Letters: Begaye, Nez are flat-out terrible leaders

President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez are flat-out terrible leaders and that has been on display since their inauguration.

Their achievement is centered around attending meetings and having their photos posted on Facebook. No one should be surprised how they’ve handled the president’s daughter’s extreme DUI charges. How embarrassing is this?

Some people believe they have had some good talent at their disposal during their tenure but have done very little improving the Nation. Navajo people deserve better than just having more photos and failing to enforce tribal policies. By a staggering series of missteps, they literally have left their basic work undone to date. There is no reason for either to still have their jobs.

But then again, this hardly means the president or vice president alone has been responsible for the dysfunction so far. The problem they pose for the rest of the Dineh Nation government leadership is not that they’re too strong and overbearing, but that they are too weak and dull.

For the Dineh Nation Council, such a problem might easily present an opportunity. The executive branch unsure of what to do could be a chance for the legislative branch to put itself in the driver’s seat. The fact that has not happened suggests that either the executive or legislative branch are far from the whole story of their lack of leadership. The president and vice president’s weaknesses sheds light on the Council’s weakness, and should force the speaker and Council leaders to face some tough questions about the state of their own institution.

Members of the Dineh Nation Council under Speaker Bates’ leadership have spent millions of the tribe’s money on individual members, including themselves and their families, without penalty. Tribal law requires that tribal funds benefit the tribe as a whole, not individual members. The recent radio announcements from Speaker Bates praising the Council (mostly praising himself) is clearly campaign rhetoric and less improving the nation. Many of us look at this as another drama about our leaders. It makes you wonder if we will ever stop chapter officials literally stealing tribal funds, including their inability to properly manage unspent tribal funds. The sad situation is there is no urgency from anyone to clean this up immediately.

It is time we find a better way of electing leaders. A better approach might be to eliminate primaries altogether and open the general election to all candidates. But rather than confining Navajo voters to vote for a single candidate, they would be given the opportunity to rank candidates in order of their preference. The winner would be the candidate who, according to the rankings, would beat all others in head-to-head contests. Such a system would avoid the possibility of an undesirable incumbent defeating a more desirable and committed candidate.

If we could start with this to revamp our election system, just think what could be accomplished to produce a system that prevent incumbents using tribal resources to campaign for re-election and possibly adjusting their compensation to attract better educated and desirable candidates.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

A big concern for our beloved canyon

To all my Canyon de Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto relations. Residents, we have a big concern of our beloved canyon.

Our canyon has really changed. We can’t farm anymore, because our natural river that used to flow from the mountains has been tied up with a dam up at Tsaile and Wheatfields Lake.

As a result, our canyon has dried up. I was born and raised in Canyon de Chelly. My mom and our homeland are even recognized in not one but two worldwide and famous photos taken by photographers Ansel Adams and Edward S. Curtis.

Mom’s personal stories of meeting both photographers never failed to amuse me or her grandchildren. This unique and special place in the photos is called Wild Cherry Canyon.

My canyon relations, with all that has been going on lately involving the well-being of our canyon, I am now very worried about what might become of our beloved canyon home. It used to be so peaceful and daily living there was always so pure and so natural.

At one time, back when the canyon was younger, our Holy People provided everything for us. When rivers flowed naturally from the mountains and the natural medicinal plants grew everywhere and, in special places, if you knew where to look for them. And, because there was no hospital nearby, when help or medical attention was needed, we simply depended on our herbal medicine plants and our sacred medicine men and women, to communicate with the Holy Ones for us, in our times of need with ceremonial sweat lodges and through the power of prayer with our corn pollen offerings.

Back then, people respected one another, and prayed together, and the canyon was not only considered for her beauty, but she was also considered extremely sacred, too. At this time, long ago, my grandfather was a highly recognized and respected medicine man. And, as a result, we were blessed with a considerable amount of land in Canyon de Chelly.

Our ancestors use to say that if you don’t respect Canyon de Chelly, it will not respect you. Someday soon I sure would like to see the water flow freely from the mountains into our canyon, once more, and to see her so peaceful, pure and naturally free again. Recently, I went to a meeting where people were confused and concerned, asking such questions like, “What can we do to help keep our canyon for natural growth again?” Because at the moment there seems to be serious lack of communication and continuous misunderstandings between the National Park Service and the tribe once more.

As residents to our own canyon home, we aren’t even allowed to tend to, or maintain, our own roads. Supposedly, exceptions can be made for Hollywood, but not for our own canyon residents. Instead, we are told that we cannot, because the NPS are the only ones that can maintain the roads.

