Letters: We, the people, are root and solution
An executive order partially closing our tribal government services was reinstated by tribal President Nez and Vice President Lizer. The politicians, along with associates, are claiming the “COVID-19 monster” is still out there and waiting. Therefore, stay at home.
To reiterate, to keep citizens safe and healthy, and to lessen the COVID-19 viral spread, the Nez administration has decided to prolong our curfew and lockdown orders, of which some citizens may consider it as being under house arrest and their liberty deprived.
Even though with such measures it is either with daring intent or sheer ignorance, certain citizens continue to infect others or walk right into the mouth of the alleged “monster” and become statistics.
As before, few individuals will soon proclaim this mandated idleness as a violation to their civil rights, liberty, or whatever, thus rebellion through “jailbreaks.”
Yes, all these may be intended for survival, but “nursing the symptoms” to enforce social obedience seems to have its shortfalls.
This survival technique seems perception-driven. We continue to mimic the great white way in how they excuse or overlook the source of the problem. This is to say, we need to view our social problems as collective individual issues. If not, then dealing with COVID-19 becomes very complex, exhausting, and overwhelming.
Yes, structured modern education seems to shun problem solving through creativity and originality. The resources of insight and innovation, as to “think outside the box” are what we need at the moment.
With foresight, there is already an obstacle in our way. It is this notion we always proclaim that we are a people who possesses “resilience” throughout our history.
As understood, this resilience means being bendable, flexible, tough, or being resistant. Nowhere does it mention anything about adaptability or being able to change as a way out through dire circumstances.
The assumption is this is where our problem lies, as well as our solution. What does it take to let go of our stubborn-idle behavior and gestures?
And, yes, does not resistance signify stubbornness, at a standstill, refusing to change? Perhaps such initiation of our innate will ease the crushing thought in evading doom from a pandemic.
From 1868 onward to the present, we should now have homegrown intellects, thinkers, social scientists, and well-versed professionals within our midst. They should have information on how to change a society for the better, politics excluded. Yet, to this day, where are they?
Possibly on Twitter, Facebook, or some time-wasting social media, very busy, gossiping, doing “selfies,” prostituting for a hit, or arguing over some nonsense with someone they do not even know, while our Navajo society is in a hand basket on its way to wherever.
If we look beyond the illusionary fear and see the real danger we may realize it is not an alleged “monster” that is dwindling our population. The root and solution to our social problem in dealing with COVID-19 is us, we, the people.
The federal government instilled shortsightedness and to be controlled through our education of obedience, and to resist at the wrong time. Now the hard part, how do we get ourselves, as well as others, to survive?
A wild guess, at the moment, those that cannot comprehend the real dangers of COVID-19 pandemic is because of individual communication disorder of not listening? Jaa’-ee!
One photo tells a thousand words
I read the Navajo Times dated Nov. 12, 2020, with much interest and disappointment. The edition centered around the last days toward the Nov. 3 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Included in the paper’s section titled, “Bił Nidahaz’áágo Election 2020” was photographs of Navajo people, their various views, and activities in support of their candidates on the upcoming election.
One photograph caught my attention. It was the Navajo Nation vice president, Myron Lizer. It showed Anglos, Trump supporters, at the Window Rock fairgrounds as they had their hands on Mr. Lizer and praying with a horn from a screw-horned goat.
Personally and professionally, I disapprove of Mr. Lizer’s practice of conducting photo ops mixing religion and state in line with his leader, Donald Trump. We all remember the photo op of Donald Trump holding up a Bible at the St. John’s Church on June 1, 2020, during the George Floyd protest in Washington, D.C.?
There is a saying, which was handed down from the U.S. founding fathers to its citizens, regarding the existence of a separation of church and state and the two should be kept separate. This practice, likewise, should be observed by the Navajo Nation leadership, especially Mr. Lizer.
I read a Washington Post headline noting a two-day prayer service starting Oct. 25, 2020, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here pastors and participants from around the country numbering 15,000-plus people held prayer meetings throughout the park. Included in this vast number was our own Mr. Lizer and his entourage.
