Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Letters: Resources director did not speak Navajo

Letters: Resources director did not speak Navajo

In both the Navajo Times and the Gallup Independent, there have recently been articles about a Navajo Nation Resources Division director resigning or being discharged by the Navajo Nation President’s Office.

Various reasons, including or predominantly incompetency, are being claimed as cause for the termination of Fred White, a long-standing high-level tribal administrator. Why is Mr. White’s lack of qualification just now discovered?

It should have been known for years ago, even simply on paper, that Mr. White simply does not have professional qualification or pertinent experience required of a position responsible for the care and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

Reportedly, Mr. White has no relevant professional background. Nor does he know much about Navajo culture. He does not even speak Navajo. This means that he does not have dialogue with people who, for the most part, live close to Mother Earth. Ability to speak Navajo should be essential.

Worse yet, now we have Gallup Independent quoting Mr. White as saying all or what transpired concerning his termination is “water under the bridge.” I say that such flaunting should not be allowed to continue in our government.

Instead from now on, all of our elected leaders should create laws requiring that all of our division directors must have professional credentials, proof of successful relevant experience, and demonstrate ability to communicate meaningfully in the Navajo language in a formal setting.

Johnson Benally Sr.
Crownpoint, N.M.

Prayers for people of Teesto, Dilkon

My prayers go out to the people of Teesto and Dilkon chapters. Today, we are all shocked to hear of the twin fire catastrophes of both Teesto and Dilkon chapter buildings.

I know the elders, the families, children and people who call Teesto and Dilkon their home chapters are deeply saddened and devastated. I want to reassure the people that you are not alone and we need to support all the chapter officials and Elmer P. Begay, Navajo Nation delegate. I will do my part in voicing my support to rebuild your chapter houses along with the community members and leaders.

It was an honor and a great privilege to have represented Teesto Chapter in the Navajo Nation Council during 1988-91. I worked diligently with both Dilkon and Teesto community leaderships alongside Manuel Shirley.

Under the leadership guidance of both chapters, many of their projects became a reality. Both chapters were already endowed with great leadership skills from previous leaders who are now long remembered. They set the path so that new leaders would continue to represent their families and neighbors through tremendous odds and governmental pressures.

The communities worked to save people through the monumental upheaval that the Navajo-Hopi livestock reduction and relocation plans that were forced upon the peaceful community of Teesto. Through those challenging survival times, both chapters assisted the displaced neighbors to rebuild their homesteads throughout the two chapter communities.

In both Dilkon and Teesto communities, the veterans, elders, medicine people, young families, and the younger generation also stepped up to help in the decision-making. It is with great pride to witness and hear that many young ones are now in leadership roles for their respective chapters like their elders before them had done.

Personally, I will never forget the veterans whose pictures were proudly displayed and great women weavers who proudly wove the names of the chapters in the rugs, as remembered by Sophie Francis.

For everyone there will be only memories, but upon that will be more memories to gain. I believe that Teesto and Dilkon communities will come together and rebuild. I know you will draw on the strength and resilience from one another. May all the gods we believe in give you courage and strength.

Anderson Tullie
Blue Gap, Ariz.

Local BIA not following Interior order

In the Aug. 28, 2014, special to the Times (“Interior order reaffirms feds’ trust duty to tribes” ), Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued a secretarial order reaffirming Interior Department’s trust responsibilities to tribes. The report also stated Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, reminding BIA employees to continue its role in fulfilling the trust responsibility.

BIA Navajo Region has not fulfilled its trust responsibility. They have terrible records of failure to carry out its federal trust responsibility with its administration of grazing permits and farmland permits in the past and continues to this day.

The secretary’s order cited seven principles. There are many which Navajo Region failed to do. Fort Defiance Agency Natural Resource records show its failure to provide trust responsibility by not following federal grazing regulations that would have minimized land disputes. In many cases their non-compliance only created conflicts among land users and livestock producers …

Navajo Times’ Interior article cited Kevin Washburn reminding BIA employees to follow the secretary’s order. Yes, BIA Navajo Region top management needs to adhere.

Daniel Largo, Navajo Region FOIA coordinator, failed to provide records of reported unauthorized range fences constructed by families of top regional line officers (25 CFR 167.16 violation). Nor did he provide justification for denial.

Not only is his inaction not protecting trust resources but also violated U.S. attorney general’s March 19, 2009, FOIA directive that emphasized, “The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

It also did not comply with President Obama’s open government transparency. In reality, BIA deliberately withheld records because of fear of revealing agency program deficiencies to protect region line officers. These records do not constitute invasion of privacy nor are they a security concern.

