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Letters: Remember what we’ve overcome

I am writing to express my deep appreciation for everyone involved with producing the Navajo Times. You are an amazing crew and have been a serious blessing during this time of lockdown.

Back when infections were few, you quoted an Hataalii who said the virus was born from the countless creatures incinerated in the Australian bushfires; it then drifted to South China and assumed its shape-shifting treachery after claiming a victim.

Yesterday, the BBC reported on a new study confirming that plumes from wildfires are indeed perfect incubators for microbes and pathogens, ascending to tremendous heights to be dispersed where the winds take them.

Speaking of ill winds, I met a good woman when I was working north of Church Rock one winter. She was an ace, driving her pickup in beauty to Shiprock, for weekly chemo treatments. She said you could see the fog from the crusher mill creeping up the canyon when the day’s winds began blowing.

By spring, she and two other family members had walked on, one a boy in his teens. Without doubt, we face daunting challenges, yet we should remember what we’ve already overcome.

We won the Pacific War with the Diné Bizaad, we won the Cold War with Diné uranium, and we spanked the orange Julius Caesar and won Arizona with the Diné vote.

It’s payback time, and maybe with Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary, the mess will be addressed.

I think Delegate Nathaniel Brown had the right idea: Sue the star-spangled britches off our Uncle Sam until he puts that yellowcake monster where the sun don’t shine. The technology and money exist, and lawsuits are one thing those Washington monkeys do understand.

Mike Burke
Albuquerque, N.M.

Leaders are in over their heads

No bashing … just the facts. March 2020: COVID-19 funds released to the Navajo Nation. January 2021: Over 800 dead tribal members, people losing their apartments and rentals, vehicle repos, utilities shut off, evictions, and mass uncontrollable COVID-19 sickness across the rez.

All this hardship and our leaders and controller are still sitting on COVID relief funds. Every meeting they have they get a stipend. The more meetings, the more dipping plus the tribe hired a non-Native firm to help spend the beso. How many of our people have to die before the leaders help their own? How many evictions? How many?

The answer is sad and simple, our leaders are in over their heads and people keep dying, getting sick and they don’t care.

Richard Anderson Jr.
Gallup, N.M.

A new year is here

The New Year of 2021 is here. As Indigenous, it is the coming new growth, of springtime within the cycle of life. It is to start fresh, as with a new beginning, a rebirth, and perhaps a forgiveness of self?

Each year at this time we tend to fool ourselves with promises of securing something that is missing in our lives, as in to do or not to do, through our New Year’s resolutions. This wish of resolve, self-determine, an alleged answer to a nagging problem, only to fall by the wayside later on. If that happens, we deny ourselves an opportunity to explore and understand what makes a problem tick and discover its resolution.

This personal wish needs a closer look, an insight into its process and intent. Sometimes a wish begins with a plan, a way for desire to achieve actuality. It is a longing, a yearning, a hunger, a thirst, a craving, thus becoming a need. For creation of need to unfold, there is belief, hope, trust, and the commitments or convictions of faith, this faith or passion to actually experience that something, which is missing from our lives.

All this unraveling through word play of commonality may seem like connecting wishful-thinking words and concepts. However, in exploration, it is much more, if you are strong-willed and in touch. It is our belief system that connects our thoughts to imagination and to bring forth imagination is to tap into creativity. This is where thought of the mental mind harmonizes with the light of energy from within.

Thereafter projects its light force of information outward, to light up the darkness. It may seem imagination is fantasy. However, this relationship to the source, where creativity initiates, is our true innate expresses itself. For some, such synchronized awareness comes the seeing of endless possibilities and predictabilities, to see beyond the horizon, perhaps from viewpoint of higher ground?

And this foresight creates compelling sensation, an emotion, a feeling of wanting, a desire, or a movement towards something. Through this freedom of thought, new ideas and innovations come into view.

They seem to transcend boundaries and limits of logic and reason, including the confinements of law and order. Just as stars are born within the universe, so is a wish born from out of self, connecting the internal with the outer perception of the world.

It is at this instant our wish become plural, multiplies into many, and our wish for good health and peace form as our firm foundation. With passion, we take action, a movement towards transforming our desire into actuality, something we can touch and feel.

If we sense this as truth, we may begin to work our problem, to change our basic thought structure, including society, for a more sensible and livable world. Simply, with keys in hand and with our actions we can unlock worlds of possibilities; it is through our actions, not reactions, we bring forth new experience. It is this wish of need, to find the missing pieces in our lives, with new realized wisdom, we can make our lives whole and healthy. Maybe those who sacrificed their lives for us were not done in vain, but with purpose of renewal for the living.

