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Letters: Shiprock admin operates by policy, not heart

I thank Angee Lee for her letter last week on our Shiprock Chapter situation.

In addition to the ethics training needed by the Shiprock Chapter officers and administration they need a crash course in good manners, public relations and a reminder they are there to serve the people, not be like a dictator.

Even though the community services coordinator has done some good to help get the chapter out of sanction, the public relations and the service to the people are not good and they just get worse. There have been many abuses and disrespect of people by this administration, too many to list here.

The chapter and community have been going downhill since she pushed our chapter president out of his office in the chapter house. Last year she moved all his belongings out in the hall while he was out of town. Chapter members have demanded that he keep his office space to keep the connection with the people, but she doesn’t listen. The people still respect him, he is still our naataani. Like a chapter member said, he operates from the heart, while the other officers and administration operate by the policy.

We have asked the Window Rock Division of Community Development to help, but they are too slow.

Nate Ellison
Shiprock, N.M.

Editorial showed lack of respect for leader

I’m a believer in the Navajo way when it comes to respecting our leaders, especially those that are elected to lead, serve, and protect our way of life on our great Navajo Nation, and I’ll be remiss if I didn’t respond to the opinion of Mr. Duane Beyal, “No to a photo-op prez,” (published July 11, 2019 edition), and not necessarily to Mr. Beyal’s person.

Navajo Times prides itself to be a national and international news media, and as a Navajo person I share this pride for the continued recognition of our great Navajo Nation.

Just recently, we at Mariano Lake community, celebrated our 16th Annual Treaty Day Commemoration and President Jonathan Nez joined us in this celebration. Moreover, the Mariano Lake community members encouraged him to sign a pending legislation to provide $3 million dollars funding for our Navajo Nation summer youth employment. I believe he set precedent by signing the bill right there on site. There was no presence of a single news media to cover President Nez’s historical signing of a bill at a local community gathering.

In fact, it was our chapter administration staff that took a photo and provided a short write-up of this great event that was published in our Navajo Times newspaper.

Lastly, Mr. President made his appearance solo without his security force, if he does have any. I’m sure there are many other like services our Navajo president has provided at our local community level away from our nation’s capital in Window Rock, that go unreported.

Lastly, I believe in freedom of the press, but there is also our Navajo way of respect for one another, and if you feel slighted by our Navajo Nation leadership, hágoónee’ (so be it).

Jay R. De Groat
Crownpoint, N.M.


No excuse for re-victimizing BFS client

This is in response to allegations and comments made by the interim director for Battered Families Services, Emily Ellison, in an article published by the Navajo Times on July 4, 2019.

Ms. Ellison justified evicting a survivor of domestic violence and her children from BFS transitional housing and the laying off staff by stating she is trying to iron out years of poor management and mishandling of funds by BFS.

Before I was hired as the BFS executive director in April of 2016, I was employed at BFS from 2004 to 2011 as the Domestic Abuse Response Team/Transitional Housing coordinator. Upon my hire as executive director, I reviewed BFS financial statements and noted that the monies owed by BFS were substantial. My findings were presented to the BFS Board of Directors, which are on file at BFS. BFS had two accounts.

One bank account with the largest debt was totally controlled by the BFS board president and officers. I did not have the authority to access this account nor did I receive any funds from this account during my three-year tenure as executive director.

The other account was used only as needed and had a limitation on the amount. All checks over $500 had to be approved and signed by an officer of the board. The board also decided how to utilize revenue generated by BFS.

Each month I provided the BFS Acting President Emily Ellison and members of the board of directors with monthly agendas for board meetings. Agendas included BFS activities and financial status reports. The board also received financial statements from the accounting firm utilized by BFS.

Ms. Ellison did not bring up any concerns to me about BFS debts during board meetings or at any other time. When new board members are elected to the board, they receive information on board member responsibilities, BFS financial policies and bylaws. A grantor and I requested the board get training on being a board member of a domestic violence agency as well. I did not receive any response from Ms. Ellison so training did not take place.

As the executive director, my primary responsibility was the day-to-day operation of the agency and its mission statement, which was to provide comprehensive services to survivors and families of domestic violence and sexual assaults. When I took this position, I vowed that the clients would come first and that there would be no break in services and minimal staff layoff, which are essential for continuity of critical services that are often a matter of life and death. Limited funding and resources are issues non-profit agencies periodically contend with, therefore, it is very important to have a knowledgeable and supportive board of directors and executive director whose primary responsibility are to resolve problems so as to prevent closing doors to clients in dire need.

Ms. Ellison re-victimized a survivor of domestic violence and her children and justified it by stating that she is not a social worker and is not trained in domestic violence. Ms. Ellison was a BFS board member and acting president of the board for over two years, yet she never took the opportunity to fulfill her obligation to learn about domestic violence and the people she served. This is unacceptable, and it is also unacceptable to think that you have to be a social worker to treat victims with dignity and respect.