— Secondly, on May 7, 1991, BIA approved a second grazing permit to a permit holder with full knowledge that the first permit was issued in 1984. Twenty-three years later Calvert Curley, agency resource manager, made a decision that the grazing permit holder violated the grazing regulation of having two permits and took away the second permit when it was his office that did the violation in 1991.

Mr. Curley, why blame the permit holder when it was your employee, Jerome Willie, who created the violation?

The issue went through five years of appeal in Washington. The appeal board ordered BIA to return the grazing permit because it made the mistake in 1991 by issuing grazing permit No. 2. In reality, BIA officials failed to advise the Grazing Committee in 1991 that permit No. 2 would violate 25 CFR 167.8(c).

Mr. Willie continues his service to this day as technical advisor to grazing committees. As technical advisor with many years of experience, he is the expert to know federal grazing regulations.

Even regional directors, Omar Bradley and Sharon Pinto, failed to follow the Interior government-to-government relation policy with this case. Bradley and Pinto should have reverted the disputed grazing permit No. 2 back to the agency and grazing officials in 2008 for negotiated settlement since it was the agency that created the problem.

— For other permit holders whose permits were cancelled, you need to join forces and remind BIA about lacking “due process” when they took your permits.

— Navajo Region does something about program managers belittling rules, policy directives and federal regulations. It is time BIA Navajo Region follows the Interior secretary’s order to ensure federal trust responsibility is properly provided.

Nels Roanhorse
Oakridge, Ariz.

Diseases within government never remedied

Like clockwork, during every tribal election, our enthusiastic candidates proclaim promises of a better tomorrow through social change with accountability, and never do they backtrack to the origin of what they inherited, the political inconsistencies and absurdities, also overlooked their preventions.

This to imply profound diseases within our government — were and are — never remedied like dormant parasitic viruses. They wait for a chance to re-infect our social control system. If we don’t find and root out the source that generates these political disorders, then what becomes of our demands for social justice and social equality, and what’s the future for our young generation?

To explore, within a decade, our tribal system of governing has become similar to the norm of antisocial street gangs, with ways and means of having it their way. To its members, the clubhouse rules dictate their own brand for “culture, tradition, customs, family values, and basic house rules.” And these “hostiles” function and operate from within a hidden “subculture.”

Their peculiar “subculture” defined as “a lofty style or approach” of a subterranean group which makes them distinctive as to whom they are, and in our case, these groups are called “committees” within the Navajo Tribal Council of the Navajo Nation government.

Obviously, certain aloof committee members always have their personal agendas, thus conceal their exploits from public view and wait for loopholes so to supersede our established laws, policies, and procedures. Then plunder our public assets. Their behavior and conduct are easily influenced by their cronies.

Crucial decisions made without regard to those they supposedly serve only benefit their committee members. These happen because these narcissists conform to their certain group mentality. At times certain members have their devotion, character, integrity, and willpower questioned by their peers because of internal conflicts. These discords are dealt with through conspiracies, shifting of alliances, backstabbing, undermining, and attempting to subdue their tattletale opponents from “blowing-the-whistle” to public awareness and the media.

It seems all other vices become secondary, and without transparency in government, it is the perverse rules of the few without a black budget that become the governing factors as to why we experience constant failures and frustrations in the proper function of our tribal government.

Because of these implications, we need to constantly remind and communicate to our dyslexic elected officials to live the creed, “To solemnly swear to uphold and abide by the laws of the Navajo Nation and Treaty of 1868 between the Navajo Nation and the United States of America and will faithfully execute the office of — (job title) — and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the laws and government of the Navajo Nation and advance the interest of the Navajo Nation, having due regard for ethical duties and responsibilities of the office. So help me God.” (Source: Resolution of the Navajo Election Board.)

Yes, “change is inevitable.” No longer can we be afraid and cling to the status quo, which only denies us — the practices of our practical in-depth assessments and in pursuing immediate effective enforcement — for social order and social progress. And yes, our social problems are complex, however, the solutions are always within the problem.

Whether change comes through evolution, revolution, or from somewhere else, know that every day is a possible new opportunity to promote a social movement towards social responsibility and fairness. We can achieve possibilities within our communities through our participation in the mechanism of government, and to our younger generation. To start is to vote.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

A rebuke for Chinle school board

This letter is to rebuke the irresponsible behavior of school board members of Chinle Unified School District No. 24.

First is their trip to Alaska. I can understand the need to send several educators. Educators are the backbone of the school district. Why the board? They don’t need to go. They can send the superintendent. He makes $195,000 a year, plus bonuses, and a school vehicle to drive. Surely, the superintendent can pay his own way to Alaska and back.

Are they trying to get in a last paid vacation before the November election? They don’t need to spend the students’ money.