This is nothing new. Our relationship with outsiders and the government has always been an uncertain one. In fact, many of us were just children when private six-wheeler, military grade jeeps, that seated about 24 tourists each, used to take tours into our canyon homeland every day. Sometimes there would be as much as a caravan of 15 of these huge jeeps filled with people from a local and private trading post.

Over time, we also realized and woke up to the fact that we could be independent and make our own money. And that, by doing our own tours on our own land, that it could also be better protected, because “we” were the ones that really knew our canyon homeland, as opposed to any outsiders wanting to come in and try and guide.

Because of the teaching and learning from my parents, I treasure my canyon land at Wild Cherry Canyon. Not only is it part of me as a Diné and as a resident to the canyon, but as I said before, it is also a part of my personal history, my family’s history, and a very big part of my life. I have been guiding for Canyon de Chelly for more than 20 years and I am one of the ones that started since before I was 10. So I know what I am talking about. S

o we, as residents and guides, should stand our ground for those rights for both our Canyon and for ourselves. And, if need be, should we become discouraged, we can always use and lean on as a reminder to ourselves or as reminders to others, the fact that we even helped save the world with our precious and holy language during World War II also. That is a reality they can never take away from us. I would like to say to my people of the Canyon, we are important. We do not need to be undermined again. I know that a lot of us will just say, “But this is our Canyon. What can they do?”

I know for a fact that, that’s all many of you can say. And then, some of you will also complain, too, and ask, “Why are we paying so much to the Navajo Parks and Recreation and the NPS?”

Again, that’s all you can say. Even those vendors that are trying to make cash in the Canyon by selling their art. In closing, I would like to say, please, let us come together and do something about our beloved Canyon home, because we will never get anywhere without a prayer and plan.

If we can start businesses and overcome our oppression on a daily basis, then we can definitely restart a committee or Tseyi’ Association for our canyon, too. Please, my brothers and sisters of the Canyon, let us come together to try and form a Tseyi’ Association on behalf of our blessed Canyon de Chelly and let us do our best to speak for her while we still can.

And, hopefully someday, when the time comes and we do get a Tseyi’ Association going, let us also remember to use our Canyon de Chelly or Canyon Del Muerto names, because we have already been branded with them and because they are our recognized and given names of many years.

Thank you and may the Holy Ones watch over you.

Winnie Henry
Canyon de Chelly, Ariz.

Best dog story I’ve ever read

Just started reading this week’s Navajo Times and right there on page A6 is the best dog story I’ve ever read (Letters: “The story of my ‘pink’ dog, Cubbie,” by Tacheeni Scott). Forgive me, I am not Diné but I have long loved your culture and the people. I do not know if Tacheeni is masculine or feminine, but whoever this person is they have really touched my heart. I’m so overwhelmed. I wish I could find some mutton stew in Phoenix tonight.

Jerome Petruk
Phoenix, Ariz.

GIMC Dental: Part III of III

The system is broken at IHS Dental. Two things are needed to fix it. The GIMC Dental director stated they would be unable to recruit dentists should they convert to a payroll system based on production. Nonsense. Government positions have outstanding benefits, substantially better than in the private sector. For example, at My Community Dental Centers in Michigan, which are nearly 100 percent Medicaid and with good benefits, the average general dentist income is $209,000 or a guarantee of $135,000.

At North American Dental Group, whose benefits are poor, where the office is 100 percent Medicaid, their dentists average about $250,000 on 33 percent of production. This proves production-based incomes are substantially higher than salaried positions, and adding in the great benefits, recruitment would be easier.

Therefore, those who say it cannot be done are the bureaucrats who are fighting to defend their rights to continue being freeloaders. The private practice employs administrative staff to run the office, freeing providers to actually perform patient care. For example, GIMC Dental director earns about $170,000 more per year than an office manager and does the same job, and yet he sees no patients. In addition to an office manager, how many trauma or ER nurses could we get once we toss this deadbeat? Having these losers in the department is like carrying a ball-and-chain to an athletic event.

Nothing gets done. Lawsuits are the only way to force the system to be willing to accept change, and converting the offices from payroll to production-based incomes.

This is how to effect real change. In this manner quality and quantity will improve, abuse and mistreatment and malpractice will decrease, and the Native Americans will finally have a health-care system they can be proud of.

To the people who are mistreated and abused, on whom malpractice is committed, to the families of patients that die due to criminal negligence, to all people fed up with the waste and mismanagement of your monies, you should sue them. Take away their funding and their cushy jobs and force them to accept change.

David McGuire
Gallup, N.M.


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Categories: Letters