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Letters: OPVP’s four pillows have turned into four pillows

Letters: OPVP’s four pillows have turned into four pillows

A candidate campaigning on economic development on the Navajo Nation is a common tactic used to lure voters and we have seen this played out since Peter MacDonald challenging Raymond Nakai. But it’s another when the present president, having been schooled at a prestigious university, makes claims of having to turn properties for profit and has instilled heavily schooled young Navajos to his cabinet, to convey to the general public of conflicting approaches of his economic plan. Much less no hint of a director for economic development has been made and the administration is way past its 100 days and is now going onto 10 months.

First, there’s the administration’s announcement in the 2015 Navajo Nation fair magazine, of having to exploit the desert economy by manufacturing yucca, aloe vera and agricultural plants. Obviously, when it comes to capitalizing on low hanging fruits, the administration is serious about slicing and dicing native fruits and plants at the expense of other metaphorical low hanging fruits and doing it without any concrete plans 10 months to show for it.

And if you think the administration can be ever more elusive of its campaign claims for more jobs, more development, one only has to read the July 20, 2015 one nation one voice: common priorities of the Navajo Nation government signed by the three branch chiefs, where again campaign political catch words of job creation and business opportunity, partnership, bank, energy, economic zoning, revenue generating and investment are provided without further explanation. To this date, no specifics have been made available by the administration of its plans to implement this supposedly “historic agreement.”

Mind you, President Obama signed into law the American recovery and reinvestment act on Feb. 19, 2009, 30 days after his inauguration. President Bush signed the economic growth and tax relief reconciliation act of 2001 on June 7, 2010, six months after his inauguration. Meanwhile, the administration if you count its campaign promises prior to the primary election of August 2014 has not produced any specific plans 22 months later of how it will change the economic landscape of the Navajo Nation.

The latest proposal the administration is reviewing is to consolidate the Navajo Nation’s enterprises under one conglomerate corporation. Again, this story was only announced to the public and very likely to the enterprises themselves until its interview in the Oct. 1, 2015 Navajo Times. No specifics of their plan have been publicly released since that interview. But if there is to be a merging and acquisition of the nation’s enterprises, I’m sure the administration has thought through that to do so it has the dream team to: assess and evaluate the proposal’s opportunities, examine acquisition strategies, valuation of liabilities, assets and organization techniques, due diligence and post-acquisition integration? We only hope so.

I am made aware that the Resources Committee is waiting on the president to sign off on a five economic plan and have been waiting on the president since his inauguration. If that doesn’t help, the Navajo Nation Council and the Speaker’s office are promoting economic development projects through the Sihasiin fund as well as the interest from the permanent trust fund. It looks like the legislative branch has beaten the president to the punch on economic development.
I still stand by my comments and my challenge, in my “Letter to the Editor” in June of last year about the ineptness and incompetency of the acting Economic Development director, which reflects his division staff worker and their work product over the years as nothing of great significance has ever been accomplished. They have now added the chief of staff who single handedly brought down the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Enterprise by removing their hedge fund capabilities, which would have given them some protection against low oil pricing.

What’s the definition of a hedge fund? Well, simply put, a hedge fund is nothing more than an investment company that invests its clients’ money in alternative investments to either beat the market or provide a hedge against unforeseen market changes. They are now $90 million in debt and can’t meet their future loan obligations, because of this fact and the only way out is to sell off some of their assets to meet this obligation or ask for a “Tribal Bailout”, much like the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC, who took over the operation of the coal mine in the Four Corners area and to clean up the site; the tribe, as everyone recalls provided them $4 million to do the job and they came back to the Navajo Nation asking for $3 million more which was granted by the Tribal Council.

This challenge I proposed also includes call upon chapter leadership to mobilize a movement through their resolution system calling for an end to idle ineffective Division of Economic Development to be replace by an effective and systematize, and outsource professional private business developer. A reliable, sound, and operable economic development deployment plan will not only create jobs, stop the ever “brain drain” occurring in which intelligent and educated Navajo youths are leaving the reservation for good jobs in the cities across the United States, but most importantly to alleviate poverty. A serious approach in analyzing this situation would require a group of specialist to study why the nation’s social and economic development is not progressing at all.

Where’s the transparency? We, the people, have not seen anything of any significance other than empty promises. Without any plans, the president’s four pillars has now become the “four pillows” which should make it difficult for you to awake to the “New Dawn” you envisioned of your leadership. And lately, you’re using them for your “pillow talks.” No pun intended. Sweet dreams.