Pastors prayed for him near an outdoor fountain. It was obvious that he had no care in the world and via social media that he showed no empathy for his people back home on the Navajo Reservation.
They say “a picture tells a thousand words” and the photograph appearing on Facebook showed Mr. Lizer on the National Mall, spoke many words indeed. He, his special group, pastors, and countless worshipers wore no masks, and did not adhere to the limited gathering and social distancing. This is certainly an outrage to the many Navajo people he services.
Upon his return, he subjected his family, relatives, and his community membership to COVID-19 without thinking twice and without apologies. I wonder how he sleeps at night.
His people on the Navajo Reservation were suffering, they were undergoing lockdown, quarantine, and each day frontline medical staff and providers were enduring life-threating procedures by administering testing and treatments at the local hospitals.
Many of his people were in ICU with no family members in attendance and passing without a thought from Mr. Lizer. Much like his idol, model and leader, Donald Trump, Mr. Lizer showed no empathy for the people he served.
Mr. Lizer’s behavior depicts an unfavorable caricature of most Navajo politicians like him. They try to rule by control and intimidation. They show no empathy or symphony, they have no respect for themselves, their office, or the people they serve. They prance around all over the country wanting recognition and praise like a show horse, except they look ridiculous and idiotic.
Like most people serving in office, one day they will be voted out and someone new will continue where they left off.
Currently, I feel no sympathy for Donald Trump or his administration. Mr. Lizer’s candidate lost and we now have a presumptive U.S. President, Joe Biden, who will continue where Donald Trump sadly left off, kicking and screaming.
Charles D. Benally
Moncisco Mesa, N.M.
A family story of Little Singer School
I’m writing on behalf of my family regarding Little Singer School and the article that highlighted the new building written by Cindy Yurth (“Coming full circle; Little Singer School gets bold new building,” Nov. 5, 2020). I want to share our family’s story.
My mother, Anita Ryan, married my stepfather, Thomas Lee Ryan, in 1979, in the geodesic domes of Little Singer School. Together they raised a family of eight children and fostered many adopted children.
In the beginning, it was a University of California-Berkeley-educated-nuclear-physicist-single-parent with his son that created a family for himself within the community of Birdsprings.
Tom Ryan came to Rincon Ranch, which borders the Navajo Nation and the Birdsprings community, in early 1970. He soon kindled a friendship with his closest neighbors, my grandmother Ruthie Curley Slick and her sister, Marie Johnson, which sparked a world of good for the people of Birdsprings.
That first friendship led to greater connections within the community and eventually with the medicine people of Birdsprings, namely the medicine man, Little Singer, Haatałi Yazhi. That relationship of K’e was extended to him by many and blossomed into long standing family bonds. Little Singer School was prayed into creation, a prayer that came from the heart of K’e, family.
My father Tom was a part of that legacy of prayerful creation that gave rise to Little Singer School. He was a man who carried an immense appreciation for the world’s different ways to address Creator. It was who he was at his most fundamental self, as well as being a man of incredible scientific insight. That is how I knew my father, prayer and science, together hand in hand. I think because he loved Creator, he had a rare understanding of the universe that is seldom witnessed by many.
Because of this deep-rooted spirituality, he was able to connect and become close with the medicine man, Little Singer. Together they envisioned the building of a school that would bring the children home from the residential school norms and continued forced removal expectations of the 1970s.
During their visits, it was the absence of children’s laughter that was the catalyst for change in Birdsprings, change that ushered positive transformation for my community. It has been over 50 years since their first conversations about building a school to bring the children home.
My family has many stories of why my dad designed the school in the manner of geodesic domes and solar and wind energy self-efficiency. Little Singer School was the premier school that pulled from available natural resources to provide energy. Solar panels and wind generators were designed and created by my dad and constructed within the community of Birdsprings at a locally created business: Birdsprings Solar.
As a child, the day electric wires were brought to Little Singer School, my sisters and I cried tears when we saw the poles and power lines going up. There was no running water and no electricity. All power was based on energy from wind and sun. It was an anomaly that I shed tears because families wanted electricity and running water and for the first time, because of the school, it was brought to them. All the years my family lived in Birdsprings we never had electricity, we relied solely on solar panels.
