Friday, December 4, 2020
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Letters: Take your business elsewhere

After Gallup locked folks out last Friday and then decided to extend their lockdown to Thursday, May 7, many commented on the Navajo Times’ Facebook page that people should keep their dollars on the reservation. I agree.

What if everyone on Navajo (and Zuni) took their money and spent it somewhere other than Gallup? What if indigenous artisans began to sell at outlets other than the Gallup traders who make a lot of money off of indigenous goods purchased at a low payment to the makers of those goods? What if Gallup had to do without the sales revenue and sales tax from the 50,000 or so people who come in to buy on the first weekend of the month?

Indigenous people spending their money in Gallup have made many non-indigenous millionaires in Gallup. Did you know that? I find what Gallup is doing with the lockdown absolutely outrageous and perhaps even racist — and yet, Gallup makes quite a bit of money on “Indian” tourism. What if indigenous people simply withdrew their participation and support from Gallup?

From schools that fail to properly educate students year after year (see https://transformeducationnm.org/resources/, “The Court Case”) to eye doctors who will not dispense glasses until after insurance pays them (a long wait!) to the Cracker Barrel restaurant with their large owl-decorated tote bags prominently displayed inside the front door and a manager who told me, “No one else has complained” — there is much in Gallup that is unpleasantly against the indigenous people in the area.

Gallup suddenly locked people out last Friday knowing that many truly needed to buy necessities, do their laundry, banking, etc. Many families have experienced severe hardship through this lockdown right when first-of-the-month funding came in and they were out of many things.

Perhaps Gallup would feel differently if those people spent their money somewhere else and if their sales tax, which pays for many things in Gallup, went somewhere else. Look at the Montgomery bus boycott that occurred after Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white person. Laws and attitudes changed as a result.

Perhaps diverting spending to reservation businesses would improve access to Laundromats, groceries, banking, and other services on the reservation itself. While COVID-19 remains a very serious and dangerous problem, and wearing masks and social distancing are critical, there is no “riot” here, just a huge tribal population spending and funding non-indigenous people and officials in Gallup who treat them with contempt.

It is time for that to stop. Perhaps if the community takes their spending power somewhere else, attitudes and policies in Gallup will change for the better. I hope so.

Jennifer Coleson
Tohatchi, N.M.

Realize your Warrior Spirit

These are extraordinary times. I am holed up here in Flagstaff, with family staying home day after day.

As a Diné, I would like to share my thoughts today. First and foremost, I wish you and your family good health and safety from this virus. Please be safe and stay home. During these challenging times, some feel anxiety, stress and may feel overwhelmed.

When these feelings come to your mind, remember Diné and other indigenous people are strong and resilient. You are strong and resilient, you have it in your lineage and blood. Elders call it the Warrior Spirit. For example, the Diné people endured the Long Walk, relocation, livestock reductions; the tribes in Oklahoma survived the Trail of Tears; the Kumeyaay Nations in California are over 13,000 years old; our Lakota brothers and sisters survived Wounded Knee; and we are all still here as indigenous people.

One principle of social work and therapy is to never say, “I know how you feel,” because one person can never actually know how another person feels. The humane way to state it is, “I empathize with you and how you are feeling.” Applying this principle, I can only say no matter what you are feeling during this pandemic, I am with you in my empathy and compassion for you and your family.

A second principle of social work is empowerment. Empower yourself. Use the indigenous gifts Creator gave you at birth to practice self-care, embrace your identity, be spiritually grounded and take care of you, your family and loved ones.

A third principle of social work is realization. Realize yourself. Regardless of your personal and professional situation, you are a gift from God. You are unique, one of a kind in this world. By empowering yourself with self-realization and the Warrior Spirit, you will put on the armor of Creator’s blessings as a protection in your daily life and be strong as a Diné person.

Society, through the awful seeds of bigotry, discrimination, racism and imposed historical and intergenerational trauma, beats down on individuals and families to make them feel less than who they really are as indigenous people.

