Letters: We need to be self-sufficient in food supply

The recent COVID-19 epidemic, which is still affecting tribal members on the reservation and outside of the reservation, has shown several problems with the tribe’s emergency preparation for a large-scale crisis that could occur outside of the reservation.

Such crisis could greatly impact the tribe and its members. The tribe relies too heavily on state and federal resources to address a large crisis such as COVID. What the COVID epidemic has shown is that the tribe is woefully unprepared on its own to meet a large crisis that can occur.

In fact, so are most other tribes.

If COVID had been more virulent or deadly with a higher death rate like the flu epidemic of 1917, the tribe would have been isolated for a prolonged period of time and would not have been able to feed its own people and many tribal members would starve or engage in criminal acts or violence to feed themselves.

Tribal members depend on border towns to obtain food. If the trucks stop running to those border towns, the stock of food will be quickly depleted. Other types of crisis such as war, civil unrest, storms and earthquakes could also cause a disruption of the food distribution chain. The Navajo Tribe and other tribes need to prepare for the possibility of a disruption of the food supply chain.

One way the tribe can overcome the problem is to have emergency reserves of food strategically stored in communities like Tuba City, Ganado, Kayenta, Chinle, Shiprock, and other places.

Granaries should be built that can hold wheat, beans, corn, oats, and dried food that can be distributed in case of emergency when stores on and off the reservation have been depleted of their food.

During the period where no crisis exists, the stored food can be rotated with the older food sold to tribal members or given out as commodities to the elderly or to those requiring subsistence. The tribes could also turn stored wheat into bread that can be sold or distributed to schools and replace the used portion.

The tribe could store two to three years of emergency food reserves, along with medicine and vitamins.

The tribe needs to become overall self-sufficient in supplying its own food. The tribe being able to be self-sufficient would provide a way to re-supply emergency food reserves.

Purchases of food on the reservation will help keep money on the reservation, money that stays on the reservation can have a multiplying affect and help the tribe economically.

The tribe could lease land from chapters to raise livestock, chickens, hogs, or engage in egg production, milk production, or acquire more land for NAPI to increase food production. In some cases, chapters and tribal members could be contracted to produce food items. Farm co-operatives could be formed to help with production.

Making the tribe’s food sustainable and to have emergency reserves will be a costly endeavor. The lives of tribal members may depend on ready store of food available if a disaster occurs that shuts down the food supply chain.

The tribe should also look at the reservation as a refuge from crisis for tribal members living off the reservation. To fund this, the tribe should look at using some of the CARES Act money for implementing an emergency food reserve and look at funding from the Gates Foundation and other groups or pursue further federal funding.

Being self-sufficient will also validate tribal sovereignty.

Ronnie Lupson
Salt Lake City, Utah

Thanks to all who helped with pandemic

In March 2020, when the coronavirus hit Kayenta and surrounding communities, I did not realize where the virus was going. It was scary.

The national newscasts, such as CNN, NBC, etc., called it “pandemic,” which is a worldwide virus. The virus spread rapidly.

Today, on the Navajo Nation with 29,866 affected since last March, and 1,201 losing their lives as a result of COVID-19 (AP, March 2021), it appears the spread of the virus is slowing. The 135,000 coronavirus vaccine shots are helping.

However, the Centers for Disease Control have warned “not to let our guard down” such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and staying home.

When the pandemic first hit in Kayenta, the local medical airplane flew frequently 24/7. The local airplane is a great hope of survival from COVID-19 for severely affected citizens.
In many ways it was sad to hear an airplane flying off. However, it was to save a life. The plane has been remarkably busy for months.

Today, I do not hear the airplane as much going off or coming in.

The total Kayenta medical complex, administration, doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers, and all staff are to be commended for their work in these trying times. The pilots and those that assist transporting patients are also to be commended. Their duties are extremely risky, difficult, and complicated, but they are committed and dedicated to care for people.

Kayenta and Tuba City medical centers are so organized in providing essential medical services for all people they care for during the pandemic.

My appreciation is also extended to all medical centers on the Navajo Nation. Thank you so much for your work and being there. Finally, thank you to the organizations and volunteers that hand out food to people.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

Rough Rock school changed life for better

I just wanted to comment on an article from last week’s issue regarding Rough Rock Demonstration School and its impact on our society (“50 years ago: Evaluation author alleges cover-up of report critical of Rough Rock school”).

At the time, Indian life was outlawed by the government. As a result, the BIA was torturing thousands of Diné children hundreds of miles from the reservation. They had little or no contact with their families and faced many rules degrading their culture.

For example, the children could not talk their own language and were physically and mentally punished for doing so no matter the reason. These laws were applied across the nation. It was institutional racism applied to the Indian people.

The Diné Council, led by the Education Committee, developed a plan and went to “Washingtoon.” They did not go to the BIA headquarters. Instead, they went to the nation’s headquarters. They demanded an audience with the Oval Office, upon which they eventually met with the nation’s top lawyer, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The delegation said they wanted a completely Diné-run school not far from the reservation, but in the middle of the reservation. They said the Diné school would be better than the BIA schools.
They told Kennedy: (1) They passed Navajo law legalizing Diné life (which was contrary to BIA law entitled “Dineh Philosophy of Learning”); (2) they developed curriculums based on teaching Diné language, history and culture; and (3) established Rough Rock Demonstration School in the middle of the reservation and not far from the reservation as BIA had done.

And, for treaty provisions they wanted the U.S. to fund it and they wanted direct funding. They were asserting their sovereignty status.

Robert Kennedy bought into it. He supported the project so much that his daughter attended the school for a time and he made several trips to the reservation to support it. He got to eat Navajo tacos.

This may have been the first Indian self-determination to contract. The rest is history.

RRDS changed things for the better, not just for the Diné people, and not just education, but for all Indians in all walks of life. It served as a model for a way out from extinction of Diné life.

It saved us and the founding fathers saved us. Boy, I wish I were as smart as they were.

Raymond Yazzie
Window Rock, Ariz.
(Hometown: Wheatfields, Ariz.)


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