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Letters: We will not make the same mistakes again

Letters: We will not make the same mistakes again

As children, our playground was the land around our reservation, including the edge of the sacred Tsékooh Hatsoh — what many call the “Grand Canyon.”

We walked the sheep pastures with our fathers and tossed rocks and swam in the shimmering pools of crystal clear water.

It wasn’t until much later that we came to understand the invisible danger that would threaten our health for the rest of our lives.

Some of those pools — more than 500 uranium mines near Navajo Nation lands in northern Arizona — were contaminated with industrial pollution. The water was radioactive. There were no warning signs near many of the pools, and we were exposed.

The cancer rate doubled on the Navajo Nation between 1970 and 1990. Doctors treated children with advanced kidney disease. Leukemia was well above the national average. Our livestock became radioactive. Groundwater contaminated. Agriculture poisoned. The life-threatening scars left behind by uranium mining are visible throughout the Navajo Nation and Northern Arizona.

Scientists and researchers have worked on mitigation and cleanup for years. The impact has been thoroughly researched, is well documented and is indisputable.

Our invisible scars are horrifying: families without elders; children without parents; and parents who have buried children.

We have lost our honorable and hard working Naabeehó warriors who were the providers of our families. Beyond social ills, the loss of life, health and hope can’t be measured or charted. How does one calculate the impact of your grandfather’s lost wisdom? What’s the value of a hug from a healthy child?

Life, health and hope are invaluable. This is why I’m fearfully watching as uranium-mining companies once again look to develop and expand their claims in our area. Foreign companies like Canadian-owned Energy Fuels Inc. are pushing the U.S. Department of Interior to roll back protections and increase activities that could once again lead to the poisoning of our lands.

I was pleased to recently see that the Department of Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke’s leadership, listed the “successful defense of a mineral withdrawal near the Grand Canyon” among its key 2017 accomplishments in an end of the year press release — after a U.S. federal appeals court affirmed the ban.

But it’s important to recognize the ban is just for new claims. There are hundreds of existing claims that could still be developed and, in the same court case, the court upheld a separate decision that allowed the nearby Canyon Mine to remain open. I hope and trust that Zinke and his department remain committed to defending the mineral withdrawal.

We don’t need mining to support our local economies any longer. Millions of people come to this area now to hike and enjoy the outdoors every year. They spend money in our hotels, restaurants and guide shops. They eat the meat from our sheep. Will they continue to come if the rivers they swim in and the pools from which they fill their water bottles are toxic?

We’ve been down this road before and we will not make the same mistakes again. A local coalition of elected officials, scientists, researchers, conservationists and concerned community leaders are now meeting regularly to discuss the best ways to protect our land.

I am proud that these efforts have led the Flagstaff City Council to recently reaffirm its commitment to protect the Grand Canyon, its inhabitants, visitors and animals. I’m encouraged to see other cities considering similar resolutions.

We call on everyone in Northern Arizona to pay close attention to this issue and support those who have so much to lose if we allow this type of development to occur. This issue is not going away and we must all work hard to safeguard our future.

Davona Blackhorse
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Give us the opportunity to decide for our children

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski, who drew criticism particularly from the Native American community for making a “racist and insensitive” comment by citing Manifest Destiny among the “fundamental principles of this country” and said further that the United States is built on “freedom, choice, competition, options, going west, Manifest Destiny,” making charter school options quintessentially American, came to the Central Consolidated School Board meeting in Shiprock on Feb. 20 to apologize to the community. He did express remorse for his questionable comment. The school board allowed Duane Yazzie the opportunity to give a response and he stated the following.

Mr. Secretary, thank you coming to our community to make things right with us.

Predominately in world history, it has been the white race that ventured out onto unchartered waters and lands. The craving to conquer new lands seeking fortune was sanctified by the Pope regarded as “Ruler of the World” in the earlier centuries. The Pope issued the following Papal Bulls (proclamations).

