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Letters: San Juan Reg Med misdiagnosed my grandmother

This month I lost my matriarch. She was my best friend, she was my light. My late maternal grandmother, Jane Werito Yazzie, was a resident of Farmington, and of the Hooghan Lání (Many Hogans Clan) and Tódích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), people of northwest New Mexico and who was rooted in Dzilnaodithle/Huerfano community.

She passed on from this world to the next on Feb. 4. She was a gem of an elder who loved every person she met and always had a smile to share — she was truly imbued in the way of beauty.

I thank you for printing this letter. My hope is that it stands as a report of the ill-mannered ways in which San Juan Regional Medical Center treated my mother, an elder Navajo person.

I truly feel that if Jane was treated and diagnosed accurately for her condition on her initial visit to the hospital she might have had a better recovery and therefore, may still be alive at this time. My Navajo people be vigilant. Please be aware of the present inequality and ongoing prejudicial treatment of our people in the town of Farmington, and other border town communities.

Due to systemic historical racism in these communities, I believe my family’s experience is tied to racism and prejudicial behaviors of some of the physicians and staff at SJRMC. As her granddaughter/daughter I hope this letter will add to the narrative of unequal and insufficient medical treatment of Navajo people and other people of color in the San Juan County community. Sharing this personal information is difficult, but I believe by reporting it will bring greater awareness to speak out and create dialogue as a means of pushing justice and equality for our K’é.

Hold fast to your Navajo elders — love them, care for them, hug them, hold their hands and listen to them. Our elders are alive for us to cherish. Please enact your empathy and compassion for your elder family members; they have such grace and grand history and sacred language to share with us. I am so thankful for my Másaní Jane and all her ways and for all she taught me. Áhééhéé Shimá.

Venaya Yazzie
Farmington, N.M.

Israel visit insults our intelligence

This in response to the article “Pro-Palestinian Diné angry over Nez’s trip to Israel,” by Arlyssa Becenti (Feb. 13, 2020, page A-5).

As understood, besides a sightseeing excursion, Mr. Jonathan Nez, our lead representative, is to copy the methods of Israel that made them successful in their numerous social endeavors, thus inject the information to boost our society. In hindsight, is his claim of alleged “similarity” our reservation with Israel, both in history and people, the basic fact is our resemblance to Israel is non-existent.

Even with conjecture, first and foremost, the obvious reason is the evolution of Israel from squatter to bully. The land they occupy is surrounded by certain states, which some perceived as enemies. Therefore Israel armed itself to the teeth, including nuclear weapons. Their very survival depends on their immediate response to threats, thus involves motivation. Possibly from childhood to adulthood, its people are always on guard.

This constant attention definitely requires extreme cooperation, calculated coordination, steady communication, immediate enforcement and prevention. As such there is self-sufficiency in practical resource management and use, as with land, energy, economy, agricultural production and with latest technologies in weaponry.

Secondly, it may seem like an ingenious scheme to impersonate others for quick fixes to seemingly similar problems. As example, take a deviant child who cheats on a classroom exam — is backward thinking, as to say why pursue the problem when its solution is given.

Without first-hand sequential knowledge of how to work the problem to its entirety only denies the discovery of the root of the problem. The knowledge of its cause and effect will never be recognized. This is simple cheating through counterfeiting, a practice in deception and a shortcut to an end without realizing the means.

Such rogue maneuver on a social scale only festers frustration and distrust, a provocation for social discord, thus could incite violence. Here is an example presently provided by the dominant society.

Thirdly, is the gesture of Mr. Nez a clear declaration of no confidence, whereby he does not have any faith or trust in his own people in resolving our unique social issues? Does it also label him as a collaborator with warmongers?

And as a reminder, here on our reservation we do have extremely intelligent, sensible, talented and strong-willed citizens with exceptional work ethics. Most are gifted with various skills, abilities, potential, and possess a pioneering spirit. Our root source problem is basic communication with leadership; they do not know how to listen. Fourth, it is absurd for Mr. Nez to claim our Navajo history is similar to the people of Israel.

To reiterate, our ancestors were not “chased off” their land. As retold in distant past some were viciously slaughtered on site. Others bound and dragged through the snow without mercy.

As an end result, we are constantly reminded of the atrocities through our instilled education-of-obedience. It profoundly haunts and paralyzes our collective memory.