Many firsts can be attributed to Little Singer School, the first school in Arizona to be solely wind and sun energy powered, the first school in the nation to have a four-wheel drive school bus, the first school in our community that allowed children to go home every day to their families, the first place that offered continuous employment to community members, and the list goes on.
One story describes the red color of the domes: My father and Dennis Nez Sr. were walking in the area where the school was to be built. They came upon a rock at their feet that was a bold red in the muted colors of the desert floor. The decision was made that this natural red stone was to be the color of the new school. The rock was sent out to color match and create the metal shingles that make up the two geodesic domes of the building.
I have many stories. My family’s history with Little Singer School cannot be forgotten. It is genuinely concerning to me that the original domes were contracted to be demolished as a part of the construction of the new school building when so many prayers and ceremonies were held in the domes.
My dad Tom was a man whose humanitarianism was of saintly proportions. Because of his loving, giving nature, he gained the trust of the elders and medicine people who only spoke Navajo to build Little Singer School together with many individuals. I do not say this lightly that the geodesic domes were created with prayer. Ceremonies were held in the domes and countless songs were sung by Little Singer on the grounds on which the domes were to be built.
As a student at Little Singer School, I remember medicine people coming to the school to offer protection prayers and other ceremonies while school was in session. As children in the community, we were taught according to the seasons, songs to heal, to protect, to allow us to prosper that solidified the values and bonds of K’e.
My mother, Anita Ryan, was one of the first teachers at Little Singer School when it opened and dedicated more than 15 years as an educator at the school. Together Tom and Anita Ryan remain a valued element to the foundation upon which the community of Birdsprings was able to build Little Singer School. My father’s philanthropic efforts extended to receiving donations from the David Packard Foundation to fund the school, as well as many other voluntary financial donations raised in response to community grassroots fundraising efforts to build the school.
For half a century now the children of Birdsprings have harnessed those prayers and created lives for themselves and their children. It is my hope that the original school, the geodesic domes, will not be destroyed because they hold more than physical value, they are a historic testament to the ingenuity of our community and power of traditional prayer.
On behalf of my mother, Anita Ryan; my brothers, Robert Ryan and Tom Ryan Jr.; my sisters, Dr. Davina Two Bears, Darnelda Ryan, Darsita Ryan North, Daresa Ryan, and Dana Ryan; eight granddaughters, Nadja, Brenna, Barbara, Dante Rose, Elise, Lottie, Rylan, and Rory; four grandsons, Brady, Quetzal, Cutter, and Morgan; and myself, we are grateful for the building of a new school because it will carry continued success for our Birdsprings community.
But we humbly ask to remember and celebrate our dad, Thomas Lee Ryan. He dedicated and gave the greater part of his life to building Little Singer School.
My father passed away in February of 1998, but his genuine love for his community has engendered a true legacy that many of the children of Birdsprings successfully carry in their hearts and souls today and forever.
Danita R. Ryan
Take role of ‘cultural transmitters’
As Native American Heritage Month comes and go every November since Aug. 3, 1990, to “…provide a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life”, we see within Native homelands a seismic cultural shift characterized by searing demographics.
With the hegemonic educational system having played no small part in Native people’s education, there is extraordinarily little that is known about the true Native indigeneity stemming from the conventional schooling system that may be beyond betrayal and forgiveness.
Amidst a glimpse nonetheless of the heartening sharing of cultural lifeways, hardship for many continues to blotch the contemporary Native homelands economic landscape, “their ways and concepts of life”, which may not be as blatantly visible as in years past, but just as equally malignant and pathological to the Native peoples’ social order today.
We see within our children, grandchildren, yes, adults and the elderly, the continuing alarming increase in Native language and cultural teachings abandonment. These are critical cultural teachings handed down from prior generations to each new generation stemming from the ontological and epistemological philosophy of life that has or is becoming more elegiac reminiscences of years past than sanctimonious daily practices.
As we see fewer engage in conducting sacred ceremonies, the core essential cultural praxis of traditional ceremonies, prayers, songs, judicious language use and thought, these sacred ancient teachings are becoming more reminiscences in the mist of time than daily practices. Once a great flourishing culture of orality where teachings were shared for example of, “…the Seven Stars (Pleiades), the six children and a woman, representing the early carefree period of childhood,” we see an indigenous language group mesmerized by materialism and the increasing glittering technological digital world.
