Letters: ‘I have lost faith in judicial system’
Yá’át’ééh, my name is Diane Fuller. I am of the Mexican People Clan, born for the Reed People Clan. My maternal grandfather is of the Bitter Water Clan and my paternal grandfather is of the Salt People Clan. Shonto is my home community.
I have taught on the Navajo Nation since 1993 and was recognized as the Northwest Accreditation Commission/Advanced Teacher of the Year in 2009. Most notably, in cooperation with a team of other educators, I have assisted and/or taught a majority of the 63 Gates Millennium Scholars that Monument Valley High School (Kayenta) has produced.
As the former National Honor Society adviser, I have witnessed our students participate in countless hours of community service year after year. It is in the spirit of service that I have always told these future leaders to pursue higher education and return to the Navajo Nation to help our people.
Sadly, based on the outcome of the Dale E. Tsosie v. Christopher C. Deschene and Hank Whitethorne v. Christopher Deschene (consolidated appeal) hearing, that encouragement was given in vain because our own Navajo Nation Supreme Court in their ruling sent a message to the younger generation that they are not good enough.
I was present in the courtroom when Navajo Nation Supreme Court, the highest court in our great land, sent the decision back to the Office of Hearings and Appeals, directing the OHA to follow the guidelines that were included in Hank Whitethorne’s brief, standards that most Hataliis (traditional medicine men) could not live up to.
It was heartbreaking to witness Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley, and Associate Justice Irene Black, whose generation experienced firsthand the loss of our beautiful Navajo language, not have the courage to make a just ruling.
For the moment, I have lost faith in the judicial system, as their ruling has told the younger generation they are not good enough to lead our people. What do I tell our future leaders now? Pursue higher education and do not return to the Navajo Nation because you are not good enough to lead our people?
I, myself, am a product of the generation that does not speak Navajo ‘fluently,’ yet, like Chris Deschene, I have a heart for my people and educate our youth so that they may one day return to lead our people. Am I not good enough for the Navajo Nation as well?
Hope the $554M is not squandered
In reference to the $554 million that the tribe has been awarded for their lawsuit against the federal government over decades of mismanagement of lands and funds, many people may very well be shouting ‘jackpot’ and having visions of all our problems being solved with such an enormous payout.
I hope it’s used wisely, but I wouldn’t doubt that some of our Council members are dreaming of rewarding themselves with another round of ‘championship rings’ i.e., iPads or even the new iPhone 6 because it has been done before.
The lawyers will undoubtedly take their cut and Council members will attempt at taking theirs. So before any of that is squandered or decisions are made in secret, our voices need to be heard.
Very little has changed since I left in 2006 and the current economy and infrastructure of our nation still stagnates. Opportunities are still limited and many of us are told we are ‘overqualified’ to work in tribal positions.
Highways are substandard and unsafe. Rights-of-way are very dangerous allowing sheep, cows, and horses to graze treacherously close to roadways with very little shoulder space and emergency ambulatory services often a long ways off. Housing opportunities are scarce and a lack of community ownership pervades many of the little towns dotting the reservation.
So, what to do with $554 million? Increase the annual scholarship allotment for qualified Navajo students to accommodate for increasing university tuition costs. Spend it on fixing the infrastructure of our nation by rebuilding every highway constructed over 10 years ago. Bring in outside businesses who are looking to outsource to Third World countries. Create opportunities for our people to have jobs instead of letting someone outside the U.S. take them.
Manufacturing facilities can be built practically anyplace and we have rail and highway systems that can ship goods and an enormous workforce. There is no reason that corporations like General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, Harley-Davidson, United Technologies, and Oracle should cut 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. only to hire 2.4 million people outside of the U.S. (Wall Street Journal, 2011) manufacturing their products by non-Americans. We have people who can do what American companies are asking to be done in India, South America, China, the Philippines, etc.
We are told to get educated to help our people, but little has been done to create those opportunities and that realistic future for people who sought to become educated is non-existent. Career fields other than the Navajo Nation, the U.S. government, or in education have led many qualified people to leave the reservation and find those opportunities elsewhere.
So now we have to rely on our tribal administrators to make the right choices for our nation and that brings us back to the $554 million dollar question. I hope it is not squandered needlessly and shamelessly on trips and trinkets, but is used to provide better opportunities for the future of our entire nation.
