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Letters: NTEC squandering our children’s inheritance

The bottom line with the Navajo Technical Energy Company Wyoming Montana coal mine deal is the Navajo Nation is being cornered into committing $1.2 billion of our Permanent Trust Fund to secure bonds to guarantee clean up costs for these dying mines.

Every Navajo parent and grandparent should be alarmed this is happening.

The financial security of our grandchildren and coming generations is being gambled away and it sounds like the Navajo Nation Council is letting it happen.

I hear some saying, let’s “not micromanage, let NTEC do what it wants.”

Hey Mr. Councilman, over a billion dollars of our grandchildren’s money is on the line, you’d better micromanage!

If this fiasco deal is allowed to happen, I understand the credit rating of the Navajo Nation is going to drop from an A rating to a D. That is going to affect every big dollar project on the rez. All of the big dream vision projects for our communities lost into the coal ash pit.

It is clear that our coming generations are headed into difficult and dangerous times. They will need every advantage to make a comfortable survival.

We all need to look into our hearts and imagine what our future grandchild is going to say about us. Will they say, “See what our cheis, nalis and masaanis did for us?” when they are glad we defended their future?

Or will they say, “Look what our grandparents did to us!” when they see that a billion dollars of their security was squandered away.

The corporate fat cats who are behind this scheme are saying, “We can get away with this, these Navajos are dumb.”

Where are the brilliant Navajo minds at NTEC?

These bilagaanas are openly cheating us in the spirit of every bilagaana who has ever taken advantage of us.

Warrior up, peeps!

Chili Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Chaco protection bill hurts allottees

President Jonathan Nez should know better than to disrespect his own fellow citizens and their beliefs as Diné. Yet that is what our president keeps doing to the Navajo people living in the Nageezi, Huerfano and Counselor chapters in the Eastern Agency.

He continues to side against Navajo people and with radical bilagáanaa so-called “environmental groups” who want to steal from our families and desecrate our traditional beliefs.

Diné in these chapters live in an area that used to be part of the Navajo Reservation, but which was later taken away by presidential executive orders — without the Nation’s permission or consent. Instead, thousands of families received small allotments from the federal government. Those allotments include surface lands as well as the mineral rights to develop natural resources them.

Since the 1950s, allottees such as my family and me who live in these chapters — some of the poorest economically in all Diné Bíkéyah — have subsisted by leasing some our mineral rights to energy companies for oil and gas development. We hold these allotments sacred because it’s a promise made by the federal government to us allottees that we have the right to use our allotments to sustain ourselves.

This is the only way to make ends meet.  Our chapters are so isolated that as of 2013, nearly one-third of homes still lacked electricity and more than 40 percent don’t have running water.

According to official U.S. governmental reports, the federal government distributed $96 million in 2015 to nearly 21,000 individual Navajos with allotments in the Nageezi, Huerfano and Counselor chapters. This isn’t a lot of money, given how many individual allottees share mineral rights in the area, but for many, it is the only source of income. Grazing, ranching and farming are extremely limited and we lack any major employers, public or private.

Enter President Nez. Instead of protecting our right as Navajo people, he ignores our chapters and has signed on to congressional legislation that would destroy our sole means of earning of living. He and some other Navajo “leaders” are supporting a bill by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D), Deb Haaland (D), and Xochitl Torres Small (D) to impose a permanent 10-mile no-development area around Chaco Canyon National Historic Park.

Most of our allottees’ mineral rights are located within this buffer. While the bill says it will protect the allottees’ rights to develop their allotments, that is untrue, because the Udall-Haaland-Lujan-Small bill prevents any development on federal land. There will be no way for oil companies to access our individual allotments if this legislation is passed. Our allotments are surrounded by federal land.

Had President Nez and his staff done their homework, they would have learned what Navajo allottees already know: that because of the geology in the area, a five-mile no-development buffer zone around Chaco would work, but a 10-mile buffer won’t.

That’s because the oil basically disappears when wells are drilled within five miles of Chaco. Wells drilled any closer to the park are dry. That is a geological fact.  So a five-mile Chaco buffer will work but not the 10-mile one that Nez, Udall, Haaland, Lujan, Small and their radical non-Navajo friends are forcing on us.

Navajo families will not tolerate this lack of disrespect. From a traditional and ceremonial Navajo point of view, Chaco is not a sacred site to us. That is part of some Pueblo peoples’ beliefs. A five-mile buffer zone can respect everyone’s different and diverse spiritual beliefs without destroying Navajo families who actually live and work in the area.

We call on President Nez to meet with our chapters immediately on this vital issue. He needs to make sure the Udall-Haaland-Lujan-Small mineral-rights grab is either killed or modified to a five-mile buffer zone around Chaco.

In the meantime, we have intervened against the environmental groups in their other assault on Navajo families, which is the Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment v. Bernhardt lawsuit in federal court in New Mexico. That lawsuit is trying to take away our right to develop oil on our own lands through the courts, just as President Nez and non-Navajos are trying to do through Congress. We will not stop until our voices are heard, our beliefs respected, and justice is done.