Why we have chosen to no longer acknowledge, validate, and comprehend the depth of beauty, elegance, and strength inherent in oral traditions is not so much a cultural mystery as it is more a language-minority group having deliberately disengaged from useful skills and competencies to be acquired from rigorous Greco-Roman Western education and from one’s cultural traditions and heritage language.
While immensely invaluable cultural teaching awaits at home to support the young children of the earth by providing stories and attention “by playing with them while the children learn to communicate, laugh, and talk amongst themselves,” we now have an alarming increase in digital world engagement in tandem with a marginalized rudimentary typographic and chirographic Western education amidst chronic endemic challenging family and life circumstances.
Our numbing demographics convincingly tell us there is much imbalance. Let us make no mistake about the cultural anomie, the descent into Native cultural post-modernity where the “traditionally valued qualities of depth, coherence, meaning, originality, and authenticity are evacuated, or dissolved amid the random swirl of empty signals.”
Daily, there is deepening cultural anomy, an intellectual chasm and apathy where we are witnessing perhaps the most massive plight of cultural refugees in our history, an emigration of our people to the glittering literary culture right from the doorsteps of our very own traditional culture of orality and homeland within the Four Sacred Mountains.
It is a given that Native peoples have their own evidentiary path in validating the migration of traditional indigenous knowledge from one generation to the next, a way of life contextualized within a culture of orality and orthography. Yet there is the diminishing teaching of the foundation of the Dine’ (Navajo) cultural values, wisdom, and basic cultural knowledge critical to cultivating core cultural canons for the protection, healing, restoration, renewal, and harmony for the good life.
These core cultural teaching canons stem from classical Dine’ (Navajo) ontological and epistemological philosophy of life, giving pathway to acquire a deeper understanding of the complexity of Native peoples analytic philosophy of life, the speculative philosophy, the prescriptive and descriptive philosophy of life.
Dine’ spirituality as an example encompasses an extensive academic and scientific content that parallels Western thought in the form of psychology (post-humanist, behaviorist, and the phenomenological schools of thought), neuro-morphology, neuro-synaptogenesis/neural plasticity, cognitive neuroscience, an ontological, epistemological and categorical philosophies as noted, a mathematical formulation of quantum physics theory, and the coherence, pattern, balance, and harmony inherent in mathematics.
We find Diné philosophy at the crux of the classical Western “mind-body dualism,” the “mind-over-matter” argument, the Principle of Dualism.
The “ways and concepts” of Native peoples’ teachings are highly elaborate, complex yet in perfect order and dynamic, principally derived from and parallels the natural order and state of things all around. For these reasons, it has an incredibly significant and sacred spiritual implication. The spiritual component is conducted only in the many ceremonies of the Diné and at specific ceremonial time and places.
Native indigeneity is well beyond “chants,” “rez,” primitive riddles, myths, or artifacts of historical and/or anthropological curiosity and interest.
While the philosophy of teaching and learning remains deeply ingrained in the consciousness of many of our people, the elderly, and the young alike, the enduring unspoken bond that ties families, kinship, clans, and tribes together, there is still much evidence of widespread cultural abandonment, an alarming sense of cultural anomie as evidenced by the continuing searing challenging life conditions of our Native peoples.
The critical cultural consciousness that has anchored an unyielding bond and resiliency that has held off enculturation, assimilation to outside forces, are becoming more elegiac reminiscences of a lost time than sanctimonious daily practices.
It is good nonetheless to be reminded each year that most Native peoples continue to view themselves as deeply reverent to a spiritual world connected to the fragile environment from whence they have emerged, a small but significant natural world within the great expanse of the cosmos. It need not be said that to deviate from this critical cultural consciousness is to invite great void and emptiness in one’s life.
The writings on the wall are very telling that our people, young and elderly alike, long for this important cultural teachings and knowledge. Just as challenging life conditions can be and are passed to the next generation, so can healthy family cultural values be cultivated, shared, and passed to the next generation.