We’ve left and brought our education back
Yá’át’ééh, Alisha Murphy yiinishye’. Kiyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan) nishl’’, Honágháahnii (One-Walks-Around Clan) bashnishch’’’, Tó’aheedl’’n’’ (Water Flow Together) da sh’ che’’, Ts’ah yisk’idnii (Sage Brush Hill) dá sh’ nal’’.
I’m voting for Chris because our generation of fluent speakers told us to leave home and get an education and come home to help our people. I believe our nation should support change for all upcoming generations. We left and brought our education back, we’ve returned to lead and continue to learn, from the people for Deschene-Atcitty.
With the court proceedings going on, I cannot ignore the fact that I relate to presidential candidate Chris Deschene more so than Joe Shirley Jr. I have been away from home and have been going to school for seven years. I will have my master’s degree in a few months and I am applying for a doctorate program afterwards.
My parents, Tim and Kathy Murphy, instilled a true blessing in me and, more importantly, a passion for learning that has taken me to places I never thought I would go. I have met distinguished tribal leaders from all over the country and I am a Buder Scholar in one of the best social work programs in the country.
Throughout my education career I have sacrificed priceless time that I could have spent at home with my family and my grandparents to continue my education. I missed family gatherings, reunions, birthday parties and the connection to my homeland.
At times it is difficult to wake up every day in a large metropolitan city with no way to see the sun rise. Home is never absent from my mind. Home is the reason why I push myself. It is my motivation and strength for every day. I do this because I want to go back home to give back.
In boarding school, we colored pictures, wrote poems and sang songs about “climbing the ladder, to get an education.’ We were encouraged to bring back our knowledge to help our people. It is a daily mental struggle to translate Westernized education and apply it to my hometown of Crownpoint.
We Native college students do it in every class and for every assignment. I haven’t met one Native student who didn’t want to return to their tribe to make positive, impactful changes. I know I cannot wait to go back to work for my people. Why is language preventing someone like me from doing so?
Am I going to receive the same vitriol when I become Alisha Murphy, MSW, Ph.D., whose career is focused on working to make positive changes for my community, my family and my tribe?
Do not get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly, that the Navajo language is an important part of our culture. I am also on the path of learning the Navajo language and I will never stop learning.
By disqualifying a non-fluent, Navajo-speaking candidate, I feel like no matter how high we climb the ladder, we will never be fit to lead and make positive changes for our tribe and the generations to come. I also feel like change is unobtainable. When is it our turn?
St. Louis, Mo.
(Hometown: Crownpoint, N.M.)
Real issues have gotten hijacked
There has been a lot of controversy over Chris Deschene and his ability, or lack thereof, in speaking Navajo. However, I think that the real issues and the thing we should actually be talking about has gotten hijacked.
This is about the Navajo Nation being a government not following its own rules. To be a legitimate government you have to follow the rules and regulations that make one a government. The real issue is that the election office did not follow its laws.
There were more candidates that probably did not meet all the requirements for president besides Mr. Deschene. Some did not meet the residency requirements, the requirements to have held a prior elected position, and others would have probably also failed the fluency test, however, that is the job of the Navajo Nation Board of Elections, not the Navajo people, and it goes to show the lack of accountability in the government.
While it is true that most young Navajos don’t speak the language and that it is hard to define fluency, that does not change the law, and Navajo Nation requirements for people running for president clearly states that the president should be fluent in Navajo. Regardless of if you agree with it or not, that does not change it being a law. How can the nation or other governments take us seriously when we don’t even follow our own laws?
All 17 candidates had to do nothing but pay $1,500 and turn in a notarize affidavit saying they meet the qualification — no one checked to make sure they were telling the truth.
In America there are people who literally die to uphold the laws the country was founded on. This issue going on now involving Mr. Deschene is a greater issue around the departments in Window Rock …
There are clear rules for those running for president and it is up to the election board to make sure that the candidates uphold those laws — The Navajo Nation is in disarray and it is because so many people in important positions are allowed to get away with not doing their jobs and passing on their responsibility. This isn’t about if Chris Deschene can speak Navajo or not, it’s about the lack of people doing their jobs or being held accountable in the first place. Why have laws if people can choose when they will be followed?