It is forced upon us to unconsciously accept these atrocities and negative consequences for indigenous populations. Indeed, sometimes we have no choice but to exist in these man-made environments meant to hurt or destroy us. Always remember, our elders and ancestors did not succumb to these evil ways, they used them to make themselves stronger through good Diné ways we have been gifted by Creator.

Embrace the Warrior Spirit within you. It is also important to note that in these extraordinary times, there are many people who are alone. But guess what? You are not alone. Our Diné ancestors, elders, loved ones who went beyond, and the Creator are right there with you. Likewise, man-made societal influences have made many indigenous people think in a linear manner — from point A to point B, because that is how we have been taught, i.e., programmed.

This thought process is so common that we do not think of an embedded Diné way of thinking our ancestors and elders established and embraced for us to learn. Through Creator’s gifts, in the Diné way, we are all part of a traditional circle made up of family, community, tribe and again, elders and ancestors. You are forever a part of an indigenous loving circle, whether you are alone, with family, community, or tribe.

Our Diné ancestors and elders think in a circular manner — four seasons, four directions, four clans, four parts of every day, four lineages (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa) and four primary indigenous values — love, hope, charity and faith. Recognize and embrace your Dine’ traditional circle. In these extraordinary times, this pandemic is not only a disease, it is an evil spirit. Keep the evil spirit of this virus away from you and your family by prayer, burning cedar and sage, honoring our elder’s advice and guidance, and staying home.

The bottom line, at least for me, is realizing that we are not in control of circumstances. Creator is and always will be. So however way you believe — in the Diné tradition, Native American Church, Christianity, the force, energy, etc. — humble yourself to the universal power and realize the infinity and goodness of that power. I am just another guy from the rez — Fort Defiance, Red Lake Road — and no better than anyone else.

This message is filled with the teachings of my Diné elders, in particular my dear dad, Kenneth G. White Sr., who went to be with God Almighty in June 2018. Dad told me, “The greatest gift you can give yourself is a personal relationship with God.”

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me these ways. Everything we do in this life is for our children. As adults, with all my respect for your own way of life and belief, it is up to you to hear my message today. Along with my love and compassion for you, this message is for our dear Diné children among us. Let us strive unconditionally to make a beautiful future for them through our actions, not words, today. We are living in extraordinary times, the 7th generation, as prophesized by the great Chief Crazy Horse. Realize yourself through the Warrior Spirit within you.

God bless and heal the great Dine’ Nation and God bless you all.

Kenneth G. White Jr.
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Needs are great during this crisis

Navajo needs are getting greater as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has a grip on the world, USA and Navajo Nation. In the United States, people that are affected by the deadly virus is greater than in any other country.

Over 1million cases and over 60,000 people have passed on as a result of this virus. “COVID-19 is deadlier than the Swine Flu of 2009,” according to a report (MSMF, 2020). The Navajo Nation number of people affected by the virus are increasing by the day. As of the last report in April, there were 1,873 cases and 60 deaths because of the coronavirus. (www.nativenews0l.net, April 2020).

This is so sad. On the Navajo Nation people are locked in, which they are not accustomed to, but we must beat this deadly beast. The schools are sadly closed. The recent loud playgrounds are silent. No one really knows how long schools will be closed. The children are losing out on learning. Just like the summer breaks when they get back to school, reclamation of the learning process will have to be rekindled.

The administrators, teachers and support staff have a task to work diligently with all students when they return. If the children have books and other learning materials at home they can try to stay engaged in learning. However, they still need their teachers. Parents that have access to computers could pull-up learning materials online that their children can handle, or help their children with various learning materials they brought from school. For example, homework during the regular school session is practice. Homework is practice, the children already learned and know these lessons.

Parents can practice with their children in learning by practicing what they know. The idea is to keep the children’s mind engaged. Also, schedule reading time with your children, the family will have fun. Older students can read independently. See my reading tips in Navajo Times, April 23, 2020.

The children are home, they need food, more food than ever. Some parents can probably afford it for a certain length of time, but the family funds run out. Some parents were already in a need situation before the coronavirus pandemic. Their needs by now are at a crisis level.