Forgiveness is a hard pill to swallow, especially when our oblivious supposed leader, Mr. Nez, insinuates to us —“Forget about it!”

Fifth, yes, the Israelites may have their religion of social control, but what we have, as indigenous, is our birthright, which is spirituality. The relationship with our perception is what becomes our education. And when our life energy synchronizes with the infinite universe is when we are in our so-called “temple,” not to seek approval, but to express our innate gratitude for a divine life.

Our profound connection with and reverence for Mother Earth is our way of life. This is our culture and tradition as to who we are, unique. Perhaps Mr. Jonathan Nez meant to compare his trip to the never-ending news of an alleged stable genius-king of the dominant society who sought information from a foreign government for personal glory?

It is as though our president followed suit as a current norm to roam this beaten path of idiosyncrasy whereby he sought a relationship with a foreign government with a proven record of human abuses and human rights violations.

It is disturbing, as well as ludicrous and insane, to compare our history and assume answers to our homegrown social problems reside overseas within an uptight, warmongering state — when common sense clearly dictates the solution is always within the problem.

It is through experience that shows us the way out of the darkness. And further, our children provide motivation for our survival. Yes, we have every right to be upset.

The damage is done for this is an explicit social injustice and is a pure insult to our dignity and intelligence as indigenous people.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Silence is not necessarily golden

There is a saying that silence is golden. While this may make for a nice proverb, there is a time when silence leads to betrayal.

This statement is nothing new. Stagnancy and taking the comfort zone in the known are often the road most often taken leading to silence. There is great uncertainty in taking the road less taken for uncertainty takes one out of one’s comfort zone.

Who are the purveyors of silence settled in a comfort zone? Who has instilled silence when silence can extinguish all hope for better social and life conditions? Who has instilled silence when silence can destroy the deepest hope for a better world?

Why must there be scavengers at an early age who have to toll the daily community trash dump to better their social and life conditions, one eventually making the most challenging journey to UC-Berkeley as a visiting scholar? Why must veterans be booted from holding their chapter veterans organization monthly meetings in a building built for veterans?

Why must veteran officers beg to use office equipment just to conduct their official business in a building built for veterans? Why must scholarships as investment in one’s people be taken off the table extinguishing the only hope for improving life conditions?

Yet, where is the return on investment on the millions of scholarship dollars invested in one’s people? Where are the economists, social scientists, legal scholars, CPAs, auditors, lawyers, statisticians, engineers, scholars, doctors, and the investment in the highly specialized professions?

Then who should speak for the voiceless, the elderly who are left alone to care for abandoned grandkids, the ADA impaired looking for work and income, the ground level “forgotten people” for those whom the bell tolls? Badahajoo ba’i’.

The letters to the Navajo Times of recent voicing the broken communities, the hugely troubled continuing veterans’ issues, withholding millions in scholarship investment with an education system in dire straits, these stagnant social, economic, and cultural conditions must be heeded by those who have been elected to redress the troubled broken communities.

Just by looking around, history tells us that despite voices those who have been elected on campaign promises will ignore voices as noise to be ignored at all costs, instilling silence. Silence indeed has led to the “Third World” socio-economic conditions in Native homelands.

It is important to bring to light that moralizing about unacceptable life conditions does little to improve the life conditions and hopes for one’s people. Removal of elected leaders whose guiding light has weakened, who have taken on the role of troubadours, vagabonds, who have placed their campaign promises aside, and electing people who can bring reality to campaign promises can make for better life conditions.

It appears the continuing public voices of recent in the Navajo Times, along with the critical news coverage, are beginning to bring some light of hope at the end of the challenging socio-economic tunnel in our homeland. Amplifying community voices may be the only hope for offering solutions to help elected leaders lest the light begins to dim at the end of the unconscionable socio-demographic tunnel in one’s homeland.

The road less taken calls for those who will step out of the comfort zone to uncover, contest, empower and engage one’s people to overcome the continuing debilitating impact of economic, intellectual, and socio-cultural exploitation, the ideological humiliation, that continues to persist and define one’s people. We may be beginning to see that at the very least public voices do not lead to betrayal as much as silence.

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

Nation not ready to take over schools

With several of my BIE and contract school colleagues, we attended the Division of Diné Education-sponsored session at Twin Arrows concerning the proposal to transfer the authority to operate BIE schools over to the tribe. We left very frustrated. For one thing the items have not changed, they’re still discussing the same issues from four years ago.

