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Letters: Relocation piled injustice upon injustice

I would like to reiterate the fate of Navajos who have been relocated beginning in 1977 per Public Law 93-531. The Navajo chairman and Council aggressively lobbied elected Arizona senators and congressmen to divide the 1882 reservation via resolutions from 1956 to 1958.

With the consent of the Navajo and Hopi governments, Arizona Congressman Stewart Udall sponsored P.L. 85-547 and presented it to Congress who enacted it on July 22, 1958.

The law authorized the Navajo and Hopi tribes to sue each other to determine their interests in the 1882 reservation. The Navajo tribal chairman and Council even asked the U.S. Congress to advance the Hopi Tribe funds for litigation to divide the land (Benedek, 1992; Brugge, 1994).

Nine days later, the Hopi Tribe sued for all of 1882 reservation. The case, Healing v. Jones, ensued for four years. A decision for the two tribes to equally share the reservation outside District 6 was issued in June 1962, which the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed a year later.

The two tribes were unable to share the Joint Use Area. Recoverable subsurface minerals were also an issue. Concurrently, Navajo Nation Council approved a drilling permit outside JUA with Peabody in 1964.

Mining started in 1967 and concluded in 2019. In 1970, the plaintiff legally challenged the share-alike concept, which led to cancellation of grazing permits on Oct. 14, 1972, to abate overgrazing and further destruction of the land. In the 1940s, permits were issued to the heads of households, usually a male. The plaintiff also pushed for division of JUA to determine their share to call their reservation.

Definitely boundaries were needed to equally divide JUA for the two tribes to approve exploratory and leasing permits to outside mining coal, gas and oil companies. Since 1956, the Navajo Nation administration has continued the practice of approving lease renewals and cooperated with the Navajo Generating Station, Salt River Project and the U.S. Department of the Interior and has totally disregarded the plight of Navajo relocatees.

Between 1909 and 1955, geological surveys indicated between eight and 21 tons of coal deposits on Black Mesa. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the University of Arizona in their surveys and reports indicated that the natural resources and coal deposits on Black Mesa had the potential for mining and construction of a power plant to produce electricity.

Prior to 1956, the state of Arizona considered constructing two dams on the Colorado River to store its water and pump to the southern metropolis for the growing population, to promote and support agriculture.

Thus, the hydroelectric Glen Canyon Dam was started in 1956 and completed in 1966. Coal to mine at a power plant to generate electricity was available on Black Mesa for the Salt River Project to deliver that electrical power to southern Arizona. This allowed those communities to develop their economies. The Navajo government benefited in terms of millions of dollars from coal mining leases and royalty payments of $72 million from 1967 through 2007, but not the Navajos from Hopi Partitioned Land who were relocated via P.L. 93-531 in 1974. The act of 1974 mandated purchase of land for them, but this never came to fruition.

They lost their land just so there would be dollars to run the Navajo Nation government and to employ 1,000-plus workers at the coalmines and power plant.

The Navajo leaders and elected Arizona politicians from 1956 to 1957 that divided said land led to relocation of several thousand Navajos whose lives were cut short due to longing for their ancestral homes, and severance of cultural and familial ties from HPL from 1977 to 1986.

Included were Navajos evicted from Echo Canyon by Navajo and Hopi rangers in November 1972. Their homes were leveled to the ground and they were forced to live in tents on the Navajo Nation fairground for two years. Then there was a slush fund scandal that involved the majority of the Navajo Nation Council delegates from 2005 to 2011 (Donovan, 2011).

The special prosecutor alleged they withdrew $35 million from the slush fund account, also called discretionary funds and Financial Assistance Program, and spent it on themselves and their families.

The Navajo Nation Council could have been ordered to repay the multi-title funds and to buy land for relocatees. Instead their white-collar crimes were sealed by the tribal court and they were allowed to get away with a major crime.

Annie Walker
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Nepotism plagues T’iis Tsoh Sikaad

My name is Marilyn Zhao. I am a full-blooded registered voter with the Navajo Nation hoping to shed light on the current nepotism at Tiis Tsoh Sikaad (Burnham) Chapter.

