Unfavorable headlines regarding our leaders evoke shame, embarrassment and disappointment. How many more leaders will be charged with misuse of our money in years to come? How many more will bring contempt upon themselves and the Navajo people? How many others will run for the hills to avoid justice? Who else will make restitution deals to evade justice? And, when will our leaders discern stealing is criminal?
A leader facing serious allegations, whether one or 11 counts of conspiracy and/or bribery charges, cannot effectively lead. It's just not possible. Loss of trust and respect are irreparable. The honorable action: step down.
Honor supersedes innocent until proven guilty when it comes to these serious charges. Delegate Shepherd and 10 other delegates are to be commended for voting on behalf of the Navajo people to hold the speaker accountable.
Contrary to those who voted based on the buddy or relationship ideologies. Ideologies, which clearly disregard the best interests of the Navajo people. Is it possible for a delegate facing similar criminal charges to dutifully cast an honest vote?
Back door deals and lobbying for votes are shameful and unjust, however, deemed acceptable. The notion of relinquishing power appears incomprehensible. When 18 brave comments submitted regarding removal of the speaker are met with repugnant remarks, "those 18 comments are nothing", and are discounted, our leaders have failed us. Irreverence and blatant disregard towards those that desire to hold a self-serving leader accountable is regrettable. Why have they forgotten the most important voice in the Council chambers - is the voice of the people? When intimidating threats are uttered, "And you better not push me. Naize is my brother," fists are pounded on tables, and shouting is portrayed as respectful communication - all projected to reaffirm our leaders are not honorable or worthy of respect. These tactics are additional lucid examples as to why voters are disenchanted with our leaders.
Generally, when a Navajo voter goes to their precinct, their vote is justified on one of three scenarios: buddy system, candidate is related, or promises made over a bowl of free mutton stew and frybread - with the assurance an inducement is in the offing once their candidate is elected.
Due to loss of honor and trust for our leaders, is the potential for new leadership nonexistent? Who wants to be affiliated with a process that is self-serving, corrupt, and greed driven?
We must elect leaders who will serve, lead, protect, and represent the Navajo people honorably. Leaders who are accountable and transparent. Possess integrity and honesty. Have the education, experience, and the knowledge to move our people forward. Our future, as Navajo people depends on it. If we fail to do so, the consistent headlines of criminal conduct will continue to pulverize our trust. And quash any desires for a better tomorrow for the Navajo people.
Council in the headlines
I have some issues with how the 22nd Navajo Nation Council has been representing this nation as a whole. A couple of weeks now, the Council has been in the headlines with the issue of the speaker being accused of certain actions that is very disturbing. He may be innocent, but we as a Nation do not know the facts at this point, so why is it with all the attention that was given to this, why did the Countil not vote for the speaker to step down until he was cleared, rather than just vote down the issue without any consideration as to the outcome? When news broke that the Council voted down this bill, I for one, was outraged. Council members all speak a pretty good game of telling their constituents during election season that they will uphold the teachings, values and traditions that was bestowed on our people when we returned from the Long Walk. Those sacrifices that our ancestors made paved a way for them all to mistreat the sanctity of K'e.
As a young individual living in this nation I find it deplorable for them all to disrespect the wisdom our fathers laid down for us when they signed that treaty back in 1868. I weep for the future generation knowing that the teachings Council members all preach is just a waste of time, for they all seem to condone thievery, corruption, deceitfulness, and lying.
I have observed the Council members all asking questions as to why our youth are slowly forgetting their beliefs, culture, traditions, and self-image, yet they all do not seem to grasp the real reason. They are running this sovereign nation as the U.S. government runs the federal government, by gradually lying to the public. The youth are tired of the mistreatment they are receiving from their elected officials, so they are turning their backs on their own people. They all say education is the key to the success of every young Navajo, yet this misappropriation of funding in our tribal government is sending the message that it really isn't that important. Delegates need to look at themselves the next time they wonder, "Why are the youth dropping out of school? Why are the youth not excelling in their education?" While it is clear as day you are all responsible.
