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Letters | My son is waiting for his check

I read your recent article regarding Navajo Nation controller’s office’s excuses for delays in processing hardship checks (“Hardship office overwhelmed, understaffed, underpaid,” April 21 2022):

  1. Understaffed.
  2. Unusual amount of returned checks.
  3. The prior contracted entity did a poor job processing the first checks.
  4. The prior contracted entity did a poor job of maintaining their data.

My immediate family lives off the reservation in Phoenix. We all received our first checks although I had to send a copy of my CIB a second time before the tribe issued my check.

We read and followed the NNOOC’s instructions advising us not to submit an application for our second check. We were all pretty confident we would get our second checks with no problems – not!

My son is still waiting for his check. His address hasn’t changed in 30 years.

There is no way for us to get a status on my son’s check. No one is available to answer our call to determine if there is a problem. The email we sent has gone unanswered to this day.

We are trying very hard not to inundate the controller’s office with phone calls. So, we wait not knowing why the delay, what should we do next, and when we should call again to get the status of the missing and/or delayed check.

The people’s complaints include their information was lost so they had to reapply even though they had no problems receiving their first check. It’s hard to know if my son is in this category. We hesitate to make a five-hour trip to the reservation chapter house to find out the status.

We are lucky in the fact we live close enough to the reservation to make a trip up to inquire, if necessary. Gas prices are extremely high for us to make this trip and it’s not guaranteed we can be seen in one day.

I read the lines are extremely long and no sanitary facilities are provided. Basically, we’d have to come prepared with a water bottle, packed lunch and a folding chair. Some folks don’t have this luxury.

It seems to me that folks who live off the reservation with problems should be contacted by phone, email, or text messages. Why force them to inquire at the chapter house? It doesn’t make sense.

I mean, a lot of tribal members live and work a great distance from the reservation and can’t afford to miss work and spend money to travel.

My two nieces attended the technical support meeting held in Phoenix. One received her check but one niece is still waiting. They both live at the same address.

If you’re reading this, President Nez, please find out what is going on at the Navajo Nation controller’s office regarding the lack of transparency and communication. Find a way to streamline the process keeping in mind some people can’t make a trip to the reservation to inquire about their checks.

I don’t know how you store your data but I believe it would be easier if the information is stored under CIB numbers rather than by client name. Only one CIB number should exist with no duplicates.

Meanwhile, my son waits patiently for his check praying he will not have to make that long trip up.

Rita Mizell
Phoenix, Ariz.

Mask mandate needs to end

The airlines lifted the mask mandate last week. The universities in Arizona lifted their mask mandate last month. Navajo County has limited their mask mandate to their county facilities. Apache County doesn’t have a mask mandate.

The state of New Mexico lifted their mask mandate. The state of Colorado lifted their mask mandate. The state of Utah lifted their mask mandate in 2021.

The Centers for Disease Control updated its guidelines on Feb. 25 stating that masks may no longer be necessary in U.S. counties with medium to low transmission rates.

The rates are low on the Navajo Nation currently and we are headed in the right direction. The Navajo Nation is ready to line up with the United States and move forward beyond COVID-19.

Those folks that feel they need to wear a mask can certainly do so. They do that already when they travel off the Navajo Nation. Even non-Navajos practice mask wearing in areas that do not require it.

Vaccination availability is extremely accessible. There are postings everywhere we go. It’s in the Navajo Times, at the supermarket, at the school, on the radio. All they need to do is call and make an appointment.

Vaccination booster shot recipients are already on their third booster and they are preparing a fourth booster for additional protection.

The Navajo Department of Health COVID-19 Community Advisory No. 70 bullet points can remain in place with the mask mandate being voluntary and not mandatory.

The mask mandate for the Navajo Nation is hindering all businesses of the Nation.

We have Council committee meetings that are done online or via the phone. This is not very effective.

I attended the Law and Order Committee meeting in Kayenta on Monday, April 25. Only Delegate Otto Tso was in attendance and the remaining were on the phone. It was difficult to communicate effectively. The report from the Kayenta Fire Department could have had more impact if the entire committee was present.

This is just one example of a Navajo Nation business being hindered by “health and safety” measures like the mask mandate.

Let’s get back to some normalcy. It’s time for Navajo folks to take back the responsibility to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Jarvis Williams
Kayenta, Ariz.

