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50 Years Ago: Billison tries for 3rd time for chairmanship

No one can call Sam Billison a quitter.

After running for chairman in the last two elections and losing to Raymond Nakai both times, Billison is going to make another effort and it appears that he has some support.

A nominating session was held on April 20 in Kinlichee and representatives of 17 chapters nominated Billison as their candidate in the 1970 election for tribal chairman. Billison once served as a Council delegate for Kinlichee, which is why he has so much support from that area of the reservation.

Billison has kept busy since losing the 1966 election.

At the time, he was director of the Division of Public Service but Nakai, shortly after beginning his second term, fired him. He then was accepted by the graduate school at the University of Arizona, where he is pursuing a doctorate degree in education administration.

The nominating session in Kinlichee is the first of four that will be held in the next few months to select candidates to run in the 1970 election. The next one is scheduled for Leupp on May 21.

Billison said he was excited to be running again and will continue to make education reform the top issue in his campaign.

Nakai has already announced he will run again. Another major contender is expected to be Peter MacDonald, who is head of the Office off Navajo Economic Opportunity.

In other news, it seems that next year’s election is the last thing on the minds of residents of the reservation’s largest community, Shiprock.

The community, which had an unemployment rate of more than 60 percent in 1965, is getting excited about the near completion of the Fairchild building, which is expected to bring more than 400 additional jobs.

The facility is being built by the Navajo Tribe and leased to Fairchild, which is planning to manufacture semi-conductors for use by the military.

The company is already in business, operating out of the Shiprock Community Center for the past year. It has 1,100 workers, all but 25 of whom are Navajo.

Once they move into the new building, the community center will be turned back over to the tribe.

The company is reportedly very happy about its decision to set up operations on the reservation, saying that they have found the Navajo workers very skillful in doing the detailed work necessary to make the semi-conductors.

These skills are due to rug weaving and silversmithing by many members of the tribe, skills that coincide with those needed to make semi-conductors.
Company officials say once they move into the new building, they plan to continue expanding their operations and will bring up the workers’ population to between 2,000 and 2,500 by the end of 1970.
The Navajo Times did a story commemorating the life of Clarence Denetclaw Sr., 73, who died in a car accident in early April near the Naschitti Trading Post on U.S. Highway 666. He was a resident of Naschitti.

Denetclaw was one of the Navajos who served in the army during World War I, seeing action in France, Belgium and Germany. He received the Liberty Button and other awards during his service from 1917 to 1919.

After the war, he came back to Naschitti and was involved in local politics. He was survived by his wife, five sons, six daughters and 47 grandchildren.

The Times also reported the death of a Korean War veteran on April 20.

Frankie Salcedo, 39, whose family lives in Thoreau, died in a Portland Hospital after a short illness. He had been living in Portland for the past few years working for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Salcedo was inducted into the army in 1951 and served in Korean for six months. He then served for 10 months in the Panama Canal Zone.

And finally, Carl Todacheenie, a regent for Navajo Community College, said he has been getting a lot of letters from people praising him for giving a tongue-lashing to an instructor at the school who brought a mime group from San Francisco to perform at the college in March.

Bob Roessel, the director of the college, stopped the group’s performance after they did a skit critical of the military. He ordered campus security to escort them off the campus.

Todacheenie said he received letters from ordinary people as well as politicians praising him for his support of the military. Many said that the instructor should have been fired instead of getting a tongue-lashing.

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About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.


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