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Letters: Help appoint Diné appeals judge

Letters: Help appoint Diné appeals judge

It’s hard to accept that the state of New Mexico, which is home to the Navajo Nation, 19 Pueblos, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, has never had a Native American judge on its Court of Appeals. That could be about to change.

Last Friday, my husband, Leander Bergen, Diné, originally from Tuba City, was one of four attorneys recommended for appointment to the New Mexico Court of Appeals by the Judicial Nominating Commission. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will appoint one of the four attorneys within the next 30 days. We hope it’s Lee Bergen.

I believe that the New Mexico Court of Appeals should reflect the population it serves. In New Mexico, more than nine out of every 100 people are Native American. Therefore, it makes sense that one judge on a panel of 10 would be Native American.

Lee, who has been helping Indian tribes in New Mexico for over 30 years as an attorney specializing in federal Indian law, could give the court that representation, but Lee needs help from his tribe and other citizens of New Mexico. He must collect over 4,000 signatures on nominating petitions from registered New Mexico Democrats by Feb. 1.

This is a call to action for all who wish to join in this cause: the clock is ticking. If you have the desire and the connections to collect 50 or more signatures of Democrats registered to vote in the state of New Mexico, please contact, and we’ll be in touch.

Catherine Bergen
Corrales, N.M.

Demand PRC uphold ETA

When the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, near Page, Arizona, closed earlier this year, the workers and nearby communities were left to fend for themselves.

In New Mexico, with the collective effort of many, a better path forward was designed for our families and communities by the shrinking coal industry.

In anticipation of the retirement of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022, our state leaders enacted the Energy Transition Act. The law supports communities affected by the coal plant’s closure by investing $40 million in the Four Corners area — $20 million will go directly to coal plant and mine employees for retraining and severance, and the other $20 million will go to the Indian Affairs, Workforce Solutions, and economic departments to collaborate with Indigenous communities to determine how to transition from a coal-based economy to a 21st Century economy, but this law, and the critical financial resources it provides, could be jeopardized by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

I hope you will join me in demanding that the PRC uphold the Energy Transition Act and give the Four Corners the just transition we deserve.

Wendy Atcitty
Farmington, N.M.

Letter gets results in Crystal

Mr. Beyal, thank you for publishing my letter regarding the Crystal Senior Center. One of the elders called me last evening and told me that because of the article in the Navajo Times, the heating system is now working.

They were told that the water suppressant system and the woodstove will be fixed in the spring.

The elderly were so happy to finally be able to use the senior center.

Sarah Tsosie
Las Cruces, N.M.

Authority is there to preserve language

The history tells us that around 1890 Navajo names written in Navajo, but with English spelling, were given to Navajo people. As we know today, there are Benally, Tsosie, Yazzie, etc., names existing among us.

Today, some chapters are changing to Navajo names and written in the Navajo language. Some of our people believe that our language is dying, and that our children and youth are not speaking our Navajo language. This may be partially true; however, our language is still very much alive. Some of us appreciate our sacred language, and we still speak it regardless of what the BIA has done to us, and the State of Arizona English-Only Law. We also respect our Diné language because our Navajo Code Talkers used it to win the war.

Twenty-four years ago, on Oct. 30, 1990, U.S. Congress enacted an executive order, P.L. 101-477 and declared a policy that Native Americans were entitled to use their own languages and also declared to preserve, protect and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice and develop Native American languages. They also recognized that “the rights of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies, states, and territories of the U.S. to take action on and give official status to their Native American languages for the purpose of conducting their own business.”

Following the Native American Language Act of 1992, U.S. Congress approved funding and grants were awarded to eligible tribal governments and Native American organizations to assure the survival and continuing vitality of Native languages.

The Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act of 2006, P.L. 109-394, expired in 2012, and the National Indian Education Association submitted a resolution to U.S. Congress to reauthorize the act. The purpose of the act is to create fluency of the Native American languages, and the revitalization of culture, languages and to award grants to strengthen immersion programs.

So how important is our Navajo (Diné) language to us and to our Navajo leaders?

So much work has been done on these acts that were passed by the U.S. Congress. Here we are today, and some of our leaders and people think that it is unimportant at this time.

Our Navajo Nation Title 10 Education Code states that the superintendent of schools is responsible for protecting, preserving and perpetuating the Navajo language through the Navajo education system.

The Navajo Nation Sovereignty in Education Act of 2005 states that the Navajo Nation Board of Education overseen by the Navajo Nation Health and Education Committee (consists of Council delegates) established the Navajo Nation Diné Language Act to ensure the preservation and education of the Diné language.

In the act, it also states that “the Diné Language shall be the instrument of educating and reinforcing the importance of continuation, comprehensive and communication of the Navajo language within the Navajo Nation Department of Head Start”.

