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Letters | Chapter officials ignore residents’ stand against helium

Chapter officials ignore residents’ stand against helium

I attended Tse alnaozti’I (Sanostee) community meeting on Saturday, May 21, to listen to a discussion on Sanostee helium development hosted by their chapter officials.

This discussion included community members and Lennard Eltsosie, board chairman of Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company.

At the end of April, Sanostee Chapter voters voted against the helium development in their community. But yet the chapter officials and Lennard are continuing to move forward in developing helium in the community.

I witnessed Chapter President Jeannie Haskie try to take the microphone away from a constituent who was speaking at the time against helium development in her community.

What type of a leader is Ms. Haskie? She obviously is not wanting to listen to Sanostee community members with her actions she displayed. When did it become the responsibility of the chapters to seek money for their communities?

A chapter official’s role is first and foremost, to listen to their constituents in their community, work for the good of the people, be a team player, dedicate themselves to their people and put their people’s needs before their own.

Sanostee chapter officials are not listening to their community, they are putting their own personal agenda above the voices of their constituents.

The chapter members have spoken, they voted no to helium development in their community.

Sanostee chapter officials and Lennard Eltsosie, you just need to be told “no” once, that’s it. Don’t be asking again.

Dooda to helium.

Michael J. Roy, Sheepherder
Gadiiahi, New Mexico

Activism not useful right now

I wanted to discuss the value of activism on the Navajo Nation. In my opinion, it is not useful to the Navajo Nation right now. It is a hindrance to any type of potential business on the Navajo Nation.

The value is overrated. They advocated for closure of Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine. They advocated closure of Navajo Mine and Four Corners Power Plant. They advocate to shut down oil-and-gas production in eastern Navajo Nation.

They advocated to refuse the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement in 2012 and succeeded. It’s been 10 years and still hasn’t been settled. Plus, it looks like it won’t be for another 10 years before any settlement comes about.

Navajo Rangeland Improvement Act was killed by activism. That was in 2014. Nothing has been done since.

Now they’re advocating against Navajo Nation helium production. But not against NTEC’s helium production. Not sure what’s going on there. (Makes me wonder)

Did activism bring any new revenue to Navajo Nation? No. Did activism bring replacement revenue to Navajo Nation? No. Did activism bring new water to Navajo Nation? No. Did activism improve grazing conditions and livestock on the Navajo Nation? No.

Meanwhile, metropolitan Phoenix is continuing to build more than 10,000 housing units with thousands more jobs using water rights acquired from the state.

The city of Flagstaff population is expected to grow by 20,000 by 2030. That means 100,000 people will be in Flagstaff in 2030. Where are they getting their water from?

Perhaps the activism effort would be better spent to control the growth of Phoenix and Flagstaff since they will be consuming more water and energy while Navajo Nation moves backward with no development, no new energy or new revenue.

Our leadership should be actively considering helium production, additional oil production, increased energy production and hydrogen projects. The Navajo Nation has a vast amount of natural resources that are in demand right now and we are losing the opportunity to generate additional revenue.

Navajo Nation is losing while everyone else wins! Activism is a hindrance to the further development of the Navajo Nation.

What can you do? Tell your elected official that we need more revenue and jobs. Vote for a candidate that is pro-jobs, pro-development, pro-energy.

Tell them, “We want to be winners!”

Jarvis Williams
Kayenta, Ariz.

Mental health proclamation needs concrete action

This letter is in regard to the May 2 proclamation by the Nez administration proclaiming the month of May as “Navajo Nation Mental Health Awareness Month.”

This proclamation stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a significant increase of mental health problems experienced by our Navajo relatives.

This pandemic experience had caused depression, isolation, fear and much grief for those who lost their loved ones to the coronavirus. Many relatives become fearful of each other and the pandemic drastically disrupted the use and participation of our traditional ceremonies, Christian church activities, our educational system, social life and employment activities.

In addition, it adversely impacted our ability to seek needed medical services for existing health problems or to receive medical treatment for health conditions.

The pandemic also impacted the income levels of families, affecting the ability for families to purchase food, pay for utilities and other necessities of living.

At this point, we are getting back to enjoy the lifestyles we were used to with blessings of the Great Spirit. It is hoped we will never experience such a pandemic or any other matter of great destruction.

The pandemic has brought attention to the mental health needs of our relatives and we support President Nez’s mental health proclamation in calling for such awareness.

However, it needs to be noted that prior to the pandemic, many of our relatives were experiencing a variety of mental health issues that for the most part went unnoticed. These individuals were already experiencing the adversities brought by the pandemic, such as fear, depression, low levels of income for basic subsistence, isolation, and other challenges mentioned above.

