Dineh Chamber: Rez needs to be business-friendly

CHINLE

Courtesy photo
Jeff Begay

The Nez/Lizer administration’s new slogan “Buy Navajo, buy local” is a great sentiment, said the president of the Dineh Chamber of Commerce.

“That should be everybody’s objective,” said Jeff Begay. The problem is, it’s impossible.

“Even on the reservation, there are no Navajo businesses,” he pointed out. “The grocery chains, the gas stations, the convenience stores are all owned by outside corporations. Let’s establish Navajo businesses before we tell people to buy Navajo.”

Courtesy photo
Thom Curleyhair

His vice president, Thom Curleyhair of Arrow Indian Contractors, agreed. “When an Indian feels distressed,” he said, “all you have to do is mention ‘sovereignty’ and he feels better. We seldom stop to question what sovereignty really means.”

To the men, both of whom spent much of their lives in the construction industry, sovereignty means having thriving small businesses on the reservation.

Every time a new president and Council take office, they get their hopes up. And every time, they say, their hopes are dashed.

“We’ve been in a socialist system for the past 100 years,” Begay charged. “We don’t even understand what it means to have a private sector. It does not mean establishing enterprises owned by the tribe and run by the tribe to compete with small businesses owned by individual Navajos.”


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About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.