Furthermore, “the Navajo language must be used to ensure the survival of the Diné people and their future, to maintain the Navajo way of life, and to preserve and perpetuate the Navajo Nation as a Sovereign Nation.”

Presently, the Bureau of Indian Education was given the Accountability Workbook devised by the present Navajo Nation Diné Education Department, which also requested the preservation and maintenance of our culture and Navajo language education in the BIE schools. The Bureau is at a point where they are allowing us to run our own schools and set curricula encompassing our language, culture and traditions for our students. We have the full support at the national level through the National Indian Education Association who worked tremendously with the U.S. Congress so that we can protect, preserve and maintain our Native language, culture and traditions.

I truly believe that our Navajo leaders must and shall set the example of preserving, protecting and maintaining our Diné language by speaking our language fluently, and be able to be understood by our elders who still do not speak and understand English.

By setting an example, our children and youth will be able to learn our Diné language, and motivate our children to learn our Diné language, whether at home and/or at schools throughout the Navajo Nation and elsewhere. We must also make a law that our Diné (Navajo) language become our official language.

So how important is it to you when you have a last name such as Tsosie, Yazzie, Begay, etc., and the chapter you’re living in has a Navajo name? What can you do to preserve, protect, maintain and promote our Diné Bizaad, nihizaad?

Ask yourselves these questions before you throw away your native language. After all, U.S. Congress is behind you.

Pauline M. Begay
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Why are we helping off-rez companies?

I can’t believe this! Getting in bed with companies that cheated us out of our water and left us high and dry. Then left us with all the trash to clean up after leaving Page.

Now, we are going to help them increase their energy market using our land, for sure the transmission line on our land. This is stupid!

In return, they may give us 1 kilowatt for a home or two. The rest will go off reservation.

Let’s get off helping billion dollar companies. When are we going to help our people?

No energy development on Navajo should go off the reservation until every Navajo home has electricity. Help our people, not billionaires off the reservation.

I have spoken.

Vern Roy Lee
Fruitland, N.M.

Navajos cheated out of timber revenue

In 2012, Tucson Gas and Electric removed heavy re-growth trees within its power line right-of-way to reduce fuel load that has potential for wildfire. Project site is a distance of 20 miles on the Navajo Nation, south of Gallup to the Zuni rez boundary line.

I am a retired forester. I did timber appraisals for timber sales with U.S. Forest Service and BIA. I was working for the BIA Branch of Forestry when BIA regional forester assigned me to the TGE project site to collect timber cut volume needed for payment by TGE.

I was ready to submit invoice to the Regional Office in Gallup for TGE to make payment when Sharon Pinto, regional director, put me on administrative leave to investigate my office files, looking for Fort Defiance Agency natural resource records that they suspect I used for reporting BIA wrongdoings to the media. I was evicted out of my office and forestry complex immediately.

I was told region took all my files. They found nothing to justify the eviction. I retired shortly thereafter and never returned to work.

I have serious concern over non-payment of Indian allotment timber revenue and non-payment to Navajo Nation for timber removed by TGE. Navajo Nation and Navajo allotees are deprived of timber revenue as required by law. Value of timber removed is roughly $975,200. This is only an estimate without detailed records to make payment to the tribe and Indian allotees.

Non-payment of timber revenue forced me to write a letter to the BIA Navajo Region. I asked for research and release of information for whereabouts of the timber removal record needed for payment. The regional director’s response letter asked me to adequately describe records sought. This is ridiculous. How can I submit records when they took them?

My letter was explicit about BIA taking the data collection when I was on administrative leave. The regional director advised that I appeal to the Washington FOIA Solicitor Appeal Office. My request for release of information was not a FOIA request letter. The result is allotees and Navajo Nation government is deprived of payment.

Washington FOIA appeal takes years for an answer. Allotees and the tribe deserve better treatment. They do not deserve late payment. I sent my appeal letter to the Washington FOIA Appeal Office. Copy of the letter is going to the Interior Office of Inspector General, Interior Office of Special Counsel, Interior Secretary-Indian Affairs, Interior Director of Congressional /Legislative Affairs, and Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran. The letter requests BIA to expedite payment without further delays.

Worse case scenario: The appeal case is the result of BIA program’s negligence caused by the Fort Defiance Agency natural resource incompetent high-paid range specialist in 1991. BIA did not admit his mistake of issuing me two grazing permits, violation of 25 CFR 167.8(c). BIA did not allow reasonable negotiation in 2009 for the two grazing permits.

When the regional director received my letter he did not consider a meeting with me to discuss the missing records. If he did, arrangement would have been made to pay Navajo Nation and the allotees in a timely matter, not years later awaiting FOIA’s appeal response.

Navajo Nation received $554 million settlement for trust resource mismanagement. The $975,200 is still a lot of money for American taxpayers.

I ask Mr. BIA for rebuttal to justify I am wrong.

Nels Roanhorse
St. Michaels, Ariz.

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