Irony in arguing, in English, language fluency
I wonder if attorney David Jordan and his Navajo complainants appreciate the irony of a non-Navajo arguing, in English, the issue of Navajo language fluency for complainants who submitted a legal brief, written in English, to a Navajo appellate court that employs rules modeled after Western legal and judicial procedures, on an issue that may very well determine who leads a tribal government fashioned after and resembling Western non-tribal government structures in its executive, legislative, and judicial branches and functions.
It is only after a closer examination of this irony that the current complexities of Navajo language and culture in Navajo presidential politics comes into a focus much like that of a kaleidoscope — the multiple colors and shapes of which are symbolic of the rich cultures, faiths and beliefs, languages, and ways of living that is our beautiful Navajo Nation.
From our most fragile and precious infants only hours old to our most wise and valuable elders, Navajo people inherently possess many different gifts that make our families, communities, and nation whole.
Without knowledge from the world around us, we risk being left behind in an increasingly technological world. The advances in medicine and science are breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Without our beautiful cultural knowledge and the language that informs and shares this knowledge among our children, parents, and grandparents, we risk being lost among 7.125 billion fellow humans on earth. Unwavering positions taken between these two complex realisms does more harm than good.
Taking the best of both and blending it into a unique and highly practical/functional tribal society strikes a wise balance between meeting the socio-economic demands of globalization while maintaining identity and addressing the psycho-social and cultural needs of our Navajo families and communities.
This being said, the political interpretations of these realisms can also be extremely divisive, the effects of which are becoming more and more observable during political campaign rallies where Navajo presidential candidates and their supporters rush headlong to attack one another for, in this instance, the ability or inability to speak the Navajo language fluently, or whether one is “cultural” or “progressive,” “new guard” or “old guard.”
Another disturbing observation is the public expressions of internalized oppression among our Navajo people, or how we have taken into our ways of thinking and acting out the discrimination, or economic and social oppression we have experienced and have internally redirected these beliefs and actions onto our own people, sometimes with devastating results.
The examination of the irony and issues leads to a critical examination of the realisms facing our great Navajo Nation and cautions Navajo people who can ill afford the potentially destructive and divisive argument based on “us” vs. “them.”
Perhaps, this is a time that we seriously reconsider developing the discussion around “we” and blending the best of our culture with the best of world around us. These are the thoughts that I have as the Navajo Nation Supreme Court prepares to hear an appeal by the Navajo complainants and their attorney on the issue of Navajo language fluency in the 2014 Navajo presidential elections.
Milton Bluehouse Jr.
What if we could agree and celebrate that we are family with the same roots. That we know we are a good people and strongest when we stand together. That we are confronted with the greatest challenges we have ever faced.
That the future will be even harder for our children and generations to come. What if we could concur that our physical world, our land, our earth is changing. That we must give honor and care for our hurting earth with our Diné perspective.
That someday our limited water supply may not be enough for all of our people. That the prophesied end times must be near and we must agree on our priorities. What if we could conclude together that the election process is adversarial.
That it is an un-Diné process that is best propelled by large amounts of finance. That it brings out the worst of us with hurtful negativity and it divides families. That it is not a healthy process that is counterproductive to our life harmony. What if we had the vision and courage to declare we know there is a better way.
That will evoke our Sovereign authority and say we will stop the election process. That the 17 leaders who stepped up, go to the hogan and talk out that better way. That we dare believe we have the intelligence and ajooba to make this leadership.
The people have voted for Deschene
After reading and listening to the rhetoric about being a fluent speaker to qualify for Navajo Nation president, I felt compelled to write this letter.
As parents, we encourage our children and grandchildren to go to college and get a good quality education. We also tell them to return to their people and help them. I believe Mr. Deschene has done that.
He is a veteran and former Marine officer. He has demonstrated that he can set high goals and achieve them with pride as exemplified by his degrees. His record shows that he has learned the Western, dominate world and has lived successfully in that world. Now he has returned home to the reservation to fulfill what his elders and family have stated to him: get an education and return to help your people.
The people have voted for Mr. Deschene to be given an opportunity to run for presidency of our tribe during the primary election. Don’t those people’s votes count? If we allow the grievance to continue, this tells us that our voices don’t count. We might as well be in a socialistic society.
If Mr. Tsosie and Mr. Whitethorne had concerns with speaking Navajo fluently, they should have filed their grievances against Mr. Deschene and other “non-fluent” candidates when they first filed for candidacy months ago.