Second, their treatment of the children of CUSD No. 24 concerning the drinking water issue. I’ve attended a couple of board meetings and during those meetings Don Stryker has brought forth to the board that drinking water at Chinle High School is unacceptable. Mr. Stryker even brought to the meeting a water beaker with thick white residue, which the water left. This was after the water was poured out and left to dry.

It was appalling to see the board just brush Mr. Stryker off, all the while they were drinking clean, fresh, filtered, cool bottled water in their chairs.

The only board member to question the drinking water issue was Mark Little. He asked the board, “Why hasn’t the board done anything, we have heard this water issue complaint more than once.”

Board member Wayne Claw immediately cut off Mr. Little and told him to stay on track and keep on the subject at hand. What more important subject could there be than giving the students’ proper healthy drinking water? I guess, Mr. Claw was never told from his elders that “Water is life.” This precious water that our children need should be a priority — ahead of an Alaskan trip.

Third, are the ridiculous qualifications that the board approved to allow Mr. Nayta to apply of the superintendent position. I have two copies of the qualifications for employing a superintendent for CUSD No. 24. The first copy is before Nayta was a superintendent, the second is after the board made changes — to make it easier for Nayta to apply.

The first copy has a powerful overview of “general description” a superintendent is supposed to do. In addition, it lists six “qualifications” that the position requires, and 18 “duties and responsibilities” that encompasses the superintendent position.

Now, the second copy “general description” lists four simple sentences, and the “qualifications” were cut down to only four requirements, and lastly the “duties and responsibilities” were sized drastically down to only five.

Why would the board approve a “watered down” qualification description for a superintendent position? Why would the board approve his pay for $195,000 a year, plus bonuses, and a school vehicle? Is Wayne’s world getting a slice of the pie? If the board likes things “watered down” they should drink the high school tap water.

Please vote in November for a new board. Danny Wilson Halwood Jr. Chinle, Ariz. A correction to accusations I read an interesting letter in the letter to the editor dated Sept. 9, 2014, in a local paper. It is a good letter, however, there are accusations, which need to be corrected.

First, Daniel Yazzie, who is employed with the security department within the Chinle Unified School District, states in his letter that Don Stryker solicited a team of applicants, I assume this means candidates, to run for the upcoming school board election.

Let me clear this accusation by telling the people that I am a candidate for one of the school board seats. I was never approached by Don or a CEA member to recruit me and I give the old traditional handshake (not high fives) when I meet school employees.

I made the choice to run because the voters of the Chinle Unified School District asked me to do so, not school employees. I listened to these voters because if elected I will be representing them and I will be working on their behalf. My priority will be the students first and quality education given to them.

I could have been on the school board many years ago, but due to my spouse being employed by the district I could not run. This is a state policy. Now that she has retired the door has been opened for me. This should explain why I chose to honor the voters request. I appreciate their trust and confidence in me. It was also said in the letter that the recruited “team” were running only to “clean house.”

I do not know which candidate openly stated that this was one of the duties of the board but that is not so. People should not fear for their job when the top vote getters are sworn in and take their seat. They should be shown respect and welcomed to the district. This is teamwork, which I stand for. There should be no room for mud throwing and bad mouthing. Focus should be back on the students and their education.

The other statement, which caught my attention was Mark Little accused of having a good time at a recent conference. There is no evidence of this, only said that pictures were circulated. Where are those pictures? Were pictures taken of other board members too?

If this was true it should have been included in the article. There are liabilities involved when permission is not given by the accused. And who was sent on this trip to take pictures of only one board member doing private activity after hours?

This is invasion of privacy. If I should get elected I will welcome any picture taking but it has to be used in a proper way, not blackmail.

Lastly, I want to commend the author of the letter and Daniel Yazzie for expressing their concern and exercising their right to freedom of speech. I just want to say again that everyone in the school district needs to respect each other and work together, not against one another. Everyone needs to show professionalism when working with/for students.

Harry Claw
Chinle, Ariz.

Looking for Vicky

Two years ago I met a Navajo lady, Vicky Eschevaria, who worked at the Grand Canyon West Skywalk. We developed an instant bond and we vowed to keep in touch, however, on my return from vacation in Arizona I learned she had cancer and by the time I was well enough and wrote to Vicky my letter was returned.

I have been trying to contact her ever since. I contacted the administration team at Grand Canyon West, but they had no forwarding address, however, they did know that she had moved to New Mexico.

My email address is wendi9@sky.com and my mailing address is Crud yr Awel, Gwalchmai, Holy head, Wales, United Kingdom, LL65 4RN.

Wendy Roberts
United Kingdom

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