The next time they give a speech, they should not quote our ancestors for their actions as of late is very disrespectful to the words they spoke about being a sovereign nation.
Jay R. Slivers
(Hometown: Lukachukai, Ariz.)
Condition of our state, communities
What is the condition of our state -- our communities, our families and as individuals? Do we know or are we pacified with our conditions and have no energy left to ask? President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address to report on the condition of our nation (U.S.). He identified at least 13 outstanding agenda -- unfinished businesses. High on the list is the "economic or income inequality" that discriminates against individuals and groups to adequately pursue happiness with their lives. How does this condition apply to us -- on our reservation? The president's address provides us an idea of the agenda for the upcoming national elections. Likewise, we are preparing for the 2014 Navajo election. What should be our agenda? Will we focus on meaningful issues or on the malfunctions and fiascos? My guess is that the campaign messages will highlight the malfunctions that are regularly reported in the local newspapers. The core essence of the reported malfunctions is lack of integrity, lack of honesty, lack of respect for the people and outright selfish hoarding of Navajo money.
As private Navajo citizens we need to know as much details and facts behind the reported failure and malfunctions by individuals. If a politician claims he/she acts on behalf of his/her people we need to know the people and the community that the politician represents. Without adequate information the politician will merely refine his/her claim that their actions are justified.
We are highly unfortunate because we do not have data to support any claim and we are vulnerable to political fabrications. Example: Do we have a Navajo standard of what is "poor" and how do we rate according to the standards today?
National standard considers a two-person household with income less than $650 per month as poor. How many Navajo people are at the national poverty level and where (communities) do these people reside?
A few additional lacking data critical to assess the state of our life on our reservations include employment numbers, type of jobs, education levels and numbers, private business units and where located. How can we assess ourselves if we do not have the essential data? An excellent task anyone can undertake would be to inventory the newspaper reports on the use of Navajo money that highlight individuals misuse of the money, questionable wisdom with appropriations of Navajo money or questions on involvement with use of external funds. All money are intended for use by all Navajo Reservation citizens to enhance their lives and their communities today that supports the pursuit of happiness as individuals, families, communities and all tribal members.
Do we have the will to promote a Navajo election that addresses accommodating issues that restore confidence in our government by electing individuals who are honest? We can demonstrate our will by sharing our ideas and ultimately to educate ourselves and one another.
A right to shape government
Why do we keep electing officials who have been accused of bribery and slush funds scandals? Have you all been brainwashed? Have you all been paid to vote?
Speaker Johnny Naize is "accused of conspiring with several other delegates from 2007 to 2010, to provide $36,550 in grants from the tribe's discretionary fund to members of his family" (Navajo Times). How about the "Council Delegates accused of misusing funds?" My Navajo people, isn't anyone saddened by these headlines? This only paints a picture that our government may be at stake for corruption. In the past Navajo government, we didn't see as much juicy gossip as these current ones. Just think of all the readers across the world that read the Navajo Times and other news outlets. Because of these officials we have lost our scared tradition to never lie. If our great chief Manuelito was here today, I am sure he would have cried and fainted.
I wonder if the current officials skipped this very important rule: According to the Navajo Election Administration Candidate Qualification, a candidate "Must not have been convicted of any misdemeanor involving crimes of deceit, untruthfulness and dishonesty, including but not limited to extortion, embezzlement, bribery, perjury, forgery, fraud, misrepresentation, false pretense, theft, conversion, or misuse of Navajo Nation funds and property, and crimes involving the welfare of children, child abuse, child neglect, aggravated assault and aggravated battery within the last five (5) years. Must not have been found in violation by a trial court or the Ethics and Rules".
Has this qualification rule become outdated? Did we miss something? For those who do read I hope you all begin to question our current government. If we keep sailing on the current boat, we are doomed to sink. I wish we could stand together and get rid of these bricks. It's our government, we have every right to shape it. Thank you my Navajo people.