Another topic of concern: Is there a definition of “fluency”? How many of our children and grandchildren, both on and off the reservation, are truly fluent?
The language of choice among our children, and among most of us, is English. Even those of us who claim to be fluent, will come across a grandma/grandpa who will tell us that we aren’t saying things properly in Navajo. I commend Mr. Deschene for working towards “fluency.” He is adamant about speaking more of the language, which is different from not attempting at all.
The current election law is very vague and was set years ago. Today, the laws need to be more specific and updated by the Navajo Nation Council. Perhaps with the new-to-be-elected Navajo Nation Council, they can look into this law, as well as other archaic laws, so that it fits into our modern Navajo Nation.
The people have spoken with their votes during the primary election: Give Mr. Deschene a chance to run for Navajo Nation presidency.
Deschene has the qualifications
It’s interesting how the Navajo Nation presidential primary election has turned out. As Navajo voters, we all know now that of the 17 candidates, the two top finishers are Joe Shirley Jr. and Chris Deschene. However, some people have started questioning Mr. Deschene’s lack of being a fluent Navajo speaker. They say, “He can’t speak Navajo?”
As a voter I have to ask myself, but aren’t most young Navajo people like that, can’t speak Navajo? Because of this issue, a grievance has been filed. I have to ask myself, what’s next?
My opinion to this is, despite Mr. Deschene’s limitation to speaking fluent Navajo, I find him to be a dignified man with the qualifications. Chris is a family man, has relatives and works with his community. Chris has quite a resume, very well-educated, is an engineer, has experience as a state legislator, a community leader, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, lawyer, and last but not least, served as a major in the U.S. Marine Corps.
It’s been said time and time again that the Navajo people want a good change within our Navajo Nation government. People are tired of no advancements taking place under the executive branch from past presidents to the current one. So as Navajo voters, this is a perfect time to open the doors and embrace a new beginning that awaits us. Let the Navajo Nation start a new journey with Chris Deschene who is waiting to take on the challenges that face our nation and through his leadership, he is sure to make the Navajo Nation wholesome again.
I must ask the voters, when you attended the Navajo Nation presidential candidate forums prior to the primaries, wasn’t it apparent that such candidates like Dale Tsosie had a hard time communicating in the Navajo language? Perhaps it would be in his best interest to be supportive of a fellow community member rather than being critical of Mr. Deschene for his lack of being a fluent Navajo speaker.
The general election is less than a month away so I ask the Navajo voters both on and off the reservation to please vote for Chris Deschene for the betterment of the Navajo Nation.
Mariano Lake, N.M.
Student, young Diné supports Deschene
I support Chris Deschene for the next Navajo Nation president. As a student and young Diné woman, Mr. Deschene is a role model for me and he is bringing about a spirit of new leadership. He encourages youth involvement in our Navajo Nation, which has been proven by my own participation in his campaign.
Many argue about Chris’ ability to speak Navajo. I myself am not fluent in Navajo but have some understanding. His ability to relearn the language has been an encouragement to me to continue to learn my native language. Preservation of language and culture is important and is being displayed with his ability to relearn the language.
I also support his choice in picking a female running mate. I have a woman who serves as a leader for my own community and county, which is my own mother. My mother has held the position of grazing officer and will start as county assessor soon.
As a student, it is important for me to know that Mr. Deschene is well educated as an engineer and has a law degree. He has learned leadership from his military training and from leading fellow marines in the Persian Gulf conflict. I believe he can apply his skills to lead our nation in the future.
Many of us are young and educated, and we have the future of the Navajo Nation to look forward to. We want the ability to contribute to our nation, which is why many of us leave the nation to become educated so that we can take a step forward.
I encourage the Navajo youth to take the opportunity to vote in this election as I have because we are the future of our nation. It is our time to take a stand and make a choice to support what we believe and shape the future of our nation as Diné people.
We need a new, young leadership
I have unsuccessfully attempted to address the issue being tossed around by some jealous people about Chris Deschene’s inability to speak fluently in the Navajo language. Due to this issue his opponent and others are fearing like crazy.
The Navajo Nation Supreme Court’s decision to hear Mr. Deschene’s case is no surprise. The only reason behind this case is to disqualify him as a presidential candidate for the Navajo Nation and allow the old guards to continue to serve. They had their chance to prove themselves but failed big time.