The sad thing is the DODE team has yet to come up with anything that shows promise to improve BIE schools. It is a shame the voices we don’t hear are the BIE students, teachers, administrators and parents. I’m sure DODE’s view is “Why should we listen to them? They don’t know what they need.”

Maybe not, but they know what it takes to make BIE schools better. Better than anything DODE has ever accomplished, which is nothing. It was good to see President Nez and several delegates there.

The president’s remarks about working together made sense, but he needed to make it stronger for it to have any impact on the concerns we see with this process. It was hard not to wonder whether the discussion over this project has reached a point where nothing is possible. It is very clear DODE leaders and their consultants want to shove this down Navajo people’s throats.

The evidence is in the lack of representation of BIE or contract school educators on the planning team.

Given the lack of consultation with BIE schools, and the lack of progress by DODE and their consultants, the president and the Council must scrap the project until they are able to rebuild DODE to improve their capacity to handle a project of this scale.

They could also postpone the project until a new Navajo superintendent is hired, with any luck a leader who values and knows how to work with BIE schools and the communities.

One thing for sure is they must select a new project director with new consultants who are skilled in real planning, people who know what to do and how to do it without creating chaos. Navajo BIE school leaders can do no worse than what we’re seeing.

They know well what is needed to improve BIE schools. The only thing DODE leaders and the consultants have created is a lot of mistrust and hostility.

Larry Biltah
Black Mesa, Ariz.

Water settlements hold hidden dangers

At any moment, the Navajo Nation might be confronted with another water settlement with the state of Arizona. Arizona is anxious to settle Diné water rights in order to legitimize diversions and dispossession already done without our consent.

It needs us to agree to these to extinguish any doubt of their legality. We are in the disadvantageous position of having to argue our aboriginal water claims in colonial courts. The colonial governments force us to argue for our water needs according to their rules and their logics.

It is for these reasons our water rights attorneys and others familiar with water law lean on our elected leadership to settle our water claims instead of litigating them. This is useful caution, but it can also be dangerous. Pragmaticism masks darker forces at work.

Built into water settlements are important concessions, sometimes completely unrelated to water. Water settlements are not simply quantification of water or funding for limited water projects, they are also political agreements — on par with treaties — between the tribe and the states.

How is this the case? On paper, water settlements read as technical discussions of hydrology and environmental engineering, but these agreements take on new shape when they are forced into the realm of politics and law. They become congressional acts with complicated legalese.

As soon as a settlement becomes legislation, it is no longer simply a question of water, but is also a question of politics. Included in legislation designed to settle Indian water claims are a range of unrelated issues.

For example, in 2012, Arizona included the renewal of the land lease between the Navajo Nation and the Salt River Project within the congressional legislation meant to enact a water settlement between the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and state of Arizona over the Little Colorado River.

Although the settlement failed and the NGS lease was renewed the following year as Navajo Nation Council legislation, the fact that Arizona included it in a water settlement with little public discussion highlights the danger in just thinking about water settlements as having to do with water.

In a future settlement, the state of Arizona will likely require the Navajo Nation to limit the ways we can add lands to the reservation. It will limit to an act of Congress the ways the Navajo Nation might convert land it owns into “trust.” This provision was included in the failed Little Colorado River Settlement and we will likely see it in future proposed settlements. Arizona really wants to limit the expansion of our reservation.

It is a requirement that Arizona includes in all of its water settlements between tribes. By limiting our ability to move land into trust to a nearly impossible political task, Arizona is severely undermining our sovereignty and in effect halts our Nation’s efforts to recover our original land base. Arizona wants to corner the Navajo Nation, both physically and politically.

It uses water settlements as one way of doing this. Arizona will tell our tribal leaders this is the only way we can get water from the state. We might ultimately agree to this concession, resigning to Arizona’s lock on our land and resources as a fait accompli. But maybe we don’t agree with this. Maybe we feel it’s time to push back against Arizona and insist that it only talk about water when it talks about water settlements.

Before we can decide on this, our leaders need to inform us about the background concessions included in water settlements. There needs to be public discussions on water settlements.

In past settlements, questions about land and leases in water settlements were quickly discussed and behind closed doors between our lawyers, elected officials, and state officials. Our elected leadership was either unaware or uninterested in the significance of these concessions.

