Letters: We need to manage feral horses

The March 1 Navajo Times covered the feral horse issue (“Hunt canceled, feral horses a growing problem,” Page A1). Here’s a response by a guy with the name of a horse.

In 2013, I helped the Department of Agriculture with a horse roundup. We had a crew that rounded up horses in 54 chapters. That was five years ago. Why is the president just now stating, “We do need to implement a horse management plan”? The plan should have been done in 2013.

He also stated, “Horse management plan includes castration, birth control and adoptions.” The option is ludicrous. Sounds good but each animal will continue eating 32 pounds of forage and drinking 10 gallons of water per day. We need forage and water for livestock that bring us revenue.

Rez ranch life has its challenges. Can’t speak for other producers but for me it’s too many wild, unbranded, unclaimed feral horses, followed by drought and open range.

Trying every strategic planning to improve beef cattle business isn’t working. Open range is a terrible way to make a living raising livestock on the rez, financially that is. In the summer months I spend money feeding, watering, buying salt blocks and range cakes for my cattle. But in open range, the major concern is many, many feral horses at Oakridge Wildhorse Country Ranch. Named the ranch for many feral horses that nobody owns. I have horses for ranch work; I don’t need more than three.

Feral horses deplete natural springs at Oakridge. I want to ask the guy from Betatakin to come get the feral horses. I’ll help with the roundup and trucking.

Here’s a little bit about range management unit fencing. Rez-wide, RMUs are the solution. Hopefully future generations get them someday. But it isn’t going to happen in my lifetime. Why? BIA and Navajo Nation will continue blaming everything and everyone except the fact that they allow resource mismanagement to continue for almost a century.

It’s almost a century because mismanagement was recognized by the feds in the 1930s and John Collier bi’chi’indi’ is still here today. Collier eliminated herds of sheep and goats. Ask our elders, they know.

Nel Roanhorse
Oakridge, Ariz.

I’m 31 and running for president

One-hundred-fifty years after the treaty signing of 1868, the Diné still exist.

Imagine the group of naat’áanii on June 1, 1868, chanting prayers at dawn that reverberated through the spirit world to the Diyin Diné’e. The prayers spoken that morning most likely ended with these sacred words, “hozho naahasdlii.”

I suspect the naat’áanii were unsure what the future held for their people, but through their Diné faith, they ensured that the people had a future by means of ending their prayers with “hozho naahasdlii.” The words hozho “naahasdlii” imply that in the future there is a moment where hozho exists for the Diné.

After 150 years and four generations of plight for the Diné, we still end our prayers by chanting “hozho naahasdlii” four times. When my generation reaches old age, our prayers should reflect a life of fulfillment through these sacred words: “hozho holo doo hozho naahasdlii.”

I formally announce to the Diné my candidacy for Navajo Nation president. A younger Diné generation will have the opportunity to decide what they can do together to get us to a better state of hozho. This announcement coincides with the changing of seasons, where one ends and another begins, the time of rebirth and regrowth.

What will this generation choose to be their hozho holo? A person, a home, a memory, or an emotion?

Tótsohnii nishli, Táchii’nii bashishchiiin, Ma’ii deeshgiizhinii dah shi cheii, Hashk’aan hadzohí dah shi nali. My umbilical cord resides in a valley called Kinnaaziinii, four miles south of Klagetoh, Arizona. I am 31 years old. My campaign mantra: “Hozho holo doo hozho naahasdlii.”

Nicholas Taylor
Kinnaaziinii, Ariz.

NGS is a dying horse; let’s move on

Trying to save Navajo Generating Station and Peabody coal mining is like trying to save an old dying horse. Peabody, as usual, is giving false hopes that a new company will take over NGS and operate it, using coal from Black Mesa up to 2044, thereby saving 800 high-paying Navajo jobs. Less than a dozen Hopis work at the mine and none at NGS.

Peabody is assuming that the Hopi Tribe will eagerly agree to extend coal mining when its lease with the tribe ends in 2025 because it has become dependent on the company. Peabody has become, as the song goes, our company store. It owns our soul. The Hopi Constitution requires that the Hopi Tribal Council must get consent from 12 independent villages. Only five of the villages elect their representatives to Council. The Hopi Tribal Council cannot make a decision unilaterally.

Should the Hopi legislators decide — after getting the green light from villages — to extend the lease to 2044, a lengthy, time consuming, costly Environmental Impact Statement will have to be undertaken. The public will be given an opportunity to study the draft EIS and possibly challenge it in federal administrative court.

