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Letters | Community and artery roads

Letters | Community and artery roads

I am a community voter from District 7: Low Mountain Chapter. I have a big concern on our roads that we use daily by us individuals, schools, and tribal, state, and federal officials.

The biggest issue is the federal government and our tribal officials not doing the job they’re responsible for, which is providing safe roads.

These roads are not upgraded, and most areas have eroded after the storms and wear/tear by the public. The majority of our dirt roads are supposedly maintained by the tribe under the PL-93-638 contract with the federal government. We have contacted our community tribal officials and Council delegates.

But there has not been any improvement. The roads are only getting worse driving, and major safety and environmental issues are. When the federal government was primarily responsible for maintaining the roads, roads were in a lot better shape.

At that time, our roads betterment was on the Approved Priority Listing (APL) between the two governments and now were not on the listing.

With our roads in poor condition and the tribe not performing its end of the negotiated contract in our area.

I am asking other officials to look into this situation regarding how our roads can be maintained and upgraded in the near future. I request that our area only benefits by getting out of the current PL-93-638 since it doesn’t work for our community (maybe get back with the government or county).

As community members, I hope when you all vote, think about how long it has been as their agenda for our tribal officials. We’re reaching out for a better tomorrow.

Freddie Gene
Low Mountain, Ariz.

Development of ‘little’ town

On Sept. 13, 2022, a group of businessmen showed up in Shiprock and, on short notice, let residents know that they planned to build a railroad from Gallup.

This was somehow to improve the economic development of our little town. I thought to myself nothing would be better than adding 20 Navajo-owned businesses, but they droned on to say this was a 50-year-old plan.

Seated with them was our County commissioner, Gloria Jean Todacheene. She stated that the San Juan County Commission had passed this plan in October 2021. A lot of us never knew that.

I asked them if they knew the federal government was proposing a 10-mile buffer zone around Chaco Canyon, including Crownpoint, Little Water, and other Eastern Agency Chapters. There would be no development for 20 years, which would knock out their plans unless they had made a deal with the feds.

I also reiterated what they had said about it is important that the rail be on an even surface where the rail would have to be raised to even out the mobility of the trains.

This would prevent humans, cattle, horses, sheep, and wildlife from usual access from side to side. Flooding and erosion would be a problem caused by the unnatural berms built by the railroad.

The only jobs initially would be laying tracks and depleting forests of trees. Where would this come from? How will my grandchildren with college degrees ever want a job laying rail lines?

Truck traffic will be increased due to the supplies, equipment, and iron rail hauling, causing more damage to our already torn-up roads. The highways are not rated for these types of tonnage, therefore, destroying the road base and asphalt pavement. What of the truckers who will lose their jobs, especially Navajo employees.

Man camps will spring up, causing a high possibility of human, sex, and drug trafficking. How will the Four Corners business enterprise plan to heighten security to protect our Navajo families?

Where will the hub be for this railroad end up? Shiprock, Niinahnízaad? Farmington? What are the preferred alternative routes (A through D) and no-action alternatives? How many acres is the Navajo Nation losing to Right of Way to this railroad?

What’s the real reason for this railroad? Studies and reports by the Impact Project that look at railroad destruction of ecosystems state that railroads increase soil erosion, land degradation, flooding, and habitat destruction. Another study cited chemical spills that later caused cancer clusters for humans, wildlife destruction, and uninhabitable lands.

The group mentioned the existing uranium mill tailings piles but did not reiterate how the railroad would handle the problem. Are they planning on hauling this dangerous, contaminated, highly toxic earth to Gallup? Or are they proposing they add more depleted uranium material to our pile?

Are we looking at a secret deal that gives more of our water away? We haven’t even seen the completion of the 110,630 acres planned for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP).

Only 70,000 acres have been completed; what about the remaining 40,630 acres? When will this NIIP development be completed? And yet water is still being piped through the mountains per the San Juan-Chama Diversion Project to the Rio Grande. We’re looking at more land and water loss to benefit someone’s pipe dream.

Why wasn’t NN Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton in attendance or other affected Council Delegates? Representative Anthony Allison and Ms. Nevina Kinlahcheeney are all for the project, not me.

Barbara J. Morgan
Shiprock

Nation needs effective telecommunication

Proposed Telecommunications Siting Regulations Need Scrutiny by the Navajo People

The Navajo Nation needs effective telecommunication regulations to promote better broadband access, quality, and pricing for its people.

That is why the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission was established. As with any government regulations, they should address the health, safety, and welfare of the public and promote a level playing field to encourage competition and smart development. Unfortunately, the Navajo Land Department (NLD) proposed Telecommunications Siting Regulations (TSR) and did not accomplish these objectives.

They instead will hinder broadband services development vital to commerce, online education, telehealth, and emergency communications. Before submission to the Navajo Nation Resources and Development Committee, the TSR must be reconsidered and revisited.

Why? Understandably, establishing a regulatory structure to resolve leasing act conflicts while encouraging broadband and communications expansion is a difficult task.

The Navajo Land Department says that the TSRs are necessary to correct violations stemming from the siting of wireless facilities without the permission of the NLD, even though, in most instances, facilities were sited and approved by the leaseholders before the rules established starting in 2013.

