Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Letters | New leadership ‘need’ to meet with Elon Musk

In early December, I visited Ft. Defiance, Window Rock, and Chinle. The last time I spent time with the Diné was when I was 9; I am 71 now.

My grandmother May Riggs Larue was the high school principal in Ft. Defiance and then moved to Chinle, where she was the school superintendent. She spent over 20 years living and working as an educator on the reservation. My brother and I spent four summers on the reservation as children in the late 1950s. The joy of hearing the Diné speak is hard to describe. The innate grace and dignity of your language brought back memories.

When grandma went off to work, my brother and I would head out to play with our Navajo friends named Begay, Benally, and Tso. We loved going down the arroyo across from the Good Shephard Mission in Ft. Defiance and catching frogs, snakes, and turtles. My grandmother lived in the teacher housing there. We would hike up to Garnet Hill and bring back the little red stones.

The last time I visited Canyon De Chelly was in the back of a pickup heading up the Canyon to visit someone’s relatives. On my visit this time, the Jeep tour driver David provided me with the Canyon’s history from the Anastasi through the Hopi to the Navajo. The story of your Long Walk to and from Ft. Sumner reminded me of my own tribe, the Cherokee’s Trail of Tears. I was able to find the natural bridge off Route 112 with the help of a tall Diné and his wife. I picnicked on weekends on the bridge with my grandmother.

The Navajo Nation has changed a lot in 60 years. I only saw one herd of sheep, and that was in Canyon De Chelly. No more horse-drawn wagons. The store where, as a boy, I would collect pop bottles for the code talkers in Ft. Defiance is gone, as are most of the code talkers. My brother and I would slide down the Window at Window rock on cardboard. We would drive to Gallup to buy groceries; now, there is a Bashas’ in Window Rock.

The Diné look healthier and better off economically but still have a long way to go. The recent election brought a change from the old guard to the new. About time. The way the world works now is you need a billionaire on your side to get anything done.

I asked myself what would help the Diné the fastest. Universal internet access and solar energy for every home. It may sound far-fetched, but one of the new tribal leaders or all of them need to go meet with Elon Musk.

Elon could use some good publicity, and the Diné need Starlink and Solar City. With universal internet access and electricity in every home, the Diné could provide telemedicine, online education, and other much-needed resources to all tribe members. Elon could use the Diné as a demonstration of what he can do in places that need it the most. It would also make it far easier to organize and focus the political power of your votes to get what you need from the state of Arizona and the federal government.

Happy trails.

John Stallcup
Napa, Calif.


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