Like a car at a dealership, the settlements were presented as something we had to decide upon quickly or risk missing out. The Navajo Nation Council and Water Commission need to inform the public now and keep us regularly informed on what’s going on and not wait till the day before we are asked to decide whether or not we agree to the terms of a proposed settlement, if we are asked at all.

Andrew Curley
Chapel Hill, N.C.
(Hometown: Houck Chapter)

Talk to relatives about gambling addiction

This writing was prompted by the mere fact of what is seen at the five gambling casinos erected on land belonging to the Dineh and casinos away from our reservation.

Our Dineh, young and elderly, are forever seen coming from and going into the casinos. Inside we see our people – shi’chei’, shi’másáni’, shi’nali’s, moms and dads, uncles and aunties – sitting at and feeding money into a slot machine. I personally see this scenario any time I am at a casino.

We are all on limited income, whether retired, actively employed or receiving some type of financial assistance. We should know how much income we receive and what expenses we have and need to take care of. It is really easy to spend that and all the money we had before going inside the casino. After we spend all and what money we had, we immediately sense a rude awakening.

The realization of, “What am I going to do about not having any money to buy food and paying outstanding bills?” “What is my family going to survive on for the next month?” Where am I going to get money to buy gas for my vehicle?” The casinos and ones who run them, in this case the Navajo Nation, are merely only interested in the amount of money they will generate. In other words, profit.

The evolving question is, “What is being done with the money listed as profit?” They could care less if we go hungry, have our lights shut off, or walk as we don’t have any money to put gas in our vehicle. We all are aware of addictions to alcoholism and drugs. Now most of our Dineh relatives are addicted to gambling through slot machines.

Next question is, “What proactive and prevention programs have been instituted to combat gambling addiction?” We all know and have seen signs within the casinos of gambling addiction.

The sign reads those who think they have gambling addiction should call a telephone number given. This sign reads and is interpreted to mean, “Call or come and see us if you feel you have a gambling addiction.” Who is going to admit any addictions they have?

Denial is always the ultimate factor. Under this concept you are working as a counselor. However, you are sitting in your warm office waiting for distraught people to come see you. Think again. What about an outreach-type program? Under this concept, you as a counselor are effective, as you are out within the community seeking out our people with addictions. You are talking to our Dineh relatives on a one-on-one basis.

Talking with another one-on-one and eye-to-eye will most certainly do wonders. I was brought up in a world of constant cultural and traditional teachings received from my grandparents on my father’s and mother’s sides, uncles and aunties. The teachings were harsh but it was all for the good. The ultimate objective(s) was to prepare us for the future and to be self-sufficient. Today, the cultural and traditional teachings are not there anymore.

Question is, why? Are our elders, mom and dad, uncles and aunties afraid to say anything for fear of repercussions? I know for fact young adults and teens really do not like it one bit if an elder or their parents have anything to say that may be constructive. My advice is for them to sit and listen.

For ones who have sat and listened attentively, they have moved forward and made something of themselves. Thank you and more power to you. For the sake of the future, we, as elders and parents, need to resurrect the traditional and cultural teachings.

Only in that way are we as Dineh going to survive and prosper for the better. One example of reaching our Dineh is through the social media and live on the radio. The cultural and traditional teaching, not lecturing, should be done in speaking our Dineh language.

The teaching and reminders will resonate strongly and should emphasize awareness of the gambling addiction. Ke’ is a very powerful segment affecting each and every one of our lives. With this in mind, we should not be hesitant to approach a relative to sit down with them over a cup of coffee. We should say to our shi’chei’, shi’másání, shi’nali’, moms and dads, uncles and aunties, “I need to sit down with you to talk about a serious situation. “I, along with your immediate family, have noticed you are spending too much time at the casino. “You know you have limited income and there are bills to pay. But still you continue to go to the casino.

“The children or grandchildren are left at home by themselves, livestock is being neglected, no firewood for heat and no water for cooking. “What we talk about is between you and me. I will say what I have to say and listen to you. The rest is all up to you.”

We can really make an impact by merely reaching out to family members and acquaintances that are going in the direction of being addicted to gambling. The outreach can be done within the home and at the chapter level. We, as Dineh, should all work together in attempting to resolve our differences and work toward common goals for the better.

