Letters | Use sovereignty for money flowing onto rez
Here’s a platform that will require two-terms time and with the urgency of unprecedented proportion, which is to say a one-termer or one with a remaining term won’t accomplish this most critical policy facing the Navajo Nation.
And undertaking this platform cannot wait another four years. That issue is our sovereignty.
No, not the type of sovereignty when the Navajo Nation takes over federal programs, traveling to DC to ask for more money for federal programs, or taking federal officials onto tours to show them of their absence of their trust responsibility found within dilapidated school buildings, police stations or environmental contaminations.
I’m talking about real Navajo sovereignty, the one that shook federal officials in their boots once upon a time, the kind of sovereignty that transforms our future, our lives, and our communities, the kind of sovereignty that restores our land, our culture, our language and brings our children home – the type of sovereignty that builds our Nation.
The kind of sovereignty that our forefathers in 1868 exercised with foresight, astuteness, and purpose.
If there’s any one evidence that tells how our leaders have been performing and how well they’ve implemented our sovereignty, look at the annual Navajo Nation budget, where historically 85% of the budget is from federal funding and 15% from tribal royalties, taxes, and other payments for the general fund.
In the last three years, the Navajo Nation government budgeted itself slightly in the range of $1 billion. In terms we can understand, that equals to one Hardship program for each of those same years. But we all must ask ourselves, have our lives been transformed?
One billion dollars sounds like and is a lot of money, but it is only a fraction of the total amount of money historically and currently flowing into the Navajo Reservation.
Now let’s add monies from school districts, colleges, hospitals, county, state and other federal governments/projects/benefits, individual retirement payments, colleges, transfer payments such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, tribal enterprises/corporation, on reservation private corporations and businesses.
Those monies represent the Navajo Nation’s gross domestic product and I estimate it to be approximately at an annual amount of $10 billion per year. And why not? The states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have their GDP at $337B, $95B, and $183B, respectively.
Imagine that for a moment, the Navajo Reservation annually generates $10 billion worth of income, production, and output.
All this begs the question, how is the Navajo Nation government not fully capitalizing on the annual $10 billion income flowing onto our reservation? And is the Navajo Nation government OK with only having a $150 million revenue source/budget?
Maybe when the Navajo constituent asks their elected leaders, “Where is our money?” they’re really asking, “How are you transforming our lives if you’re not allowing $10 billion to be fully a part of the equation to helping the Navajo people?”
Now, let’s say if the Navajo Nation’s $150 million annual general fund budget is generated from a $2.5 billion income (GDP), imagine what the additional unaccounted $7.5 billion income would generate for the Navajo Nation’s general fund budget? Annually, it could generate an additional $450 million to the general fund budget.
For the Navajo Nation government to rightfully account for the absent $7.5 billion is that first step in exercising our sovereignty. And in deploying the revenues derived from those unaccounted resources through budgets and other authorizations is sovereignty being given a chance to go into the homes of the people it represents.
But it is when the people who benefit from the actions of its government in affording the rightful use of the resources belonging to them, then in that instance sovereignty was used to change the lives of the Navajo people.
In the current 2022 political campaign there are once again endless proposals and promises for new hospitals, nursing homes, broadband, museums, roads, jobs, utility, infrastructure, veteran health care, scholarships, competitive pay, housing, nation-building, green energy, and so forth.
But how can those campaign promises be funded if nearly all the Navajo Nation’s general budget is earmarked to support existing federal grant programs and that no proposals are offered for the Navajo Nation to begin fully accounting for the $10 billion income brought into the Navajo Nation annually?
My point is, our sovereignty needs to be exerted much more extensively, using it to reign in the monies flowing into our reservation, and utilizing those amounts to change the lives of our Navajo people.
And the voters should be listening out for which candidate(s) make that connection. After all, we will have to live with the choice we make in our vote.
Raymond K. Nopah
New school, better principal and school board members ASAP
It has been shown clearly that the Lukachukai Community School governing board members are only interested in their own interests at the expense of the students, parents/guardians, taxpayers, and other stakeholders.
We hear about how other local Bureau of Indian Education schools fall prey into the same issue(s) and despite requests for interventions, local public meetings, the situation at this specific BIE K-8 grant school has been, to say the least, very unproductive, very unsafe, very self-serving, and most importantly very conniving.
Specifically, the situation is undemocratic where the specified individuals are taking the school into their own hands. Former students of the school who are certified, qualified staff were simply replaced by grisly actions of the present board members.
In addition, without recusal from voting, one rogue school board member would singularly process a re-vote on their own immediate family member to be hired instead. This is a conflict of interest being committed!
The second school board member followed as usual. The third board member tried to vote against the illegal voting process being practiced during school board meetings but was outvoted many times.
It happens that there are only three board members after two vacancies took place which allowed this horrid situation to become advantageous to the two specified board members.
The administrator at this school site has become a puppet to the two board members and has been 100% unaccountable to the parents of the school.
