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Letters: Trying to fulfill aunt’s dream of finding Gappy

This letter is about fulfilling my aunt’s dream of meeting her relatives who are descendants of her great aunt, Gappy Guiterrez, as she was remembered by her family of the Santa Clara Pueblo.

Couple of years ago, my aunt mentioned a story about her great aunt (her father’s aunt) taken from her family as a very young child, about three years old.

According to her family history, her grandmother was born in 1871 and her great aunt was born in 1874. My aunt is getting up there in age and she would like to meet her extended family, if any, or perhaps someone could share the story about how her great aunt’s life after she was taken from the village of Santa Clara Pueblo, which is north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

According to some published books about Navajos and their lifestyle after returning to the main tribal land, some undesirable events occurred and recorded up to 1880s. One activity was reported about the Navajo tribal members resuming raids on Pueblo villages and other villages in northern New Mexico. In such event, Gappy Guiterrez was taken from her home in Santa Clara Pueblo when she was about three years old around 1887.

From the village of Santa Clara, Pueblo men formed a tracking a team and started following the raiding party. The men tracked the raiding party to the town, which is currently known as Cortez, Colorado. From Cortez, they were unable to continue tracking because they couldn’t tell which way the raiding party went. Sadly, they turned around and returned to the Pueblo without Gappy Guiterrez.

My aunt told me the abbreviated version of this story in summer 1977. At that time, my aunt’s grandmother (father’s mother) was still alive and she was over 100 years old and my aunt called her “Jiya” whenever she was going to assist her grandmother. Jiya spent her summer days on the bed.

Fast forward to summer 2019, my family and I traveled back for the Santa Clara Feast in August. My aunt had mentioned the story to me twice in recent years so I asked if she wanted me to ask around about her great aunt. She said, “Yes. She was around three years old when she was taken from the Pueblo.”

With that, she asked me to start inquiring about her great aunt who may have had children or maybe someone knows about her after she was taken from Cortez. The speculation is that Gappy Guiterrez may have been taken in by a Navajo family who lived in the northern part of the Navajo Reservation.

I am aware of the fact that our Navajo Tribe has grown over 300,000 registered members and we have various backgrounds. If anyone knows a story about a Pueblo child who was adopted by a Navajo family or another tribe within the Four Corners area, around 1887 or 1888, and you’re willing to share the information with me, please contact me at

I suppose Gappy Guiterrez may have shared stories of her early years living at the Santa Clara Pueblo. She was of the Winter Clan. My aunt would like to know how her great aunt had lived and would like to meet her children.

With that, I will share my story about meeting a person at a restaurant in Austin, Texas, where he asked me if I was a Navajo. I told him “Yes, I am.”

He told me about his grandmother who was on her deathbed when she told them that she’s a full-blooded Navajo. His grandmother told them that she didn’t go back because she didn’t remember where she came from.

He expressed interest in touring the Navajo Reservation, but I never heard from him again. He told me about being harassed by people who had migrated from the south into Texas.

I described the Navajo Reservation to him, focusing on places where tourists go. I thought of the late Grace McNeley’s story about one of her grandmothers being taken by Nakaai to Mexico and she never returned.

I was thinking, maybe he is one of the Nakaaidine’e from Grace’s family. I took Native American literature from Grace when she told us about the family becoming fragmented. My father is of Nakaaidine’e clan but his background parallels that of Gappy Guiterrez.

At a summer gathering, a father told me that his wife being raised by the Ute Tribe and he wanted his son to find the clan his mother originated from. His wife’s mother was Navajo. With genetic profiling services, maybe such inquiries will become of the past.

Thank you for your time and hopefully Gappy Guiterrez had a beautiful life on the Navajo Reservation.

My aunt married my late uncle in late 60s. They allowed my siblings and me to spend some time with aunt’s family on Santa Clara Pueblo. Good day.

Dorothy Redhorse
Sanostee, N.M.

SJC needs to decide what it will be

The headline caught my eye, then stunned me like a body blow: “Census: San Juan County is fastest growing county in U.S.” (Deseret News, March 22, 2017).

I was paying for some gas at the gas station bowling center when I read the headline. I reread it and turned away.

Later I read the article completely at our home in Blanding. Where was this growth? Where were all these new people? The article stated that the Census Bureau reported 7.56 percent growth in San Juan’s population between 2015 and 2016.

I couldn’t believe the reporting. At church, the bishop always reported when a baby had been born to a family in the congregation, or when someone had passed away. In my mind the numbers seemed to be fairly equal.

