Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Letters: We must fix inappropriate, obsolete or harmful laws

It appears that a decision was made to disqualify Mr. Deschene to run for tribal president. This action brings out so many issues and questions that have not ever been addressed.

One issue is the violation of civil rights of a Navajo citizen. Discrimination comes in different forms such as the overt, covert, and institutionalized. What we have here is the covert and institutional discrimination. This history of the Navajo people in their relationship with the federal government was one where it was acknowledged that we were a ‘defeated people.”

The Long Walk was a journey to imprison the Navajo people. The BIA was given authority over indigenous tribes. The government’s goal was to assimilate the indigenous people by creating policy to eradicate the culture and language. Indian children were forbidden to talk their native language and would be punished. A religion was also assigned to the children.

The consequences of this policy is that there are many Navajos that do not speak the language ‘fluently’ and many continue to practice the religion they were given. This is the historical trauma that the Navajo people have endured for a 100-plus years. The language and spiritual beliefs were taken from the Navajo people.

The situation we have now is that the tribal government excludes non-fluent speakers from running for tribal president. They are willing to accept their votes but they cannot run for office if not fluent in the language. The group of Navajo people most affected by this decision is the Navajo young adults. This violates covertly their civil rights due to their age. They are most impacted by the fluency laws.

The argument that the law of fluency was established to assure preservation of the Navajo language was valid at one time when the government was attempting to eradicate the culture and language. The language is written now. There are dictionaries. The Navajo language is even taught in the Rosetta Stone programs and in the school system. The fear of losing the language is no longer valid. This fear is symptoms of historical trauma that Navajo people have endured.

Regarding the issue of the ‘rule of law,’ all laws are initiated by people who are thinking ‘outside the box.’ A group of people saw a need for structure. So laws are created. There are bad laws such as the past law making the religious use of peyote a crime. This law has since changed but not before people were arrested for violating the narcotics laws.

It is the responsibility of our people to address laws that are inappropriate, obsolete or harmful. It’s time to change the tribal election laws regarding fluency and, in doing so, correct past wrongs.

Sharon Manuelito

Window Rock, Ariz.

‘We are a blessed people’

Earlier this week, we as Navajo people expressed our appreciation to the many women and men who have embraced the call of duty and put into action their selfless desire for service and strength-in-arms to defend that which we feel is right. Our relatives from centuries ago to the very present, we honor them, for without their defense we would not be here today, embracing our loved ones, practicing our ways of life, and communicating with our Creator for continued blessings. Truly, we are a blessed people.

Such service provides for our ability to think, speak, and act for a healthy life. If it were not for our defenders, simply put, we would not be able to treat one another with the compassion, care, and love necessary to heal our people.

Perhaps, now more than ever we look to leadership in our respective homes, communities, and government to identify solutions rooted in healing and compassion. In a world of great contention and divide, from warfare in far distant lands to domestic violence in our own homes, we can and must find courage and creative ways to choose otherwise.

Once again, we must heed the strength rooted in Diné philosophy, and put into practice the gifts each of us carry to mend the tears in life that impact us all. We must do so for those who cannot as well as demonstrate such for those who do not know any better. Our truths as Diné, commenced and lived from our creation stories forward, is critical to the future of life. As such, we are a light to the world and now we must shine brighter than ever before. Our collective future depends on it.

Really, these are not my words. They are of friends and relatives whom I have had the privilege to learn from over the years. Finding harmonious resolve is not easy as proven by my own actions in life and that of others; however, each day going forward presents a new opportunity to choose better. We as Navajo people have a greater philosophy of life; let us showcase it and be a power of hope.

Eric Descheenie

Chinle, AZ

Victim of a home burnout

My name is Evelyn Adhidley and I am from Tsaile, Ariz. I have recently been a victim of a home burnout in Tsaile.

Donations can be sent to Evelyn’s catastrophe burn, Wells Fargo Account No. 6744608008, Routing No. 12210578.

I can be reached at 505-713-6839 or by email at, or leave a message at 505-406-1550.

Evelyn Adhidley

Tsaile, Ariz.

Challenge to Deschene
could have good outcome

The challenge to the candidacy of Chris Deschene for Navajo Nation president could have a good outcome if the Navajo courts and Council make the right decisions. In our opinion, the right decisions are:

1. The courts should dismiss the challenge because current Navajo Nation law is unenforceable since it does not establish objective standards for ‘fluency.’ But they should also direct the Navajo Nation Council to establish such standards.

2. The Navajo Nation Council should affirm Diné language competence as a requirement for candidates for Navajo Nation president and certain other political offices. But they should also establish standards that would allow Diné to run for those offices even if they speak limited Navajo, as long as they can communicate intelligibly with the Navajo-speaking public.