In the interest of healthy life conditions and a healthy economy, for these reasons alone, it may be important for more Native peoples to seriously take on the role of “cultural transmitters” and “cultural amplifiers” to cultivate, share, and pass the cultural “ways and concepts of life” to the next generation.
Harold G. Begay
Thoroughly mongrel bilagáana repeats donation
My extended family, from Hawaii to Georgia, have begun receiving mailings from St. Joseph’s Indian School, asking them for donations or to purchase artifacts such as dream catchers and other “authentic Indian” items, ranging from rosaries to socks. That would be authentic Indian rosaries and authentic Indian socks. Yes, socks.
Although this school is apparently active among and supportive only of the Lakota Sioux, I see their fundraising, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to be an unfortunate and misguided attempt to drain potential donors of money that could be spent better, elsewhere and for other, more important things.
Please permit this Anglo-Irish-Scottish-Saxon-German-French descendant — a thoroughly mongrel bilagáana — to speak against this practice and to repeat his donation through GoFundMe to the Navajo Nation’s COVID-19 relief fund.
It’s only a drop in the bucket (a phrase which has a deeper meaning for the many families on the reservation who are encouraged to “wash their hands often,” but who do not have running water).
The Diné have faced and overcome greater challenges in the past. Your strength is your identity and your identity is your strength. My very best hopes for you all.
Peachtree City, Ga.
Thank you, Navajo and all tribes
I would like the give a sincere thanks to all my brothers and sisters of all the indigenous tribes of Arizona, especially great Navajo Nation for standing tall against the white patriarchal political machine.
At great personal risk and overcoming extreme gerrymandering and outright racism you turned out in force and were the deciding factor in helping swing Arizona’s vote. My utmost respect to you!
To my 73 million mostly white brothers and sisters who chose to turn a blind eye to the outrageous behavior of our outgoing president and give him your support, I urge you to take a moment and breathe. Take a walk and screw up the courage to take a deep look inside and consider what selfishness, greed, racist, or religious beliefs motivated you to support an openly racist man who cared nothing for you, for president.
You might reconsider your belief in a religion that urges you to force your beliefs on other people. How would you like it if someone forced their religion on you?
The founding fathers knew what they were doing when they separated church and state, and these were deeply religious men.
Let’s not move backwards. If you truly believe in God, then vote and live as He would, guided by your heart. Consider living a life founded on love instead of fear.
We came together, shocked the nation
The Navajo Times headline stated we Navajos “will have a seat at the table” because Arizona’s Native voters overwhelmingly voted for Democratic winners Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Mark Kelly, Tom O’Halleran, Jamescita Peshlakai, Arlando Teller, and Myron Tsosie.
I am ecstatic that we came together and shocked the nation by flipping the traditionally red state of Arizona to blue. In Arizona, over 52,000 Navajo voters propelled the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to a victory margin of 11,000 votes with 82 percent of the Navajo voters choosing the Biden-Harris ticket.
Grassroots Democratic field workers and volunteers from our tribal communities collaborated with the Arizona Democrats and the Biden-Harris campaign to accomplish our goal, and now that we are sitting at the table, we must hold Democratic leadership accountable for what they said they would do if we showed up and cast our ballots.
The first priority for our local Democratic Party in our counties is to recruit precinct committee members. They will represent our communities’ interests and speak to our needs. If you are interested in becoming a PC, please contact the chair of Apache County Democrats, Steven C. Begay, at 928-245-7860 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
All PC work is volunteer, and there is no specific time commitment.
The Apache County Democrats will meet on a regular basis to prepare for the 2022 election. Our next teleconference on Wednesday, Nov. 25, will be posted on our Facebook page “Apache County Democrats” and announced in the Navajo Times.
Thank you for voting to restore our democracy and for working together to put Biden-Harris in our White House on Jan. 20, 2021. I am looking forward to participating with you in expanding economic opportunity, investing in educational opportunities, and providing reliable health care.
Together we will overcome the pandemic and restore our Navajo Nation’s economy by our active participation in the Democratic Party.
Precinct Committee Member
Apache County Democrats
Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.