Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Advising Diné peacemaking for Buu Nygren and Richelle Montoya to resolve differences

By Elaine Henderson

Editor’s note: Ms. Elaine Henderson, a Diné peacemaker, retired in May 2023 from the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch as the program coordinator for its Peacemaking Program. She has recruited peacemakers, trained judicial staff, judges and attorneys on Diné Traditional Fundamental Law and traditional dispute resolution in Navajo and in English. Henderson continues her passion in peacemaking by offering foundational learning of Diné Fundamental Law. She lives in Gallup.

There are many Diné families on and off the Nation who are celebrating commencements and momentous life celebrations for their educational achievements. Many of our families have made sacrifices so our young people can fulfill their milestones and commitments. Our young people look to our Navajo Nation’s leaders to recognize their achievements. I am troubled for mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and clan community members who step up in a family leadership role to deliver a message to inspire these futures. This year the messages meant to inspire hope and encourage prosperity in our young adults are being overshadowed once again by a current embarrassing disharmony in our leadership.

As a Diné elder it is incumbent and crucial to step up and say something. It is not in our directional philosophies or traditional teachings to sit back and watch our children struggle. An elder with gained wisdom has every right and responsibility to say shoh; to examine a situation that is not right and explore options to restore harmony. The disharmony between the Navajo Nation president and vice president is dire enough that I make this request as a Diné elder, grandmother, woman veteran and Diné constituent: participate in peacemaking to resolve the issues, restore harmony, and demonstrate the value of our traditional processes.

Peacemaking is requested on behalf of the People to address these issues and allow the Navajo Nation president and vice president to shoulder some responsibility and give solutions. The option to place you on administrative leave is not a viable healing solution to achieve hózhǫ́. I know both Mr. Buu Nygren and Ms. Richelle Montoya possess an abundance of Diné philosophy and probably have some wisdom to extend beyond our own, however that wisdom is sorely lacking when newspaper headlines bring attention to your embarrassing behaviors. I call on both of you to be equally responsible and be accountable for fixing this ‘anáhóót’i’.

At some point an elder may no longer talk to you, provide their insights or share their teachings; this happens because they have given up on you and succumbed you to fend for yourself. Nihxaa hasti’ is acknowledged for you, however how you impart t’áá hwó ájít’éego will be further exemplified how as President and Vice President of the Navajo Nation how you will impart a solution. It is because of this you must agree to willingly participate and commit to the process; you must be willing to accept the outcome with a believable solution and share with your constituents so they can continue to hold you accountable.

T’áá ádíighahigo nahaloo ntsáhákees go doo bíighah da. Being closed minded and selfish is not a leadership trait, doo yí ni’ beełt’éego. The teaching comes from a place of being accountable and having the ability to think things through and is said not to be closed minded and selfish.

T’áadoo hxą haanil woołi Diné people live by traditional law that have become our custom and tradition from time immemorial. As leaders we don’t put our personal agenda on the forefront, you must be cognizant and be responsible to the snowball effects of social movements because they will always impact our balanced way of life. These social causes you seek already have their names and have their place in our society as either hózhǫ́ or naayéé’.

Leaders build the courage needed to dispel disruptions, you command insignificant challenges by knowing and being versed in their sacred name. Your place is to deliver our expectations in a considerate and meticulous manner.

Right now, your promise to the elders is not being upheld. You sold us on a hope that we all would feel protected, that our customs and traditions would be protected. What hope that our elders thrive on is knowing that the Navajo Nation President and his Vice President are utilizing all resources so that seven generations from now our identity and customs are preserved, it becomes our greatest fear that this will be squandered because our children are not afforded the opportunity to see that far.

It is said by elders that the sacred imparts of leadership cannot lack Hodzha’. Hodzha’ is when wisdom is imparted through experience and knowledge. Hodzha’ is achieved when your leadership skills begin to impart hope and healing versus getting a mission done by any and all means necessary. Statesmen and stateswomen who are said to have done this job with eloquence had courage to master Hodzha’ in their own ways and capacities. When the bones of our skulls solidify is when the strength of minds are discovered and reasoning is mastered, at this juncture we can safely say there is humility, and we are protected. Moreover, Hodzha’ is the ability to see far ahead beyond mountains and rivers, not just what is directly in front of us at the moment. Hodzha’ is possessing the powerful ability to restore faith and power of persuasion that anything is possible.

Your words and actions must show meaning of hope for all our people, many whom have utilized peacemaking to restore harmony in themselves, families and communities. Many have used the system because it reflects and amplifies our way of life. It guides others to instill k’é as the practicing element of cohesiveness and interaction. In this way there is k’é ná’ásdlį́į́’ and k’é níjiísdlį́į́’.

Allow the elders to speak to continually impart this wisdom, we must speak because at this moment our greatest investment is for both of you to succeed and because at this moment you both are the young faces of the Navajo Nation. You both made the commitment to share the burden of accomplishing big tasks and show us that the younger generation has our back and will not squander what is valuable and important to us.

Allow the peacemaking process to help you. Many Diné families understand and use the ancient system because peacemaking works. Peacemaking is a distinct and separate method, when done right will help you navigate challenges and growth, and that will reflect in both of your achievements. Right now, your grand achievements will only be seen when you get out of that someone’s shadow, you must listen because now is the time to carve out your own legacy. Don’t be the youngest president only to be remembered as the most stubborn.

Our esteemed leader Chief Manuelito was known to deliver his messages using his finger to point with confidence. When talking to his people he would point with his finger and his gesture would mean, “This is what I want you to hear about the direction we are taking. Kodóó shighan k’é didóoh’įįł. This has sacred meanings. It is engagement in which hóchxǫ́/‘anáhóót’i’ confronted by leaders who bring skills of resolution. The words of past elders are remembered because they applied for the good of all. Mr. Nygren and Ms. Montoya, you both gave us the reassurance that you would practice a traditional balance, you sold to us that you revere Diné life way traditions in your upbring, and these values are instilled in you.

I realize not all blame should be placed on leadership, some responsibility needs to be accounted for by those who surround the president and vice president. This unacceptable behavior is indicative of a blatant disregard for k’é and one another. Your administration’s cookie cutter answers to this problem are not good enough to level the playing field. It is report card time and the message you ran on is beginning to be overshadowed with doubt.

Leadership ceremonies take place in preparation and acceptance of your roles. At times like this is when we reflect on the sacred imparts of anointment or being ordained – for better descriptive word. This is usually done by your elders who impart their leadership teachings while partaking of nát’oh. These words and teachings need reminding and renewal.

As a community of elders, it is incumbent upon us to help our young leaders to fruition, to remind them of their sacred responsibilities with talk and encouragement with achí’yati. We do this for a better life for those seven generations ahead of us, the grandchildren of our now grandchildren.

When you disregard teachings that dictate our way of life there are consequences: bik’eh ná’ayée’ means repeated situations become malicious in mental, physical, and well-being. Leadership comes with responsibilities and accountabilities. You won’t see these qualities when you still struggle with soft spots and still have birth fluid behind your ears. We don’t askew and reiterate Narratives to fit the situation. You represent everyone, you are the person to relay these fundamentals for our overall prosperity.

Perhaps this brings out a level of disconnect that is affecting overall relations and we can all work on that, but I can’t stay quiet. Áłchíní yázhí báNdazhnit’á nahaloo nighlił ho’aah.


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