Nevertheless, I am confident the Supreme Court will agree with the appeals and hearing officer and dismiss the case so this young man can move forward. We do need a new and young leadership. That is the bottom line.
I believe the Navajo people have spoken during the primary election that a new leadership is needed. If these people that are complaining about his inability to speak fluent Navajo, they should challenge the voters, not Mr. Deschene.
I wonder what happened to Ke’ that the people talk about and the traditional lessons that some of us were taught when we were young. Some 50-plus years ago I remember being taught by my parents and grandparents that leaving the homeland and receiving quality education is key to success. The reason was to someday lead the people.
The people that are complaining must not possess these lessons or teachings. I strongly believe Mr. Deschene has met these teachings from the elders in considering his candidacy for the presidency. The complaints against him boil down to jealousy and fear of young leadership.
Hang in there, Mr. Deschene. Those of us who want real change are behind you. Don’t let the spoilers distract you off course. They had their chance and blew it.
I stand for real change in the Navajo leadership and it should be a young one. I would like to urge all young registered voters to join me and get behind Mr. Deschene to be the next president.
In conclusion, I would like to state the speaker pro tem of the Navajo Nation Council does not speak Navajo and he is doing a good job. So, what’s the big deal of Mr. Deschene not being able to speak fluently in the Navajo language? He is a lawyer, engineer, veteran and a proven state legislator. That should matter the most. He will make a perfect president.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to express these issues of concerns.
Use win-win decision-making
This letter is to inspire and educate Navajo youth to be motivated, to mobilize themselves by planning and manifesting win-win decision making for the inclusive collective survival of the Diné Nation.
My message is simple. Life is “yes” and “no” — what we say “yes” to and what we say “no” to. From historical to contemporary times empires including the U.S. today have repeated the same folly of win-lose decisions and everyone loses. People have said “yes” to win-lose destructive and death-producing choices and “no” to win-win constructive and life-affirming choices.
We have witnessed that win-lose decisions are no-win for everyone. We are destroying mother earth, the environment and humanity with win-lose conquering mentality using brute-force for power over others and tyranny.
— The upcoming election for new leadership is bringing up many topics that are calling for a re-frame in decision-making — The content here is organized in the four phases of an indigenous ceremonial change process:
I. Naming the out-of-balance condition: Upon European contact the invaders who claim to have “founded” America believed that people were born evil. This is why the U.S. Constitution used the language of “checks and balances” as an attempt to control the evil they believe to exist within them.
The root cause that maintains this out-of-balance condition is the use of the word “Democ,” a Greek word that means “two-face” — to say one thing and do another. Democracy is “forked-tongue” English.
II. Emptying is correcting the misunderstanding of representational democracy. It is a cleansing and purification of undoing the lies of representational democracy by exposing it as win-lose destructive and death-producing choices imposed upon us by English Common Law from their aristocracy, colonialism and conquer mentality.
III. Re-framing a disconnected and dysfunctional government system from one of exploiting the land and resources for personal gain through contracting to private industry for embezzlement and victimizing the Diné with a defiant refusal for accountability — into strengthening collaborative teamwork among the people and between the male and female gender life-task as a protector-provider and nurturer/life-giver, respectively.
IV. Manifesting the challenge of restoring resources to the next generation of youth, instead of being a drone (worker bee) and consumer who buys the products and services that support the rich is a re frame from win-lose is to win-win decision making.
V. The life application of win-win decisions is to design co-creative solutions using whole-brain thinking and our creative imagination, ehozin – holy thinking. We must decolonize from the western Eurocentric hierarchy and patriarchy representation democracy system, which means white men rule.
— Use this following action plan: 1. Design a safe and supportive environment for youth to discover their inherent gifts for right livelihood and employment.
2. Design a safe and supportive place for youth to give healthy expression …
3. Allocate stipends to reward youth for giving healthy expression to their creative imagination to benefit themselves, their families, their community and the Diné Nation.
4. Dismantle the feudalism form of tribal government imitated from England and the idea of the “right” of Navajo dynasty family use of “discretionary funds” to perpetuate addiction to conflict, violence, destruction and greed — Stop taking a youth leader to court. It is disgusting and embarrassing to distract our Diné Nation with such intentional defiance to our peace making teaching …
We can only teach reverence for self and the natural order by living the loving way as a way of life — hozhooji ke iina doo leel.
Patricia Anne Davis