Navajo is not sovereign
As a white person who has lived on the Navajo Nation Reservation (Oak Springs and Fort Defiance) for many years, I have heard "we are a sovereign people" many times. I humbly, yet not timidly, want to make the bold, yet correct, statement that you are not sovereign; though it is my hope that you will be one day.
I came to work for the Navajo Nation in 2006, and during the course of my employment as an analyst in the Department of Education was gratified at the custom of prayer being an integral part of the workplace. Since then I have come to appreciate and love the people whom I work with, and live amongst. I want to make life better here, and the seed of what I want to make better lies in the misunderstood word, sovereign.
I recently came across an article in the Navajo Times criticizing Tsehootsooi Medical Center for not providing Deswood Johnson the health care he needs. In the article, it is stated that Deswood has sleep apnea, equipment costs $500, and he is unemployed.
The simple statements in this article are the crux of the example of dependency that exists here. They are a symbol of why the Navajo Nation is not sovereign ... yet.
I personally have sleep apnea, too. No one will sleep even close to me. According to my wife, even a wall is not enough separation at night from the noises I make. I also have a teenage daughter who a doctor recently said was pre-diabetic, prescribing her daily insulin shots, a son with seizures, another son who has horrible night terrors, and a wife, part Navajo, who needs $12,000 worth of dental work. As well, two out of my six children need some sort of counseling for depression or anxiety.
Given this situation, would you guess I'm taking care of my sleep apnea? Would you guess my wife is taking care of her teeth, which causes her, at times, extreme pain? If sleep apnea equipment costs $500, someone, either Deswood, or another person is going to have to struggle and sweat for this amount. If the mentality of individuals on the Navajo Nation is, "I'm entitled to this," they believe in a concept that wasn't true now, just as it wasn't true a thousand years ago, before the Native Americans were repeatedly abused by plenty of folks, including our U.S. government.
This mentality is not sovereignty. And moreover, the wrongs from our U.S. government continue in that they have conditioned the Native Americans to believe that living off the sweat of those who work is some sort of retribution.
The best man at my wedding 20 years ago was a Navajo man, by the name of Steve Kinlichee. Steve couldn't find a job on the Navajo Nation, so he went to college, took out student loans, and is now working for ABC Television in Salt Lake City. Steve didn't buy in to the concept that living off the sweat of other people is retribution for the many wrongs committed against the Native Americans.
America's political climate in Washington D.C., is at an all-time low. We, as humans, have progressed in so many ways--physics, technology, teaching methods, and health, but when it comes to politics we have progressed in reverse. "Independence" was the cry of yesteryear, yet "Dependence" is the cry of today.
True sovereignty is something that I passionately wish for the Navajo Nation. The Navajo people have the potential to be such great leaders, as they study correct beliefs and traditions of their past. Yet dependency was not a belief or tradition of Navajo ancestors. As Navajos display the Christian values that I believe they are destined to not only live by, but be an example of to the world, this people will come into their true identity--their true sovereignty. Cause today, this word "sovereignty" means nothing.
Fort Defiance, Ariz.
Officials need to see past personal boundaries
The decision by the Navajo Nation Council to retain Mr. Naize is unconscionable. There were words thrown around such as integrity, honor, justice, principle, compassion, natural laws, judge, and jury. These words were spoken by most of the delegates who supported Mr. Naize.
Any sane person can ascertain these words are taken out of context to confuse and muddy the issue. It is obvious that all these supporters will condone immoral actions and they will not take responsibility for their unethical actions. They will continue to cover up for each other and continue to admit they are innocent. What kind of values and honor are these officials exhibiting to the young Diné?
The decision was not an honor to our ancestors nor the teaching of our leaders. The mark of a true leader is to provide for everyone else first. Our elected officials need to observe beyond their personal boundaries and become aware of conditions and status of most of their constituents who are experiencing true hardship.