Ervin Chavez
Nageezi, N.M.

Tribe missed chance for clean energy

I enjoyed reading the Oct. 31, 2019 article titled, “NTEC’s Montana mine reopens, questions remain,” on the sole fact that the bond market future of the great Navajo Nation is being played out like a highly addicted gambler not able to step away from a losing day at the poker table.

I strongly think, after much thought, NTEC business should be allowed to be played out on two basic points.

The Navajo voters voted in the Council and president who think coal mining is a strong bet and not clean, renewable energy. The latter being in line with all of our century’s old philosophy of respecting Mother Earth.

Bilaghaana got us away from this philosophy with mining of gold, diamonds, oil, natural gas and coal — and our elected leadership has gone along with using the precious water to slurry coal off of Dinétah, and selling coal for 12 cents per ton, which cost the Navajo Nation billions of dollars in mineral royalties.

The leaders and about 270 employees of the Navajo Nation were offered a great clean energy project, brought forth by a home-grown, small Navajo business, that partnered with an Australian corporation capable of starting the project then getting out so Navajo self-determination can take over the helm and chart out a future of good health and vitality.

However, within the thick haze of coal dust laid upon Window Rock, leaders could not look past the billfold of coal.

The Navajo Nation has made a bold statement and like the Trump presidency, has an uncertain future in the bond market.

Patrick Murphy
Albuquerque, N.M.

Cheated out of a home in Kayenta

I am writing in hopes of getting the Navajo Nation’s attention concerning a situation within the Kayenta Township. I am a longtime resident of Kayenta, and basically know about everyone who resides here.

The situation I have is related to Sandstone Housing. Nineteen years ago, I moved into Sandstone Housing with an understanding that I was going to be a homeowner. Prior to Sandstone I lived in a hogan. Sandstone homes were being advertised as “rent-to-own.”

At the time, my husband and I had separated and I needed to move on my own with my children. “Rent-to-own” was the key word.

When I moved in, the home looked brand new, however, I began to have problems. Little things within the home were falling apart and the home seemed to be made out of cardboard. During the winter times, we froze and the summer we boiled. My utility bill at times was difficult to pay. I would get after my family to not waste electricity or heating.

About eight years ago my children started moving on their own, so I’m home alone and yet my utilities are still outrageous. This is when my experience with Sandstone became a nightmare.
About this time, I was assuming I was paying for my home that I would someday own. Nope! New management came in and I was asked to bring my home’s contract in. Management stated that my home was no longer rent-to-own, but just a rental.

Sandstone wanted me to sign a new contract. I refused because I was paying to own my home. Where did the money go when I was paying for ownership? I asked why this was happening and was not given an answer.

A lot of families who live there also believed they were going to own their home got upset and moved out. I had nowhere to go so I stayed. I just kept fighting with management and telling them I wanted answers as to why I was no longer considered to own my home and what happened to all the money I paid into owning it, plus my contract.

Up to this date, my utilities and rent fluctuate. Then I learned that Sandstone lumped four homes together and the utilities are divided between four homes. This is crazy. I live alone but I am paying for three other families and their usage. Nowhere in America does someone pay for someone else’s bill.

And on top of this, I can never own my home until all the homes on the same utility bill pay their home off, so I am buying my neighbors homes. This does not make sense. This is where the Kayenta Township comes in.

After talking about this issue all over town, I went to the township and continue to go to the township for the past eight years. Eight years!

The Kayenta Township allowed these homes to be built, Kayenta Township employees were the building inspectors and Kayenta Township holds the land lease for Sandstone. I could not believe Sandstone Housing pays one dollar a year in rent to Kayenta Township.

The Sandstone homes are within the Kayenta Township and yet Kayenta Township has done nothing to help us individuals who are being scammed by Sandstone.

When I go to Kayenta Township the commissioners say the same thing, “We are looking into it.” Eight years of looking for what?

In the meantime, Sandstone Housing is a dump. The homes are run down and more than half are vacated. There are drug dealers and bootleggers who live there. Homes are always getting broken into. It’s a Third World country.

Kayenta Township likes to take our tax money, but does very little to help the community. They are only good at buying asphalt. Kayenta Township tells me to get a lawyer and sue Sandstone, but a lawyer costs money.

Commissioner Ward asked if I was given an appraisal value for the home that I thought I was buying. I never was given any information as to the cost of the home. Maybe I have paid it off and don’t know it. I never renegotiated a new contract not to own the home and I still have the original rent-to-own papers.

Ms. Ward asked if I was given an opportunity to have a mortgage. I didn’t even know what that meant.

In the meantime, office management at Sandstone changes. No one seems to know who owns Sandstone. There are rumors that I will never be told anything because the employees get free housing to keep their mouths shut and office staff only hires family members so they can live rent-free. Am I paying for their utilities and rent, too?

Another rumor around Kayenta is that some Kayenta Township employees live rent free or with discounts so Kayenta Township will not sue them. What is the truth?