On June 18, 1452, Pope Nicolas V issued the “Dum Diveras” which declared that all pagans (people of color) were to be conquered and consigned to perpetual servitude.

On January 5, 1455, the same Nicolas V issued the “Romanus Ponifex” which authorized European seizure and dominion over discovered new lands. It again encouraged enslavement of non-Christian people of the world and to lay claim to all their possessions.

On May 04, 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the “Inter Caetera” which granted to Spain the ownership of all the lands to the West (the Western Hemisphere).

The intents of the Papal Bulls evolved into what we now know as the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny. These Papal Bulls, the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny provided the authorization, motivation and justification for the seizure and subjugation of the Western Hemisphere – the greatest land fraud and largest holocaust in human history.

With this review of the origins of Manifest Destiny, I concur with your comment that the United States is built on Manifest Destiny. I further agree with you on the second part of your comment in that Manifest Destiny is relative to New Mexico education.

However my take is this: The subjugation and oppression continues to be perpetrated by the Public Education Department where, because the state funds public education, our school districts are obligated and required to comply with the philosophy and process of education as espoused by the PED.

I challenge you, Mr. Secretary, if you truly desire to make things right with us, give us our freedom, the opportunity where we as community people and parents can determine what manner of education is most appropriate for our children. After all, it is we who know our children, our communities, our needs and our future.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

A Ph.D.’s challenge to Times’ CEO

As a Ph.D.-trained electron microscopist, kindly permit me to align a sharp focus on an unsolicited self-disclosure by Navajo Times CEO and Publisher Mr. Tom Arviso Jr. (“Life has many twists, turns; I took the wrong one,” Feb. 15, 2018).

What honesty! What a clean heart! I read about our elected Dineh Nation politicians in the Navajo Times every week and even read some of their imaginary comments.

I am not a gambling man — “Are laws being changed to benefit Navajo gambling?” (Feb. 15, page one) — but I am willing to bet what little that I have to state that Mr. Arviso’s words have never been/will be uttered by any and all — former and present — elected Dineh politicians.

Personally, I stand on the human wisdom of Mr. John D. Rockerfeller who said, “First get an education, get a good job, make some money, give all that money away.” I believe Mr. Arviso’s thinking is similar in smarts.

In essence, I wish to challenge Mr. Arviso’s future involvement with our Dineh Nation.

Mr. Arviso Jr., you are a truly unique Dineh man. You have demonstrated your heart’s desire and your future aspirations to all Dineh voters.

So, I would like to challenge your future endeavors to focus on running for the Dineh Nation presidency in the next Dineh Nation election. I am casting the first vote on your ticket.

Tacheeni Scott
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Times’ CEO deserves our support

Over the years I’ve been reading the Navajo Times, and they are many, I have come to value it as an old friend. I look to it for reliable information, independent thinking, humor and compassion.

But, you know, these qualities do not happen by chance. They are the result of leadership, and more than any other single person, this means Tom Arviso Jr.

His vision and dedication over so many years has given the Navajo Nation a newspaper that any great people could be proud of. It is a gathering place for all of us, a place to keep in touch, talk things out, visit, and strengthen our Navajo values.

Now, at this humiliating moment in his life, Tom is showing himself to be a man of character, facing his problem with honesty and courage.

Next time you see him, shake his hand and thank him. He’s done a lot for our people and deserves our support now.

Larry Charlie
Tohlakai, N.M.

Begaye, Nez will manipulate elections

I just read that Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez are deciding to run again for office and my question is: Are they going to steal the elections or are they so arrogant that they believe the Navajos are going to re-elect them? (“Who’s running?” Feb. 8, 2018).

I believe the answer is: They are going to manipulate the elections.

There is no way the Navajos will be so naïve to vote for these two men who have robbed the Navajos in many ways. But what it is amazing and dumbfounded to me is to know that Begaye and Nez think the Navajos are so low IQ, they can be fooled again.