We believe that a standard of limited Diné language competence is necessary to allow and encourage younger Navajos to run for political office. It could motivate them and many others to get serious about learning Diné. Without such a limited standard, given the widespread lack of such competence among younger Diné, challenges to any requirement for Diné language competence are likely in the future.

We hope that this controversy will make the Diné public more self-aware about learning and helping others to learn the language. With enough energy, learning Diné could become a game for the whole Navajo Nation, to find ways in any situation to teach or learn a little Diné language.

Why punish Mr. Deschene for limited competence in Navajo? Reward him for learning!

Harris Francis

Klara Kelley

Window Rock, Ariz.

Reform the Diné government

Please reform the Navajo Nation government and establish a traditional government based on the Navajo clan relationships (K’e’) and use the Navajo language (Diyin Dine’e’ Bizaad) to write the traditional Navajo constitutional government — you’ll be the first Navajo Nation leaders to write it in the Navajo language.

That’s history making for the Navajo people — honor our sacred code talkers and families. Start now. Please reform Diné government to Diné constitutional government.

The Navajo Nation constitutional government can outline its purposes, limit is scope, indicate the several branches of that traditional Navajo government, which includes a two-term limit for the president to stop a third term.

Navajo leaders must speak the Navajo language fluently to prevent the occurrence of the future Navajo dyslexia chaos among educated Navajo, honest allocation of tribal funds to avoid stealing $554 million in royalties, define the offices of each branch, say how those offices will be filled and by what authority, and how and what power is vested in each, and how those offices would relate to one another, which fortifies Navajo sovereignty (Naats’iild) to guard and protect the Navajo language and heritage.

However, non-traditional Navajo politicians say the Navajo language is outdated and they say this is the 21st century. They say they don’t want to learn the obsolete Navajo language. They say we instead want the constitution written in English.

Also, the non-traditional Navajo say if the Navajo constitution is written in the Navajo language, no one will comply with it and the Navajo Democrat and Republican will make wisecrack of the traditional Navajo people, Navajo value, language, culture, tradition and heritage.

We, Navajo people, believe that we are always ready to defend and protect our Navajo language, culture, tradition, heritage, U.S. Constitution, our freedom of speech and North America. We are Naayee’neesani’ — Tobajishchini’ Warrior of America. Veterans defended and protected the U.S. Constitution and America.

Our Navajo leaders are mentally intelligent and capable of instituting the Navajo Nation constitutional government written in the Navajo language (Diyin Dine’e’ Bizaad) based on the Navajo clan relationship (K’e’) to defend and protect Navajo and American heritage, the U.S. Constitution, and our freedom of speech.

Edward Johnson Little Sr.

Tuba City, Ariz.

We will be lucky to get a dry bone

The $600 million was the amount some of us were led to believe constituted the mismanaged assets settlement. Then we heard $554 million, now we are told it is $410 million. Are we to believe that a third of that settlement money is gone before it leaves the starting gate? What the devil is going on?

Now hearings are being held to determine how that $410 million will be used. At the chapter level we are hearing that there is some great butchering going on in Window Rock. Our leaders have acquired a fat sheep and soon we will be getting our share. We at the chapter level, however, know from past experience we will be lucky if we get a dry bone to lick.

If there are any doubts, look at the front page of the Oct. 9, 2014, Navajo Times. Pictured are two men. One is a Navajo Code Talker veteran who survived the hell of combat in World War II. He couldn’t get the entities of the tribal government to repair his roof. The other picture is of a tribal government politician who, while in office, squandered millions of dollars that could have repaired thousands of Diné homes.

The way the budgeting system is set up, there are only about 3,600 individuals who will benefit from the $410 million if we continue to think the settlement money is tribal government money. That money has never been, nor will it ever be, tribal government money. It belongs to the individual Diné at the chapter level, and none else. Tribal government programs come and go, but the poverty of our Diné is a lethal reality.

Wally Brown

Page, Ariz.

Unfortunate, regrettable and a sad day

It is so unfortunate, regrettable and a sad day in Diné history that a very capable intelligent Diné presidential candidate, Christopher Deschene, is ruled unqualified because he is not fluent in the Diné language to describe how a resolution becomes law.

How is proficiency of the Diné language rated by the court in answering that question when majority of us Diné first language speakers would experience with much difficulty if not unable to interpret/explain how the law process works in our own language.

Dale Tsosie’s attorney, David Jordan, condescendingly proceeds to state that Mr. Deschene was not asked to explain the Pythagorean theorem in the Diné language but was asked a ‘fair’ question. Our Diné language is not abstract but a descriptive language, so I dare say that even the best of the well-versed elderly in Diné language cannot translate or explain the Pythagorean theorem.

Christopher Deschene is a candidate who is professionally literate and profoundly knowledgeable on laws beyond the boundaries of the reservation where we Diné people deal every day. Mr. Deschene can communicate for his people at the county, state and national levels where need for fluency in the Diné language is not required.

