Letters: Red-tail hawk honors Pinto
Today is Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Our cars are parked across from the Goodlucks’ home. All our cars faced east on Highway 64 while waiting for the honorable Senator/Doctor John Pinto’s procession.
We were made comfortable with blanket and coffee while we held the United States and Diné flags. Tables and chairs were provided. The Todacheenes provided burritos.
While waiting, Tina pointed us to a red-tail hawk flying overhead, soaring higher and higher into Father Sky. Then a few minutes later, we saw a jet stream and noticed the plane flying where the hawk flew. Later, a big cloud appeared in the image of an eagle with its wings fully spread out. We are hoping that the image of the eagle taken with a camera will show up. Later, I Googled, “What does a red-tailed hawk represent” and got these from many:
• “This hawk does not receive his/her red feathers until a sufficient level of maturation has been achieved.
• “A red hawk embodies power, sovereignty, and authority.”
I am sure our medicine men/women will explain what the red-tailed hawk and eagle mean to us Diné. I need to get together with my first cousins (brothers) to tell me the story about their father, my uncle, and honorable John Pinto of an incident that occurred on the San Juan bridge during the Shiprock Fair Parade.
My late uncle and Honorable John Pinto were both code talkers and good friends. Thank you for the opportunity to share what we saw today. Nancy Todea Shiprock, N.M.
Clean house, don’t sweep under rug
I believe the Navajo Housing Authority Board Chairman, Mr. Kris Beecher, admitted in his May 23, 2019 letter to the Navajo Times editor, that the NHA Board did in fact act against the rule of law when it gave itself exorbitant stipend payments, when the NHA Board rescinded that resolution.
If that’s not an admission, I don’t know what is. How’s that for facts, Mr. Beecher? And when the NHA’s former secretary-treasurer, Sean McCabe, returned his stipend because he conducts himself “by the book,” and the board later rescinding its action only confirms that the board is backtracking its stipend payment increase because it is illegal under current law of the Navajo Nation. And rather than deflecting with Chairman Beecher’s self-defined facts, the truth of the matter is the NHA board admitted the increased stipend payments were wrong, plain and simple.
What is also fact is, each board member knew what they were signing up for when they accepted their nomination, and if they didn’t know this fact then what were their motivations for accepting their board membership? If the stipend amount wasn’t to their liking, they had every opportunity to reject their nomination.
But each of them didn’t. Instead, they relied on giving themselves stipend increases. And you would think that it was fact that the board members were selected based upon their expertise, knowledge, and credentials. Or, that because they were handpicked by President Russell Begay, they were also picked because they’re ethical, moral and without any self-interest?
Another fact resulting from the NHA board’s stipend increase action was that the board was ready and willing to expose NHA upper management and the Navajo Nation to disregard its fiduciary responsibility to the federal funds the Navajo people had sacrificed so much for. What public/government body would do that to their own organization and to the people working on behalf of that organization?
Apparently, the NHA board is willing to do just that, jeopardize the jobs and lives of the people they are entrusted to oversee. And a fact to that important matter is the NHA CFO followed through paying the stipends to the NHA board despite concerns by NHA’s auditor and by the former CEO. In that regard, the NHA board succeeded in allowing the NHA CFO to compromise NHA’s fiduciary responsibility and all for the benefit of the board.
Although the NHA CFO is responsible for her action to not stop the stipend payment despite her then-superior’s instruction and the caution by the NHA audit firm, that is a matter that should be obvious to be evaluated by all in Navajo leadership — an officer of the housing authority not exercising ethical and fiduciary responsibility, especially at the pressure of a misled board.
All this then brings us to the last two remaining facts resulting and surrounding the recent actions of the NHA board. First, that the NHA board has no friends or enemies, only self-preserving interests, and that is how the Navajo people are now viewing the NHA board, but that it is also other tribes across the U.S. now having leverage to go after Navajo’s funding. If not the tribes, the federal government is listening, too.
Second and finally, the silence of the Navajo Nation leadership on the recent events surrounding the NHA board and NHA speaks volumes. Their silence is heard in our communities, and to the appropriators that authorize the housing budgets in the U.S. Congress. It’s loud and clear, politics is king on the Navajo Nation and that Navajo politicians can’t clean house nor can the NHA board, they just sweep their dirt under the rug.
Daniel Smith Sr.
Current NHA board is ‘smoke and mirrors’
On May 18th, the current board of commissioners for the Navajo Housing Authority released a statement via YouTube, through its Chairman Kris Beecher, in response to our letter to the editor printed in the Navajo Times just days earlier. Because Chairman Beecher failed to provide any real answers and further deflected their ineffectiveness with irrelevant information — a tactic students learn — I feel compelled to provide further insight.
First, Beecher mentions that the current leadership has strong construction and development numbers to share. It takes approximately three to five years to build just one home with federal funds — two-thirds of the housing development process is all pre-construction. Actual construction (nail hitting the hammer) is only one-third of the overall process. So actually the numbers reported from 2017 to now actually reflect planning and development work that was completed from 2013 to 2017 under the leadership of the person they removed: Aneva Yazzie.
They will try to share that they rebuilt a number of older NHA housing units — but those activities started nearly eight years ago. They only finished what Aneva Yazzie started. More upsetting, there are no new housing development numbers reflected in their federal reports that they can claim as a product of their work, nor have they shared any actual and tangible plans for further development. We should all be concerned about their ineffectiveness.
Second, Beecher boasts in his statement that the current leadership has made major advances in addressing “boarded up” units. However, NHA’s own website shows that as of February 2019 the NHA still has 696 “vacant/boarded up” units. Do you call this progress?
Third, Beecher claims the board had to “clean up” NHA from past issues. He alludes to an audit done by the Navajo Nation’s auditor general and an internal audit called for by the NHA board.
