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Letters: Prove the naysayers wrong: survive!

I had to write a letter after I read what a fellow veteran, Raymond Joe, wrote (“A nurse’s perspective of COVID-19,” April 2, 2020).

I’ve been worried about my relatives and hoping they are taking this pandemic seriously. I have recently moved back from the East Coast and did so because I’m now reaching the stage of being an elder in my family.

I have much to share with my young relatives who may want to hear about our family history, so I want to survive this pandemic. I have family ceremonial objects in my possession and I have a duty to hand it over responsibly along with its history.

I owe that to my young relatives because many of my immediate family are now gone. Our Navajo Nation leaders have implemented very strict standards to follow during this time and we need to thank them for caring enough to take the actions they have taken. Having been a leader in the military I can appreciate how tough of a decision it was for them. Often the tough decision is the only option.

Most often it is the right decisions that are not the most popular. Perhaps like me they were incensed when they read news stories saying how this pandemic may wipe us out.

A theme from the past that stays with us indigenous people, but we are still here, aren’t we?

COVID-19 is serious! I grew up on the northern edge of the Navajo Reservation.

As a child we used to take our sheep down in the canyons for water in the summer where there were a number of abandoned homesteads with hogans and sheep corrals. I remember my mother telling us how these families died of a sickness.

She knew all the families and, like her, I’m sure many of your older relatives know of such events in your areas.

My point being that, yes, pandemics can wreak havoc, but this time around many of us are educated so a disease outbreak does not have to be a “wipe-out situation,” as news stories are saying.

We have limited resources, I know, but it’s the social distancing that can be very effective if we exercise it. If we love our families, ourselves and our communities we have to be respectful by practicing social distancing. We still need each other for the long haul.

We are all valuable to our families, our communities and our nation. We need to be in charge of our destiny and prove once again how wrong the predictions of our demise are.

In the words of my great-grandfather who came to my father as he lay wounded on Omaha Beach in 1944. My father, who was wounded and unconscious, felt someone kicking him and when he opened his eyes, he saw his grandfather standing over him.

His grandfather spoke in Navajo saying, “I did not teach you all that I knew so you would just give up and die like this.” To these words my father came to and was able to pick himself up and get to medical aid. I also have a great-grandmother who went on the Long Walk to Fort Sumner.

Based on her stories passed down to me, I learned what a determined people our ancestors were. They were resilient and endured, despite the odds stacked against them. We, as a people, have it inside ourselves to do what is necessary to get to the other side with our families and communities intact.

Helena Rose
Prescott, Ariz.

Make sure ceremonies are accurate

I am writing this letter to all the Navajo Nation people, Council delegates and chapter officials. Out of nowhere we got struck by COVID-19 on our Navajo Reservation. Currently, we are being informed to stay at home.
Yet, our people are not complying.

And if they do listen, another reason for them not wanting to shelter in place is that they don’t have running water, electricity, gas, or food to keep them comfortable. During the first of the month, there are usually a lot of elders at Gallup’s Walmart.

I only have seen young people. I believe they were shopping for their grandparents or their parents. From these experiences of my people, this is the wake-up call for the Navajo government.

We need more grocery stores, general stores and Laundromats within our reservation to eliminate our people from traveling to urban towns. The travel for some is plainly ridiculous. Many already don’t have their own transportation to get there and if they do they don’t have the gas and additional budget for their basic necessities.

My question is: Where are the casino monies? I believe it was distributed one time throughout the Navajo Nation chapters. Why not get some of the money back from the stock that was put away during the Zah administration? During that era, the administration stated he did buy stocks for a time in need for the future for our people.

The interest from that could be used. This is the time to use it for the current hardships among our people. Many don’t have proper protection such as disinfectant wipes or spray and masks.

Our leaders just hid from us and are thinking of themselves. Only a very few are out and helping the people. The leaders of our people should be like a captain of the ship. Hold fast, put others first. I live in the foothills of Sheep Springs.

We have no indoor facilities, no electricity and have to haul water, which we use for cooking, drinking, and sponge bathing. I noticed in larger cities they have public areas for homeless people to go to take showers.

In the same mind frame, our Navajo government needs to think for us like re-open the chapter house so we can use the shower.

There are so many like me and at this time we need to be sure our hygiene is a priority. Many of our people are in the same boat. We have to go off the reservation to do the basic chores like washing clothes, shopping for food and taking a shower, which many already don’t have much money for and at this time it’s crucial we do.

What many take for granted and it’s not given to us easily. We live like it is still the early 1900s still. It is a very tough life on the reservation and now we have this deadly virus to worry on top of all this. I know this isn’t a time to travel, but I had to travel to Albuquerque, to my son’s apartment and wash three bags of clothes.

