Tons of food, gifts arrive for Christmas
Two C-120 Globemaster planes landed at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque this week containing 40 tons of gifts for members of the Navajo Tribe as part of a program established by the U.S. Air Force in 1962 to bring Christmas joy to the reservation.
“I believe that Project Navajo represents one of the finest gestures of goodwill from one segment of the public to another,” Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald said in a statement.
The gifts will be transported to Window Rock on five semi-trucks for distribution between now and Christmas to Navajos living on the northern portion of the reservation by members of the Utah Airforce Association.
The gifts include 5,000 cans of food weighing four tons and five tons of clothing donated by the Ogden Rescue Mission in Ogden, Utah. Three tons of flour was donated by the Big J Mill in Brigham City Utah. There was also more than five tons of toys.
Another three tons of food was donated by the Golden Spike Air Force Association. The rest was donated by other organizations in Utah as part of an effort that began last summer.
MacDonald said hundreds of people in the state donated thousands of hours of their time to help raise money and supplies as part of this Christmas effort to bring joy to hundreds of Navajo families.
Another 10 tons of food, clothing and toys are scheduled to leave from the White Sands Missile Range later this week for distribution to families living on the southern portion of the reservation. This comes from donations from families in New Mexico.
These will be delivered to the St. Michaels Mission after which they will be divided into sections to deliver to some 40 chapters during the next week for distribution during Christmas parties.
Diné voters waking up
Ten years ago, it was a given fact that Navajos living on the reservation did not vote in off-reservation elections. It was thought that these were “white man’s elections” and had no meaning for reservation Navajos.
That has changed drastically over the years as both Raymond Nakai and MacDonald realized that having members of Congress beholden to Navajo voters for their election power would heap major benefits to reservation members.
Now, instead of ignoring the drawing up of state and federal districts in the state, it is watched carefully by tribal leaders which is why the tribe plans to present evidence at a hearing held this week in Phoenix District Court protesting a recent reapportionment map as proposed by the state Legislature.
The new reapportionment was drawn in such a way that off reservation white populations in Apache, Navajo and Coconino counties would control who is elected to the state House and Senate despite the fact that Navajos outnumber non-Navajos in both Apache and Navajo counties.
Since 1962 registration of Navajos in those counties have increased by more than 400% but this still leaves tens of thousands of potential Navajo voters still not registered, according to an editorial in the Navajos Times which strongly suggests that the tribe begin a massive campaign in the state to at least double the current registration by the next election.
The Navajo Tribal Council is spending more than $40,000 on surveys to present to the Phoenix court to show that the current proposal violated federal laws prohibiting any reapportionment that discriminates against minorities in the state.
MacDonald expressed confidence that the Navajo effort will be successful and that “our votes will no longer be ignored by state politicians who are now put on notice that we will fight aggressively to make sure our voice is heard of election day,” he said.
Diné credited for boost in federal funds
Sim Thraw, a spokesman for the U.S. secretary of labor, this week credited MacDonald with convincing Congress to increase the amount of money going to reservation unemployment programs this year from $3.4 million to $8 million.
President Richard Nixon had originally proposed the $3.4 million and that was the amount in the original budget package presented to Congress. This was $100,000 less than the tribes received the year before.
Thraw said the Navajo Tribe lobbied hard for an increase to $8 million pointing out that unemployment in the nation’s Indian reservations were seven times the average of communities off the reservation.
MacDonald also pushed the idea that more money be given to tribes for training purposes would lead directly to a reduction of those unemployment figures.
Thraw said the Navajos should be praised by the other tribal governments in the country for pushing for an increase for all tribes instead of putting pressure on the labor department to give the lion’s share of the original $3.4 million to the Navajos.
As it is now, the Navajos are expected to get at least $3.5 million of the new allocation of $8 million.
There are no records as to whether the Navajos received any thanks from other tribal leaders for this effort.