Joe Bergen
Page, Ariz.

Honor, recognize Sen. John Pinto

I am profoundly grateful to express my appreciation to the Hispanic legislators from New Mexico for honoring Senator John Pinto with a lifetime achievement award. I’m sure it was a humbling moment for him to accept the award. Something our tribal leaders should have done.

I am totally disappointed with our tribal leaders for their lack of compassion to recognize Sen. Pinto for his hard work and untiring effort being a state legislator for more than 40 years. He is 91 years old and is still going strong.

My letter published in the July 16, 2015 edition of the Navajo Times urging the elected tribal leaders to recognize Sen. Pinto was rudely disregarded. Do our elected tribal leaders lack compassion? It was disturbing to see another group of concerned citizens heed the call to honor him.

Sen. Pinto is very polite, generous and a genuine leader. Also, he is a hard worker, the few, the proud, and a war hero as a Navajo Code Talker. It’s embarrassing the tribal leaders are not making any effort to see his achievements and honor him. They’re too busy trying to find fault on each other. A good time to honor him is during the spring council session in April.

Why the Navajo Nation leaders are failing to recognize and honor Sen. Pinto is a paramount concern to the Navajo people. Instead of causing him disparity he needs to be recognized and honored. It needs to happen without further due.

In conclusion, I hereby request of my delegate who is serving as the speaker of the Navajo Nation Council and other elected tribal leaders to recognize and honor Sen. Pinto real soon, perhaps during the spring session. Thank you.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Demand more than ‘hope’ from our leaders

Contrary to Delores Wilson-Aguirre’s rant, our Bodaway/Gap Chapter president complemented President Begaye for his suicide prevention initiative. I wish to add my voice and support to that of our Bodaway/Gap Chapter President Slim’s letter.

The truth is the opposition to the Grand Canyon Escalade Project was the first people to make contact and to start negotiation for the Escalade Project to sell the land for their own benefit – money. From the start, they met behind closed doors, away from everybody, sat down and came to the conclusion to sell the land on the proposed Escalade Project site with the Confluence Partners. That’s right, they agreed to sell our part of the Bodaway/Gap boundaries for millions of dollars for themselves, to enrich themselves. Never mind the rest of the community’s needs or what they might think, it’s the money that’s more important. After the agreement was settled, they sure didn’t mind coming into the Bodaway/Gap jurisdiction after moving away 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years ago to collect their money.

That begs the question: What happened to the sacredness of the area that you shout into our faces at every chapter meeting?

Through the opposition’s own friends and their friends, within weeks we received word of the deal being negotiated between the two parties. Without knowing the other party, we thought it was a great idea, but we thought it should be for our community in particular for our kids’ future as a whole. That is when we step in and see what really is going on.

Now, Delores Wilson-Aguirre has the audacity to complain about the building of the Grand Canyon Escalate using the repeated words, “False hope, two resolutions opposing the Escalade Project.”

The truth is, in 2012 Bodaway/Gap Chapter passed a winning relocation by the people to build the Grand Canyon Escalate Project.

I understand Delores Wilson-Aguirre’s unhappiness over the Escalade Project. Delores and her family and others were hoping to cash in if development happened. In a 2010 email to then Resources Committee Chairman George Author they asked for that separate money fund be setup just for them and not for those who actually live in the Gap/Bodaway Chapter area.

On Aug. 24, 2011, at the request of President Shelly, the Sanchez, Wilson, Aguirre, Reed and Martin families voted among themselves 15 to 10 in favor of the project. President Shelly waited over nine months for them to demonstrate their claim to site. When they couldn’t come up with any documentation, President Shelly moved ahead without them for the benefit of the Navajo people. That’s when they started vehemently opposing the project plus the jobs it will bring to the former Bennett Freeze area.

As a result, the opposition has continuously resorted to taunts, rants, and disruptions towards our chapter president and also to our former elected officials during our chapter meetings. Now, in their mind, everyone is at fault except their own. Now, it’s very easy for them to say no, to be bitter, disruptive, and to be totally negative and downright nasty towards our community members who are for the development. This is not the beauty way and for sure this is not the Navajo way.

As a lifelong community member, this is not who we are, we are better than this, considering we have honorable decent people, good people and strong people in our community. If they really are registered voters of the community, as they claim to be, they failed us as productive and trusted citizens, not to mention they demonstrated very unethical behavior on their part. They lost all creditability amongst our community and our elders.

