel, often as far away as Phoenix. Many just cannot go due to lack of funds. Medicaid has made it more difficult to find transportation and the sequester essentially stopped the funding of specialty referrals.

I believe IHS needs to look at technology we already have to help solve these problems. The psychiatrist who sees patients for Kayenta lives out of state. She uses Skype to meet and interact with her patients. While this could not be used for every patient visit, it could be used for many. I am an internist and I believe much of the routine care for diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease could be done over the Internet using Skype. Appointments with specialists hundreds of miles away could be done confidentially over Skype, especially after the initial visit.

After reading the editorial by Margaret Yazzie (Nov. 1), I feel her son, Kyle John, probably could be managed by the specialist in Phoenix this way. IHS needs to think outside of the box to meet the health care needs of the Navajos. The old ways are not working and IHS should put technology to work. Much of the routine care could be done by physicians living away from the Navajo Nation, making appointment access much better. A lot of money could be saved by patients and Medicaid by employing Internet technology instead of burning gasoline and money that no one has.

Beth A. Madden, MD
Kayenta, Ariz.

Imagine what we could do

Are we a divided nation? Whenever someone opposes or objects to what the tribal government does, they are the opposition, the "other side," the antagonist and perhaps, the subversive. This is the fruit of this foreign form of government we have. The structure of Navajo government is a system that was imposed on us, forced on us when the federal government needed the oil company to make a contract with an "official" Navajo government in 1923.

This original intent for the Navajo government created a scenario that allowed for the legal exploitation of our resources and people. It was wildly successful, as the exploitation continues today, with the latest episode being the purchase of BHP Navajo Mine with its unconditional waiver of all liability, real or imagined for all time.

The purchase of BHP Navajo Mine for the sake of retaining jobs and keeping the revenue stream going into our Navajo coffers cannot be argued or opposed. The mine and plant workers must be respected for tenaciously defending their jobs for the sake of family well-being.

Nevertheless we need to think on whether we were all coerced into a dilemma where we had to choose one or the other. I think it was a high-level power game played by the transnational corporations and they brought it down to timing. The power brokers said, "We have only a tight timeframe, you have to make a decision with these certain conditions."

So our leadership goes scrambling to make it happen within the timeframe, guidelines, requirements, deal-breakers and terms set out by BHP, APS and affiliates, trampling on the human rights of the people in the process. And because it was a tricky maneuver all the stops were pulled, so the divide-and-conquer trump card was played and the deal got done. The companies walk away counting the bucks in their fat wallets, our leaders smile and hope it was a good deal, the workers get to keep their jobs, the "opposition" is frustrated and the exploitation machine rolls on.

We are a sovereign nation! These are our lands, our resources, our people, our future. When are we going to have our own deal-breakers?

For one second I do not believe that the puppet-string-pulling-powers-that-be could not have also manipulated the timeframe. After all they call the shots. That would have happened only if the transnationals were interested in affording fairness and equity to their hosts.

Imagine what we, all with brown skin, could do if we stood together defending our land, our resources, our people and our future.

Duane "Chili" Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Shonto Energy Solutions impresses student

I am a college student from a small university in Iowa and I had the pleasure of spending my spring break on the Navajo Reservation working on a service project in conjunction with Shonto Energy Solutions. To say the least, this has been one of the most informative and inspiring trips that I have been on.

It was interesting to see how Shonto Energy Solutions has identified the Navajo people's want for self-reliance and sustainability and developed a company that is a fit for both of these values.

Shonto Energy Solutions is an entrepreneurial business headed by Brett Isaac, a native of the Shonto area. After attending college, Brett came back to the Navajo Nation to help the people he loves grow and succeed by providing affordable energy options.

Shonto Energy Solutions builds and delivers solar panel arrays of just about any shape and size to be used to power homes, companies, and anything else in between that runs by electricity. Not only does Shonto Energy Solutions provide extremely high quality product, they are able to provide a product that is less expensive than what is provided by contractors from the big cities. Obviously, Shonto Energy Solutions is a small business that is in touch with the community that it serves.

My time working with Brett and his crew was an amazing experience. His crew was very willing to teach my peers and me how to use all the tools necessary to put the solar array together as well as took the time to teach us how the solar panels turned the sunlight into electricity. Another interesting point was how Brett taught us how to maintain and take care of the panels. I am confident that if I had a solar panel grid and needed to fix it I would be able to.

From my week working with Shonto Energy Solutions I have been truly impressed with how much this company cares about providing a high-quality product, educating the buyer, and investing in the Navajo community.

If I was considering a solar panel array there is no doubt in my mind that Shonto Energy Solutions would be my first choice. Besides a quality product, wonderful customer service, and being taught how to take care of the solar panels, Brett and the rest of the Shonto Energy Solutions crew hold the values of the Navajo community in mind with every project they complete.

Andrew Schanbacher
Buena Vista University
Storm Lake, Iowa

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