If you think it’s a terrible law, then get together and change it. That is the way a government works, you fight to change the laws you don’t like. If the Navajo Nation is going to go forward in the future it needs to develop a system where those who do not fulfill their duties and responsibilities can be removed.
‘Grandma didn’t teach me’ is weak
These Navajos who keep talking about how unfair the language requirement is don’t know what they are talking about. The excuse that ‘my grandparents didn’t teach me Navajo’ is weak at best.
In the past, our grandparents were beaten for speaking their language and some made the choice not to pass it down to their children. However, today no one is beating you for speaking Navajo. There are non-Navajo inlaws, black people, white people, Asians, and Mexicans that have learned the Navajo language living on the reservation, yet they can never take part in Navajo politics.
If grandma didn’t teach you Navajo go talk to ‘auntie’ Rosetta Stone, there are websites and there are even apps for that, and we all know most non-Navajo speakers have smart phones.
We have the code talkers who were made famous for the way they took a language that was persecuted and made it honorable, changing the course of history. And although there are many complex issues around it, they are honored and revered for their service, inspiring many of the new generation of Marines today.
It is hard for me to take the language excuse serious, especially when I go to Phoenix and other places and see our Navajo youth learning Spanish, German and Italian. But now we have people saying it’s ‘discrimination’ to have our leaders meet a requirement to know Navajo to lead the Navajo people?
How is it they can learn all these languages but they can’t learn Navajo because ‘Grandma didn’t teach them’? How is that a valid excuse?
Furthermore, people interested in running for Navajo Nation office should realize how dangerous it is to advocate for breaking the rules just because they don’t agree with it. Although many may think the language requirement is foolish, there are legal ways to go about changing that. You don’t just ignore rules that you don’t agree with. That kind of thinking is the reason the Navajo government has been so ineffective.
Another reason is that many of our laws are undefined, vague, and subject to many interpretations. However, only when they are challenged or enforced do they become more clear.
We should not as a nation sit around and complain when these challenges are made but act respectfully and responsibly to change them if we feel we are in the majority who feel that they are wrong. Stop being passive recipients of government and stop de-legitimizing our government because both ways compromise our sovereignty.
Oak Springs, Ariz.
History says English is a requirement
The decision by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court is a travesty of justice for Chris Deschene. Any man or woman who goes to a military academy and receives a commission to lead warriors into battle has definitely earned a right to lead a nation or state in the civilian sector.
— The requirement of mandating that a president be fluent in Navajo is absurd.
Past history should be a teacher for all of the people of the Navajo Nation. When the Navajo people were incarcerated at Fort Sumner, an orphaned young boy learned the language of the white man — This young man was made the first chairman of the Navajo people because of his eloquence in the English language. This young man was known throughout the reservation as Hastiin Adiits’a’ii or Kil chii. His English name was Henry Chee Dodge.
I believe history has set a precedent for the requirement for using the English language as requirement for the presidency.
Another point is Chief Manuelito told his people to go climb the ladder and get an education and learn the white man’s way —
We are a decade and a half into a new century. The old guards and disgruntled presidential candidates are grasping on to the past — Time marches on (forward) and not backwards.
… Accomplishments in the educational field evidently don’t mean anything. Hanging around the trading post and going to the local Navajo social song and dance has more credence in attaining a leadership position.
The old guards have used scare tactics and skewing some of the parables of the past. The previous administration used this to discredit Linda Lovejoy as a viable presidential candidate. I am positive she would have made a good leader.
Young people, listen up! This is your future. Do not let the old guards close the door on your future — The world has changed, we are no longer an isolated nation within the continent. We are part of a global economy. Our children and friends live in every state of the union. Others live in foreign countries.
Parents, be aware of the changing world our children are embarking on in their future. Do not let old taboos and scare tactics close the door on your children. Mr. Deschene has cracked this door open.
— It is imperative that that we all support Mr. Deschene’s effort to get on the ballot.
— One of the attributes of a true leader is a clear vision of the future and to protect what he considers sacred and the welfare of his/her people. A clearly defined objective is to achieve success for the good of the people, honesty, integrity and good moral character.
Mr. D. Tsosie and Mr. Whitethorne, I beseech you to drop your efforts to oust Mr. Deschene. Do not trash the votes of 47,765 individuals who did not vote for either one of you. Your efforts are going to have a long-term repercussion for future leaders who are going to be highly educated. Embrace change!