Dear Navajos, in April of last year, I sent a letter to the Navajo Times to be published so you will be aware that there are people who care about you and is tired of seeing you abused and neglected.

People like me — married to a full-blooded Navajo, whose mother died prematurely because she got sick with pneumonia and the condition of her house contributed to the decay of her health.
Begaye tried to intimidate me, intimidated the family and (tribal officials) were so bold as to make calls and threaten to either tell me to back off or they will not move forward with the rebuilding of the house of my deceased mother-in-law.

I have fought for almost a year with Begaye, Nez and Navajo Housing Authority and the house has not been rebuilt yet.

Dear Navajos, it is time that you say no to the corruption, manipulation and lies of these two clowns and stop their personal gain.

Begaye and Nez only care about themselves. They are two foxes dressed as lambs. I cannot compare them with a wolf because a wolf is a noble animal; my apologies to the fox, too. I think if he (the fox) knew, he would be offended, too.

You are a great people and because of the gentleness of your nature, you are abused and neglected by your so-called “leaders” who know that you will not fight and you will be content with the crumbs they throw at you.

I see picture after picture of Begaye and Nez smiling, beaming at the fact that they are on Facebook, the Navajo Times and their website, pretending to be working on your behalf, when in reality they are doing nothing for you.

One billion dollars sits in the hands of the NHA for house building, remodeling and fixing, yet some of you are living in shacks, slums that you do not even see in Third World countries.

I saw some of the houses this past September when we buried our beloved mother-in-law. Some of you do not even have plumbing in your houses and yet Begaye and Nez go to a casino to celebrate holidays, eat in restaurants, stay in nice hotels in Washington and all the places they visit, while some of you do not even have money to put gas in your cars.

I am not advocating for you to be given the fish, no, I am advocating for you to be given the necessary resources so you can live with dignity. If you do not fight for yourselves, I will and so are others.

I have submitted to the U.S. Congress the needed signatures so they can review my plea and see that since the Navajo Nation and NHA do not care about building the needed houses in the reservation, then the best solution is for HUD to take control of NHA.

I am not saying this is going to be an easy battle, perhaps Congress will not even see this as a bill, but I am fighting so it can be introduced as one because one way or another you need to have proper shelter and like the rest of America. Your houses must be equipped with plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems.

I do not have the privilege to be Navajo, to be part of the first inhabitants of this continent who arrived here over 23,000 years ago, but if I was, I would tell you, I will make sure that I live like God wants every one of his creatures to live, with dignity, with respect, in conditions that foster positive growth so I could be happy and harmonious. But I will fight for these rights.

Your tradition speaks of Hózhó — peace, harmony, beauty and happiness — what a concept! But you right now are not living by this philosophy.

Look around you, look around your homes, look around your lands, just look around, what do you see? Poverty, misery, lacking, sadness, conformism and unemployment.

What else do you see? Your so-called leaders living in luxury, wearing nice clothes, living in nice homes, traveling, vacationing, eating in fancy restaurants and driving beautiful cars at your expense.

Enough, enough, enough!

Stop believing that because a Navajo is fluent in Navajo that is enough reason to elect him or her to be your leader. Stop believing that old is good. Break that cycle of corruption, open your minds and hearts to the new and accept new ideas, accept change, it is what you need.

No, I am not Navajo. I am a Hispanic woman fighting for you because through my husband, I fell in love with you. In the process, I have learned more than I knew about you, your laws, your philosophy, the good and the bad and the ugly.

I also educated your so-called leaders many times, having to remind them why such rule, process or law do not apply because they were ignorant. Believe me when I tell you, Begaye and Nez without their attorneys on staff would be exactly like the U.S. president — clueless. They may hold a degree, but they lack the empathy and the selflessness to do what is right for you.
Do not let Begaye and Nez insult your intelligence by electing them again. You deserve better.

Guadalupe Zapata-Slim
Metaire, La.

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