Hello, my name is Sterling Sonny Yazzie. I was born and raised in Shiprock. My clan is Near the Water People, born for Bitter Water. My grandpa on my mother’s side is Red House and my father’s side is Cliff Dwellers from the Ganado area. I’m currently imprisoned and fortunately, my cellmate obtains the Navajo Times each week.
When I was 10 or 11 years old I went to the Tuba City Fair in the mid-late 80s. I do recall at the time Peterson Zah was the Navajo Nation president then, and I do confirm with him about Hillary Clinton. I’m not into politics since I became a convict so I discontinue voting, but I would like to urge the Diné people to support Hillary Clinton by voting for her. She once proclaimed, “Democrats are the party of working people.”
Democratic programs regularly include key elements such as raising minimum wage, expanding aid to education, and there were historic changes, as well importantly on racial equality and civil rights.
“Our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should.” Hillary Clinton stood as the most likely democratic successor to Obama after her term as Obama’s secretary of state. As a U.S. senator from New York, she served on the Armed Services Committee where she focused on expanding health benefits for veterans and their family as well as National Guard members and reservists.
Mrs. Clinton also wrote a law to supply grants to local and state governments to aid family caregivers. I presume that Hillary Clinton would pursue in her 100 days in office: Launching her infrastructure programs, investing in renewable energy, tightening regulations of health insurances and pharmaceutical companies, and expanding protection of voting rights, including immigration reform and raising the minimum wage.
Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992. In 1993, he became president of USA and in 1996, when I was 21 years old he visited the Navajo Nation in Shiprock. Then in 2000 it marked a clear comeback, electing to the presidency an African American pledged to securing universal health care. After the Great Recession, Barack Obama was elected. So let’s make history again. Since we have an African-American President, why not a female President? It might be great for the United States.
If Clinton succeeds Obama in the fall, her ambitious infrastructure plans would modernize the county’s failing bridges and roads, installing half a billion solar panels and creating 3.25 million new jobs.
Good luck to the voting Diné people and God bless.
Sterling S. Yazzie
(Hometown: Shiprock, N.M.)
Escalade another way to fleece the Red Man
Once again, the White Man is trying to fleece the Red Man.
An out-of-town, off-the-rez, down-the-state developer wants to sell you on a land deal in which you receive the equivalent of $24 in trinkets and other odds and ends in exchange for property rights that are priceless.
These slick developers wish to negotiate a type of “treaty” in which the Navajo Nation and other local Native Americans, as usual, get the shaft, while these Scottsdale interlopers go straight to the bank to deposit their big bucks, giggling all the way.
These money-hungry, non-spiritual and uncaring people are headed by a scofflaw who, according to accounts I have read, casually and cavalierly shrugs off his just debts. Plainly, they plan to continue the cycle of the White Man in a business suit taking the Red Man’s land and hornswoggling the Red Man in the process.
As a white man, obviously there is much I do not understand regarding the Diné. Let me start here: The people who live in the vicinity of the Confluence consider the Confluence a sacred location. I am certain many other members of the Navajo Nation feel the same way. The Gap-Bodaway Chapter House has twice voted against this project.
But a certain legislator in the Fort Defiance area wants the Confluence project to proceed, and has introduced a bill in the Navajo Nation Legislature to clear the way for this hideous project. Is the Confluence not sacred to the Diné in Fort Defiance?
Apparently, the dollars are much more sacred to this legislator than the Confluence itself.
But, there is much more at stake here.
This area is sacred not only to many members of the Navajo Nation, but also to many members of the American Nation as well as many members of every nation on the planet.
We are talking about nothing less than one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
To further desecrate such a place, in this particular manner, would be a crime against humanity.
To the Navajo Nation legislature: I say vote against this monstrous development idea.
A little history on the Escalade proposal
(Editor’s note: This letter was originally submitted in 2012. The author resubmitted it to respond to the resurfacing of the Grand Canyon Escalade proposal.)
This is a comment about the campaign to sell a proposed luxury resort/gondola tram in Western Navajo by the Scottsdale-based Confluence Partners LLC, also known as Fulcrum Group.
Fulcrum Group LLC started an assault of full-page color ads in the Navajo-Hopi Observer whose appearance can only be described as follows: a glossy brochure full of ideas, charismatic community presentations and “dinner” for its audience. This is all to make money off a business off an idea proposed called the Grand Canyon Escalade.
The Partners are middlemen who will sell their plans to investors for an amount of money that as of yet remains undisclosed. The Partners themselves don’t have the money but off-the-Navajo Nation investors (like Donald Trump) will pay for the construction of the resort and tram.
However, eventually, the Navajo Nation will be saddled with debt owed to investors over a glamorized tourist trap. Does this not sound familiar of another Arizona tribe struggling with an investor over money and who is responsible for unfinished roads and a water line?
I don’t trust the Partners because not so long ago three men — Scottsdale Political Consultant R. Lamar Whitmer, Arizona Rep. Albert Hale, and former Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael C. Nelson — came to the People of the Confluence as Fulcrum Group, LLC. Ivan K. Gamble, LeChee resident, also is a partner.
Many in our group were sold on Whitmer’s tram proposal at first because his glowing promises to rebuild the Bodaway community with paved roads, homes, water and rehabilitating old sheep camps danced in their minds.
Hale and Whitmer told us that the local people mattered and would have the ultimate say over whether a feasibility study or development at the Confluence would begin. They shared a diagram of a map that showed the local people at the top.
As time moved forward, none of the local people signed a piece of paper that would have allowed for a feasibility study despite the Partners’ pressure. The land users changed their minds about the development in September 2011 because the group performed due diligence and thus communication ceased between the group and the Partners.
