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Letters | Nation must show it is able to quickly use federal funds

It is very interesting seeing the approaches to planning, spending, management, tracking, evaluation – if any – and corrective action(s) plans by our Navajo Nation regarding federal funds.

I reference the recent releases of federal funds, the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. These funds have stringent federal spending requirements and timetables to spend.

While the Navajo Nation tried to spend the CARES Act, the Navajo Nation realized that it was not fully prepared. The Navajo service providers whether subcontracted or contracted were overwhelmed with the number of jobs to be achieved across the Navajo Nation, thus full encumbrances and expenditures were hard to realize. The Nation was left with millions of dollars unspent.

It is now interesting, too, that this year is an election year for local elections, the Navajo president and 24 Council delegate seats.

For reasons noted, the CARES Act went partly unspent due to deadlines for funds to be spent. We saw that the Navajo Nation rushed to re-direct or modify the unspent funds, which were projected for local chapter community projects, to hardship monies to the eligible Navajo citizens.

In the past few months, the American Rescue Plan Act funds were discussed and action taken by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. One would think that the Navajo politicians learned their lessons in attempting to spend the CARES Act.

Remember, here again are the requirements: the need for approved projects and a deadline for funds to be expended.

When we listened to the Navajo Nation Council debates, we learned that the plan is to equally allocate funds to each of the 24 Council delegates because they want “equity” in funds.

Although each delegate wants their own personal pot of money, is there a plan to provide funds to the executive and judicial branches?

If the delegates want to provide funds to the 110 Navajo chapters, do the chapters have eligible meaningful projects — are they shovel ready? Do these chapter projects have written contracts or subcontracts in place so work can begin?

Each contract must comply with federal requirements, Navajo procurement, and preference requirements. Each contract must be processed within the Navajo Nation. With the many layers of contract and/or subcontract approvals by the Navajo government, I can predict that the workforce of the executive branch will be overwhelmed with administrative contract approvals.

We then know that after a short time period there will be “finger pointing” and more frustrations by the Navajo people and later the Navajo politicians. The result I believe will occur is again funds will not be expended.

Who agrees? Or is this equal distribution among the 24 delegates an approach for re-election?

If this is all about re-election efforts, then the Navajo leaders are forgetting about the real need of each Navajo household. Presently, Navajo families on the reservation are in need. Navajo families outside the reservation cities and towns are in need.

How are those Navajo families benefiting? How is equal distribution among the delegates for the 110 Navajo chapters “giving power back to the people?” Are the delegates representing all the Navajo people?

We know that the Navajo Nation, especially the chapters, have issues of fraud, misappropriation of funds, mismanagement of funds and fiscal abuse while spending these federal funds. These issues will be realized when a single audit and/or the U.S. Office of the Inspector General investigate the Navajo Nation’s expenditure of these funds.

Yes, we know the needs of our Navajo people are many — these federal funds were approved for the Navajo people, not solely for 24 delegates. The Navajo leaders must remember that they must show that the Navajo Nation is able to quickly use these federal funds to meet the needs of the Navajo people.

Let us agree to disagree and make use of the American Rescue Plan Act funds tomorrow. After all, the newly elected officials, president and Council delegates will most likely attempt to make changes after the November 2022 elections.

Harold Wauneka
Shush Bi’toh, Tse’hootsooi, Ariz.

Hydrogen hype — too good to be true?

Now that coal-fired power plants and coalmines are retiring on the Navajo Nation, it presents an opportunity for a just and equitable transition for Navajo.

Rather than exposing Navajo people and their natural resources to more exploitative energy extraction by out-of-state corporations, tribal enterprises (run by non-Navajos) and Navajo officials who are either clinging to the status-quo or who are paid-off by these entities to continue supporting the fossil fuel industrial complex.

Renewable energy such as wind and solar can help the Navajo Nation redefine their energy sector and finally address the electricity and water needs of the Navajo people. Navajo needs to rebuild their economy around energy projects that protect their limited water resources, reduce air pollution, and minimize or prevent further damage to their lands.

The Navajo Nation’s economy has become overly dependent on fossil fuels. These industries take advantage of tribal resources and use tribal sovereignty to avoid state and federal regulations and oversight.

Now the Navajo Nation is being pressured by outside companies such as Tallgrass and BayoTech to bear yet another polluting burden — hydrogen.

The hydrogen being proposed in New Mexico would be produced from natural gas, which will increase pollution and climate harm.

According to recent studies from Cornell University, “the carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat.”

In addition, hydrogen production will expand or prolong gas extraction in communities who already suffer from localized health damages, contaminated or scarce water supplies and who so badly need pathways to other economic opportunities that don’t hurt their families or their homelands for generations to come.

Despite this argument against hydrogen, the Navajo Nation president, vice president, speaker, and Council have publicly stated their support for a hydrogen hub.

This support essentially gives consent to developing a hydrogen economy on the Navajo Nation without considering the impacts to the communities who will have to live near the new hydrogen infrastructure and who already live next to existing natural gas wells, pumps, and pipelines.

There has also been very little to no outreach to communities from the Navajo Nation central government, state agencies or their partners. Specifically, to Navajo communities and chapter houses that currently host gas and oil industries and may be most impacted by hydrogen development.

Despite the lack of outreach, Navajo local governments known as chapters have taken positions on hydrogen. The Eastern Navajo Agency Council, representing 31 Navajo chapters, has voted to oppose all fossil fuel produced hydrogen development, distribution, and consumption on Navajo Nation.

It has become clear that the Navajo Nation leadership has lost touch with their people and will sacrifice tribal sovereignty for short-lived, high-external cost, community-destroying, economic-schemes such as hydrogen.

Jessica Keetso
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Red tape, bureaucracy reasons for lack of officers

After reading the article about the Chief of Police Daryl Noon and his goal of recruiting more officers for the Navajo Nation (“Chief discusses officer shortage, goals for NPD,” March 31, 2022), I would like to add my comment.

My grandson has been going through recruitment interviews for the last four months trying to get on the police force. He still has not gone through the training exercises at the academy in Chinle. He is being told that he will be notified, but in the meantime, he doesn’t know if he has been selected or not.

Could this be one of the reasons why there is a shortage of police officers on the Navajo Reservation?

It seems like the people doing the hiring are not on the same page as the chief of police and this causes all of the red tape for people trying get on the police force.

Now my grandson is looking for employment out of the state because he cannot afford to wait for the next call asking him to come in for some more tests. He’s done the physical agility test, written test, psychological test, background check, and even had to take his wife to Window Rock, so she could answer questions about their marital relationship.

I have known my grandson to be a very dependable, loving and caring person. We have instilled in him the true values of family life and good work habits.

People in the Window Rock offices want to know why our children are not coming back to the reservation and work for our tribal government, it’s because of all the bureaucracies and red tape, which is created that makes it hard, and this in turn discourages them so they seek employment elsewhere.

Gary Clark
Shiprock, N.M.


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