The press covering the recent demonstration by Navajo NGS employees and mine workers in Phoenix did not mention a word about where the Hopi people stand. We are treated like a footnote, people of no consequence. Ignored is the fact that our ancestors were the first people to settle on Black Mesa over a thousand years ago. Diné did not show up until the late 1700s, according to historical records.

Archaeological investigators, hired by Peabody, mapped over 2,500 archaeological sites on the 68,000-acre Peabody lease area. This suggests that thousands of burial sites of our ancestors are located within the lease area, the largest mining lease area in the world. The U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and its regulations prohibit mining in a cemetery or near a cemetery. The Peabody lease lies within a traditional Hopi cemetery. DNA, if it is ever done, will prove that hundreds of our ancestors are buried there. I ask the pro-NGS and Peabody demonstrators: Would you allow anyone to destroy a grave of your loved one(s)?

There are other ways to make a living. Navajo Nation is planning to create an economy based on renewable energy. According to President Russell Begaye, the goal of the Navajo Nation is to produce 500 megawatts of electricity. You and your children can be retrained and trained to build, manage and operate solar generating stations. Your children can be trained as engineers, construction workers, maintenance workers and managers of Hopi-owned and Diné-owned solar projects. The Kayenta Solar Projects I and II are first baby steps to achieve Navajo Nation’s goal of building 500 megawatts of electricity in the next 10 years.

This can be increased substantially in partnership with the Hopi Tribe. Our lands can become a solar capital of the Southwest. Black Mesa Trust has developed a preliminary proposal to build solar projects that will generate at least 500 megawatts of solar power, along with workforce and training.

Helping BMT with the planning is a Diné engineer from Dilkon. For 20 years, BMT has been fighting to save and protect pristine ice-age waters stored in the confined Navajo Aquifer. We are one step from reaching our goal. Unfortunately, over 45 billion gallons of our sole-source drinking water has been pumped out by Peabody since pumping started in 1970. Forty-five billion gallons is enough to sustain the entire Hopi population for over 300 years.

Peabody is not required to restore the water as required by the SMCRA. Water is life. It is a spirit that sustains our soul and life; therefore it is sacred. What we do to water, we do to ourselves. We do not own water as a property right. We belong to water; therefore, it is our sacred obligation to live with waters, not fight over it. Achieving our goal of saving and protecting waters is made possible by Black Mesa Diné grassroots organizations.

Now, we — youth, elderly and schoolteachers — must work together to preserve and protect all waters on Black Mesa. We must teach the children about the nature of water.

One thing we can do immediately is to use the Clean Water Act to designate the Navajo Aquifer as a sole-source drinking water. We must create a groundwater management policy and program that the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation will adopt.

Hopi has a saying that the entire world has two faces, the negative and the positive. The NGS and mine workers are looking at the negative side. There is another song that says, “Minimize the negative, accentuate the positive.” Let us work on the positive side to create a permanent, sustainable homeland for future generations.

Vernon Masayesva
Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

Saving NGS means saving families

As proud parents, grandparents and members of the Navajo Nation, we naturally want to give to our children a good life while keeping families together. The value of family is universal to all people and all cultures.

Strong families create healthy communities and a vibrant nation. Yet the strength of our communities is at risk. It is increasingly clear that if the Navajo Generating Station shuts down a quarter-century before its time, tribal families would be hardest hit. I worry most about the children.

Parents would have to leave the reservation to find work. Children would not have their parents and grandparents with them every day and would lose their important family connections.

The Navajo Generating Station was developed on tribal lands by tribal workers with the mine and power plant providing revenues equaling 22 percent of the Navajo Nation’s general budget and more than 85 percent for the Hopi. The operations also contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefits to regional economies each year, supporting schools, government, fire departments and police, in addition to the purchase of local goods and services from Navajo businesses.

As our leaders look at ways to maintain operation of the power plant for the financial security of the nation, they understand that the Navajo family is at the heart of the issue.

Speaker Lorenzo Bates has captured it best. He said that the real story is about the traditional working family and the work they do to benefit tribal people and families across Arizona. Last year, Bates sponsored legislation that finalized an agreement between the Navajo Council and the power plant owners to continue operations through 2019. Now the momentum has turned to supporting the transition of the plant to a new group of owners, which will keep it operating in the decades ahead. Credible buyers have expressed interest, and it’s time to get serious about the transition.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is leading the process, saying he is committed to working with all parties to keep the plant operational and to protect tribal jobs. A prominent global investment bank has identified interest from potential new owners, and these important discussions are continuing.