I’m told there are housing laws, because these homes are under HUD housing, but why is HUD housing allowing this to happen to those of us who were told we are “renting our homes to own”?

There are several families who continue to live in Sandstone who thought they were going to own their homes. Some families have invested in their homes for their children. Then there are the JUA homes that were bought, but these families never got titles to their homes or the value of their homes. I’d like to know what JUA paid for these homes.

Many families have given up on going to Kayenta Township, who is the landlord. Township has failed all of us at Sandstone. I am sure I will be asked to leave Sandstone after they read this letter, but I need help, not only for myself, but other families. Community members say I am wasting my time at Kayenta Township.

Kayenta Township will wear you down until you stop going. Just like they did to the Kayenta veterinarian, Dr. Eubank. He was ignored and he gave up, so I know how he feels.

I’m hoping someone will read this letter. Hopefully a lawyer and give some direction. This is called housing fraud. I am not an educated person, but I know for sure this is wrong. I don’t think it’s worth going to Window Rock, that’s another whole game of “passing the buck.”

If there is some type of retaliation, I will write the Navajo Times and let everyone know. I plan to send this letter to all newspapers in hopes someone can help, maybe a HUD housing agent. What do I got to lose? I will lose 19 years of payments to Sandstone Housing.

In the meantime, someone is getting rich while we live in poor conditions. I’m sure whoever this person is they have a nice home. Please, please, I am seeking help.

Charlotte Tsosie
Kayenta, Ariz.

Bureaucracy contributing to syphilis outbreak

By virtue of the Navajo Nation Health, Education and Human Services Committee, (the tribe) needs to declare an increase of syphilis on the Navajo Reservation and into the surrounding border towns with a resolution.

Among the Navajo Nation, sexually transmitted diseases are the most reported communicable diseases, in particular observed syphilis rates are extremely high and HIV is also prevalent.

Identification and management of an increase of syphilis is a complex and challenging process. Calculating STDs incidence rates on Navajo is a complex process for a number of reasons: Data sharing with the surrounding state public health departments, Center for Disease Control and the Indian Health Service, under-reporting of cases, data health systems not designed for surveillance, usage of different clinical services with no memorandum of agreement with the self-governance ‘638 health facilities for confidentiality and fragmentation of syphilis reporting at the county and state level.

From the epidemiology viewpoint, this is a serious health issue. More time for public health action is a major concern. Within one service area, 78 cases of syphilis have been reported and eight HIV cases.

A number of syphilis and HIV cases have been observed in other Navajo service areas. However, lack of communication between important public health staff and joint leadership is a challenging process.

Other contributing factors are lack of established protocols for data sharing among the Navajo Department of Health and others, lack of a formal authority for an outbreak-related action at the tribal level and lack of program experience and epidemiology expertise.

By public health law, providing health services to and serving the Navajo population is based on the government-to-government relationship. The Navajo Department of Health should be providing relevant surveillance information and the primary leadership for the increase of syphilis with related planning and emergency events by practicing public health sovereignty.

Larry Foster
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Community members blew whistle on Alamo board members

It was with great interest that Alamo Navajo Community members read your article titled “Former Alamo school broad members facing criminal charges” published on Oct. 26, 2019.

If it wasn’t for the tenacious, strong and united front of Alamo Navajo Community members who reported board members Hector Guerro, Bucky Apache, and Steven Apache to the federal government, Navajo Nation and the media, these three board members could still have been in the office.

It was very frustrating and disheartening to see and watch these board members as they almost brought down the Alamo Navajo School Board Inc. We saw their wasteful spending, constant travel most of which were fraudulent, and the explosive, demeaning, and unprofessional way they governed and ran ANSB organization and the board meetings.

Alamo Navajo Community members reached out to the Navajo Nation including DoDE, Ethics and Rules, election pffice, special Navajo Nation committees, and Navajo Times.

For months we felt alone and unheard. Navajo Times didn’t want to run the story on the Alamo Navajo Board members. Navajo Nation Department of Justice did nothing. DoDE said their hands were tied, Ethics and Rules said we didn’t write our complaint correctly, and on and on.

If it wasn’t for the whistle blower reporting this to the federal government including the Department of Interior and Department of Health and Human Services and Albuquerque Channel 4 KOB first running this story, this whole situation could still be happening.

A group of community members formed a committee to recall three of the four board members and were successful.

We’ve seen comments ad stories of others taking credit for leading the charge on this matter, but the truth is no one helped Alamo Navajo Community members until it was full-blown investigation and big news on television.

We do not want this to happen to another Navajo community. Navajo Nation officials, if you hear about small Navajo community reaching out for help, please listen to them. It was very discouraging to meet with Navajo Nation officials and all we’d hear were the reasons they couldn’t help us or that we jump through the right hoops.

ANSB has taken steps to ensure that this type of situation does not happen again by working closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, ensuring we are in compliance with OMB super circular and ensuring the board and staff follows our travel policies and procedures.

Sarah Apache
Alamo, New Mexico