Letters: Stop the relief infighting

I’ve heard and read several times the Navajo Nation Council complaining about not having timely or enough information on the current coronavirus crisis. Now adding to the crisis is the federal CARES Act funds.

The federal government is requiring stringent guidelines to meet the criteria. We, the people, are wondering why our leaders in Window Rock are not moving more quickly, especially after receiving funds over $600 million to fight this deadly virus.

We are losing one person a day from the virus and infecting perhaps as many as 15 to 20 people every day. Navajo Nation today has executive staff, attorneys and many others to control this deadly virus.

After reading Navajo Times’ article “Dueling relief groups at odds” (June 4, 2020), I now understand why the Council is complaining about the administration not cooperating to address the crisis at hand.

The Navajo Nation attorney general is too busy trying to police the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization, which is providing essential relief support to Diné families with food, water, sanitizer, and essential needs during this health crisis.

They are also providing PPE for tribal employees. This nonprofit group is working with other organizations such as chapters, churches and the Hopi Tribe to bring assistance to families — all at no cost to the Navajo Nation.

The attorney general is hired as the chief law officer and legal counsel to the Navajo Nation. During this critical time our AG should be totally focused on protecting the Nation, advising the best pathway forward to provide the resources from the federal government as their trust responsibility mandates. We expect the AG to advise the president and Council to communicate with the federal government and Congress on issues so the CARES Act can be quickly and fully implemented to fight the virus. Instead, she chose to pick on her predecessor, Ms. Branch.

Many past presidents, vice presidents and division directors just left and never looked back. Ms. Branch, because of her dedication and love for her people, founded NHFRF and raised funds and organized a team of dedicated people to build partnership with other nonprofits to provide much needed services.

When it came to the Navajo Nation, the attorney general, rather than cooperating and supporting, seems like she wants to control the operation. I would not be surprised if she decides to go after the money the group raised. Currently, we all want to overcome this monster COVID-19 destroying our nation.

Health experts are saying the worst is yet to come as a second wave. We should all be focused on getting stronger and be prepared to prevail. Our ancestors did it; they remained focused on the future. We can do it again. I want to thank Ms. Branch, NHFRF, all the nonprofit groups on and off the reservation for uniting and fighting this pandemic virus. I want to thank all the donors for their contributions.

And I ask the president and his staff to support NHFRF and all other nonprofit groups and let them do their share helping families.

May the Great Spirits be with us all and give us strength and guidance to find the way out.

Percy Deal
Big Mountain, Ariz.

It’s my turn to fight for rights

With all the people of the world fighting for equal rights, it’s my turn. I am a member of the Navajo Tribe, I was born in Red Valley, Arizona, and that also is where my mother buried my belly button in my grandmother’s sheep corral.

I was raised off the reservation due to my father working in the oil fields. As to equal rights afforded to members like myself and due to circumstances, those who were raised off or have moved off the reservation is way lopsided and I really can’t believe these programs and functions still exist.

I have challenged these preference laws that are tailored as a process to keep Navajo people down and off, or not returning to the reservation.

The Navajo government and Council have been enforcing racism, discrimination and prejudice towards its own members/people of the Navajo Tribe for decades, through the business regulatory department and Navajo labor department (Indian preference), as to the priority system, which is a “classification” that tells its members that live off the reservation you’re “lesser” of a tribal member and to those that live within the boundaries of the reservation you’re “more” of a tribal member.

The Navajo Tribe even has a human rights commission that investigates acts of discrimination/racism towards Navajo people off the reservation? There is a major big problem with the Navajo government and its leaders towards its treatment of tribal members/citizens, but rest assured all are welcome and have the same human rights afforded to them under the constitution of the United States of America, that are forced to travel off the reservation to get the necessities to survive (Navajo Human Rights Commission) and I ask the Navajo leaders and Council to please get your knee off our necks, we can’t breathe.

Christopher Chavez
Cortez, Colo.

South Korea had the right idea

I am a soldier who was stationed in South Korea until March 1, and returned home to America. I am writing as an outside observer who hasn’t been home (Dine Bikeyah) due to COVID-19.

This virus has affected me because my mother, brother, and sister got infected with COVID-19 and by the Creator’s grace pulled through. When I was in South Korea, I was stationed north of the Han River, far from where the outbreak occurred.

In the north, the virus was slowly spreading around and I was getting alerts on the phone. Down south they locked down the city and made sure people were in their homes.

Every day I was counting the days to get home. The virus was making me a little nervous so I spent the last few days in the hotel room waiting to get on the plane to go home. When I got to America I was expecting to get a screening and my temperature taken, but when I got home, there was no screening, no temperature checks, there was nothing.

I flew from Washington to New Mexico and again there was no screening nor was my temperature taken. The virus was in America now and was spreading. I told a friend of mine that the safest place to wait it out would be on the Navajo Reservation.