On our block, which I estimate to be home to about a hundred people, I hadn’t seen seven-and-a-half people move in, or seven-and-a-half babies being born. Even on our drives down to Four Corners and over to Cortez for hay, Montezuma Creek and Aneth seemed mostly unchanged from month to month – at least I couldn’t account for a sudden addition of 1,150 people, which is what it would take for a population of 15,000 to suddenly jump by the reported 7.56 percent.

To my untrained eye, Blanding, Monticello, Bluff and White Mesa looked about the same as always. The question remained, Who were these new residents, where were they now, and where had they come from?

As it turns out, the mystery was no mystery at all. These so-called “new” residents were the same ones who had always been here, but who, either by deliberate design or by inaccurate counts by the Census Bureau, had never been counted.

The more accurate Census numbers have led to a revolutionary power shift in San Juan County. One of the most conservative and Republican strongholds in the state of Utah (arguably one of the most conservative and Republican strongholds in the United States of America) is now Democratic, liberal, and brown-skinned.

San Juan faced, as it faces now, a decision of whether to enfranchise the newly counted citizens, or, as so often happens when entrenched power is challenged, deny the legitimacy of the new reality and fight to hold on to the power to which those in charge are accustomed.

The indications are not hopeful. Just before Christmas in 2017, Judge Robert Shelby ordered that new election districts be drawn to incorporate and share power with the newly enfranchised Native population of the county.

Our then-county commissioner, Phil Lyman (now our state representative), complained that the judge’s decision was biased: “It’s intended to hurt Blanding and it’s aimed at me.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec 22, 2017).

Some, it seems, have committed themselves to obstructing the change in representation. Newly elected commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Greyeyes have had their legitimacy as candidates, then as elected officials, assaulted by those charged with serving with them and assisting them in the work of governing.

It has even been suggested that Blanding and Monticello should secede from the newly redrawn county and divide the county into two. How dividing one of the poorest and least populated places in Utah, let alone the United States, and deliberately forcing two different demographics to fight to control scarce resources and infrastructure, benefits either group is a baffling proposition.

It is a time of revolutionary change in San Juan County and the manner in which we choose to respond to these changes will determine the economy and social legacy we pass on to the rising generations.

There is a natural tension between extraction industries (Blanding is the home of the only active uranium mill in the U.S.), and tourism. Blanding City markets itself as “Gateway to Adventure.”

It seems this pull in two opposing directions – preservation and promotion of natural wonders and native sites to visitors vs. celebration of fencing off lands to preserve and expand mining and drilling claims — captures the essence of the decision facing San Juan.

Do we invite others in and extend equal access, or do we string fence and post “keep out” signs? In other words, is everyone welcome and equal here, or are some born into and endowed with privilege?

As a county, we must make that choice, and we cannot escape the consequences of it.

Right now, we are deciding what kind of community, what kind of a county we, and our children, will be living in for the next hundred years. I am nothing special myself, just an old high school teacher, and I claim no more privilege of being heard than I would accord to anyone who wants to build our future.

I do see these as defining times, however, where our choices and principles will be of long-lasting consequence. I hope and ask that we listen to the better angels of our nature and contribute to the building of a community we can all feel proud of, and comfortable raising our children in. Let us empower each other and bask in the resulting rewards of what we build together.

When we moved to Blanding five years ago, we basked in the hospitality of the most friendly neighbors we had ever known. Strangers helped us move in our boxes and furniture. We relaxed in the comfort of knowing we were in a secure and welcoming place.

It pains my heart to think there is something so important or significant that it threatens the very nature of the welcoming, friendly people we know, and we (personally) aspire to be.

Jeff Fowles
Blanding, Utah

Udall bill disturbing, troubling, devastating

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address this exceptionally important matter concerning the legislation, sponsored by U. S. Sen. Tom Udall. The legislation was intended to stop further drilling around the Chaco Canyon Cultural and Heritage Center.

There was a meeting on it at the Nageezi Chapter Activity Center on Sept. 26, 2019, with the Navajo allottees, local leaders and concerned citizens that had a turnout of more than 400 attendees. All are opposing the legislation as written due to the unforeseen devastating impact it will cause to the royalty payment recipients and future generations to come.

Initially, the legislation sounded like a good idea when it was in the draft stages because it was to stop the drilling beyond the five-mile buffer zone around the Chaco Cultural and Heritage Center. However, as it started moving forward it appeared some changes were inserted, which were disturbing, troubling and devastating to the allottees.

What was hidden in the legislation was stopping the royalty payments, which was inserted in the final stages, which is sour, distasteful and unacceptable.

In viewing the legislation it appears to be the second biggest land grab in the history of this great Native land, the so-called United States of America. Why do we elect congressional leaders to represent us at the federal level and where are our tribal leaders?

I was very disappointed to learn our top tribal leaders supported the legislation during a tribal consultation meeting held in Window Rock. They should know they are not the ones negatively impacted. How dare they support it!