My question is: “Where are these audits? And what ‘findings’ or ‘issues’ do they identify?” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development annually conducts program audits of NHA’s activities. Upon assuming her position as the NHA vice chairwoman, Derrith Watchman-Moore stated on the NHA website, “As a former HUD and EPA official, I certainly know a lot about federal monitoring and compliance. I have participated in high-level discussions about performance issues of public housing or federal grantee performance issues.
“Any enforcement action requires careful review of the facts and accuracy in data interpretations. It was my job to enforce compliance with federal regulations. I am approaching NHA with the same perspective and reviewed the latest HUD program monitoring report done in FY 2016 that shows only one finding for lack of efficient operation of 1937 act units.
“To be the largest Indian housing authority with one finding is a good indication that internal controls are maintained.” (May 2017). Watchman-Moore herself stated that according to her own professional evaluation that internal controls were maintained when she assumed her position on the NHA Board of Commissioners.
Further, I have served in many capacities and have never been the subject of an audit without having the opportunity to review the final report — this raises huge suspicion because this board is using bogus audits to intimidate and threaten former leadership and staff. These tactics are the same as Russell Begaye and his daughter Karis Begaye — who called for the audit and never produced to us the alleged issues and findings nor has this information been shared with the Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee.
Instead, Russell Begaye suffered a humiliating election defeat and Karis is mired in legal issues. If I was the RDC, I would be seeking some answers and would bring in those people who are subject of these alleged issues and finding to validate what Begaye scraped together in attempt to cast blame on former NHA CEO, Aneva Yazzie.
And finally, we cannot overlook the fact that the current board was paying itself $4,000 a month for 16 meetings. They boast about transparency and brag about live-streaming their board meetings, but nowhere do they share all of the 16 meetings per month that they have held. Where are the public notices, agendas and notes for these 16 meetings per month for the past two years?
Further, why are they not paying back the $4,000 per month that they took from NHA? While they have rescinded the original resolution to pay themselves $4,000 per month for board meetings, have they paid back the money they took from the NHA? This is a violation of laws and the NHA board is not above the law.
They illegally gained compensation for those board meetings and they should be held accountable to repay those funds. According to press reports, only one board member has come forward to repay this money. So, let’s get real, we still don’t know what or why things are being allowed to happen at NHA, and Chairman Beecher and the current board have not adequately provided any concrete answers, but just smoke and mirrors.
If the Navajo Nation’s leadership does nothing, they are making themselves complicit.
Relocation = genocide, and it’s not right
I am an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. My home was beneath Stephan Butte in Whitecone, Arizona. My umbilical cord is still there beneath the sheep corral and remnants of the hogans that were bulldozed when the forced relocation happened. Let’s call it what it really was — genocide.
All of our sheep were sold. My sheep I earned from my grandparents were all sold to the U.S. government. My little rez horse, the cows, all livestock, our way of surviving, was taken away. Our self-sufficient lifestyle of a simple farmer and livestock person was all gone forever. This weekend I was home back in Whitecone.
I visited the old home beneath Stephan Butte and walked through all the different places we lived, herded sheep, and played as a child, all the places we branded cows, all the sheep dips, and all the different watering holes. As I walked through, the tears of memories — happy memories — before McCain and government took all of our happiness away and replaced it with barbed wire fence and fear. I was home to help bury my uncle who also grew up here in Whitecone.
Both of our umbilical cords are buried here beneath Stephan Butte. We both herded sheep and both lost it all to the U.S. government. When we filled out our benefits we were denied even though we grew up there.
Our family was there and our part of the livestock was there, but that’s the government plan for the genocide of our people that lived there. I’ve seen people who never lived out there get a house — how do they do that? I was denied and every time I go out there it makes my blood boil all over again.
All the memories of the relocation come up, the elders crying at the livestock sales office and kids screaming because they didn’t want to sell their sheep or horses. I remember walking home as a teen when they sold my sheep off. I walked for miles and miles and cried my heart out. I didn’t go home until it was dark. I remember the last load of furniture from the hogan and home to the new home across the fence.
Grandpa never said a word as we drove off. No matter how loud that old Ford was on the dirt road, I could hear his tears hit the floorboard as we drove away for the last time from the old homestead. My uncle was brought home from Salt Lake City and laid to rest in Whitecone, where he was born and raised. The Office of Navajo-Hopi Relocation has denied both our benefits because that’s how genocide works, you deny people until they die then it’s out of sight, out of mind, and you don’t have to deal with it. We’re just a joke to laugh at, at your dinners.
As a survivor of this American holocaust that happened on Diné land, I’m here to say for all the people you have denied and have passed away that what your office did was wrong, spiteful and mean. We survivors should be treated with respect and dignity, but we are not. We’re treated like trash, inhumane and ignored. To the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Office, you did a good job of denying people who were born on JUA land and who lived, raised and herded sheep on JUA land.
Thank you for denying me and my uncle. You do your job well. To my JUA family and people who have lost family members, my prayers and heart stay with you all. We are losing all the first generation and second generation.
To Navajo-Hopi Relocation Office, your denial letter is wrong. My umbilical cord is still there where it was placed. I can feel it in my soul and my heart every time I go there and visit the old homestead. I can see the outlines of the sheep corral, hogan, home, outhouse, playground, and horse corrals — all from Google earth satellite photos.
When you deny a JUA survivor like me you do your job well for the government. It seems like my family has always been a target for them. Ever since I can remember, all the government ever did was try to kill us, shoot us and fight us. Yes, you do your job well. As a JUA relocation survivor, I will tell our story to my kids and their kids, the true story of relocation and the affects. Relocation equals genocide and it’s not right.
Richard Anderson Jr.