Growing up Navajo on the Navajo Reservation I remember we mostly kept to ourselves and only visited close family. The Navajo Nation is isolated and I made this remark thinking about how my people adhered to customs from times when there were no vaccines and when the Navajo people practiced social distancing on their own. We made that trip at least once a week to a border town for our goods and had plenty of canned foods.

As I went back to work as an essential worker I had to make sure my hands were washed, I wore a mask, and had to maintain social distancing as the reports started coming in about the pandemic on the Navajo Nation. As in Korea, a person got the virus while in Phoenix, and went to a couple of religious gatherings on the reservation and started to spread the virus without knowing it. Again the person thought they had the common cold or just the flu. Why be worried? The Navajo Nation was in the middle of nowhere and what is there to be afraid of?

Then one day my mother called and said she tested positive for COVID-19. I maintained my bearing but was in turmoil because I had learned this virus has a high rate of death, especially for those with health problems and the elderly. My mother, brother, and sister all followed the guidelines and only went out for food or work. My brother and sister both got tests when they heard the news and by the following Monday were told they were all positive

Now the virus was real. It was in my family home; it had embedded itself in my mother, brother, and sister. For the next two weeks they fought it. Every day was a challenge and I called them daily on FaceTime or the phone. My cousin, a nurse in Flagstaff, also called and offered his advice for fighting the virus.

My mother, brother, and sister described their days as having night sweats, headaches that would not go away, malaise, weakness, breathlessness, and high fevers.

My sister said she did not wish this upon her worst enemies. As the virus spread it has the revealed the true colors of some elected officials who made remarks about Navajo people in the town of Page. Plain and simple racism has spread with the virus.

The Navajo Nation has become the hotspot for COVID-19. We have more cases per capita than anywhere in the United States, displacing New York City. Up until the 1900s smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera were all rampant and spread among the Native people.

In response to this the Navajo people developed traditions to protect against these, including the sweat lodge ceremony when returning from trips, making small hogans near the main hogan to quarantine the sick, abandoning the body of those who died while traveling, not handling the dead, and abandoning hogans. These traditions were all in response to disease and sickness.

I urge all Navajos to start listening to their Navajo leaders and to be humble. This virus has no legs or wings. It’s not magical nor is it a punishment for our people. It is a result of encroaching on Mother Nature, it’s a result of eating things human beings are not supposed to eat. This is not some sort of population control.

COVID-19, the Big Cough, should be known as the Cough that Kills. It only travels when an infected person leaves their home. It travels when you speak, when you sing, when you yawn, with your breath, with your cough. The small droplets may enter your mucus linings in your nose, your mouth, your throat, or it may enter your through your eyes. Wearing a mask keeps the virus on your own face if you have it. Wearing a mask also slightly protects your exposure to the virus.

Washing your hands and keeping six feet from strangers greatly diminishes the virus exposure to each other. When you visit your family members, wash your hands and wear a mask to protect yourself and to protect them. When visiting a store, wash your hands upon entry and upon exiting the store.

Wear a mask inside the store and do not be afraid to tell people to back off. Listen to your leaders like you would listen to your parents. Be humble and lets try to flatten the curve together. Remember the virus has no arms or legs; it’s spread by people.

No one knows how long this virus will be in America. It might affect our nation for the next two years. There might be millions infected with no symptoms.

Keep this in mind when you go about your business. Remember your parents, your grandparents, and take care of your little ones. If you find yourself infected, remember this: Do not give up. My mother is 66 years old and diabetic. She beat this virus by walking around, breathing exercises, Vitamin C, zinc.

The most dangerous aspect of this virus is your oxygen level. Buy an oxygenator and keep your oxygen above 90.

Take care and may the Creator bless you all.

Sean A. Begaye
El Paso, Texas
(Hometown: Fort Defiance, Ariz.)

Earth is cleansing itself

As COVID-19 continues its cleansing of the planet, those few entrusted with political and civil authority within the dominant society have compounded the social dilemma. Not only is the country diseased with a killer virus, but a flip-flop supposed president continues to seek his fame and fortune at the expense of the massive number of deceased.

This supposed leader further claims praises to himself of sacrifices made by the oppressed; as an example, the re-startup for economic recovery. As always, blame is weaponized to distract citizens as he undermines to derail the American experiment of freedom in democracy.

The focus of protests across America and abroad is about demand for racial justice and equality, because of constant practice of racism through police brutality, social oppression and violence. At times the demonstrations have provided opportunity for the feeble-minded to infiltrate and incite their orgies of violence, looting, and burning down businesses.

And to suppress the demonstrations the supposed leader claimed an unleashing of our military to dominate over the peaceful protesters. It seems never did he consider communicating with protesters.

His choice was to cower in his bunker with fear. And if fury was unleashed, there is the possibility of sons, daughters and relatives serving in the military that could have attacked the protesters who, for some, could be the fathers, mothers, siblings, or generational relatives of the military.