These relatives will continue to experience such adversities beyond the pandemic if mental health resources are not improved on the Navajo Nation.

There are those who end up in nursing homes off the reservation because of lack of accessible housing units even though they want to remain in their communities.

There are those who are sent off the reservation due to lack of appropriate services within the Navajo Nation, including the lack of mental health professionals and appropriate community-based supports and there are those that lack services to assist them in becoming self-sufficient, resulting in the high unemployment rate of Navajos with disabilities.

It is hoped that this proclamation will truly stimulate awareness by our government leaders in addressing this overdue need.

It should be noticed that in 2015, the Begay-Nez administration proclaimed the third week in October as Navajo Nation Disability Awareness Week. Yet, this prior proclamation has been put on the shelf.

The needs and issues for Navajos with disabilities, after seven years, has remained unresolved despite Navajo Nation legislative mandates. It is very disappointing that none of the billions of dollars from the CARES Act and the ARPA went to address any disability needs, such as public building accessibility, accessible public transportation, emergency preparedness for people with disabilities, and accessible housing.

We hope to see positive changes for Navajos with disabilities resulting from this proclamation.

We hope that this proclamation results in not just words, but concrete and productive action and improvements. We offer our support, knowledge, and expertise to the administration addressing these unmet needs for the Navajos with disabilities.

Hoskie Benally
Community & Government Liaison
Native American Disability Law Center
Farmington, N.M.

Support ‘Creative Minds’ art project

I am writing you today to ask for your assistance in supporting an arts program for children in the Gallup community.

Gallup is considered the “Indian Capital of the World” due to the unique artisans from the region. A majority of those artists practice in various mediums, from majestic weaving to world-class jewelry making.

The project I am sponsoring through the JGS Fellowship continues this art history by offering a creative photography project for the Boys & Girls Club members who will participate in an art show event at Gallup ARTS 123 from May 24 to June 14, 2022.

My project, entitled “Creative Minds,” recently was one of a few fellowships funded in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. The project will provide a disposable camera for each child who participates.

I decided to use disposable cameras instead of smartphone cameras for a host of reasons. For one, it is easier to pull images off the camera instead of a personal phone. For another, it limits the number of photos that can be taken by each participant, which teaches the participant to choose their photo subjects responsibly and carefully.

Finally, disposable cameras are equitable; even children whose families cannot afford smartphones can still participate in the project.

Creative Minds provides children with an expressive outlet that allows them a chance to tell their story through visual art (i.e., photography). Children see the world differently from adults and experience emotions or events that can be captured easily through a disposable camera.

Such a creative outlet is essential for some children because it allows them to express deep trauma. They sometimes deal with depression, child abuse, suicide, or even drugs and which many parents cannot understand or refuse to believe.

Having a creative outlet through an art program like Creative Minds can help many children by giving them a voice, allowing them to tell a part of their story to the world unedited.

In addition, the project may spark an interest in the children to enroll in other arts programs and encourage organizations to offer more such programming in an effort to provide children a safe space in which to express themselves.

With sincere thanks,

Cherille Williams
Gallup, N.M.

Women, run for office

I have been interested in Navajo studies for more than 20 years and have learned many things but one thing that has perplexed me for some time has been the gender shift in governance and how colonial impositions have evolved into Navajo tradition favoring male leadership.

Many Navajo people believe that men should lead this development deserves understanding how it came to be.

Historically, Navajo governance was the Naachid and had two different areas of governance: domestic and foreign affairs. Women oversaw domestic affairs and men oversaw foreign affairs.

This worked well because we were a matrilineal society. This system worked well for a long time.

However, when colonials entered the picture, they would only interact with men as they were accustomed, which was also how we conducted foreign affairs, so it did not seem strange at first.

Consequently, this process repeated itself so many times that it became a new normal and evolving tradition. Granted women still ran the home as they do today, and this unspoken power shift creates tension and confusion today. Try dining in a border town with your spouse and see who gets the bill.

On the flip side, men have overseen domestic affairs officially for almost 100 years and look where that has gotten us – our lands are overrun with invasive species, severely degraded, stripped of natural resources, and unequally distribution where 300,000 Navajo citizens will never have an acre of land to build a home.

A fine mess misplaced leadership have gotten us into and no solutions in sight. Perhaps we should put women back in charge of domestic affairs and regulate men to only foreign affairs.

We need to re-set the balance in governance: Women run for office.

Matthew Tafoya
Fort Defiance, Ariz.


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