For this New Year of 2021, this is what we lost, of which we may find within ourselves. Just as our medicine people before us, a wish begins with a prayer of wisdom, not to plead with a begging bowl in hand, but through strength and meditation. From it comes commitment to cooperation, coordination, and a way out of difficulties with ourselves, as well as for others.

Perhaps when we realize our true purpose, our wish for resolve will begin to transform our long forgotten dream — to serve and to protect humanity.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Oil & gas development versus climate crisis

The concerns of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, Power the Future, and the Republican Party of New Mexico on the nomination of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior and the assenting celebration and support for her, are compelling for varied reasons.

These reasons resolve themselves to two primary points of issue. One is the position to continue oil and gas development at current or greater levels and the other is protection of the environment. There is no arguing the importance of jobs to keep food on the table, to provide revenue to the state coffers, and to keep our schools financed.

The bottom-line argument therein is that oil and gas development must continue to keep the dollars flowing. The irrefutable backdrop to energy development is that it is a significant contributor to the climate crisis, particularly the minimally regulated operations.

The climate crisis consequences we are witnessing are the extinction of life species and the mass disruption of the balanced order of nature, demonstrated by the wildfires, drought, extreme weather, rising sea levels, and unhealthy pollution the world over.

Energy development operators have almost always had their way, either by friendly government sanction or with its bullying mechanisms, or both. The operators have no qualms in their belief that they do right. It is understandable that they feel they are within their rights, after all, they engage the provisos of capitalism. Thus, the operators are ideologically and legally sanctioned to do what they do.

Now, with Haaland’s nomination, there is an outcry of concern from the energy operators and their political allies with an-all-of-a-sudden call for balance. Well, Mr. Energy Developer, we concur on the call for balance. We know what it is to demand for balance, justice, and equity.

The energy developer and the earth defenders are divergent on many fronts; one opportunity that could be a path to dialogue is the call for balance. This call could be interpreted as being conciliatory. In the least it is an opportunity to communicate.

Albeit the balance called for by the developers is meant in a different context. Even so, the posturing of an all-encompassing balance would be facilitated by objectivity, respect and understanding the other opinion and position. Because of the seriousness and depth of importance of energy development and preservation of the planet, all issues must be openly considered, including the need for energy, the revenues it generates, management of public lands, and the need to stop killing the earth.

The “fightin’ words” of Steve Pierce, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, that Haaland would “destroy New Mexico’s energy industry” does not help. Such words of paranoia are counterproductive and a disservice to the call for balance. As indigenous peoples, we will not retreat from our defense of the earth, as her life is our life.

We take every opportunity to make that defense. We would be privileged to sit at the table with all concerned for straightforward deliberation on these issues. We could share visions and agree on a path that would address our concerns and corroborate on our hopes for the future of our grandchildren.

My discussion herein may be simplistic and perhaps thought to be naïve, but there must be a start point for dialogue. If there were concurrence on these thoughts, we could be on the threshold of an urgently needed understanding. Should this be possible, then perhaps, Haaland is the bridge to the novel thought that the energy developer and Earth Defenders could sit as equal members of humanity to find balance.

Chili Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Ask not what your homeland can do for you …

There is another side to New Year’s resolutions that should give pause for concern. After all the New Year festivities, we might give thought to an important phrase from the late John F. Kennedy’s inaugural presidential speech: “… ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

Amid the New Year celebratory festivities, can resolutions be directed toward a phrase, “Ask what we can do for our homeland within the Four Sacred Mountains?”

In 2019, a report regarding the Diné post-transformation demographics associated with the outcomes of cultural edification, Dr. V. Degennaro Jr., M.D., reported, as cited verbatim here:

• Thirty-eight percent of the people on the Navajo Reservation live in poverty and 19% suffer in extreme poverty — which compared to other Native reservations, is at or above average.

• The median age on the reservation is only 24 years old and the birth rate is 5.7, meaning the population continues to grow.

• On the reservation, an estimated 32% of all homes lack electricity, 31% do not?have indoor plumbing, and 38% lack running water in America in 2019.

• In terms of sheer numbers, about 15,000 homes on the reservation are not connected to electricity. More homes are connected to electric power all the time, but even the current rate of 700 newly-connected homes per year cannot keep up with the demand.