Megadrought affecting cattle industry

A lot of people don’t realize the impact the megadrought and the highest inflation in 40 years we are experiencing is affecting our cattle industry.

For those who didn’t keep a watchful eye on our weather conditions, I recall 43 years ago fishing in the Chuska Mountain lakes. Water was plentiful.

In 1995, our lack of moisture decreased even more. My father passed away that year and left his ranch lease to me, which is why I recalled my memory of the drought.

Fast-forward 25 years. I had to haul water into the ranch for my small herd. Since my dad’s passing, I reduced my herd to sustain my pasture.

Two years ago, again my ponds were dry and my pasture was subsiding so I sold the majority of my herd. My oldest daughter expressed her interest in keeping five heifers so that she could keep the family tradition of raising cattle that has been in the family for five generations.

Her and husband reside in Mancos, Colorado, and she took the heifers for only a few months. Then the Colorado Water Association told them they had only one irrigation for the season due to the water shortage.

We transferred the five head back to Sims Ranch and 10 months passed, we were fortunate to have rain (most ever) last July and August to fill our earth dams three times.

Since our ranch has had a rest with only a few head of cattle, our pasture has improved greatly. We’ve decided to keep going, slowly increase our herd with caution because the Farmer’s Almanac predicts another dry summer.

I’ll reiterate the state and national news. We are experiencing record lows in our region. Lake Powell and other reservoirs are at a record low.

I want to thank Laguna Tribe, NMSU Extension, UofA Cooperative Extension, and Kathey Landers — New Mexico, New Mexico State University McKinley County CES who sponsored our workshops at Route 66 (before the pandemic) and recent livestock workshops in the region.

I take home with me good information to help me conserve my pasture training to raise healthy cattle, manage my resources and capacity during our drought.

One thing they mentioned right before the pandemic outbreak was for us to think about herd reduction. I thought about it until the time came that cattle were experiencing lack of water and substandard pastures.

In retrospect, we need long-term solutions. For example:

  1. Reducing lease fees to the BLM, state and national forest rates to give us the flexibility to adjust herd size to current weather and range conditions.
  2. Lease rates should reflect the federal and state rates to not cause a hardship when herd reduction is deemed necessary.
  3. Making sure that herd capacity changes are made in a timely manner so ranchers can make the decision, according to the range condition and within the last herd reduction set by NNDA. Ranch herds are running at a lower capacity set by NNDA.

Justin D. Yazzie Jr.
Farmington N.M.

Thank you, Chairman MacDonald

Peter MacDonald Sr., while Navajo tribal chairman in the 70s, hired able tax attorneys to draft new tax laws for the Navajo Nation.

In 1978, the Navajo Tribal Council enacted these ordinances imposing taxes known as the Possessory Interest Tax and the Business Activity Tax.

The Possessory Interest Tax is measured by the value of leasehold interests in tribal lands. The tax rate is 3% of the value of those interests.

The Business Activity Tax is assessed on receipts from the sale of property produced or extracted within the Navajo Nation, and from the sale of services within the nation. A tax rate of 5% is applied after subtracting a standard deduction and specified expenses.

Too much information? Well, Chairman MacDonald made sure these new tax laws would be strong enough to withstand lawsuits.

Shortly thereafter, Kerr McGee and 21 other oil companies filed suit in three (federal) district courts (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah).

Imagine the number of attorneys and resources these companies had in contrast to the Navajo Nation at that time.

Two of the district courts (Arizona, New Mexico) both agreed that the Navajo Nation had the sovereign ability to enact its own tax laws. However, the Utah district court held that the Navajo Nation was sovereign but needed the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

The Navajo Nation still under ManDonald administration took Utah’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court where they agreed with the Arizona and New Mexico courts that the Navajo Nation was a sovereign nation and could enact its own tax.

By this time 21 of the oil companies withdrew their fight. Kerr McGee continued and took it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1985, seven years after the enactment of the taxes, it was no surprise that the Supreme Court agreed with the Arizona, New Mexico and 9th Circuit Courts.

During this time the companies were required to hold the tax in escrow and after the Supreme Court decision about $200 million was paid to the Navajo Nation.

Thank you, Chairman MacDonald, for having the foresight and gumption to provide for our nation. Ahe’hee’.

Vern R. Lee
Fruitland, N.M.


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