The land users then started to talk about drawing up their own environmentally sensitive plans. Thereafter, the Confluence Partners lobbied President Shelly’s office and hammered out a memorandum of understanding, which they begrudgingly unveiled in March 2012. The new plan showed an expanded tourist site, which included the river walk at the bottom of the canyon and room to add more land in the future.
The Partners, in addition, had changed their name in November 2011 and filed the name change in the Gila Bend Sun newspaper, far away from the Navajo Nation.
I urge people who have already listened to the Partners or plan to attend the dinners to be aware of these slick salesmen.
Last month, the leaders of a Western Navajo jewelry organization were invited to a behind-closed doors dinner at Little America in Flagstaff. People heard from Deswood Tome, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s liaison, and Whitmer.
Whitmer touted the 2,000 jobs that will become readily available upon the project’s completion with a $70 million payroll per year. In addition, the partners claim the development is expected to generate $28.5 billion over 75 years.
Fulcrum Group LLC promised money to cover training for jobs that could become available at the resort.
Those in attendance were told how the Bodaway/Gap Chapter could rebuild their community from the revenue, and by the end of dinner, several guests walked out in a trance contemplating the plan; they saw their kids and grandchildren blissfully working and gushed so enthusiastically about the powerful presentation that they had difficulty snapping back to reality. When they arrived home, they realized this is merely a sparkling idea filled with ingenuity slapped with a price tag.
Of the $28.5 billion, $5 billion would be shared with the Navajo Nation and local chapters, and of the $5 billion they promise to the local chapter and Navajo Nation, this would be absorbed by other expenses which include the salary and benefits of police officers that they claim will guard sacred spots and other workers to operate the resort. Nothing is mentioned about how much this operation would cost per year.
The plans don’t show how solid waste will be contained at the bottom of the canyon where cafés and restaurants will be located, leaving me to guess waste will enter the Colorado water, which will then float to Los Angeles.
In addition, there is no firm plan about where water will come from to accommodate visiting tourists. We have heard that water would be piped in from Coppermine Chapter or Tuba City, begging the question, Why would two separate communities located in a desert agree to lose precious water to benefit tourists and non-tribal members alike (Whitmer and five other partners are non-Indian and non-Navajo), not to mention the multitudes of visitors intrigued by real Native land.
In addition, the plan is touted by Fulcrum Group LLC as an idea engineered by Hale, a “truth” I highly doubt because according to the famous memorandum of understanding, Whitmer is in charge of the Confluence Partners and would thus be the sole producer of ideas. This is confirmed by documents filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
My belief is this: Hale is the charismatic Navajo fronting for the project. This is the same state lawmaker who endorsed the Navajo-Hopi 2012 water settlement although his own people opposed it, the same former Navajo president who stepped down in 1998 to avoid prosecution over the misuse of tribal funds and rebranded himself as a state lawmaker involved in the Escalade.
My opinion is that Hale has knowledge of Navajo law and access to President Shelly. As such, he has interpreted the people’s participation in the project to fit what his partners want, which is to place the Escalade on a fast track.
However, what Hale seems to ignore is the fact that the Escalade is causing disharmony among the Bodaway land users campaigning by browbeating people in the Navajo language and importing a medicine man from elsewhere to tell the locals their classic Navajo faith is dying to convince them to buy into the project.
This is a reflection of how the Partners operate and I’m disappointed in Hale’s leadership.
My definition of a Navajo leader is to stand for the people, unite the people and be a voice for them instead of watching them fight against a development, which does not have 100 percent approval from land users. When Hale was Navajo Nation president he prized local control. Why is he now determined to out-muscle the local Bodaway community for the Escalade? When development is not wanted, why shove it down their throats?
I am asking people to beware of these salesmen, who for several months bought numerous colorful full-page ads in newspapers chock full of false promises. I say it’s time for the local Bodaway Chapter to shape their own development and destiny.
We encourage all people to submit comments from all over the world.
Tuba City, Ariz.
‘$5 million for each chapter’ bad idea
I read this the other day (“5 million for each chapter,” Aug. 18) and felt I needed to respond to this letter written by Richard Peterson regarding Mr. Peterson’s proposal to give $5 million dollars to each chapter house from the $554 million settlement.
Although it may be tempting to just divide $554 million and spend it to support programs as Mr. Peterson suggests, highlighting our children needing money to go to college, veterans’ homes, or the elderly, the truth is, while these are noble suggestions, they are shortsighted and dangerous proposals for money we as a nation have waited for over 60 years.
The $554 million represents our suffering as a people. We are a people who suffered 500 years of warfare from the Spanish to the modern day ransacking of our people’s natural resources. The $554 million is nothing more than a token payment of the billions of dollars we lost as a people.
While it is true our people have been burned in the past by unsavory council delegates who only supported each other by ensuring only their relatives received money from discretionary funds, we have to believe that our current Navajo delegates and president are serving in our best interest.
Regardless of anyone’s beliefs, money is power and if we divide the money and spend it then we lose the power of this money and what it could bring for us. The safest thing to do with the money is to put it into the best interest-building bank we can find and put it away for the future of our people.
Giving money to our local chapter house will lead to fights on how the money is spent and there is potential for embezzlement.
If the Navajo people decide to spend the money we really need to think about what we are going to invest the money into. We have to be smarter than average bears and really analyze, sit down and think about our children’s future. We cannot afford to think about the present but also the future. Money does not grow on trees and no one hands out money. Once the money is spent, it is gone.
Sean A. Begaye
Fort Irwin, Calif.