If adopted, the TSRs will require all current and future wireless facilities to comply immediately with a new standard telecom lease authorized by the NLD, nullifying existing agreements. How is this possible? If the NLD is allowed to nullify all current legally binding contracts, it would deter private industry, current and new, and discourage further agreements and investments.

What is bewildering is that the NLD decided not to work with the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NNTRC) to resolve this. Instead, the NLD selected an out-of-state consultant with no previous local experience to lead the effort.

But that’s not the only issue. Although a draft of the TSRs was released in May of 2021 for public comments, no further releases indicating those comments were considered to have been forthcoming. The NNTRC conducted two public hearings over the past year; there was no opportunity for open discussion. This amounts to the fact that these TSRs have been largely developed without the voice of the Navajo people or the benefit of the valuable experience of telecom providers and other stakeholders.

Local revenue also goes out the window. The new contract fees will be paid directly to the central Navajo government. This means school campuses, enterprises, and other non-tribal government entities will be restricted from granting sublease or access agreements, and they will no longer receive that revenue.

It will also limit the ability of the Kayenta Township or LGA Chapters to work directly with providers on broadband facilities to serve their communities with affordable internet better.

Locating wireless and broadband facilities on the grounds of existing businesses or other developed properties is a common practice for covering populated areas. It also minimizes the new ground disturbance. And that’s good practice!

As they are written, the TSRs will reduce the availability of land and facility options, increasing development costs and slowing broadband deployment across many remote areas of the Navajo Nation when it is most urgently needed.

It is not too late to get the rulemaking process right. The Alliance recommends that the RDC prioritize the public benefits of broadband over the NLD’s goal of raising revenue. Revert the proposed TSRs back to the NNTRC to address greater input from the Navajo people and develop a solution supporting local control and future development.

Joy Thompson
Executive Director
Alliance for Navajo Broadband
Gallup

Diné New Year

We all understand the last day of December ends the last day of the year in January; then, it starts a new year.

I love the years I’ve been under physically being with Community Bridges Inc. (CBI). Never did I volunteer to be with CBI.

The Magistrate Court City of Phoenix put me under CBI. I remembered the two men who transported me to Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), where Lance and RaeAnn met me. RaeAnn, as I do remember, became my counselor, and RaeAnn worked with me closely. Months later, I was transported to the Bridges North of detox. You can go anywhere.

Nine months or so, they transported me to SureStay on Van Buren, CBI had classes, which, RaeAnn, entered me at 5021 East Puma Street.

Demi became my teacher. The class helps those given fines by the court.

One day, a new lady came about; she was nice. The lady introduced herself the name of Amy. Altogether, RaeAnn, Demi, and Amy were kind and helpful.

As of today, Amy is still with me. My shortfall came back, which caused me to be terminated from my apartment. Landlady Francis was upset. Through all this, December ends, and January starts a new year. We Diné Indigenous, our New Year starts in October every year.

Our new year starts in October; Diné Indigenous call this month October (Ghááji’). One following and this is something our children should know. May our greatest Creator bless us all. And may Jesus Christ bond with us in the new year.

Dean Benally
Phoenix

Opportunities for dialogue

I made a statement at the 2022 Helium Summit on Oct. 12 in Shiprock to make some distinctions the Navajo Oil and Gas Company needs to understand.

First, I pointed out that in any energy development proposal the Navajo Nation engages in, the Nation and the company control the agenda regarding how and when the project will happen and what information will be shared.

If the people have a concern, we are given 3 minutes at the mic, which is supposed to be sufficient opportunity for input; this setting leads to frustration, anger, an “us versus them” scenario, and potential physical confrontation. The government and company are like machines intending to make development happen regardless of the concerns. And the machine usually gets its way.

Giving time for input sometimes seems only a facade, a box to check off. On Diné Bikéyah, there should be quality opportunities for dialogue.

Another distinction I tried to convey is the manner of approach and mindset of the machine is from the Western frame of mind wherein the earth has been commodified, with “resources” to be exploited and expended, with no real regard for the physical and spiritual damage done to the earth.

NOGC, in this case, makes a cursory effort with some offering to the earth and remediating comments. The effort is appreciated; however, if that is done with the ultimate intent to exploit, it is an exploitative act.

The machine’s Western-minded approach to Bilagáana science and technology is tunnel-visioned, arrogant, dangerous, and disrespectful. The perceptions of original rooted Indigenous peoples have greater understandings that are not adequately regarded in energy development discussions.

The realities of our understandings are comprehensive, true to the origin, realistic, and applicable, even now. If the machine continues to disregard these realities, the fatalistic life trajectory that we are on will not be altered.

The standoff is between doing energy development to make revenue and jobs and declaring that extractive energy is killing the earth.

Extractive energy development propels us to a greater uncertain future for the planet’s life and our grandchildren’s future. There are permanent severe consequences; our political leaders and the company do not appear to consider those consequences.

I challenged NNOGC to dialogue with equity and objectivity. To what ends, I am not sure, but perhaps there can be some conciliation, a middle ground. Such talks need to happen as a matter of justice. Mr. James McClure, president, and CEO of NNOGC accepted the challenge and agreed to have us collaborate to arrange and facilitate this dialogue.

Thank you, Mr. McClure. We shall be in touch.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Shiprock


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