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Letters: True blessings to end our silent days

Eleven months have gone by since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our states like a thief in the night. People overwhelmed in a surge of emotions to find food, Clorox, hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays, only to find empty shelves. The madness of this pandemic has created hardships, uneasiness, lost jobs, anxieties, and sadness. In the midst of this pandemic, months and months have passed with families fighting hard to stay safe for the sake of their families, their jobs and themselves.

Reluctantly, the virus has found many families regardless how hard they tried to stay safe. Families near and far have all struggled in their own way, fighting hard with their silence, to stay strong during this time. We are a surviving example of how this virus can hit you in the face and the overwhelming struggle physically and emotionally, to care with safety for your loved ones. Seeing them in pain physically, headaches, can’t sleep, can’t eat, coughs, body aches, and upset tummies is unbearable to watch.

All that can be done, all you can do, is monitor them, check oxygen levels, heart rate, ensure hydration, feed them nutritious food, soups, hot tea daily, and give them Gatorade and water.

After 14 days of quarantine are over, after the silence, strength and struggles, our loved ones are well. They are not the same, but they are well and they survived the virus. Being able to finally see each other — which seemed forever — to finally have that long silence and grateful sweet hug is unspeakable.

In light of all this, and surviving the virus, makes you re-examine your life. Your heart is stronger, your love for each other greater, our wonderful families, and the value of life is priceless. Be thankful for your blessings, even through the silent days. I love you, my family and friends.

Thank you all for being in our lives. Please take care and stay safe the best you can.

Artie J. Beyal
Buffalo Springs, N.M.

Pandemic’s devastation wearing us down

So this devastation from the pandemic is wearing us down. Our elders and some, who weren’t even that old, have gone. Needless to say, the sadness is deep and cutting. The cold winter is interminable. The gloom of seasonal disorder, feeling flat from lack of sun, adds to the problem this week. We’re hanging in there, but the facts remain overwhelming. The obituaries in newspapers are extraordinarily long now.

The new vaccine, which was greeted with renewed hope just a couple of months ago, is now dimming as CDC reports a mutated strain is making its way into our country. This week, I have another co-worker who tested positive for COVID-19. I know many people have their churches and prayers.

Yes, that is good that they are blessed that way. How about us traditional Dineh? We are starved for a Navajo comfort stump speech from a Naataanii. A Dineh stump speech is where the speaker references our sacred mountains, our religious metaphors and distinguishes the sacred path to our spiritual strength and recovery – so it is not a political speech by any means.

Due to our social distancing and shutdowns, this spiritual advice has been lacking. Hence, our mental health is not so enduring now after a full year of being battered by horrifying events in our communities. Many of you have watched Joe Biden’s inauguration last month. You heard his speech about uniting the country.

A genuine Naataanii speech inspires like that, it uplifts and inspires. My uncle John Bell of Tahchee, Arizona, was a Naataani. He was sharp, eloquent and deft in his speeches. It was beautiful to watch him speak. Anyone who heard his speech was instantly rejuvenated and persuaded as Bell was often called upon to settle disputes in our community or families.

Granted, I don’t know many of you or your communities, but the only person who comes close to speaking like Uncle John is former Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. Of what I’ve seen, I think he speaks the genuine Navajo language from the heart. I can hear the soul of traditional Dineh who holds in high esteem the ancient values that sustained our people for centuries.

Let’s not forget that plenty of emotions encompass our Native language, which is the reason some of us prefer and try to pray in our Native tongue. Indeed, in this sense, mental health is vital in prevention or recovering from illness.

The ancient Navajo rites or ceremonies provided that. Fortunately, Western medicine began to acknowledge this in the last quarter of the previous century. Thus, to counteract the endless stress of the pandemic, we need genuine Navajo speaking through the airwaves to restore us psychologically. Of course, we can’t overlook our appreciation to the current Navajo government for delivering food to the chapter houses. I’m perpetually grateful for the bags of cabbage and carrots left outside my hogan, but after a whole year of pandemic, we should address mental health as well.