With only a few votes, the re-authorization process was barely passed at the local chapter meeting after earlier attempts to get it done. The principles of being just and honorable in a political setting has once again been thwarted at this specific school which has the word “community” in its name.
There are so many vacancies at this school due to certified staff resigning from a hostile environment at this school for the past three years. Even 80 students left the school to attend nearby schools.
So, in summary, Navajo Nation leaders, BIE leaders, county leaders, do you sense a need for intervention? We do.
Nation struggles in Third World state of mind
In the era of change in the United States and the world, the Navajo Nation is struggling in its Third World state of mind.
Recession has crept slowly in America and the COVID-19 outbreak had escalated that change.
The Navajo Nation was never ready. As a matter of fact, the Navajo Nation is in deplorable condition all over the reservation.
I reside in Shiprock, and my community has declined. The economic growth has been down for a long time eroding at the dignity of the grassroots people.
What I am saying is the opportunity for an advanced society on Navajo land cannot be seen. Our government is entangled in its own mess and there is no chance of recovery.
Some politicians may say that I am wrong. I am correct with my statement, especially when you question what positivity has come from the Navajo Nation government?
From my experience in my own community, the government has closed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Navajo Nation Inc., the Four Corners Adolescent Treatment Center Inc., Home for Women and Children Inc., the Youth Home Inc., among others.
The Navajo Nation was a cheap, lousy, lazy steward for these very important organizations. All you see now is remnants of what was.
Youth think the next president will make change? No, I will never see healthy change unless the people, on their own accord, petition the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation to reform/overhaul the Navajo Nation government.
The petition would require a qualified pro bono attorney and volunteers to collect over 200,000 signatures from registered members of the Navajo Nation. Their petition would state specifically what the people desire. The Supreme Court can then issue a supreme decision for the people.
If you, as citizens of the Navajo Nation, perform forensic audits on all the Navajo Nation departments, the president/vice president’s office, the legislative branch, each Council delegate, the tribal enterprises, and all the current and past contracts for services, you will discover fraud, racketeering, illegal transactions and injustice within each component of our government.
Many current and past officials even have “sealed” their political activities from the public so you and I cannot know what they did.
The bottom line is that every one of these candidate hopefuls are going around using the same rhetoric since the beginning of our government. If a candidate wins, he or she will realize the limited power the Office of the President/Vice President holds.
The executive branch, the Navajo Nation Council, judicial branch and Bureau of Indian Affairs are bound by laws that are barriers to progress. In Navajo we say, “T’óó ák’i nada’ jiiztló – they just entangled themselves!”
To untangle the Navajo Nation government mess, a major reform needs to be done by you; you, the people, and not the government. They now hold control over you and me.
In closing, the main question to ask of these candidates is, “How? How and when would you get it done?”
Public safety is a priority
I recently addressed the Kayenta Township Commission regarding the increased violence in the community and the lack of communication from leadership and the Navajo Police.
The responses I received from the commissioners was surprising. It was as if the recent shooting and deaths were commonplace and just part of everyday life on the Navajo Nation.
I felt as if I shouldn’t be complaining because that’s just the way life is on the rez. Just duck when you hear shots fired. Have we reached that point in our Navajo communities that we just accept violence in our communities?
Perhaps that is one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, that we lost so many of our relatives that more death is just accepted. Perhaps it is a form of trauma that we are still recovering from.
As we emerge from the pandemic and rebuild from what we’ve lost, we must refrain steadfast in our belief that a safe and healthy community is attainable. And that our Navajo Police officers should be applauded for accepting the challenge to protect our communities.
Even though they are severely shorthanded they still put on their uniform day after day and do their job. Thank you, Navajo Police officers! You are appreciated.
A June 3, 2021, Navajo Times article titled, “Navajo Police need 775 new officers” revealed the severe need of new recruits that want to accept the challenge to protect and serve Navajo communities. Current number is below 200 officers serving the Navajo Nation.
Commissioner Kescoli mentioned at the Township Commission meeting that 10 Navajo recruits were nearing their completion at the police academy. Yep, that’s right, 10 recruits. That’s a long way from the 775 officers that Navajo Nation needs.
What remains is that we have increasing violence in our communities and a short-staffed police force. So, what can we do to help? We can encourage our young kids to be the best they can be. Perhaps encourage them to serve as a police officer and protect our communities.
There are qualifications that need to be met in order to be an officer. We should promote that in a public campaign so interested youngsters can see what is expected of them. We can tell our Navajo officers that we appreciate their work.
We can tell our elected leaders to allocate more funding for officers so our officers can have the funding necessary to do their job. Maybe they need new equipment like surveillance cameras, license plate readers, body cameras, GIS, cell phone tracking software or investigative case management software.
If we make safe communities a priority then we will see it transfer to our elected leaders who in response will allocate more funding for our officers. We can create community stakeholder meetings to gain a better sense of the community policing needs. We do not have to accept the current status of increasing violence in our communities.
Tell our Navajo candidates that public safety is a priority and that we want safe communities.