Our historical headmen did not shake fingers, boast

WINDOW ROCK, June 5, 2014

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Political candidates have taken their platform on the first public forum and the people are sidelined with comments, when in reality it will be their center stage for the next four years by casting votes.

The clamoring voices will grow louder for two candidates after the primaries -- it's a ritual -- performed in the white world, the excitement, money, promises and mudslinging. But when the airwaves clear, we find the "same ole, same ole" the next term. It's safe to assume the majority of us are tired of it.

The front page dramatizes our current president "We done that and gone nowhere," "Why are you (candidates) even here (challenging me!)" and "I'm your man!"

Our historical headmen (naat'aanii) were not chosen this way shaking fingers and boasting. Only a true leader will run unopposed.

Tone it down Mr. President, and let the people decide. You are provoking the candidates and people like me comment like I'm making. These candidates have every right to be heard called a democratic process. Your track record is the state of condition our nation is in and I voted you in office.

I'm still waiting for "prosperity" to happen -- the ticket you ran on last election. You ran on a bigger ticket that's back lashing. Maybe it just sounded good at the time. Ask yourself, "Are we really living in prosperity right now with our Navajo unemployment rate at 49 percent?"

My people, we have a bigger platform than those making themselves known where they stand. We have a civic obligation and moral duty to study each candidate's platform and be as critical as you can be rationally. Don't go off the deep end. There are many of us who are not willing to beat our chest like arrogant fools and plunge right in anywhere. Like one former Council delegate said, "We can't put the Navajo way of thought into the white man's form of governmentÉit's a foreign system, and we are better than that."

Philosophically, this one fizzled my thought wondering how did we ever make it this far then. I agree with the last part of his statement. We are pragmatist and have survived with an old common sense concept, "Make do with what you have." What can we use? What can we do? What is most relevant?

If we don't study and learn their legal system through education, then how do we know what he thinks to get ahead of the game? How can we impregnate our Navajo way into this system to make it work for us and him?

Thus far only generalizations and unclear statements have been made and waiting to hear substantial and detailed answers. Study the issues and ask how it will get done. What will "many, many more referendums" do, except clog up the legislative, legal and electoral process when it is not a true grassroots movement of the majority?

It may turn out the former president may fall short of the general election. You guys really have a vendetta for one another in Window Rock. Let the voters decide and not let a meaningless piece of paper get on the law books to decide what may not even happen this election.

Let's do our homework and not jump on the bandwagon. I do have only a partial agreement made by two candidates. One, there is a real sense of disconnect with our government, but I wouldn't "stand it on its head." It would be to say, let the people be at the bottom. According to LGA's local organization chart, the people are at the top. The other is "who you know, not what you know."

Maybe what we think is more important than what they want to talk about? I see many are coming back in the race. Maybe that's been the base of our problems all along? The result is too much bickering. If it has already been done as our president says, maybe our problems are caused by the rank-and-file stronghold by the old political class in Window Rock?

If we have the political will to wipe out the old political regime, we can change for the betterment of our people. May happy days be ahead of you.

Teddy Begay
Kayenta, Ariz.

Water settlement warrants big background

Mr. Lee Jack Sr.'s May 22 Navajo Times letter asked, "What happened to our water?" He's disappointed the Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement "agreement" didn't get approval in 2012. He also asked, where's the Council's "new negotiating team" (Water Rights Task Force), and what did they do?

The agreement was commonly called Senate Bill 2109 - the federal approval legislation for the agreement. The S. 2109 issue warrants big economic background.

First, Navajo unemployment hovers around 50 percent. Arizona's and America's are under 7 percent. The Great Depression average was 17 percent. If the nation had 17 percent, it would be an economic miracle.

Second, what does "economics" mean? It's from Greek, literally meaning "home management." Since the 1920s, nation and non-nation lawyers have controlled the economy. With 50 percent unemployment, that's "home mis-management."

Third, practically every nation community has residential/municipal running water, or faucet water. Many residences still do not. This is an IHS/Navajo Nation failure. Faucet water is the tiniest percentage of surrounding states' water use. Extra agricultural, industrial, and commercial water rights are the economic drivers in those states. With "extra" water comes more capital and a bigger economy.

Fourth, the nation lacks investment capital, economic drivers, and a sustainable economy. It must claim every drop of "extra agricultural, industrial, and commercial" reserved water rights to have these things.

Fifth, Phoenix and Tucson have "water wealth" and booming economies because of Central Arizona Project water -- that's their "extra" water. (CAP is Colorado River water in the Phoenix canals we see.)

Sixth, CAP water gets through the canals because Navajo coal and Navajo water (a billion dollars worth for free so far) are used by the non-Navajo Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., to generate electricity, about 25 percent of which is dedicated to pumping Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.

The nation's lawyers have never claimed a drop of its potentially huge water rights in the main Colorado River (a huge mistake).