Thank you my relatives for reading this.

Frank Adakai
Albuquerque, N.M.

‘Born and raised’ not a qualification

Dear Gallup area voters, Oorah! Luckily no one from the “good old boy” system is running in the municipal elections this cycle and there are good candidates this time. That certainly leaves room for optimism, doesn’t it?

Though, as you would guess since I’m writing this letter, I do have an issue to present to you readers who acknowledge your duty to vote, and since all the current candidates, including the ones I personally support, are guilty of this, raising this issue publicly now does not suggest my preferences.

First, how long has Gallup been treading water or on the decline? How long have the serious problems in Gallup (infrastructure, streets and sidewalks, stagnant economic growth, litter, street people, etc.) gone unresolved or only patched? Would you agree perhaps 30 years or more?

I heard one “born and raised” Gallupian push the timeline back to the 1970s. In all that time almost every person campaigning for election to local office has emphasized one particular qualification above all: “I was born and raised here and attended the local schools.”

I will say this unequivocally: Being born and raised in a particular location is not a trump card qualifier to run for and hold office in that location. If that were so here, Gallup would be in great shape and obviously, it’s not.

If that were so here, the term of office would have to be reduced to three months so that everyone “born and raised” in Gallup would get a shot at being mayor. So, no, no, no. The best and only qualifications you should listen for is, who among the candidates has the best ideas on how to address the local issues? Who has the best vision? Who has the energy? Who has the “fire in their belly”? Who has the skills and maturity? Born and raised is virtually useless as a qualifier for local office as the conditions in Gallup prove so eloquently.

The “born and raised” line is also insulting to those of us Gallupians who chose to live here and call it home. Long time residents with good ideas are just as capable of a progressive vision for Gallup. Just as capable of addressing our local problems. Just as capable of loving Gallup … like me.

So, on behalf of those of us who choose to live here but were not “born and raised here” to those of you who think “born and raised” is a trump card qualifier for local office … pull my finger.

Gerald O’Hara
Gallup, N.M.

On language: Have fun chasing down elders

I am responding to the young lady asking for help with Navajo language (Letters: “I want to learn Navajo, but no teacher,” by Elizabeth Begay Rainer).

The answer to your fear of the language being lost is not true. Rest assured, it is in the Navajo Bible, (the living word).

About trying by yourself – not true either, humans and a host of spiritual beings are there to help.

I agree with you it is hard (obscure), but it is worth it, especially if it has a purpose. Communication (it was used to defeat the enemy), World War II (past), to save the world (future), in response to your “predictions of chaos coming” (prophecy).

I, too, had once believed it was dying but my passion was rekindled when my daughter, who took four years of Navajo in high school, started questioning me for pronunciation, etc., and I learned from her (STEM) and such.

Which only our language has. Like the word diika’ (plural), “a group to travel together,” and déé’táázh (dual), two to travel, by means of walking.

By just one word, many things are happening (very strange indeed). And for the Hátááłí’, medicine man involvement, it is interpreted by that language as you will find “hóó’dilzin” (holy act, being holy).

Báá’hágíí át’éí – evil. Nítł’iz áłtáás’éí. I’ll let you have fun with that one, our Navajo medicine man language.

Acquire a Navajo Bible (the written word) and invite the teacher (holy spirit) into your life, to open not only your mind, but your profound imaginary dreams, to be not just a learner (hearer) but a teacher (to your children) – legacy.

Study “The Book” with a lot of help, of course, to learn where all the languages originated. “Ancient Babel” and the reason for it.

As it is used to teach lessons (child rearing) debate laws, Romans, all in a conversational setting, and especially talking with God, Diyín – prayer.

This should set your passion ablaze as you go on this journey while experiencing the utopia, euphoric, “The big picture” explaining “the circle of life.” “Life, death,” of things to rival any cosmic struggle for power (films).

I testify to these teachings, I use it at my church and chapter level. The challenge it presents will be revealed by the “originator of language” also when his season for it comes.

By the way, the teacher never sleeps nor slumbers, he is available 24/7. Dying? Two cents worth? Nah, it is the only ticket to “Happy Valley.” Just kidding, to heaven.

And have fun running down elders with which to have a meaningful conversation, like our daughter does.

Marvin Singer
Gray Mountain Bible Church
Gray Mountain, Ariz.


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