Furthermore, please leave our elders alone. Our elders are our treasures. They deserve the upmost respect and dignity even if they don’t vote in your favor. Have the opposition to the project ever heard of our Navajo philosophy “Respect your elders”.

… For over 15 years I worked for a private company at the Gateway to the Grand Canyon in a supervisor and management capacity. I know firsthand the endless possibilities this project will create.

What a blessing the Escalade will be for our families, our community, our chapters, and our nation. Recently, I met with the president’s daughter Karis to remind her that the president promised me during his campaign trails that he would support the Escalade Project if there was a winning resolution, which I told him about our resolution and the possibilities of creating 3,500 jobs.

…We need to take the initiative to embrace opportunities for our children’s future, to plant a seed for our children and their children. I pray to the holy people for those opportunities and pray more to change the hearts and minds of those who say just no to everything if they are not benefited first.

President Begaye should be greatly complimented when he acts for the Navajo people’s greater good, but he and other elected officials should be held accountable when they don’t. It will take very strong leadership to move our resolution forward. I truly believe many of our elected are true strong leaders. I have faith in them that they will let the legislative process go through its natural course to pass our winning resolution. We need to demand more than just “hope”.

Larry Hanks
Gap/Bodaway, Ariz.

Importance, symbol of flag folding ceremony

The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag-denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform. Special care should be taken that no part of the flag touches the ground.

The flag is then carefully folded into the shape of a triangle hat, emblematic of the hats worn by colonial soldiers during the war for independence. In the folding, the red and white stripes are finally wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into the darkness of night. The flag folding ceremony is a respect and emotional uplifting way to honor the flag on special days like Memorial Day, Veterans Day and honor our veterans, honor our sacred Navajo language as a code used against the Japanese artillery in World War II. Our Navajo language is a sacred veteran of World War II.

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our military ranks who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in the Almighty Creator, it is Him we turn to in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.

The sixth fold is for where our emotional hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they to be found within or without the boundaries of our republic. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mothers, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the characters of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded. The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in eyes of all citizens of North America, represents the lower portion of the seal of American leadership glorifies, in their eyes, the Almighty of earth, nature and universe. The twelfth fold, in the eyes of all citizens, Christian citizens, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran Ben Little Sr. defended United States Constitution, a set of laws laying out the foundation of American democracy and the rule of law. The Constitution does not grant us rights, but rather gives our government the power to protect those rights.

Ben Little Sr. defended our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition. He defended the freedom of South East Asia Treaty Organization, especially South Vietnam.

We, Navajo people, thank Foreign Legion for 21 Gun Salute for Ben Little Sr., and flag folding for Ben Little Sr.’s family. We thank the Flagstaff Police for traffic safety at the Mountain Top Church and during the funeral procession. We thank all the Armed Forces veterans who attended the Purple Heart Vietnam Warrior Ben Little Sr.

Edward Little Sr.
Tuba City, Ariz.

In 1952, the Navajo tribal government set aside 10 areas to be used as a cemetery. The cemetery was to be maintained by the Fort Defiance Chapter, but with the changing of chapter officials it was cared for. The veteran’s part of the cemetery was being maintained by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and World War II veterans. These veterans’ graves were lined in a uniform matter, rolls and columns. Then with the passing of time the VFW Post members started declining with age and relocating of its members. The chapter was still responsible for the care of the cemetery but when there was a veteran’s burial the chapter usually informed the people to find a place that will suit the family. By doing this, locating a veteran grave became harder to identify.

This got me wondering, are there World War II Code Talkers buried in this cemetery, because my father is a Navajo Code Talker and is buried there. Three families came to me asking if I knew where their father, uncle, or grandfather was buried. I researched these code talkers by asking the family members about the date they were buried and the location. The way of coming near to where these veterans were buried was going to the cemetery and writing down the information on these headstones nearest to when these code talkers may have been buried. What I came to find out is that there are unidentified and unmarked graves (no headstones).

