Smith uses firefighter experience as motivation to run

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, July 3, 2014

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Dan Smith

At the Navajo Nation Presidential Forum in Tuba City, all the candidates seem to agree that most of the services provided to the nation by the U.S. government are not meeting the basic needs of people.

Using 20 years of firefighting experience as motivation to run for Navajo Nation president, Dan Smith hopes to provide more community services to the Navajo people and to eliminate the Navajo gaming commission.

Smith, 51, knows what it's like to provide his service to his community when needed.

"When you're a firefighter you're responsible for your brother and sister's life -- they have to trust you," said Smith, who is a now retired from the Shiprock Fire Department.

"That's not what I've seen from the Navajo Nation, people have lost faith because volunteered to be a firefighter.

"I seen a house on fire and back then we didn't have a fire department, people were throwing things out to save what they could," explained Smith.

The only fire department that serviced the Shiprock area was the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management in Fort Defiance.

"We didn't have these services, so that's why I became a firefighter," Smith said.

Watch Video Profiles of the Candidates

See video excerpts from the presidential candidates' appearance at the Navajo Nation candidates' forum June 23 in Tuba City.

According to Smith, he and a few volunteer firefighters got together and organized the first fire department in Shiprock back in the 90s. First seeking donations to help run the station until the Navajo Nation assumed control, Smith said that the fire department had limited supplies and fire engines.

But after a few years the tribe pulled back because of lack of funds and the station had to depend on donations to once again provide for the community.

Establishing the fire department in Shiprock, Smith said that he believes this resource helped him attain the leadership skills needed to provide the resources and services required by the Navajo people.

Smith explained that his main motivation to run for president was to restructure the Navajo government and to meet the services and needs that can accommodate Navajo people and communities every day. Services and needs include running water, electricity, hospitals and fire departments.

"I would cut a lot of waste from our government," said Smith, who also added that he is against the legalization of both marijuana and alcohol on the Navajo Nation as well the idea of casinos, calling them an addiction that the Navajo people do not need.

"It's not working for us and it's costing us millions of dollars," Smith said.

The casinos have caused more alcohol, domestic violence, abandonment and elderly abuse since being open, he added.

While also serving as a firefighter, Smith said to bring opportunities to the nation such as jobs and careers, he also established the Navajo Corn Party in 2012 to act as a voice for the Navajo people.

"I wanted to create more opportunities on the reservation, you have to have good motivation to do it," said Smith.

"My thinking, some people will call it outrageous, but it made me me," said Smith.

The border towns surrounding the Navajo Nation are getting richer each day with Navajo money from the services they provide to them that are not met by the Navajo government, he said.

"Most of the services provided by the U.S. government are not here on the rez," said Smith.

Smith said that he hopes that younger voters who are in need of these services will come out and vote, because if they want change to occur, it starts with them.

"This generation and the younger generation need to register to vote or this change can't be done," said Smith.

The younger generations of Navajo are fleeing the reservation to seek careers elsewhere, he said.

The Corn Party was also created to usher in the new generation of Navajo leaders, hoping to restore the values of government and encourage the Council, legislative and executive branches of the Navajo government to work together to bring economic growth to the people, said Smith.

Smith added that the Corn Party helped fight the Navajo gaming commission in 2012 to stop the building of Twin Arrows Casino and Resort.

Smith also is an artist specializing in sandstone paintings and sculptures. Some of his work displayed in museums and art galleries across the Southwest.

Serving as an artist for more than 20 years, Smith said that the Navajo people are rich in resources and that being an artist is like providing a service to people because the art represents the culture.

"People want to buy into artists because of who they are and what they produce," added Smith.

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