Letters | Diné veterans in ‘survival’ mode
Yá’át’ééh, fellow Navajo veterans.
In a world where glass ceilings are still being broken, and various barriers are being breached here on our rez and elsewhere – as you are fully aware that our newly elected Navajo Nation president and vice president are very receptive to our needs, concerns, and issues.
Once again, this has created an opportunity for us, as grassroots Navajo veterans, to move expediently forward with our dire concerns and, most of all, forges a united, organized front.
Through many previous administrations, we have consistently raised conscientiousness only to be put on the back burner. With all that needs to be addressed, only through a concerted effort of all Navajo veterans will we begin to resolve our overdue needs and concerns – past, present, and future.
It is painstakingly clear that Navajo veterans are still currently receiving the “fringe” of the so-called veterans benefits, however slowly. It is sad that as the largest proclaimed Native nation on Turtle Island. We still do not have a single veteran facility. It’s still only a dream, as it was. Rhetoric has never cured anyone.
We need to restore and reinstall pride and reunification so we can keep marching timely cadence to the rhythm of our beating hearts and patriotic pulse. Everything has a price tag attached. Freedom is not free; neither are posturing puppets, regurgitated department heads, and politicians that waste everyone’s time and effort.
It is time to stand again and take up our stronghold. We, as Navajo veterans, cannot continue to allow ourselves to be swayed by rhetoric into submission so self-serving public servants can attain their ulterior motives. Everyone has reasons, but to a Navajo veteran, it is survival.
Therefore, in the name of collaboration, for the sake of common ground and unity, an instrumental person or group of people is critical to this undying endeavor to have their finger(s) on this patriotic pulse and reciprocate in kind.
I hear eloquent tribute songs and acts in our honor, but I don’t feel the spirit within each previous administration to fully engage with our needs, concerns, and issues.
How many more meaningless “Memorandum of Agreements/Understandings” will be implemented during this administration as it pertains to Navajo veterans only never to be seen or heard from again like an errant child? As well as joint ventures, veteran surveys, or so-called government-to-government relations.
In this day and age of information highway, we’re still grappling with innovative methods/modalities for disseminating Navajo veterans benefits info to our grassroots Navajo veterans. What happened to Navajo veterans’ representation on VA Advisory Committee at the national level? The secretary of Veterans Affairs (needs to) avails himself to the Navajo Nation to learn first-hand the underutilization of VA services and benefits to all grassroots Navajo veterans, to learn the true plight and struggle they face.
In the name of the “cause of peace,” running themes such as “putting veterans first” and “year of the American Indian” have long ago worn out their welcome mat for many of us veterans here on the rez. We can only sit back in the spectator’s seat and watch in disappointment as it unfolds.
We have voluntarily borne the scars of battle at a proportionately higher cost and yet to receive adequate recognition, which we feel has been a disservice in itself.
Should a formal, highly functioning Navajo Veterans Organization be duly established, it needs to relentlessly pursue all avenues of services from all venues, emphasizing employment, training, education, housing, shelter, and medical needs such as an on-site drug and alcohol rehab center.
I am, nevertheless, addressing the dire need for the cultivation and fostering of unification to bring about annual Navajo veterans conventions unifying voices at local, state, and federal levels, and in essence, bridging the gap between the elderly and younger Navajo veteran generation. This is a long, overdue endeavor in the name of camaraderie and esprit de corps and secure peace for generations to come.
All we ask from this administration is continued above and beyond (utmost) support in appreciation of the endless and countless hardships and sacrifices endured in service to our homeland. The debt owed can never be repaid.
So, my fellow Navajo veterans, your active involvement is highly encouraged, as well as your continued participation and unfailing support to avoid any more setbacks. Enough is enough!
May the Creator bless our Navajo veterans for our peace and security when the mą’ii is at the door.
Thank you and Semper fi and keep on marchin’.
U.S. Marine veteran
Vital signs of the planet
Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Navajo Oil and Gas Company, and the Navajo leadership who support them are helping to damage planet earth.
Coal mining/burning, oil/gas/hydrogen development with the inevitable fracking are the greatest causes of the climate crisis. NTEC is now encroaching on Hualapai lands to do more exploitation. What happened to the energy transition NTEC was created for?
In February 2019, I approached NTEC with a proposition to sit at the table to dialogue about our opposing positions. I suggested there might be middle ground we could agree on. My brother Erny Zah responded with a positive note that NTEC might be willing to talk. The Bilagáana corporate management shut Erny down, and that was that.
In September 2022, I challenged James McClure, CEO of NOGC, to come to the table, again suggesting that there may be some middle ground. McClure agreed publicly that he would collaborate with me to organize a forum. I followed up with two letters. There is only silence from NOGC.