Historically, we have repeatedly voted Diné people who were not fluent in the Diné language into various representative positions and they have done well. Mr. Deschene should not be made a scapegoat.

Linda L. Taylor

Cortez, Colo.

Platero supported school efforts

On Aug. 12, 2014, the To’Hajiilee Community School named the school library in honor of Luciano Platero who was a community and staff member of To’Hajiilee Community School.

In the early 1930s, Luciano was very instrumental in supporting school efforts and encouraging community members to build and develop the first educational facility. In addition, he worked as a custodian, bus driver, and at times a counselor to many of the young children of the community.

Luciano always felt strong about the continual education of the young Navajo people, which would later provide better opportunities.

Later, Luciano married Juanita Standly (who was Anglo) and made To’Hajiilee their home continuing the work he started at the community school. It was almost a perfect relationship and love affair.

Luciano’s family taught and made Juanita aware about the culture and lifestyles of Navajo people. She even attempted to learn the language, and spoke some Navajo as indicated in the book entitled, ‘The Winds Erase Your Footprints (2002),’ by Shiyowin Miller, who was a close friend of Juanita. The book chronicles the life of Juanita and Luciano Platero.

However, life was too good to be true. The day came when Luciano drove a team of basketball players to the Crownpoint area. When the school bus crossed the railroad tracks, a train coming from the opposite side hit the bus. The players and Luciano were killed instantly in the accident.

Luciano Platero was a young man, far ahead of his time, very proud and ambitious. He had a strong desire to guide his To’Hajiilee people.

George Platero Jr.

To’Hajiilee, N.M.

Thank you veterans for your protection

Ya’ta’hey, Silá lo Sii (veterans). I’m Floyd Dawson, of Tonalea, Ariz., Western Navajo Agency, to let you know that I appreciate the sacrifices you made for our country. Thank you veterans for protecting the freedom I enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen, our country has become the greatest in the world because of the men and women who raised their right hands and swore an oath to protect and defend our freedom at all costs. These men and women who serve honorably around the world are America’s front line of defense. They put country before self. We must never forget the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

That’s why I’m extremely proud to introduce the Native Warrior Memorial bronze sculpture dedicated to the brave warriors who have served and sacrificed to keep us safe at this time. The memorial is a sculpture of bronze for remembering and honoring those who have died and sacrificed their lives in the line of duty to make our country free. They were members of the U.S. armed service.

A project like the Native Warrior Memorial bronze sculpture was started for remembrance of the Native American veterans killed in action and missing in action.

Again, thank you veterans.

Floyd Dawson

Tonalea, Ariz.

Our words are powerful

I am of the Red House Clan, born for The Charcoal Streaked Division Clan. My maternal grandfather is of the Mexican Clan. My paternal grandfather is of the Two Waters Flowing Together Clan.

I am writing in support of the amendment that was submitted concerning Diné bizaad fluency and our Navajo Nation presidency qualifications. I have a few concerns and opinions I would like to thoughtfully address.

I was taught to be well rounded and was entered into beauty pageants, sports and extracurricular activities. I also would be sent with my father to herd cattle, and to my uncles to shovel the horse stables. I was raised to do my best no matter the circumstance or situation.

I personally believe that every young Navajo person was raised with these same traits. We were encouraged to ‘climb that ladder.’ We believe this is how we can help and assist not just our families and ourselves, but our people as well.

I also believe that these traits were also honored by Chris Deschene. In the same way that I am honored to carry the name Diné, I am deeply honored that a man like him would want to represent my people, our people.

You see, my grandfather John Goodluck, was an original code talker. He used our precious language with his Diné brothers and helped win a war É
I grew up with the wonderful understanding and weighty responsibility that our words are powerful. I know this is also a traditional teaching that what we speak, the words that we form and breath into life are powerful and they can cause growth or cease growth. I love and respect our Diné language.

With that said, I want to make my opinion clear that we as a generation were raised in an assimilated culture. Navajo was not my first language. I am not fluent, nor can I perform conversational Navajo. I can, however, read and write it. I can understand commands, and some questions.

I want to be able to not only greet my grandmas that I see come into town, but ask them how they are doing and understand them. I understand the need for my generation to learn our language, but I do not agree that it makes us ineligible to lead and help our nation.

When considering the value our words, consider what you are saying when you say, ‘If you don’t speak Navajo to the ability that I think you should, you cannot lead our people.”

What kind of growth or non-growth does that bring? How does that add or detract from your people? What does that mean for our future generations? And lastly, what have you done to ensure that we all know our language?

The responsibility is ultimately ours, and the future is coming faster than we think. We must set in motion actions that will propel our nation forward. Chris Deschene is someone I believe will lead by example.

Marian K. Bitsui

Flagstaff, Ariz.

(Hometown: Shiprock, N.M.)

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