Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Letters | ‘Native Warrior,’ an 8-foot statue

Attention: Native Americans across the nation — Indians, Alaskans, and Hawaiians, who served in the Vietnam War, my brother was killed by the North Vietnamese in 1967.

I am Floyd Dawson, a member of the Navajo Nation living in Tonalea, Arizona. The Western Navajo Agency includes American Indian tribes made up of clans such as Edgewater and Manygoats.

On Nov. 11, 1987, I went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to pay tribute to my brother, whose name is carved on The Wall, located in the Constitution Gardens on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is most often referred to as “The Wall.”

Near the entrance to the memorial site is the life-like statue called the Three Servicemen. The seven-foot-high bronze statue is placed almost directly across from The Wall, but the Native American Servicemen statue wasn’t included in the group (neglected). This was when I thought about the Native Americans across the nation not being represented at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

In February of 1989, I was chosen to be the first one to start plans to accomplish a memorial for Native Americans of the United States. The start of this memorial was a great event, even though I had never chosen to enter political life. I had never dealt with politics or the political process for achieving a national memorial. I did it entirely on my own initiative and learned how an individual citizen could propose a law by petition and ensure its submission to the electorate.

In January of 1990, I lobbied on Capitol Hill to try and influence members of Congress. In January of 1991, the late Sen. John McCain introduced legislation S.B. 293 to establish a National Native American Veterans Memorial to honor those Natives that served in the Vietnam War.

Sen. John McCain was a big supporter of Native Americans and a prisoner of war. He had a place in his heart for me and helped me develop my plans for the memorial in Washington, D.C. He worked closely with other Native veterans and me across the nation on a special pillar honoring my effort.

Public Law 103-384 103d passed Congress to provide a National Native American Veterans Memorial, being cited as established in 1994. Both houses passed the bill, permitting the memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 22, 1994, President William Bill Clinton signed the bill into law and said the memorial would be built on the Mall.

The law did not say what the memorial was to look like. That decision was left to the National Congress of American Indians. It authorized a competition that would be submitted for approval to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. More than 120 designs were introduced from around the globe. Mr. Harvey Pratt’s design, which he titled “Warriors Circle of Honor,” was selected to be commissioned.

Due to a lack of money and slow progress, my focus is now to have the memorial done by the sculptor Karl Kendall. His vision is titled “Native Warrior,” an 8-foot statue that will be placed in the Navajo Nation to honor Native American veterans.

Floyd Dawson
Tonalea, Ariz.

‘Never’ abandon comrades

Congratulations to Bobbie Ann Baldwin upon embarking on her new promising endeavor. Her appointment is very encouraging.

Now we (Navajo veterans) just need to look forward to new incoming agency staffing who will need to be exceptionally committed to the primary mission at the office to carry out the services and not bail at the slightest sign of dissension. It takes an exceptional caliber of dedication to dole out customer service at the DNVA (Navajo Nation Veterans Administration) and Agency office — one who will not abandon their post, for starters.

This is an immediate concern for all Fort Defiance Agency veterans, and I felt compelled to speak out on it.

There are still stark questions to be answered: did the staff shred all financial assistance requests before bailing? If so, will bids need to be re-submitted? This is my concern.

There are also questions surrounding the abrupt departure and the seemingly cloaked secrecy surrounding that episode — but let’s get back to the assistance requests and prioritize the processing at accounts payable.

Hopefully, this ends unnecessary doubts, frustration, and endless waiting. Grassroots Navajo veterans have always been subjected to endless red tape and political fallout, and nothing is going to change if we don’t speak our piece on social media.

Since I’ve opted out of the workforce, I can only sit here with pen and paper and espouse positive vibes and motivation on behalf of my fellow comrades.

Being from a remote area where internet and cellphone service is spotty, I managed to catch wind of the abrupt closure of the DNVA/Agency office, and I was so disappointed by the news, which makes the need to fast-track the re-staffing and re-opening of the agency office an immediate need. Even more so, the expedient fulfillment of processing of overdue assistance requests.

I can just feel the frustration of my fellow Navajo veterans who need this funding — it’s been over 90-plus days now. I sure hope this doesn’t become the norm from here on out.

I realize it takes an exceptional caliber of committed team-oriented personnel to oversee and ensure timely and seamless paperwork processing and not unnecessarily hinder services.

We are tired of being tossed around. We’ve already signed that blank check. What else have we got to lose? Sadly, we have come to expect denials at every turn. We can only wait patiently and let it unfold, and we can also look forward and stay optimistic.