Normally, I could go to Gallup, but seeing the crowd there I didn’t want to risk my health since I am the targeted older generation group for this virus. Back in 1918, my mother was 10 years old.

She told me many Navajo were dying from an unknown illness known to them, but we now know it as the Spanish Flu. At that time, medicine men contacted each other to prayed together. They used the protection ceremony in which they used an ash pile that was always set in the east direction of their hogans. For generations, this was practiced.

The invisible illness did not affect the Navajo people that practiced this method. My mother was a medicine woman when she came of age to heal others. She knows the Protection Way ceremony.

My grandfather, the medicine man, taught her. For this protection ceremony, he used his eagle feathers and arrowhead. Many people came and lined up before dawn by the ash pile and that is how they survived. This method was performed many times over for different people that sought help. For this specific ceremony, they used against the invisible illness. My mother said they never used gemstones against it.

Currently, some modern-day medicine men are doing that. The gemstones purpose is solely used when asking for rain or a good cause, but not for illness protection. Even during the 1918s, the people did not use gemstones until the illness vanished. And, once the illness disappeared they used the gemstones to give thanks.

The only medicine men that know the Enemy Way ceremony should be the only ones performing it. They are gifted in specialize prayer, especially now against COVID-19.

It is heard that some Navajos in Arizona are not respecting our old ways. They are using the gemstones for the offering. This is completely wrong. I strongly believe they need to correct this by reversing their doings by using the Protection Way ceremony only. Not many medicine men can perform this, but it needs to be done. It is vital to our way of life and our livelihood is all at risk. The virus is a biological living organism.

In the Navajo way, it’s a monster, it has eyes and its own being. Thus, by offering the gemstones, this virus figured we want it and is continuing to harm us by killing our people.

The simple solution is if a medicine man can pray to free it from us, we all can come together as they did in the past, mainly the modern Navajos that have faith in our traditional ways. We all need to stand behind the pile of ash and pray, too, and say, “Pah, Pah” with our arrowheads with covered ashes.

Let’s all stand together and pray. My mom used to say illnesses have ears, eyes, but never be afraid of it and have a positive mindset. Let’s fight this virus. We are a strong nation. Ahe’ee.

Sadie James
Sheep Springs, N.M.

COVID is a wake-up call from God

In the midst of these unimaginable strange surroundings, permit me to share with you what most people have never thought about. It’s like people cruising in life as though there is nothing to worry about.

Seriously! Enjoying the day, this minute, hour and tomorrow. In reality, we are all guilty of not giving thanks and praying to God. This is like meeting a close friend yesterday and today you have been notified that your best friend has been murdered.

Your world caves in. In the past few months, we, the Americans and the rest of the world, are experiencing beyond human comprehension that is destroying human lives around the world.

Governments, businesses, schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, airlines and other sporting events have all shut down. Grocery stores are having tremendous problems in re-stocking convenient things people need and use on a daily basis. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and limited medical supplies and personal protective equipment. It’s anyone’s guess how long this will continue and when it will end.

Do we have the necessary resources to sustain the course to lead back to the life we all once enjoyed? Here are my elementary perspectives. We, the human race, totally ignored the Almighty God and our prayers became so cold. We have forgotten the true God. In God’s holy word it says: I know your social life and works. You are all busy bodies.

You are so cold and hardly sensitive to my word at all. God wants us to be hungry for His word. Currently, more and more people are turning away from God, no more repentance in prayers and no fear for God. In Nehemiah Chapter 9, the people of today were like people in the old days.

They were so proud and have hardened hearts to listen to the word of God. They refused to obey and not mindful of God’s created wonders. Unfortunately, our people are disobeying our leader’s simple orders to “stay home.”

Another God’s wake-up call in warning to all people is in Matthew Chapter 7, it says enter the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction. There are so many people who are going in this direction. Narrow is the gate and difficult in the way which leads to life and a few will find it.

These two convicting instructions are to all people around the world. God is looking/listening to humble people. In doing this, we will truly find the true God. So, let us in our repentance seek God and He will hear our desperate prayers. In the midst of this awful Coronavirus disease, which has invaded our once enjoyable lives on the reservation, we have to totally confess our great sin before God.

This pandemic will definitely change our daily lives, which was once filled with selfishness and unimportant goals, but now we need to begin to live our life approved by God.

Pastor Milt Shirleson
Window Rock, Ariz.

Use quarantine time to read with kids

I once read a book entitled “There are no shortcuts” by Rafe Esquith (2003). I was impressed with the content of the book and used a lot of the ideas presented in my teaching and school administration. The author Esquith was an award-winning teacher in an inner-city school in Los Angeles. He taught fourth and fifth grades.