For some, livestock like sheep they once had are gone. This was food then. For most, their once flourishing gardens are grown over with weeds. The food stamps may be gone, too. They can no longer weave rugs for the trader. Their funds are gone to buy silver and turquoise to make jewelry to sell. Navajo livestock owners and contractors are idle, and events are cancelled.

Livestock owners relied on income from events to feed their families and stock. Navajo Nation country western dances are canceled. Bands who make extra money for food and other needs are feeling the pinch. Many Navajo businesses have been closed for at least two months.

The urban Navajos are also beginning to feel the effects of COVID-19. Some are laid off or working less hours. Rent and car payments are due. They need help just like the rest living on the rez. Navajo workers who recently lost their jobs because of mine closures are in dire need of help. The touring Navajo pro rodeo and pro bull riding contestants cannot compete anywhere because the rodeos and events are canceled.

This includes the weekend rodeo contestants on the Navajo Nation. The need of the Navajo people now is one of the greatest in history. The huge lines at donated food is evidence the Navajos’ needs are enormous. The Navajo Nation is in an emergency situation. Navajo leadership needs to ask themselves, what have we done recently to help our people? Private, state and government handouts and donations are great.

Instead of always looking to others for help, we need to look to ourselves as a sovereign nation and ask how can we help our people with our own money? See my suggestion in the Navajo Times dated April 2, 2020, “Why not a Navajo stimulus fund?” Now is the time to demonstrate self-reliance. The Navajo people have the capacity to do this.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

COVID-19 behind prison fences

To families and the general public, with family members in the federal or state prison system, check on your loved ones. They are treating us badly in Lompoc, California. “They” meaning correctional officers. Lompoc Correctional Institution is a complex with more than one facility and two camps.

There are currently more than 110 positive cases of COVID-19 here (80 inmates, 30 staff). This is 29 percent of all cases for the local area, Santa Barbara County. Lompoc’s first community-reported COVID-19 case was March 26. We are all confined behind locked doors, gates, and many different fences. The only way for the virus to have infected us is through staff.

On March 8, visitation was suspended “until further notice.” On March 30, the facilities reported their first COVID-19 case. We had zero cases at the low facility in March, but many cases at the medium, and two at the camps. On April 16, our communication with the outside through communal phones and email was suspended “until further notice.”

Commissary was also suspended at this time, and our facility was placed on lockdown “until further notice.” “Social distancing” is impractical in already confined and crowded spaces where bunks are only three and four feet apart. This infection outbreak is all due to the mismanagement of this place and, further, due to the failure in following its own guidelines, this virus has spread. Staff who were working at the medium facility were brought to the low facility, and now we have many cases of COVID-19 running like wildfire.

At least one inmate has died and with numerous elderly inmates here, I’m sure this number will grow by the time this letter reaches the outside. This should be an eye-opener for many families, the CDC, and health inspectors. I share this because we have many Natives here and other nationalities from all over the world locked away.

I understand all the brothers and sisters have done wrong, but we still have rights and families waiting for us to come home one day.

Lonnie Ben
Lompoc, Calif.

Searching for photos of old Fort school

I grew up in Fort Defiance and my father was the superintendent of the Good Shepherd Mission. At that time it was the only orphanage for Navajo children on the reservation. I have been trying to find photos of the white school in Fort, where I attended. It was a two-room school with husband and wife teachers.

When I visited there a few years ago I could not find the building to show my children and grandchildren. I was in Fort Defiance from about 1933 to 1940. Of course, so much has changed. The two trading posts are gone and the new hospital is now a derelict. I was operated on for appendicitis at the old hospital — a one-story Army barracks building. The head surgeon was called out in the middle of the surgery to kill a bear that was attacking a hogan. He gave my father the pelt. So many memories.

My father used to hold Easter sunrise services at the Window Rock. He had a bugler climb up into the window and when the first rays of sun hit he blew a tune and the service started. I do have some photos of that. Can you help me? My email address is helmsj@aol.com. Thank you.

James R. Helms Jr.
Arcadia, Calif.


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