In January, when I let the board know that I was retiring on Feb. 22, 2019, I sent them three job descriptions for the executive director position. I told the board that they needed to select a description so that we could advertise and get someone in place before I leave. There were several potential applicants who expressed interested, but as of Feb. 20, 2019, the board had not selected or developed a position description.

Thus, I recommended to the board that a long-term BFS employee temporarily oversee BFS until an executive director is hired. My recommendation was approved by Ms. Ellison and the rest of the board members. It has been four months since I retired and the BFS Board of Directors has yet to hire a qualified executive director. An executive director who is knowledgeable about domestic violence and has experience running a non-profit agency would have prevented the closure of BFS and the injustices done to clients and staff.

Does the BFS Board of Directors not know that domestic violence is a national epidemic, especially in Indian Country? Statistical information before my departure from BFS revealed that 87 percent of the clients served by the BFS were Native American.


Willard Eastman
Former Executive Director
Battered Families Services


Fair office not so fair to Diné business

Having read the story about the turmoil the Navajo Nation Fair Office was experiencing in the June 20, 2019, edition of the Navajo Times, I was hoping my work with the Navajo Nation Fair Office to produce this year’s fair magazine would not be affected.

However, Leo Watchman Jr., director of the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture, the new department overseeing the Navajo Nation Fair, began informing me to stop working on the 2019 Navajo Nation Fair magazine.

Let’s go back to March 2, 2018, when the Navajo Nation Fair Manager, Alvina Arviso, issued an authorization letter stating: “Mr. Loren Tapahe, owner of the Native Scene, 100-percent Navajo-owned business will be the producer of the 2018 and 2019 Navajo Nation Fair Magazine.”

I did produce the fair magazine in 2018 and began planning and working on the production of the 2019 fair magazine when I received a March 27, 2019, email from Mr. Leo Watchman, stating, “I intended to develop a{n} rfq [Request for Quotation] or the services not knowing anything about a letter from NNfair and services provided. Thus, at this point discontinue work on NN fair magazine until can get a adequate responses to your question.”

My question was: Why does he wish to end the arrangement because I was already selected to produce the 2019 fair magazine? I had already fulfilled the 2018 commitment, which was half of the agreement, and the second portion of the agreement was to produce the 2019 magazine, which I started to do in April 2019.

Mr. Watchman, in a subsequent email dated April 16, 2019, said he was going to publish a Request for Proposals in the Navajo Times and the Gallup Independent, but he later admitted in another email on May 20, 2019, that the RFP was never published, because he was, “experiencing delays.” Instead, he said he was going to select someone from the “Navajo Nation Opportunity Act.”

I searched the most recent Navajo Source List dated June 2019 and did not find any businesses having the capability of “designing and publishing magazines” like I am able to produce.

In that same email, Mr. Watchman attached a (new) RFQ for the magazine, but this new RFQ went beyond the scope of work of the original March 2, 2018, letter from Ms. Arviso. The new RFQ included three new items that entailed and included developing a strategy and soliciting sponsorships for the fair. My authorization letter only allowed me to produce the 2018 and 2019 magazines and nothing further such as the “Sale of Sponsorship Package on behalf [of the] Navajo Nation Fair Office and NNDOA.” The reason for enlarging the scope of work was never explained to me.

The Navajo Nation touts itself as “business friendly,” but what does this mean? The fair office has treated me extremely unfairly by promising me work and then pulling the rug out from under me.

I have to ask: How many others have experienced the same treatment under the current administration?

Tribal offices enter into multi-year agreements for services from Navajo businesses, but when there’s a change in leadership these agreements should not simply be discarded, they should be honored, because in the Navajo way “words are sacred.”

Having served as president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, I’ve had the opportunity to see how many other tribal governments support their own tribal businesses. Many, if not all, tribal governments support their tribal members with their dreams of business ownership to provide services to their tribal communities. I never expected the Navajo Nation would treat one of their own as I have been treated, especially since I have never received any complaints about my finished product, and I produced the fair magazines in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2017, and 2018.

Now, just about a week ago, I received a copy of a flyer soliciting advertising for this year’s Navajo Nation Fair magazine that a friend forwarded to me. A business from Albuquerque has apparently been given the opportunity to produce the 2019 fair magazine. It would be interesting to see if any written signed documents with this new group exist.

Unfortunately, this experience may be a microcosm of what is happening to Navajo business owners in general throughout the Navajo Nation.

Does the Navajo Nation intend to honor its commitments or not? Apparently not in my case.

I have tried to “work things out” with the fair office, but I have found that their commitment to me is being ignored. Therefore, I have decided to file suit against the fair office and others, regarding my situation. Undoubtedly, this case will bring to light further matters regarding the management or mismanagement of the fair office under the previous and current administration.

I am hopeful for a positive outcome.

Loren Tapahe
Navajo Business Owner
Mesa, Ariz.