If I may, I suggest for the Navajo government to contract authentic traditional Dineh speakers to encourage us in going forward via the radio stations. Please don’t tell us to go on Twitter, Facebook, or other forms of social media. Using the airwaves of the local radio stations will keep everyone safe and protected, including the speakers.

Eve Little
Tahchee/Blue Gap, Ariz.

Tap Permanent Trust Fund for this emergency

According to recent news reports on the Navajo Nation (Navajo Times, 2020), the COVID-19 relief federal Hardship Assistance funds for individuals and families have been mailed out to eligible Navajos. The possible recipients are anxiously checking the mail daily. Over 200,000 Navajos will receive checks in the amount of $1,350 down from $1,500, based on original amount proposed.

Children will get less. There are some 50,000 that will not get any money due to errors on their application, according to the Navajo Nation controller’s office. I hope Navajo citizens will correct errors, so checks may be mailed to them.

The controller’s office has been remarkably busy sorting through thousands of applications in recent weeks. I want to convey my appreciation and gratitude to the Navajo Nation Council for approving the leftover COVID-19 Hardship Assistance Program and helping Navajo citizens with the funds, the Navajo Nation Budget and Finance Committee for initial approval, president for signing the legislation, controller’s office staff, controller for processing the checks for citizens, postal staff for mailing them, and to the local postal workers for putting checks in the boxes.

COVID-19 is a monster that still devastates us. According to reports (Gallup Independent, Jan. 26, 2021), there are 27,573 thousand Navajos that are affected by the virus and nearly 1,000 have passed away because of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation. The good news is 14,152 thousand have recovered from the virus. The other good news, the COVID-19 vaccination is in progress on the Navajo Nation.

The new U.S. president, Joe Biden, has promised more vaccines and vaccine shots for U.S. citizens, including the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has never in its history experienced such a catastrophe since the Long Walk and influenza epidemic that permeated the reservation in 1918 and 1920. Many Navajos passed away because of the influenza then (Brady & Bahr, American Indian Quarterly, 2014).

This is what our elders talked about. We are in a critical crisis, major emergency, and catastrophic era. The Navajo people are perhaps in the greatest need ever. We have lost many loved ones. We are in the saddest state. Our hospitals and medical facilities are overwhelmed. Health experts predict the worse COVID-19 is still “lurking around the corner.”

On April 2, 2020 (Navajo Times), I proposed a “How about a Navajo stimulus package?” for Navajo citizens utilizing the Permanent Trust Funds in the amount of $1 billion. I still believe it can be done. Now that most eligible Navajos are identified, it should be easier to process and use direct deposits for Navajos that have bank accounts.

At the time, I proposed $3,000 for households or $1,500 for individuals. My new proposal is $2,000 for adults and $600 for children.

I am appealing to any Navajo Nation Council delegate to sponsor such legislation. If need be, present a special referendum for the Navajo people to vote on. The Navajo people are in the greatest need, emergency, and catastrophic era in modern history.

Many businesses are still closed, many people out of work, college students need money, weekly lockdowns (no work), livestock need hay and grain, and there are long lines for food giveaways. Some in need of homes, heating fuel, wood and coal, schools are closed, no major events or activities, and more Navajo people are affected and dying from COVID-19. The PTF was supposed to be for such major emergency crisis. Let us be self-reliant and utilize our money for the Navajo people.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

For better and/or worse

It has been about 13 months ago from our first encounter with this virus with the name of COVID-19. Was this virus to be short or long term? Well, each of us has realized our lifestyle has certainly changed for the better and/or for the worst.

