There are few greater responsibilities before us than to care for and ensure, to the best of our abilities, the wellbeing of our children. Their vulnerability and innocence requires a level of intensity and focus dedicated to their protection and advancement.
As we begin new legislative sessions, and welcome new and returning elected leaders, it is critical that children, particularly Native American children, are central to policy and budget considerations. This responsibility is not a departmental, jurisdictional or sector-based responsibility. In fact, it is one that crosses all sectors and requires the thoughtfulness by all leaders when making decisions and investments.
Unfortunately, on the Navajo Nation and across the United States, our children are facing huge health challenges. In fact, if they continue at current rates, it will lead to the first generation of young people who could live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. There is no secret that Navajo children face:
- High rates of childhood obesity
- Increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions related to heart disease
- Decreased rates of physical activity
- Decreased access to healthy foods and safe places to play
This critical reality requires that we, not just our elected leaders, make youth health a priority and that we make targeted investments in key areas of prevention. Allow me to make several priority policy suggestions proven to help improve the health outcomes of children:
- Improve the nutritional quality of snacks, lunches and drinks in schools and early childhood settings;
- Reduce consumption of sugary sweetened drinks (e.g. pop, sports drinks, energy drinks, Kool-Aid);
- Protect children from unhealthy food marketing;
- Increase access to affordable, healthy foods;
- Increase access to safe places for physical activity; and
- Increase children’s physical activity levels (e.g. in schools, youth programs)
One of the most impactful ways to help ensure the probability that Diné children will grow up healthy is to invest in and make priority Navajo youth health prevention. Study after study reveals that prenatal, early childhood and youth development investments in health, nutrition and physical activity are worth every penny. In fact, the financial return to the tribe, state, or community alone makes such investments a smart choice.
As we move forward in 2017, lets have our budgets reflect our values and make youth a priority!
Justin Kii Huenemann
President and CEO
Notah Begay III Foundation
‘We are stronger when we are united’
Driving back to New Mexico from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., gave the women on our bus time to reflect and share their experiences of the march.
Overall, everyone’s experiences were positive and uplifting. However, as a Diné, there was an experience that was difficult for me to shake.
The indigenous community had plans to meet at the National Museum of the American Indian to gather and pray. We met early to insure we would keep a large open space for our prayers. It was such an amazing experience to meet my sisters from all sides of the continent, Canada included.
At some point, the marchers started to cross the patio area where we were congregated, pushing into our prayer circle and making it smaller. The crowds were encircling our space as paths to get to a better viewing area. It was really disruptive and we had to set up human barriers to discourage the crowds from pushing through the backside of our gathering space. Some of us were standing on a step wall for a better view of the prayer circle and it didn’t take long for the marchers to eye the wall, wanting to stand up there, too, in order to get a better view of the stage. Our prayer, our space was being “colonized.”
This is what our people have gone through, survived and continue to live through. Our sacred spaces were and are invaded by others because of the location, the proximity to something better.
It took a while through prayer to readjust my thoughts from frustration and annoyance to forgiveness and acceptance. I realized that we were all together marching for a bigger message and mission, and my anger would not serve me, or the purpose of the march well. I realized that those who encroached on our area didn’t know what their actions symbolized. I’m sure if they understood the significance of their actions, they would have been more sensitive.
Together we marched side by side, from all parts of the continent, with all our concerns, rallying against the new American administration and Trump. We all need to be sensitive to how we relate to one another. For some of us it is buried deep, literally, figuratively, and spiritually. As a Native American, the land, the air, the water, are sacred. Our unity, as people, is sacred. The inclusion and understanding of others is sacred. Our families are sacred. Our women are sacred. Our issues are the same, all woven together, in the fabric of who we are as Natives and as Americans.
Finding an understanding, an acceptance, an encouragement, a forgiveness will be key to a better tomorrow for all of us. We are stronger when we are united.
(Hometown: Window Rock, Arizona)
A forewarning on sex offenses
How would you like to be on a text message being a decoy for people, especially your relatives?
I respect and love my relatives and Diné people. Solely, Navajo Nation. Some of us write to Navajo Times. Most probably just to write. What we don’t realize is that we have some real problems. Human problems, if we could call it that.
Where, how and why it exists, we probably know. Yet, we cover it with dirt thinking it’ll go away, but it doesn’t. The outcome might occur in our community or we hear about it occurring somewhere else. It’s strange.
You guess what I’m getting at? Sex offenses.
This darn thing, or whatever you want to call it, is an extreme dilemma a person can be exposed to. If one isn’t careful there are places they can end up: either six feet under or indefinite time in prison.
Be very careful my people, especially the way you think. Get help somewhere, if your mind strays. Go to a hospital, they are there for that, to treat people. And there are places you can seek help, such as alcohol treatment centers. These facilities can refer you to a person and places where you can get help.
In this time and age, there are laws that are very strict. Even for petty offenses there are sentences that are severe. From there laws are legislated where they give stiff penalties for allegations that pertain to sex crimes. Most even make you register as a sex offender.
As some of us know, there are posters in our communities with names of certain people exposing what they did. This is insane! Do you want your name on that poster? I believe not. These legislatures are even going into computers exposing who did what. Now, they are even going into text messaging.
It makes me tired hearing human related news and then picking up a newspaper, what do you come across? Someone committing such a wicked thing. Luring someone into such a crime is something else. Being under the influence is another, but doing a crime out of the ordinary is outrageous.
A person can lose their family from the titled allegation. As the Bible says “We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
As the Navajo Tribe, let’s be meek and help each other. Look around you and advise one another, “Brother, sister that is wrong?” This is before something dramatic occurs.
As they say, “It takes one to know one.” Not very many come out on the better side of it though.
God bless the Navajo Nation.