• At least in Port-Au-Prince, the poor can steal electricity by tapping into the power lines, but with the distances to power lines in the countryside this option is not available to the rural poor, either in Haiti or the Navajo Nation.

• Water can be delivered in massive tanker trucks, as it is in Haiti, but most Navajo houses don’t have the large plastic storage tanks that middle-class Haitian homes do. This leaves American citizens with no choice but to take bucket baths, just like the rural poor in developing nations around the world.

• Unemployment in Navajo Nation officially sits at 11% — nearly triple the U.S. average — but this number doesn’t account for the 56% of adult Navajos who aren’t considered part of the labor force at all. Taking those people into account, the unemployment rate is pushing 70% ( Vincent Degennaro Jr., md,?mph/physician).

In 2017, again regarding the people, Diné post-transformation demographics associated with the outcomes of cultural edification, C. Harris and D. Wagner from the Arizona Republic report, as cited verbatim:

• On the reservation, a swath of real estate the size of West Virginia and home to more than 173,000 people, housing arrangements are more a function of fate than choice.

• The poverty rate is 43%, double that of Mississippi, which is worst among the 50 states. Navajo unemployment hovers at 42% — six times that of Alaska, the highest among the states. The median household income of $20,005 is so low that nearly every Navajo family qualifies for food stamps. Tourists from around the world flock here to see the Monument Valley, the Painted Desert and Canyon De Chelly, mostly overlooking the families living in distant hogans and dilapidated government housing. Navajos often take what is handed down or available for housing, because of the high unemployment and low-wage jobs.

• On the reservation, 44% of adults have not finished high school and only 7% have college degrees.

• Just 22% of adults have full-time jobs, according to a 2011 report done for the NHA by RPI consulting, a Colorado land use and economic policy firm. About half have no work at all and 49% of Navajo Nation households report annual incomes less than $25,000. For them, that means $7,500 a year or $625 a month is the most they can qualify for (January 30, 2017 — Arizona Republic, Craig Harris, Dennis Wagner).

The American Dream for 2005 “…in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness,” regarding the public health for American Indians and Alaskan Natives nationally, the 2005 Oversight Hearing on Indian Health before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, reported, as cited verbatim, here:

• The highest suicide rate found American Indians and Alaskan Natives between ages 15-34 approximately 2.4 times the national rate for this age group.

• The overall rate of suicide for American Indian and Alaskan Natives is 20.2/100,00, which is approximately two times the rate for all other racial groups in the U.S.

• Rates of violence for American Indians and Alaskan Native youth ages 12-17 is 65 percent greater than the national rate for youth.

• Homicide mortality rate for American Indians and Alaskan Native females, ages 25-34 years, is about 1.5 times that for the general population of females in this age group.

• Nearly 26% of American Indians and Alaskan Native families are at or below the poverty level, which is significantly higher than for the general population.

• Indian Health Service is funded at $1,900/capita which is one-half the amount federal prisoners are funded on a per/capita basis (Walker, R.D. 2005, Oversight Hearing on Indian Health before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Washington, DC.).

This seemingly entrenched data as reported is not by any means intended to indict, belittle, or demean the Navajo population. The data collected reveals the real ground-level life conditions not only in our homeland, but Native peoples’ homeland nationwide.

These scathing demographics are not natural events. These scathing demographics are created by people, a Native history of dispossession and economic imprisonment. Scathing demographics, much like scathing life circumstances, can change for the better and this begins and ends within oneself with a quality, rigorous education culturally and with Western education import. Clearly, much work remains for social and economic justice.

When and who will take the leadership to stop kicking the economic injustice can, a beaten scrapped can, further down the road? When will New Year resolution milestones be directed toward these ends to make a difference in the scathing demographics in our homeland?

In the interest of our future generations, maybe now is the time to bring the hands of social and economic justice together nationally to voice strongly and convincingly, unabated, how painfully wrong it is for one race to continuously exploit, dispossess, and trample on another race from generation to generation.

This national domestic violence epidemic has taken its toll on many Native peoples to the point where nothing seems to matter anymore. Opportunities for Native upward socio-economic mobility have stagnated over the years to near standstill, evolving muddled chaos amidst public silence.

Will resolutions ever be directed toward the phrase “ask not what our homeland can do for you, but ask what you can do for our homeland?” Without cultivating new strong voices, our new generation of Native children is destined to repeat the cycle of the nation’s most persistent disenfranchised socio-cultural language group in America.

Harold G. Begay
To’Nanees’ Dizi, Ariz.


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