Letters: Our prayers of 1868 were answered

First, what an unusual Inauguration Day. I did appreciate the welcome address by Tom Chee, expressing the importance of being bilingual (Navajo/English) and for leaders to be role models in this effort. Too many blame BIA schools for lack of Native language retainment. I, too, was educated in this era.

However, upon high school graduation and returning to the Navajo Reservation I still was able to understand and speak Navajo. I was still aware of our lifestyle and cultural values. We are in a diverse society. Many live elsewhere in this world, which requires us to function anywhere. I appreciate the presence of former chairmen and presidents, Peterson Zah and Peter MacDonald, who do have a legacy in meaningful programs for the future of our nation — very evident today. Were past leaders invited? If so, why didn’t they attend? Once a leader, always a leader.

We need to put our differences away, forgive past deeds and be an example of true statesmanship for the benefit of our Navajo people. I have been a participant in Navajo politics for many years at the chapter level. I gained knowledge about our government and its interaction with state and national government. I gained respect for leaders at the local level, district and agency persons. Their mentorship helped me to be a better leader. I was blessed in knowing many Council delegates of the past and women leaders, mainly Annie Wauneka.

Many say, “There’s no change.” I disagree. I remember small towns with dirt roads, few boarding schools with grades to 6th, trading posts, mail service two times a week, gas at 12 cents a gallon, 10-cent pop, 5-cent candy bar, etc. Many of us were raised in hogans without utilities. One travels the nation and sees tremendous growth everywhere – amazing within 150 years. What would the people of 1868 say if they came back for a day?

In my elder days, I speak of our list of character attributes, which were instilled in us by our elders. Quite a list! Today, I encourage elders to be vocal to the young about our unique society, our elders, the importance of self-respect, compassion for all, being self-sufficient, being industrious, promotion of wellness mentally/physically by participation in traditional healing practices, to be humble, knowing your clans of family and extended families, have a positive outlook, knowledge and wisdom of older citizens and respect for leaders for they were chosen by the Holy People for their qualities to lead. The prayers were answered in 1868. Look where we are today!

To the Navajo Times staff, the growth of the paper is awesome. I’ve been a reader since the start. I read every article, even the sports section, and enjoy the weekly drawing by Mr. Ahasteen, who needs to produce his collection in book form. I also read the special articles on current issues and personalities of our successful Navajos. Wow! I like reading the letters to the editor — what intelligence! Keep up the good work!

To the many leaders I’ve known, met and worked with … as Bob Hope says, “Thanks for the memories.”

Miriam Begay
Sawmill/White Clay, Ariz.

From the sticks behind Kinlichee Chapter

Way back, when I was still working, I had to go to some training with the tribe’s “Department of Self Reliance” office. As the presentation was beginning, we all started with the usual introductions and the presenter was speaking about their position as well as the agency they worked for.

Somewhere the discussion veered off about the state of youth employment on the reservation. I distinctly remember the presenter saying, “We’re thinking about implementing work or job search requirements in order to apply for assistance. People are just living off assistance when they should be looking for jobs.”

I nearly scoffed at that comment. “What jobs?” I thought, and that echoed in my head for most of the presentation after that. For that position I applied for I waited nearly two months before I was able to actually start working. There was the wait for the interview and then the sudden requirement that I pay for my own federal background check. Using what money I had I paid the hefty fee, nearly 200 dollars if I remember right, and waited in absolute destitution for it to get through.

Now I’m back in the same position I was then. I’m trying to find some sort of work and this process is just as grueling and disappointing as it was the last time. I’m filling out applications, making copies of all my vital documents and sending them in. Then I wait for weeks, or maybe even months, for an interview – or an acknowledgement, at least. Many times I don’t even get either or those outcomes.

I barely bother with private sector minimum wage stuff. My experience with those has been the same. Very few actual positions are open and after you go through this process so many times you just give up. You decide that spending your last bit of cash to drive around for a fax machine for an $8-an-hour job just isn’t worth it.

It’s not just me as this has been the experience of all my cousins my age as well. Many of them are ex-military, went to college off the reservation and they come back.

They fill out applications and send their vital documents all over the place. They wait for weeks or months for an interview chance, only to get ground out of the process as well. So they throw their hands up and go back to Tucson or as far as California even. I would have left a long time ago, too, but I can’t. I have no money or connections off the reservation, so I’m stuck on this rock of ours tucked between Arizona and New Mexico just waiting for something. It’s impossible to live out here. If there ever was a moment of some economic stability I never saw it. It died long before my time.

As it is nearly half of the tribe is unemployed. Our median household income stands at about 20K per household. This is less than half of the national median, and less than half of Arizona’s and New Mexico’s. What is being done to fix this?

Over the years I heard all sorts of politicians out here speak the same lines about jobs but never saw any changes to our predicament. Not just on the job market but on everything, it’s all the same as it was when I still in grade school, it seems. So to those I see on the internet, posting about how they wish they were back home but can’t, to those who come back on family holidays and say the same, I don’t blame you. What else can we do?

So after Jonathan Nez was sworn in I didn’t really care. I don’t think things will change under him either. Just more declarations about how we need jobs. Maybe even hire some non-Navajo businessman to give a presentation to the Council in Window Rock, on why jobs are important.

Then the Council will agree to that end, yes, jobs are important. While all of that is going on I’ll be there in the background, filling out more applications, dropping my last handful of quarters for faxing at the chapter house, same as last time. Rinse and repeat. I really understand that cynical line from a Pink Floyd song, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”

Dylan J. Decker
Kinlichee, Ariz.

Redford owes Natives an apology

Realizing the importance of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, I would like to ask Mr. Robert Redford for an apology to the Native Americans of the United States of America on how his film character (Jeremiah Johnson) quoted differences in the Indians’ traits per tribe identity.

This movie has caused many American Indians to be transformed, ridiculed, physically harmed and even killed. Due to the fact that Mr. Redford’s character as Jeremiah Johnson finds his way to the Rocky Mountains to obtain the status of a mountain man, Redford and the script of the movie suggest that “Indians” are the problem.

Redford attempts to bring some solace by adopting a young boy and then befriending an Indian woman and at this time becomes an enemy of the Crow Indians, who kill the boy and woman, because Redford was out helping missionaries cross sacred burial grounds of the Crow, creating his own demise.

Redford is hunting the Crow Indians one warrior at a time. He kills all the warriors that attack him and at the same time after killing the Indian warriors, Redford eats their livers thus earning the name “Liver-Eating Johnson.” A cannibal! This movie hit the screen in 1972, at a very difficult time for the Indians of America, and we Indians still endure hardships of the U.S government and border towns adjacent to reservations throughout the United States of America.

Christopher Chavez
Cortez, Colo.

Looking for first Diné graduate of NMMI

Searching for the first Diné high school or college graduate of New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico. Reason: Need the first Navajo graduate to post the Navajo Nation Flag in Bates Hall (NMMI mess hall). If you think you are or know someone that might be the first Navajo graduate of NMMI, please reply to: dj_tsosie@hotmail.com or 928-640-7599.

Dant J. Tsosie
Phoenix, Ariz. (Hometown: LeChee, Ariz.)

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