In 2013-2014, Episcopal Bishop Dave Bailey, veteran of the U.S. Air Force, of Farmington, took notice of the veteran’s cemetery. His concern made me wonder, who is maintaining this cemetery and wanting to know if it could be bought back to looking like a veteran’s memorial cemetery. As a member of the Twin Warriors Society he asked if I could start a group to get this cemetery cleaned and fixed up. At this time Bishop Bailey invited me to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with Episcopal Bishop James Magnusson, veteran of the U. S. Air Force and committee member of the Armed Forces. I informed him of the condition of the veteran’s cemetery and after meeting with Bishop Magnusson, he came out to Fort Defiance to see for himself what the veteran’s cemetery condition was in. He was disgusted with what he was looking at and said, “Who is taking care of this veterans cemetery and is this how we are treating our heroes?” If you get this cemetery cleaned up and make it look like a veterans cemetery I will try and find some help to maintain and support this cemetery.

In my research of this cemetery, I put together a package and sent it to Bishop Magnusson who will introduce it to senators interested in this cemetery. In this package there are pictures of the veteran’s cemetery showing many headstones that are facing away from the graves and graves that have walls of concrete or stone entombing the graves. Others have steel or wooden fences around them. Many unmarked graves are carved in. Flagpoles are without flags and the poles are too high. If there are flags they are old and worn. Flowers are left there from years past and the graves are mount shaped, not flat with only the headstone showing. All over the cemetery weeds and sagebrush are growing and graves are unrecognized.

This cemetery is filled to capacity with only a few spaces left. There is a lot of work to be done to get this veterans cemetery to make it look like a memorial cemetery. Visitors from different states and countries come to see the cemetery. Some of these visitors have veterans buried here that they serviced with but the thing is that they can’t locate them.

When the Veterans Dialogue was formed, there were individuals interested in getting this cemetery fixed and cleaned. Meetings are held the second Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Mission Parish Hall in Fort Defiance. The Veterans Dialogue was formed by a group of interested people that wanted to bring this veterans cemetery back so that we will be proud of it.

In March 2016, I have decided to start having meetings on Saturdays either in the morning or afternoon. I would like the involvement of community volunteers or family members that have veterans buried there to fix and clean up this historical site and remember our war veterans. I’m doing this to get it prepared for Memorial Day on May 30. I would like to see family members take part in cleaning the cemetery.

Daniel Yazza
Veterans Dialogue
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

2,500 homes constructed should be for people with disabilities

This letter is in regards to a news article that appeared in the Navajo Times on Feb. 18 entitled “NHA Receives Full Funding for Fiscal 2016.” It is well known that the Navajo people continue to struggle with a public housing shortage across the Navajo Nation. This shortage is an even bigger problem for Navajos with disabilities.
Instead of receiving needed housing services, these individuals routinely depend on relatives or get stuck in a nursing home due to a significant lack of accessible homes. The Navajo Vocational Rehabilitation and Opportunities for Person with Disabilities Act (VR Act) was passed by the Tribal Council in 1984. This law mandates that housing services be provided in a non-discriminatory basis for Navajos with disabilities, but this tribal 32-year-old law continues to be disregarded.

In 2010, NHA was cited by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This federal law provides that a person with a disability cannot be denied the benefits of a federally-funded program because of his or her disability. HUD found that NHA failed (1) to provide policies and procedures addressing how housing services will be accessible for Navajos with disabilities; (2) to provide a grievance procedure; (3) to provide needed reasonable accommodations to those with a disability; (4) to provide an adequate number of accessible housing units; and (5) imposed upon applicants a complicated and lengthy application process. As a result of these violations, HUD and NHA entered into a Volunteer Compliance Agreement (VCA) to resolve these issues in five years, but, to date, these major deficiencies have not been addressed. NHA’s inability to comply with the VCA affects over 30% of the Navajo population, who are adults with disabilities, and their families.

Federal Law mandates that a minimum of 5 percent of the total number of housing units constructed should be accessible for people with disabilities. It was reported that NHA with new allocated funds of over $86 million will build more than 50,000 homes on the Navajo Nation, which means that if NHA complies with the applicable law, more than 2,500 homes will be accessible for people with disabilities. It should be noted that with a large disability population, just meeting the minimal Federal mandate of 5% will not address the needs of Navajos with disabilities, but it would be a good start.

With the numerous barriers experienced by applicants for public housing services, the significant percentage of Navajos with disabilities, and the high rate of unemployment and poverty, the need for increased access to housing services is evident. It remains very concerning that NHA continues to demonstrate very little sensitivity in affording all of the legal rights of Navajos with disabilities, despite Federal and Navajo Nation laws.

Hoskie Benally
Farmington, N.M.

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