Corruption limitless at Ag. Dept., DGC

There’s no end to the Department of Agriculture and District Grazing Committee grazing permit program corruption.

They accused a grazing permittee of a trespass violation without proof. Regulation 25 CFR 167.13 (trespass) cites Navajo Nation Resource Development Committee to review the alleged violation to determine if a uniform decision was made before cancelling a grazing permit. Records show NNDA program manager failed to do his homework before making decision to support DGC’s action to cancel a grazing permit due to trespass violation.

This is gross negligence of NNDA’s mission statement that reads “NNDA provides administrative guidance and support services to District Grazing Committees with emphasis on regulation oversight in accordance with federal regulation and Navajo Nation Code”.

This is program mismanagement as well. They violated 25 CFR 167.13 (trespass) that reads “first offense which cannot be settled by District Grazing Committee will be referred to the Central Grazing Committee (now Resources and Development  Committee) for proper settlement out of court. Second unresolved offense will be referred directly by District Grazing Committee to appropriate tribal court.”

DGC resolution lacks compliance with 25 CFR 167.13 requirements. There’s no written notification to the permittee. There’s no record of consulting tribal council Resource Committee for proper legislative decision prior to canceling grazing permits.

Jerome Willie (BIA) and Ray Castillo (NNDA) are technical advisors. They failed to advise DGC that the decision to cancel permit is not justified because there’s no written violation notice nor is it recorded in the permittee’s livestock tally record. DGC have no proof. The only proof is “injustice” to the permittee.

Worse case scenario: RDC Office of Legislative Service approved and authorized a request by the permittee to be on the RDC agenda on May 29, 2019, to present his complaint in reference to 25 CFR 167.13 requirement. At the last minute before the permittee’s presentation, NNDA influenced NNDOJ to remove the permittee off the agenda due to litigation matters. What litigation? No litigation record was ever presented to the permittee in 10 years when his dispute with NNDA and BIA originated. In legal terms, complaining party must have an attorney before a dispute is classified as a litigation matter.

On July 1, 2019, the permittee was invited to attend the DGC monthly meeting to witness DGC resolution to cancel his grazing permit. The resolution has incompetency, inconsistencies and errors. When the permittee asked about Navajo Nation Code Title 3 Chapter 5—708 in the resolution, Ray Castillo cites non-existing Navajo Nation Code that he says is stated in the 1966 code amendment. Internet research reveals 708 is a draft proposal for the year 2000 Navajo Nation Grazing Act. The proposal was not approved by the Navajo Nation Council due to public hearing objections. Internet shows Title 3 Amendments (CD-76-14) has missing 708. NNDA and DGC making their own laws is corruption.

Ray Castillo (NNDA), Jerome Willie and Calvert Curley (BIA) attended the July 1 DGC meeting. They failed to advise DGC that DOJ put restriction on any further action, including resolutions because the case is in litigation. This is outright corruption by two government entities.

DGC resolution also referenced 25 CFR 167.8 that reads no one is to hold more than one grazing permit when Jerome Willie created the mess in 1991 by approving a second permit. No one questioned his mistake nor did he admit making a mistake. Furthermore, no one questions Mr. Willie’s and Mr. Curley’s negligence when in 2008 they approved District 17 trespass grazing permit as a yearlong permit in District 18.

These are gross corruption by NNDA, DGC and BIA. They must prove me wrong.

Nels Roanhorse
Oakridge, Ariz.


Fond farewell to Dr. Sylvia Andrew

I would like to extend my appreciation, admiration and congratulations to my good friend Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez Andrew.  Sylvia has served our community for 10 years, which included seven years as instructor and department head in the English, Health & Human Services Department and three years as executive director of the University of New Mexico-Gallup Campus.  She is now leaving us to return to her home in San Antonio to be closer to husband and family, while continuing her outstanding career in higher education.

In late May, we learned that Sylvia had been awarded “professor emeritus” status at the University of New Mexico, taking effect on July 1 of this year.  Congratulations, Sylvia! As your colleagues and students will attest, this recognition is richly deserved – and all the more reason we’ll all miss you!

I am especially grateful, Sylvia, that you “hung in there” with us all these years, even during the ups and downs of UNM’s struggles to address the leadership question at the Gallup Branch.  Many of us were deeply disappointed and concerned when the University chose to replace you at the helm of the branch, but we did appreciate your willingness to stay the course at the college as an educator of our region’s students.

We saw how exceptionally hard you worked and how well you interacted with community leaders, citizens, faculty and students to make our local community college a better place to learn and grow.  You showed a deep commitment to the students, and you saw how important it was to prepare the students for the actual world they would be applying their education in.

There is such a great need for local talent in the fields of education, health and human services, and you made sure the curriculum was responsive to the challenges the students would find within our regional community.

Patricia “Patty” Lundstrom
New Mexico House of Representatives, District 9
Gallup, N.M.

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