With so much at stake for our future, the United Mine Workers of America has brought together a powerful coalition of labor, industry and consumer groups that are advocating to keep the Navajo Generating Station online long term. The group is led by UMWA President Cecil Roberts and represents more than 100,000 U.S. businesses and organizations. It is dedicated to creating a transparent discussion that will inform communities and advocate solutions that could allow the Navajo Generating Station to operate well into the 2040s as envisioned when the plant was built by the federal government.

With the Navajo Nation, the Department of the Interior and other key stakeholders highly engaged, it’s time for the current owners to step up support for the sale of the plant, take long-term power from NGS and fulfill their obligation to Navajo and Hopi people. Let’s all join in the effort to protect our jobs, our families and our communities. It is time to say yes to NGS.

Marie Justice
President, United Mine Workers of America Local 1924
Kayenta, Ariz.

Our descent into postmodernity

Postmodernity has been described as, “… a culture of fragmentary sensations, eclectic nostalgia, disposable simulacra, and promiscuous superficiality, in which the traditionally valued qualities of depth, coherence, meaning, originality, and authenticity are evacuated or dissolved amid the random swirl of empty signals.”

The public commons of information in the Navajo Times regarding our Diné language loss appear to reflect deeper questions on our very own intergenerational postmodernity. While the continuing search for rootedness in one’s sine qua non indigenous identity and sovereignty are most reassuring, we see also a great desire to merge with the hegemonic society only with great uncertainty and hesitancy.

Our use of our Diné language underlies much of our own sense of cultural drift and destabilization: postmodernity. Clearly, while much has changed over the years in our material environment, our knowledge structure (epistemology) essentially remains right before us rooted in our natural world (ontology).

For those who grew up in our traditional Navajo world of Diné language, there was substance, authenticity, depth, and usefulness that gave life to our bona fide Diné culture. There are many who were brought up in the sacred traditional hogan with sacred ceremonies, seasonal events, kinship lessons and character instruction. Extended families gathered to sit down to an evening meal with a cloth spread on dirt floor signifying a connection with Mother Earth.

Where families ate, slept, worked, there were spiritual communion and ceremonies. This was the traditional home, a hogan as a sacred sanctum where deeply held sacred prayer-songs were conducted for one’s dwelling, the hogan, the home, families, and property, for our people, for the natural world.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and sometimes extended family visitors made up a family. There was conversation, always all in Navajo, where the adults spoke of the day’s general events.

There was always laughter, while the younger children just chitchatted about anything, but always laughter as well. After dinner, the younger ones were told to sit down for cultural instruction on kinship, relatives, clans, character, the good person, the bad person, stories about the coyote tales and the moral lessons inherent in these stories.

On other occasions, children and adults were instructed on the most important Diné history of emergence as well as lessons about the importance of sacred ceremonies, the deeply held spiritual observations with connections to our natural world and our conduct with critical implications to the good life. In short, with the Navajo language, parents and elders were constructing a most critical core cultural self-affirmation for our youth and children preparing for well-being in one’s life.

Our ever-evolving vocabulary were words contextualized for living the good life in the form of altruism, giving of ourselves for the good of others. Many among us were instructed with privileged sacrosanct practical Navajo words beginning with simple discrete language to the ever-evolving complexity of our vocabulary and cognitive structures.

In this language acquisition, comprehension amounted to higher order multi-processing discreteness of our language greater than the mere sum of language parts. We were apparently undergoing at an early age a complex Gestalt cognitive structural transformation of great emotional depth, complexity, comprehension and eventual articulation. Simply put, we were instructed that our words, our thinking, were sacred, our life in parallel to the orderliness in the natural world was sacred to the extent that we must have the utmost respect for our thinking, our words, as this very well affects wellness in mind, body, and spirit.

Current neurological scientific research suggests there is a reciprocal relationship between our neural (brain) morphology and our thinking, our words. Such findings have critical implications for the cultural concept of Alchi’ Sila as it may bear upon the teachings of the Holy Deities, White Shell Woman, Changing Woman, the Hero Twins, the nuance and emotional essence of Protection Way and Blessing Way song-prayers among many other ceremonial song-prayers.