Believe it or not, as you continue to read, you may still be involved with or have participated in one or more of the following scenarios: Staying home through orders of the government, limited or no work hours at place of employment, laid off from work and no word as to when to be called back to work, having to wear a mask, limited or no travel to and from destinations, limited or no household visitations, no public child care facilities, home-schooling family members, and family members not responding to school requirements set up by the local schools, family members learning the use of technology from home, family members not having Internet services for school or work, no electrical services to respond to work or school demands, learning 24 hours of child care at home, and no group socializing, more direct involvement with stay-at-home chores (i.e. home improvement/home cooking), personal weight gain, fitness centers closed, challenge of limited or no on the shelf food/sanitation supplies at the market, standing in long lines for service at essential business locations, increase in domestic violence, and increase in substance use and abuse, no more entertainment events (fairs/country dances, powwows, song and dances), and Navajo traditional ceremonies limited or none at all, more dependency on mobile phones, encountering hardship in making payments to creditors, increase in personal items pawned with traders, increase in Navajo culture/language teaching at home, and public meetings by teleconference/Zoom, limited or no water supply for the family resulting in emergency water hauling for families, family and relatives depressed due to loss of life of family members/relatives/friends, population afraid of the virus and not seeking relief from health care professionals, family members not receiving accurate/complete information from government officials, and small businesses limit hours of business and/or closing doors to the general public, government CARES Act money tagged for the general public and business use delayed in distribution and funds go unused, due to deadlines and policies, and other scenarios not listed above.

Would you have been engaged in any of the issues above if the COVID-19 was not in the midst our country as we know it today? Has your lifestyle changed for the better and/or for the worst? Surprisingly, our answer(s) are common amongst most of us and the answers have contributed to a renewed outlook in my life and yours. The question now is will this virus still be amongst our society tomorrow?

In conclusion, our help is needed to minimize or terminate this virus, COVID-19. You and I need to wear a nose/mouth-covered mask when in public and to keep two sheep lengths apart when in public. You and I can help to minimize the spread of the virus.

Harold Wauneka
Shush Bi’toh/Tséhootsooí, Ariz.

Support Haaland for Interior secretary

Indian Country needs Deb Haaland. That is why I am writing in support of Navajo Nation Council legislation 0014-21: “Supporting New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to be appointed as Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Department of Interior, under the President Joe R. Biden administration.”

I am a Navajo Nation citizen, a mother, a graduate of Stanford University, and an environmental consultant who has worked with federal, state, and tribal agencies for over 15 years on environmental impact analyses and land management plans. Based on my consulting work for the Department of the Interior, I recognize the importance and historic nature of the appointment of New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to Interior cabinet secretary in the Biden-Harris administration.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were elected with the backing of Native American voters in record turnout based on their commitment to uphold trust responsibility to tribal nations, strengthen relationships between the U.S. and tribes, and empower tribes to govern their own communities and make their own decisions.

Deb Haaland’s nomination is a first and crucial step toward advancing the Biden-Harris commitment to Indian Country. As secretary of the Interior, Haaland would oversee the caretaking of public lands and wildlife in over one-fifth of the U.S. and she would oversee the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education.

This is an opportunity unlike any other in history for one of our indigenous relatives to be a voice for the unique needs of tribal communities and a champion for Native American students far and wide. As a Pueblo woman, Haaland understands the importance of honor and respect for our earth and wildlife.

Managing energy and environmental resources and uses on public lands will require balancing environmental ethos with local economic drivers and she is well suited to lead the Department of Interior with a fair and even-keeled approach.

As an honorable public servant, Haaland will provide pragmatic solutions for all American people in the management of our nation’s lands.

As a mother, I would love for my daughter, and all of our daughters and strong Native women to add “Presidential Cabinet Secretary” to their dreams within reach. Haaland has already paved the way to Congress for our young Navajo women and with the support of the Navajo Nation Council she will again pave the way for our children to one of the highest leadership positions in the federal government.

The Navajo Nation must support Haaland because her success is our success. I strongly urge the Navajo Nation Council to pass this legislation. I call on my indigenous relatives to contact their elected leaders in Washington, D.C., and voice their support for the confirmation of Haaland. We must take action now to ensure that she has the opportunity to, in her words, “be fierce for all of us” as the first Native American secretary of the Interior.

Ginger Sykes Torres
Phoenix, Ariz. (Hometown: To’Nanees’Dizi Chapter)

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