Seventh, if the people wish to see great economic successes they have contributed Navajo wealth to, while poverty remains here, it's Phoenix and Tucson.

Eighth, it's obvious S. 2109 - introduced by Senator Jon Kyl on Feb. 14, 2012 - was a Valentine's Day present for Arizona, Navajo Generating Station, and Peabody Coal. The Council and people did not know of S. 2109 or the agreement, but the nation's lawyers secretly approved it. This violated Navajo sovereignty and human rights of free prior and informed consent.

S. 2109 was economic disaster. It surrendered extra reserved rights water (LCR surface water) that would be a significant "economic driver." On average it's 340,000 acre-feet per year. That's 340,000 football fields a foot deep. Worth $3.5 billion downstream. Reserved rights to all of it were waived. Also, the "mini-NAPI" 20,000 acre Leupp/Bird Springs/Tolani Lake farm, proposed for 105,000 acre feet per year of surface water rights, was hidden from the Council and the people by the lawyers controlling our poverty economy.

The groundwater projects in S. 2109 were already IHS responsibilities. An IHS report to Council on April 21, 2014, reminded us the Southwest Navajo Rural Water Supply Project on the drawing board many years, used to have IHS priority. But it and other IHS groundwater projects somehow got delayed and loaded into S. 2109 by its promoters.

S. 2109 was meant to trick us to believe the renamed IHS projects were "new" while S. 2109 was obviously drafted to insure the billions worth of surface water flowing down the LCR, for free, kept doing that.

Arizona now seeks to pump groundwater from northeast Arizona into the LCR, using it as a canal to the Colorado River, for Phoenix and Tucson use. Arizona is also looking at pumping up to 100,000 acre feet per year of brackish groundwater from under Navajo, treating it, and sending it to Phoenix and Tucson.

Finally, the Council's LCR Water Rights Task Force is made up of six or so selected delegates. The chair was Council Speaker Naize. I was a non-voting "advisor" appointed to represent the people. I watched the WRTF being controlled from behind the scenes, and directly, by the lawyers who still control the poverty economy. There's been only one meeting in the past 1.5 years.

Two exceptionally positive things that disapproving S. 2109 did for the people was save potential reserved water rights worth hundreds of millions, and put the nation in the strongest water rights negotiating position ever - by weakening those who take the greater wealth of the nation and transfer it to others. The extra Navajo agricultural, industrial, and commercial reserved rights water that has been and is being waived in Arizona and other states is worth more than the Navajo coal, oil, gas, and gaming combined. The states know this.

I have indexes to S. 2109 and the agreement, and PowerPoints on the problematic issues, and can present them to Mr. Jack's chapter, or others in Western Navajo (where the majority of my in-laws reside), or elsewhere.

Jack Utter
St. Michaels, Ariz.

Window Rock schools need strong leadership

The Window Rock Unified School Board has voted to place on leave Superintendent Deborah Dennison. That was an appropriate decision, based on Dennison's weak administrative performance and the lack of academic progress at WRUSD.

The facts are clear that WRUSD schools have problems that require strong leadership. That leadership has not been evident under Dennison's tenure.

To her credit, Dennison has overseen the construction of a new athletic facility. Unfortunately, the manner it was paid for has created major problems in the district's available funds to pay for vital education services because the funds now will go for paying off the facility for the next 20 years until it is paid off. However, the No. 1 issue is academic performance.

WRUSD has experienced disturbing setbacks that occurred on her watch with seemingly little alarm or plans to fix them and for which the previous school board failed to hold her accountable. According to the Arizona Department of Education, WRUSD schools have failed consistently under her watch to make adequate yearly progress. The schools are rated as D schools and are on academic watch.

The problems of Navajo schools are many. No one person can cure those problems, many of which are based in poverty and other societal issues. Parents cannot be "non-renewed" for their lack of involvement, a main ingredient for student success.

However, a superintendent is the leader and primary mover for aggressive action plans and detailed response to such issues. A superintendent sets expectations and holds teachers, administrators, students -- and parents -- accountable. It is hard work that doesn't always win popularity contests but a community needs it, sees it and respects it. That has not been evident with Dennison. Her apparent interest in athletics is commendable, but the priority has to be on the academic performance of our children.

Dennison's lack of administrative skills should have been called into question by the previous board, a board that hired her and even with the district's lack of progress continued to award her with massive salary increases, benefits, and basically allowed her to do whatever she wanted. The budget accounting problems with the Apache County office shows her lack of attention to detail. That is unacceptable in today's tight budget atmosphere.

Deborah Dennison is a nice person and obviously a person who cares about children. However, her record here has not been successful. It is not about politics, it is about making children successful.

WRUSD needs a strong leader in the superintendent's office. It is up to this new school board to hire a strong leader and hold him or her accountable without regard to personalities or local community politics. It's time for a new superintendent for WRUSD.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

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