With this foundation came lessons of empowerment, self-efficacy, collective-efficacy, locus-of-control (“if it’s to be, it’s up to me”), renewal, to respect the power of the human mind bestowed upon the Earth-Surface People by the Holy Deities.

We were imbued with vocabulary of becoming and being a good person, self-sacrificing, benevolent, compassionate, visionary, developing personal inner strength for perseverance, resilience, character, honesty, ethics, integrity and industriousness (chei), hard work, through our words, thoughts, sacred songs and prayers.

Indeed, the roots were being cultivated, which eventually would metamorphose to wings with which we would fly on our own. Diné language had great value as we were being prepared for the joys and hardships of life yet to come.

This empowering worldview, our indigenous sine qua non-upbringing, could hardly be construed as being “culturally deprived” upon entry into Eurocentric schooling. While we were instructed that education as a tool was equally important, daily a different cultural wedge was driven deeper into our worldview where now at an early age we were no longer learning our sacred hogan songs, Blessing Way/Protection Way, but singing different cultural lesson songs such as “Davy, Davy Crocket, king of the wild frontier,” lessons which were very important to another culture.

Rather than shove into past tense, the recent articles and letters to the Navajo Times, the weekly KTNN speaker series along with public cultural events honoring our ancestors and our heritage language deserve the highest commendation for shedding light on the deepening cultural crisis that has profound implications for the future of our children and grandchildren. Pointedly, if we do not develop an intimate relationship, an inner experience with a language, depth, coherence, meaning, originality and authenticity, in words, we will not see any compelling purpose for language use.

We will not see any value in learning that language and for many our heritage language. There seems to be a most fundamental basis for language conservancy, linguicide, language loss or retention universally, which is practical application, and in some cases the profound sacrosanct usefulness of a language.

This sense of fragmentary postmodernity with our heritage cultural language, the “…random swirl of empty signals” with our heritage-language should be a wake-up call that we not dissolve the empowering value of our Diné language. There are many among us who are thankful for the foresight of parents and grandparents for instilling and cultivating to this day the value of our heritage language. The opportunities to reignite, reengage, recalibrate, cultivate new pathways to foster our heritage language use are enormous.

As has often been expressed, where there is no bold and compelling vision, cultures and people vanish.

Harold G. Begay
To’ Nanees’ Dizi, Ariz.

Publisher should have been fired

I am responding to 60-year-old Navajo Times Publisher/CEO Tom Arivso Jr. or Tommy Arviso’s DWI charges and his apology he wrote in Navajo Times (page A7) titled “Life has many twists, turns; I took the wrong one” on Feb. 15, 2018.

I would have not bothered to write my concern if Navajo Times was a private business but this is owned by the Navajo people. Navajo Times has not made any profit and never returned any dividends or contributed to the tribal treasury.

It’s a weekly newspaper with no other competition on the Navajo Nation. It publishes four papers a month and 48 papers out of 365 days. That gives 317 days to publish the best newspaper by Arviso’s reporters and what does he do with his time?

Arviso has shown no accountability and no fiscal policies to make the Navajo Times profitable even though he has all the time in the world to do so. Arviso has lied to himself and to the Navajo people ever since he became a Navajo Times CEO. If he blows .23 on a breath alcohol test when he was pulled over by police and still walking around, and you’re 60 years old, that means you have been an alcoholic all your life. Then you lie to the police officer about how much you drank and who you work for.

If you’re going to get drunk and drive that is not a wrong turn in your life, that is intentional and you know you’re going to get away with it because you got away with it for many years. The board of directors is hypocritical to allow Mr. Arviso to keep his job even though not long ago they fired a Navajo reporter for the same offense. They accused him of violating the basic tenets of journalism, which is “Do not lie.”

Board of directors member Paul DeMain is his longtime friend; and Tazbah McCullah and Edward Richards all had picked Tom Arviso and lobbied the Navajo Nation Council to confirm his friends to the board. No accountability.

This is a violation of five core principles of journalism, which are truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability.

This is why Navajo Nation loses $2 billion a year and keeps the Navajo people in poverty. Navajo Nation has no economy of its own simply because all 13 tribal enterprise CEOs are not held accountable.

Navajo people are kept in the dark about how these tribal enterprises are operated and same thing with all tribal divisions. It’s over 40 years since these tribal enterprises were established to bring economic prosperity and we become a financially independent nation. So far we still depend on U.S. government as a social welfare country.