For the past six months, I have observed the chapter operations as I consistently attempt to ask for assistance in cleaning my property to no avail. I have seen others receive the same assistance and I have deep suspicions that this is caused by the familial relations between the chapter’s president and administrative staff.

Thus, I am hoping by reaching out to you, editor for the Navajo Times, you might be willing to inform the Navajo Nation of the local corruption hindering our tribal sovereignty and rights as voters.

There are probably 100 different families living in the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad region and yet three-fourths of the chapter’s administration belongs to the same one.

People need to be aware of this, because statistically, the odds of three out of four of the chapter’s administrative staff originating from the same family is extremely non-probabilistic or unlikely to be the result of random error. This is further compounded given the direct relations between each member in question.

The members in question are Perry Begay, chapter president; Gloria Redhorse Charley, chapter manager; Paula Begay, administrative assistant; and Paul Begay, equipment operator. Perry Begay is the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter president, thus he is the only elected official.

However, he is biological siblings with Gloria Charley (chapter manager) and first cousins with Paul and Paula Begay (administrative assistant and equipment operator).

I find it highly concerning that three out of four staff positions are directly related to the chapter president, and this strongly alludes to local corruption in the form of nepotism. It is completely reasonable to assume that if I was unable to receive assistance from the Begay(e) family, then plenty of other families in the region also face the same problem.

Unfortunately, other efforts to contact Council Delegate Rickie Nez prove unfruitful as his position at Window Rock means he does not fully experience what is happening in Burnham.

On a side note, the website for Burnham Chapter is not accurate as the chapter manager position states “vacant,” but it is indeed Gloria Charley, sister to Perry Begay.

I hope with this information, you might be willing to take on the story of local corruption in the form of nepotism in Tiis Tsoh Sikaad and at least inform the people of the problem.

Marilyn Zhao
Rowland Heights, Calif.

Diné residence dates to pre-Columbian times

This letter is to alert Times readers to inaccuracies in the story “Navajo Generating Station closure leaves questions of water ownership,” by Parker Shea/Arizona Mirror (Navajo Times, Nov. 27, 2019, Page A10).

The article says, “The Hopi Tribe has in the past cited a 1905 Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Winans, that set out some of the rights of tribes occupying the same homeland since before the United States took possession of the land. “This is different than the water rights articulated by the federal government for communities like the Navajo Nation, which does not occupy its people’s ancestral homeland.

“In the 19th century, various tribes across the Southwest were concentrated in the present-day Navajo Reservation.”

Diné oral tradition recognizes the homeland as the area amid the Four Sacred Mountains: Blanca Peak, Colorado; Mount Taylor, New Mexico; San Francisco Peaks, Arizona; and the La Plata Mountain, Colorado.

Recorded Diné ceremonial origin histories name well over 1,000 places in this area where events involving ancestral Diné took place during a time without domesticated animals, metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, or non-indigenous peoples — pre-Columbian times.

Many more such places no doubt are not recorded. Most of these places, in fact, are within the part of this area bounded by the Jemez Mountains on the east, Mogollon Rim on the south, Colorado River on the west, and Bears Ears on the north.

In the 1950s, archaeologists working with Diné elders located several hundred Diné hogans dated by pottery or tree-rings to the 1600s to late 1800s. Spanish documents, too, record ancestral Diné in this area, including around the Hopi mesas in the 1500s.

When the U.S. took possession of what is now the southwestern U.S., its representatives found Diné living in and beyond the area that the Navajo Nation now occupies.

Between 1864 and 1868, as readers well know, the U.S. government tried to force the Diné from these ancestral lands by “relocating” them to Fort Sumner, but as many as half of the Diné remained hiding in their homeland. The land could not support the captives, so the U.S. government released them and they returned to their ancestral lands.

Except for the years at Fort Sumner, the U.S. government did not settle Diné in a place new to them, nor did it settle other tribes in the Navajo Reservation. We wonder how the Times could have let such glaring inaccuracies appear in its pages.

Klara Kelley, Gallup, N.M.
Harris Francis, Window Rock, Ariz.


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