A banner that says, “There are no shortcuts” hangs in his classroom. First, Esquith was a teacher “in a well to do school district” where rich families’ children went in LA. He called the school “Taj Mahal.” However, he later transferred to an inner-city school where the “po’ folks” children went to school. His students were a combination from the LA ghettos and immigrant children (English Language Learners — ELL) from abroad. The children “needed a lot of reading skills development” he found, which was a real challenge for him.

Esquith worked with the children endlessly. He got literature books for them from the school library and was at the school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The children that wanted to, with parent permission, came early and stayed late. Eventually, the children became some of the best readers and students in LA. They won awards and Esquith became “Teacher of the Year.”

They won other accolades, nationally. He was asked one time, “How do your students read so well?” His reply was, “Read, read, read.” Reading is fundamental, which means reading is in everything. During this coronavirus pandemic stay home, stay healthy and stay safe. For parents and children, I want to share the following reading tips.

Your children might have brought some materials from school and perhaps they’re staying in touch with their teachers by telecommunication, which is good.

My tips: 1. Read with your child(ren) daily using books at their level.

2. Children can read to you or siblings can read to one another. You can model reading for them.

3. Some children could be learning to read, and others are reading to learn.

4. Ask children simple comprehension questions to see if they understand what they read about. Such questions as: What did you read about? What happened in the story? Who were the characters in the story? What was the highlight in the story?, and How did the story end? If they can answer simple questions about the story reading, they are comprehending. This may be repeated with various reading selections.

5. The older children can read longer books such as novels, fiction, autobiographies, mysteries, or literature. You can ask them similar questions as in No. 4.

6. If the opportunity arises and you go to town, bookstores hopefully are open. In the bookstore there should be a children’s section. Look for books with your children.

7. If a child is just learning to read you can look at pictures with them. They will probably tell you what they are such as animals they are familiar with like horses, cows, dogs, cats, or sheep. They will be eager to tell you what they are and it’s fun for children.

8. Families with internet access can pull up some relevant reading for children. Educational use of iPads and smartphones are good as well. Children should be guided on technology.

9. Duration of reading with children varies. My suggestions: Preschool to 2nd grade, 30 minutes; grades 3-4, 45 minutes; grades 5-6, 55 minutes; grades 7-8, one hour; and high school at least 90 minutes. You can also make collages with pasting and develop scrapbooks. Children love this and are usually eager to talk about their work on this fun activity.

10. Make reading fun for children. I also recommend positive reinforcement or praise for a job well done and trying. Encourage your children to get a good grasp on these pre-reading skills at school.

The teachers are trained and good at this. The many steps in reading can become technical and teachers know best on reading processes. I’m from the old school, so I believe in stressing basics. Current reading trends are great, too. Practice in reading surely can help children become good readers and writers. I tell children a “good reader is a good writer and a good writer is a good reader”.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

Diné deserve money from the ETA

This is in response to the recent lawsuit challenge to the Energy Transition Act from two activist groups, New Energy Economy and Citizens for Fair Rates and the Environment.

They are challenging the constitutionality of the act for the cost to ratepayers and New Mexico Public Regulation Commission oversight. The challenge before us is to identify, promote and put in place energy transition opportunities as the basis for economic diversification in the Four Corners.

This requires the recognition that environmental activist groups associated with the ETA should hone their attention to helping Four Corners and Diné communities site renewable and sustainable projects to replace dead fossil fuel. Diné CARE has always defended and advocated for our Diné people. We support the ETA and PNM making the decision to give the Four Corners and Diné communities $40 million for economic development.

Half of this amount ($20 million) will help coal and plant mine employees in retraining and severance as the other $20 million goes to three departments (Indian Affairs, Workforce Solutions, and Economic departments) for collaboration with communities in transition to a clean energy based economy.

After all, for the last 50 years, our communities have suffered the brunt of the pollutants from the fossil fuel extraction and burning that provides cities such as Santa Fe with all the amenities of turning on the lights, hot water and showers at their fingertips.

These conveniences provided folks in the cities with an increase in quality of life and longer life expectancy. The Four Corners and Diné people have endured increases in respiratory and cardiac problems from fossil fuel pollution.

Our safe drinking water sources from these extractive industries are depleted and 40 percent of our people do not have electricity. We think it only fair that those in the cities, in which we have provided all the amenities, should give back to their northwest neighbors.

The $20 million is a welcome return on what we have given and continue to give. It is no wonder we are suffering the brunt of this COVID-19 infection. If only we can all have safe running water and optimal health — if only we can help transition responsibly to renewable energy for the health of our future.

Wendy Atcitty
Farmington, N.M.



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