We know for a fact the top tribal leaders failed to keep the Navajo Generating Station operating that caused unnecessary job losses of 800-plus Navajo employees. They failed to reach far enough to save NGS. And now they support the aforementioned legislation, which is disturbing and troubling to the Navajo allottees.

I missed the meeting due to an urgent matter in the family that required my attention. However, I applaud your efforts and assure you my support in opposing the legislation though I’m not an active recipient of royalty payment at this time.

In viewing the above-mentioned legislation, I believe media coverage might be a great deal of help. Also, the legislation may impact Navajo allottees in Arizona and Utah. They need to be a big part in this effort.

Thank you for this opportunity to address this important matter and other issues of concern.

Vern Charleston
Farmington, N.M.

Another attempt at contradictory ambitions?

Your Navajo Times issue of Sept. 26, front page: “Referendum on 3-branch government tabled,” are excerpts that suggest uncertainty of direction to pursue from the Commission on Navajo Government.

This could be viewed as foreshadowing our future with ambivalence. Perhaps preliminary chatters, however, their alleged statements ignite curiosity and insights as to their underlying intention.

Our not-so-recent experience with political chaos should have already forewarned us of the dangers when our slaves run amok. What does the commissioners expect from this social experiment? Is this just another copying of a something they do not understand, evident in abandonment of policies and prevention of crimes within a three-branch government?

And before we explore this flamboyant undertaking, we must first ask ourselves if this is just another attempt at contradictory ambitions for further parasitic frenzy?

Have we not realized anything from our cultural legends, including our episodes of political turmoil?

The intent of myths and legends could be viewed as survival instructions whereby crises and blunders are not repeated. Ours is faded information of experiences of a people on the verge of extinction when rescued by unexpected compromise and salvation.
Yes, experiences are in our everyday life. Common sense dictates that if we are conscious and alert we will recognize and understand experience is not about doing something over and over until familiarity bonds with it. Nor is it about concrete routines or unwavering standards and practices. Experience should be viewed as a constant, changing fluid, inseparable from the experiencer.

Experience is movement, a transition, where the experiencer will never be the same afterwards. Simply, it is movement through life by connecting and anchoring to a relationship, then onward to the next intention, perception or obsession.

If experience is denied then obedience to demands of conformity or fixed doctrine only lessens the people to dependence and powerless. It is freedom to personal responsibility that makes them more knowledgeable and confident.

Behold the once promising three-branch government of the dominant society. True, our overlords have rapidly advanced by functioning with clear intention and determined direction. It is a corporation based on an “ideology” built and sustained on principles and beliefs, backed with strict immediate enforcement and synchronicity for social progress, social order, stability, and security. Yes, they have built-in self-correcting mechanisms and safeguards, known as “checks and balances,” within their self-sustaining governing system.

Now compare that to our current three-branch resolution tribal government. Does it possess any ideas or enforcement that characterize the dynamics of a democratic or a republic form of governing?

Not yet, the maxim “monkey see, monkey do” is sometimes prevalent in its pathetic form within our political structure. It seems ours is a self-interest employment based on personal relationships, buddy-to-buddy arrangements. What we have is nothing more than a social club, where members believe structure is more important than function and it shows as entry into the system depends not on “what” you know, but on “who” you know.

The problems for such setbacks are our neglected family teachings and education system that breeds arrogance and ignorance. There is arrogance because it is ignorant and ignorance is masked by arrogance, faking consciousness.

Shame, we have become nothing more than impersonators and copyists without original thought or common sense approach to a problem.

And as for fundamental law, it is a practice in discrimination and contradicts the Bill of Rights of the dominant society. Since Navajo is a matrilineal society, our family clanship system runs through the bloodline of the woman. She is vested with family and social responsibilities of participation in the decision-making of leadership, planning, child rearing, family, planting, property, permits, etc. She is considered head of the household. She is matriarch!

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Anyone interested in paintings?

Hello (Ya’at’eeh). I am moving from my home in Tehachapi, California, to a smaller home. I live in a hogan house, six-sided with the kitchen in the center and the front door facing east.
Each morning I welcome the day, as I was taught by a friend, near Many Farms, Arizona. I must move, due to illness, so I am downsizing.

I purchased two watercolors while living in Durango, during 2002-04. One was by Teddy Draper Jr. and the other by his father, Teddy Draper Sr. Both are original watercolors and signed in ink.
I can’t find any information on Teddy Draper Sr. as a painter on the Internet so I’m wondering if he did not do very many.

You can write to me if you know who would be interested in these. My address is Thank you very much.

Gia Bradley Koontz
Tehachapi, Calif.


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