Letters: Boarding school products are not monsters
Within the last week, both the Department of the Interior secretary and the Navajo Nation top official voiced a sincere objection on BIA-operated boarding schools. Both were so quick to recall and live in the past.
We are so quick to live in the past. What about the future?
“As Navajo people, we all have parents, grandparents, and other elders who were subjected to boarding schools and that has contributed to many of the modern-day monsters in our society,” said President Jonathan Nez.
I interpret the remarks as, “If you went to a boarding school, you were now looked at and categorized as a monster.”
How devastating? If you want to know what a real put-down is, you have seen it and heard it, especially coming from the thought and mouth of the top leader of the Navajo Nation.
I wish to point out, there are many, many Dineh who went to BIA-operated boarding schools.
In 1946, I went to Chichiltah’, in 1950 to Fort Defiance for five years, and in 1959 graduated from the Phoenix Indian School. These were all BIA-operated boarding schools.
I am proud to say I am a product of the BIA-operated boarding schools.
In all my years of being in the boarding school, I was never subjected to, seen nor experienced any harsh and violent action on the part of the boarding school staff. I was never punished for speaking my Dineh language nor told to get rid of my Dineh ceremonies.
During my lifetime I have heard constant criticism and chastising of how terrible BIA-operated boarding schools were. Most of what is being said comes from people who have never set foot nor attended boarding school, but repeating what they were told and heard.
During my lifetime, I have never heard nor seen Dineh and other tribe(s) children being torn away from the arms of their parents and grandparents. I sure was not.
If you were raised in a cultural and traditional manner, our parents and grandparents have always emphasized and said, “Go to school and when you get done ‘Nei’ he dah’ nee’ dee’ dal,’” meaning, “You will come and meet us back halfway.”
Education was of prime importance.
If you were traditionally raised and taught, we were always taught, Doo’ dah’, ajei’ go’ ahh’ twei’ whei’ gein’ nat’ tah’. This means to not repeat gossip.
My wife, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwa of North Dakota, went to and graduated from Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota.
She says, without hesitation, not seeing nor hearing any students being subjected to any harsh treatment and being told to shed their Native traditional and cultural ways. She says BIA boarding schools provided educational values. She can relate to being given an opportunity to attend South Dakota girls’ state and while there being given an opportunity to the Supreme Court judgeship.
Our daughter went to and graduated from Mount Saint Benedictine School in Crookston, Minnesota, which was operated by the Benedictine Catholic. She attests to not being harshly treated nor told to not practice her cultural and traditional ways.
I chose to go into the criminal justice field and I started my career with the Navajo Nation Police Department. During my eight years with NPD, from 1960 to 1968, I was a patrol officer, promoted to ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, and district captain.
In 1969, I resigned my position and went to work as a federal agent for 27 and one-half years. In 1997, I retired with full government benefits, after being on the front line for a total of 37 and a half years.
There has been other BIA boarding school-era men and women, whom I went to school with, who so graciously dedicated themselves to distinctly serve within the Dineh Nation government, as president, vice president and Council.
I am not attempting to brag. My intent is to plant in the minds of those who are so quick to judge.
If you were taught the Dineh culture, tradition, language, and ceremonial way by your parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunties, did they tell you to live in the past? Did they teach you to be judgmental? We were taught to be in a foresightful mode.
My intent is to especially demand an apology from the top leader of the Dineh Nation for labeling and calling his own Dineh and other tribal members as being monsters. No one considers themselves as being that. The Creator made men, women and children as being beautiful and very creative.
Thank you, my relations, for reading this context. Let us all practice togetherness, respect, and not be so quick to judge.
A response from President Nez?
I want to submit a letter to the editor to see if I can generate any type of response from President Nez or his administration.
It is so frustrating to wonder when this man, who is supposed to be representing the Diné, is ever going to open up tourism and employment for the people.
While he continues to draw his salary, those employed at the parks/hotels/casinos, etc., are without any income. There has been no new stimulus money offered to Navajo members and people are struggling beyond belief.
It is a tragedy that the coronavirus pandemic took a huge toll on the reservation. Devastatingly, many families were decimated. I am sure every single Navajo family lost cherished members, but everyone has now been vaccinated and the policy of personal safety continues with the members.
The other tribes are thriving all over Arizona, but President Nez continues to sit on his hands when it comes to helping the Diné that he was duly elected to serve. The border towns, which also employ many, many Navajo people are suffering as well.
Take a cue from the other tribes in Arizona and institute the same COVID policies while allowing people to return to work.
President Nez, either release the COVID relief monies and distribute to the people it was meant for or open up the Nation for business.
Losing your income might allow you to see the continued ongoing struggles that your decision has cost the Diné membership.
Perhaps you should consider donating your own salary to the people while you decide when to re-open.
(Hometown: Tonalea, Ariz.)
Remember our proud military history
On this Fourth of July, as we host cookouts for family and friends or enjoy local fireworks shows, let us also take a moment to recognize the importance of this date in allowing us to enjoy such freedoms.
Thanks to the vision of our forefathers and the continued sacrifices of our service men and women, the United States remains the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Northwest New Mexico has played an important and unique role in our country’s military history, particularly during World War II, when New Mexico lost more men per capita than any other state.
Often overlooked in history, around 50 Gallup Natives were part of the infamous Bataan Death March in April 1942 where 70,000 soldiers were captured in the Philippines and forced on a 65-mile march without food or water, with some spending several subsequent years as slave labor.
Gallup is also home to the Navajo Code Talker Museum, dedicated to the elite group enlisted during World War II to send secret communications in their Native language, which was never deciphered by the Japanese.
As the state representative of House District 9, covering Gallup and much of northwest New Mexico, it is my humble duty to ensure that we celebrate this day with proper reverence and honor our veterans and military members who have and continue to protect our precious liberties.
While the United States isn’t perfect, we are all incredibly blessed to live in this great country where we have the right to free speech, the freedom of religion, and countless other rights that most people across the world can only imagine.
May we all use this day to unite in celebration of our country and its freedoms. God Bless America.
Rep. Patty Lundstrom
D-McKinley and San Juan