NTEC and NOGC reject the opportunity to talk in an open, civil, deliberate, and objective forum. Not sure why they will not come to the table. I suppose they figure they don’t have to talk to me; after all, I am nobody important. Maybe they think they are too important.
Perhaps they know they won’t have all the answers to our questions. I suspect they are afraid to come into our hogan because they lack the comprehension to meet us on our cultural and spiritual terms. If it is simply their outsider Bilagáana arrogance, they are way outta line; they have no business disrespecting any one of us who live here on our own lands.
These companies and supportive tribal leadership are driven by their perceived need for more money. They are the essence of capitalism (yes, capitalism is a bad deal). Capitalism is destroying God’s creation.
NTEC and NGOC believe tribal leadership has the authority to allow their exploitation; they are wrong. The colonial imperially imposed tribal government does not have the final say. Nor does the U.S. federal government. The people of the land who will not abandon the Creator’s law to take care of the earth have the final say.
As important as more revenue and job development may be, they are not as important as defending the life of our Earth Mother and, thus, the world of our grandchildren into the future.
The bond cannot be broken
There are two concepts of “land belonging.” One is the belief that one can own the land, by whatever rationale, with a piece of paper to “prove” land ownership. Land deeds, permits, and leases are ideas based on American law; the Navajo government structure and process are based on American law. Bilagáana law.
The roots of the Navajo government and its laws about land ownership are traced to 1923, when the federal government imposed a foreign way of governance on us, so a lease could be given to an oilman to develop oil in the Shiprock area. We never consented to be governed by the foreign system; it was forced on us.
Then there is the venerated Treaty of 1868. The treaty was X’d by our tribal headmen so the people could come home. There will always be the question of whether our chiefs knew and fully understood the language and intent of the treaty.
Nonetheless, the treaty was imposed, and the establishment of a small reservation was imposed. All our headmen and people wanted to do was come home.
In 1848, Spain was pushed back into Mexico by the U.S. from lands it had claimed from the southwest U.S. into the northwest. How did Spain come to think they “owned” all this land? In 1493 after Columbus sailed back to Spain, the Pope gifted Spain all of the western hemisphere.
This authorized and “made legal” the Great Intrusion and the Doctrine of Discovery. Modern American law contains certain principles of the Doctrine of Discovery, thus endorsing it. How legal or moral can all this be if we, the original landlords, never had a say in it?
The other concept of land belonging is rooted in our aboriginal beginnings; we were made as the child of our Earth Mother and our Great Creator Father; this was and remains a sacred and spiritual reality. In this understanding, the land is not an object to possess, to own. Our concept is belonging, “we belong to the earth, and the earth belongs to us,” as in a mother and child belonging to each other.
That bond, that reality is not, can never be broken or changed, no matter the circumstance. The stolen children in our Indigenous history always belonged to their birth mother. No matter how many hundreds of miles they were taken away, their mother belongs to them, and they belong to their mother forever.
The reality of us belonging to our Earth Mother and the Earth Mother belonging to us is not altered by Navajo or American law, and it is impossible. This is our understanding, our belief.
The person or government that thinks otherwise and takes action to harm that mother-and-child relationship is wrong. We, the Water Protectors and Earth Defenders, are not wrong in defending our Earth Mother. Our position is ultimate.
Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Thank you, Window Rock volunteers
I am writing to thank Window Rock area residents for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with children in need this past holiday season.
Generosity throughout contributed to a successful shoebox gift collection season at drop-off locations for the Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child. Across the U.S., the project collected over 9.3 million shoebox gifts in 2022.
Combined with those collected from partnering countries in 2022, the ministry is now sending nearly 10.6 million shoebox gifts to children worldwide.
Through shoeboxes packed with fun toys, school supplies, and hygiene items, Window Rock area volunteers brought joy to children in need around the world. Each gift-filled shoebox is a tangible expression of God’s love and is often the first gift these children have ever received. Through the continued generosity of donors since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 209 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 170 countries and territories. This year, Samaritan’s Purse delivered its milestone 200 millionth shoebox, which was packed on a country-wide tour and then hand-delivered to a young girl in Ukraine.
Across Arizona, shoebox packers often shop for deals on shoebox items throughout the year and many services at a deeper level by becoming year-round volunteers. Information about ways area participants can get involved year-round can also be found at samaritanspurse.org/occ or by calling 303-745-9179.
Although local drop‑off locations for gifts are closed until Nov. 13-20, 2023, anyone can still be a part of this life-changing project by conveniently packing a shoebox gift online in just a few simple clicks at samaritanspurse.org/buildonline.
These simple gifts, packed with love, tell children worldwide that they are loved and not forgotten.
Lizette Miller, media relations manager
Boone, North Carolina