Why repeat already reported news? Well, as indigenous ever since our assimilation with education in the Great White Way, it seems our proficiency is to copy, to be the same in thought and behavior with the dominant society. This supposed success is mere memorization of facts, figures, and gestures.

In the end, we receive a pat-on-the-back document that proclaims obedience to sameness in information, while deprived of originality and critical thinking skills. As indigenous people, is this why we cannot solve our self-generated individual or social problems? Why has our supposed thinking become nothing more than retrieving memories of recycled information?

The point here is simple. Just as the dominant society rapes, desecrates, and loots Miss Liberty, Mother Earth and Father Sky of innocence, we, the indigenous, must not follow the path of chaos and self-destruction. How we live today determines how we will be tomorrow. And if our environment is to return to its natural state it begins with our own mental health, as in reverence of self.

After the planetary cleansing and turning, it is with great hope we reach deep within ourselves to rediscover and clean up our humanness. The use of common sense, communication, insight, creativity, intuition, compassion, foresight, and cooperation is essential for reawakening of social consciousness.

What happens from here on with the possible birth of a movement within a pandemic? Consider the legendary, majestic phoenix firebird in its cycle of life. See how it bursts into flames then crumbles from embers to ashes. From out of the ash pile comes a wiggling worm-like creature, thus out of this smoky realm comes a transformation — will it be a butterfly or an eaglet?

This is the symbolism for a metamorphosis of a resurrection — destruction, renewal, rebirth, and an awakening with vitality, another chance at life. As indigenous, we are strong, not lost. We are right where we should be. Someday soon there is going to be a new dawn when we will realize the richness of life within and before us.

After the cleansing comes a reawakening to an understanding. This is where air is spirit, to cool and to breathe; water is emotion, to feel and moisten the body; fire is mental, for warmth as it exposes the darkness; earth is home, our Mother, which also provides food, and within these elements are the seasons of life. And as indigenous people these are our medicine. When used with purity of intent they can reclaim our passion for life and freedom.

The end will be the beginning when we are ready. If we listen carefully we might be able to hear a low, humble voice say, “Hozo’ nahaslin.”

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Stay focused, stay strong

Ya’at’teeh, shi’dine doo shik’is. I am To’ahani, born for Hashk’aa Hadzohi. My maternal clan is Tl’izilani, and my paternal clan is Todik’ozhi.

I am originally from Chilchinbeto, Arizona. I am currently finishing my third-year of internal medicine residency in Phoenix. I am hoping to start my career in medicine on the Navajo Nation.

The past three years have been very formative and revealed a lot about myself, but the past four months have been the most revealing. Although I originally planned to return to the Navajo Nation, the COVID-19 pandemic solidified my decision to go back as soon as I can. When the pandemic showed its ugly face in mid-March, I noticed the Intensive Care Unit resident team list was suddenly filling up with Navajo last names.

My heart sank as I pictured Navajo patients on the ventilator alone and passing away without any family at their bedside. Hearing stories from other residents about entire families being admitted to separate ICU beds was difficult to comprehend.

While this was happening, I was working hard to pass my current clinical rotation. Then events went from sad to downright tragic. My aunt had tested positive for COVID-19 and was transferred to Scottsdale for a higher level of care. I felt helpless knowing that she was within a five-mile radius but I could not visit her. She fought hard but the virus had overcome her and she passed. When I got the news, I was admitting a patient during my on-call nightshift.

All I could do was maintain my emotions and stay focused on keeping myself and patients safe. I spoke to my family and grieved with them by calls and text message the following morning. I could not visit my extended family on the Navajo Nation, due to my on-call work schedule and the risk of exposing myself to the COVID-19 “hot spot.” And then the events of May 25 occurred. George Floyd and Dion Johnson (as well as countless others) had lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.

As a Native American, I am very sensitive to topics of racial profiling, police brutality and police harassment. I have been treated unfairly due to my race by law enforcement while growing up around border towns.

Seeing nightly news coverage and social media posts of police beating protestors to a bloody pulp can be very traumatic to watch. It pulls my mind away from my studies and makes me feel insecure and scared for those short minutes.

But wait. I still have a few more weeks of residency left. So I need to remain focused and not get too distracted. I need to stay focused so I can finish out strong. This letter is for Navajo students who are struggling to make sense of our current social climate and trying to maintain their academics/career plans.

Stay focused, stay engaged on current events, stay connected with family/friends, wear a facemask to protect others, wash your hands, do not touch your face, stay at a safe distance, don’t fall into a hole of anger while watching news/social media, and most of all, continue to dream big. Always work towards your goals. Even if you fall, fall forward, stand up, and do it again until you make it work.

We, as Navajo, have been through historical traumas not unlike this one. It’s in our DNA to handle these traumatic moments and persevere.

Let’s keep each other in good thoughts and prayers for all of our friends and families.

Thank you, Ahéhee’.

Kelvin Dan
Phoenix, Ariz.


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