In the private sector, if a company CEO doesn’t make any profit, he’ll be fired in a year. Navajo Nation will stay in poverty until we start holding these top officials and leaders accountable and replace them with the doers.

Lester Begay
Crownpoint, N.M.

Alexie is innocent until proven guilty

It’s not good news for Sherman Alexie, a prominent Native American author of 26 books who writes about the beauty and complexity of being an Indigenous American.

There are anonymous claims that he committed sexual misconduct, many against Native females. Sexual misconduct allegations in the workplace have tarnished, rightly or wrongly, the careers of male celebrities due to the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements. There are the non-famous ones, too.

Do not misinterpret my writing. I think the Me-Too movement is a great thing. But I believe this practice of easily pointing fingers, making accusations, and labeling one a sexual predator without investigation or due process of law is unethical, immoral and a legal wrong. Those in the entertainment business (Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Ben Affleck and Navajo filmmaker Kody Dixon Dayish) were accused of committing criminal sexual misconduct and are now shunned by their peers and their community, stripped of respect and admiration. Accusations have made them villains. With their names and reputations harmed, some have been fired and maybe are no longer hirable in their field of work.

Accusations alone can pretty much end one’s career. These accusations may lack true facts. The courts rely on facts to come to a conclusion. Whether or not the legal route is exercised, the wrongly accused could acquire a damaged reputation and the invalidation of his or her lifetime achievements.

Accusations are dangerous. Therefore, due process is so important. Due process mandates that citizens be given just and fair treatment.

Will Sherman Alexie’s career and achievements also be tarnished due to allegations of sexual misconduct, unsubstantiated at this moment in time? According to ABC News online, “Sherman Alexie apologizes amid sexual misconduct allegations” (Associated Press, March 1, 2018), Mr. Alexie apologized to those he states he has hurt, but without admitting the specific harms. He does not admit guilt to the sexual allegations.

In its simplest, take away the statute of limitation that will bar a civil or criminal complaint and presume Mr. Alexie’s tribe’s tribal court declines to try him, let’s say one of his anonymous accusers initiates a criminal complaint. Let’s assume he is tried and found guilty of a criminal sexual offense. Since this might result in jail time, he will be deprived of liberty. The Fifth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and a tribe’s due process provisions protect its citizens should they be “deprived of life, liberty, or property.”

Sherman Alexie, as a citizen of the U.S. and a Coeur d’Alene tribal member, is guaranteed different government entity due process protections. The first one at the federal level is in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is made applicable to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment, meaning the due process guarantee is present at the state level. Another one is the Coeur d’Alene tribe’s due process.

The point is that the sexual misconduct allegations are just that – accusations. They are not truths founded on evidence. Without an investigation or the involvement of a court to determine if the allegations are true or false, the alleged offender is denied his or her constitutional right to due process. This is neither just nor fair.

Be cautious, Mr. Sherman Alexie; it appears the aggressive, instigating accuser, Litsa Dremousis, is proceeding to “Fatal Attraction” you. I interpreted just that after reading the Spokesman-Review online article “Sherman Alexie addresses the sexual misconduct allegations that have led to fallout” (Shapiro and Kiley, 2018).

Mr. Alexie admits to having an affair with Dremousis while married. He states the affair ended in 2015. Instead of exiting his life completely, Dremousis has continuously made attempts to ruin his marriage, his name, his accomplishments, and his career. She is a jilted woman and her ulterior motive is to destroy Mr. Alexie. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” (William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, 1697).

Mr. Alexie is already affected by the detrimental ramifications due to her and others’ accusations. For example, the Institute of American Indian Arts has removed his name off their scholarship and renamed it the MFA Alumni Scholarship (Shapiro and Kiley, 2018). Their decision was made in haste. Again, there exists no proof that Mr. Alexie is guilty of any sexual misconduct. So, it is a mistake for those to act in a manner that deems him guilty of such accusations.

It appears that all one must do to ruin another’s career and good name is to make an accusation of sexual misconduct, absent an investigation and without a civil or criminal court of law ruling that the evidence proves a sexual criminal act occurred. Whatever happened to the ideal legal right of “innocent till proven guilty”? It’s worrisome that the practice is now guilty till proven innocent.

Just my two cents worth.

Tammie Blackwater
Farmington, N.M.


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Categories: Letters