In conclusion, I’d like to congratulate the new Madam Speaker of the (Council) — keep those CDs in line and ensure their potentials are maximized — ensure they leave compromising images at bay and out of the newspaper headlines. Remember, as public servants, you live in a fish bowl.

Lastly, all I can say to the agency staff that bailed is, “Good Luck!” I never abandoned my military post, which is the difference between civilians and us.

Semper Fi, keep the faith and stay humble.

Cheryl Todicheeney

A good ruckus

Historically, the Diné were viewed as a very secretive society by the outside world. They were viewed as cunning savages, backwards, and they live on plundering — thuds. However, it is the women’s status in their society that made a profound contribution to mankind, and this was observed early by the invaders.

Observation revealed that Diné women held equal status to their male counterparts. To wit: first, an early explorer observed that the women sat in on war/peace councils — and sometimes they even dominated and controlled the discussions (Sides, Blood and Thunder). The explorer was astonished by this and reported he had not eye-witnessed anything like that before in his travels worldwide.

Second, the U.S. soldiers, in their first war council with the Diné, witnessed that a woman sat in on the council, and not only that, she voiced her strong opinion — creating a ruckus. The U.S. invaders were noting that they had never seen a woman allowed to do this before.

Third, the women created a ruckus with Gen. William Sherman days before the official negotiation of the 1868 Treaty. Then, they participated in the ongoing negotiations even though the U.S. government instructed the male Naa’taanii not to include the Sáanii in the talks (Sides, Blood and Thunder).

In this situation, the U.S. did not want to deal with the women as reflected in their culture. However, the Naa’taanii found a way to include Sáanii as reflected in their culture. Consequently, the Sáanii, as usual, contributed significantly by adding language to the negotiated and adopted Treaty. Undoubtedly, the women wheeled a lot of political power in the Diné government.

As shown above, the issue of “women leadership in leadership roles” may have been the first issue of the 1868 Treaty negotiations. At the talks, the issue of “women in leadership roles” was new to the Anglo-Saxton male-dominated government. In short, “women leadership” was not accepted in American society and was foreign to them and their way of life.

This seemed to set the trend away from “women serving in leadership roles” in the government-to-government setting in the Diné/U.S. relationship. This trend continued. In other words, the U.S. attempted to censor the Diné women from participating in government just like they did to the women in their society.

It is the clash of two values and philosophies. Anglo-Saxton male leaders made one philosophy, and the other philosophy was promulgated by the first five-fingered or Diné leader named the Changing Woman. The question to the Diné society is which one they follow.

Finally, 134 (2023) years later, the Diné society seemingly has made a full circle. The Diné society has returned to its roots by reentering women in leadership roles. This was done by the government-sponsored institution that originally denied them that right. To this day, the women in that society continue to fight for equal status in that society—a long struggle. The Diné women and society did it in 134 years.

In the present U.S.-sponsored three-branch government, a Diné woman holds the top leadership role in two of the three branches. In the other branch, a woman has one of the top two positions. So, women hold three of the top four positions in the Diné Nation. Yéigo Diné!

It seems we are finally getting back on track. I anticipate a ruckus, but a good ruckus. Hopefully.

Ra Yazzie
Window Rock

New year, new staff

The new year is here, and so is the new administration of the Navajo Nation headed by the youngest Navajo individual who seems to have foresight, bright and passionate.

The only setback is an old crony who served as chief of staff of the Joe Shirly Jr. Administration for eight years and maybe a troublesome concern to the Navajo voters.

The new year also brought a new female chief of staff to the Legislative Branch of the Navajo Nation Council. She’s the first female in the history of the Navajo Nation to be entrusted with a top leadership position. I wish her well with her job.

The chief of staff Executive Branch declares he will be the president for four years via Facebook. Is Patrick Sandoval or Buu Nygren the president? I thought the Navajo people went all out to vote in Buu Nygren as the president of the Navajo Nation.

I wish Mr. Nygren well with his endeavors as our president for the next four years. We just need to get behind him and support him in getting his job done. And for someone to say he’s the president is naive and unacceptable.

I had hoped a young blood to head up that important position of chief of staff and not one like a recycled one from the past. Isn’t that what the voters wanted? Wasn’t the position of chief of staff even advertised?

The Navajo Nation government needs to make the necessary changes to benefit the Navajo people. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to express my concerns.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.


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