Escalade project will desecrate sacred place

WINDOW ROCK, July 3, 2014

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T here's a classic book titled "The Sacred and the Profane." It talks about things like humanity's recognition of sacred spaces and mankind's ties to the universe. Something to be proud of are the examples used of Native peoples and how we identify our sacred places.

This letter's longer title was "The Grand Canyon and the Proposed Escalade Project." It resembles the book title I mentioned.

The Grand Canyon and its Confluence (where the Little Colorado River flows into the big Colorado) are "the Sacred." Escalade is "the Profane," with its scarring tramway down the wall of the canyon, other structures, the hundreds of thousands of tourists on the sacred landscape, human waste issues, etc.

President Teddy Roosevelt said this when declaring the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908: "Arizona has a natural wonder-- unparalleled throughout the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind-- to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

Although I'm not one to normally quote an American president, his statement resonates. Escalade is a graffiti-like profanity that will mar a sacred place, sacred not just to us, but to America and much of the world.

Our and the Hopis' traditional elders and ancestors knew (since time began) to leave the Confluence unmarred. But the money takers and their investors are planning, in an instant, to desecrate a world-renowned sacred place.

Escalade is, to many Navajos, another page in the continuing story of our compromised and backwards government. It's a compromise that betrays our reputation, our culture, our sovereignty, our dignity, and our future for narrow and inadequate returns for our entire people.

Escalade has hardly begun to encounter opposition. The U.S., for example, tried to put two dams in the Grand Canyon in the 1960s. Millions of Americans, even school children through "My Weekly Reader," opposed them. If Window Rock approves Escalade, a federal environmental impact study is required. All of America can comment.

What Escalade promoters don't understand, but Roosevelt did, is people come to see the Grand Canyon for what it is. They can go to Las Vegas for the profane. Escalade would cheapen the canyon's grandeur, as Roosevelt warned.

"Save the San Francisco Peaks" but "Mar the Confluence" is hypocritical. We're all stained by the short-sightedness of a few. Our long-term political and economic futures are threatened by it. Good faith is the foundation of every economy, and ours is beginning to be desecrated by the idea of Escalade.

While the money takers seek personal riches, our real economy is literally going down the drain -- controlled, as always, by the takers and the lawyers for the bigger benefit of outsiders. Others have written about this, and the fact that our people's economic enemies, inside and outside Window Rock, are very clever.

The millions who defeated the 1960s Grand Canyon dams included conservatives, liberals, independents, and youth. If Window Rock is short-sighted enough to approve Escalade, opposition will most probably skyrocket.

Janene Yazzie
Lupton, Ariz.

Looking for my birth father

I am writing this in hopes of finding my birth father or his family.

I was given up for adoption in 1968 by my birth mother in the great state of Kansas. I found my birth mother when I was 29 and she has since passed away.

I am now looking for my birth father just to find closure. I know his name was/is Lee Yazzie Jr. I do not know what his clan is or anything else about him other than he had a sister in Kansas, too.

You can write me at Michael Limburg, Douglas County Correction Facility, 3601 E. 25th St., Lawrence, KS 66046.

Michael Limburg
Lawrence, Kan.

Collect taxes for large sports complex

This is another season of rodeo, which is the No. 1 sport across Navajoland and beyond into other states.

A very special message of suggestion to rodeo committees and families who pay entrance to allow tax fees to be collected toward a large sports complex building near Window Rock. This is quite a long time overdone opportunity to promote better and safer events to happen. This suggestion has been shared with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

The committee meetings could place this suggestion on to their agenda for discussion for one of great needs to take place. We should be competing with other sports arenas.

We greatly acknowledge our past loved ones who respectfully honored and loved rodeos who all began the AIRCA in the 1940s such as Dee Etsitty, Paul Arviso Sr., Dean and Jack Jackson, Begay's of Seba Dalkai, Holyan's and Becenti's of New Mexico, including my mother's brothers, Keith Boyd and John Boyd Sr. Some of these families are still continuing in rodeo today.

The rodeo committees should take pride in our great sport. I hope this will shine some light on to our future endeavors for our younger generations to come.

Genevieve Lee-Salt
Shonto, Ariz.
(Hometown: Greasewood Springs, Ariz.)

Next leader should be from Western Navajo

We here living in the Western Navajo Nation are once again very proud to be in the forefront, as the 2014 Navajo Nation presidential race is now in full swing.

The last time we had a chance at actually winning was in the 1998 Navajo Nation presidential campaign. We proudly shared the spotlight, as honorable Kelsey Begaye was elected, with the late Dr. Taylor MacKenzie as vice president. We have had many greats bestowed the honor, still the leader of all leaders, honorable Peter MacDonald Sr.

-- The reality of the situation was not because of the 1974 Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation Act, which later became the 1996 Land Settlement Act. It was not because of a "historical land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi people," as it was later stated as the main cause for the forced relocation of 10,000 Navajo families by politicians in Washington, D.C., as they created the law to force our families from our home.

-- Corporate water use was also in question, and legal ownership of the parcel of land belonged to the Navajo Nation. The famous Judge Bennett implemented a freeze, as he was a commissioner at that time, no decisions were ever made, and the potential project was never constructed because of the famous "Bennett Freeze." The elements of the Bennett Freeze affected the entire Western Navajo Nation, 1.76 million acres of land was literally frozen in time.

-- One could argue that issues stemming from this decision have really never been solved, and still haunt the Navajo Nation in Mr. Shelly's administration today.

As years rolled by, we watched and waited, waited some more, and are still waiting to hear of supporting factors that will draw this historical dilemma to an end.

The Bennett Freeze was lifted after our entire community of Coal Mine Mesa was relocated. Many families have never been together again and still no positive solution to a never ending problem ... We were forced to move our families because it was the law, but the reality of it, sad to say, was for a state of the art facility to house Peabody Coal Co., who has since made millions, as we watched. We were forced to drive on the same dirt highway, forced to live in Third World conditions, we couldn't repair our homes, or construct new homes on our family land.

-- We can be identified as victims, labeled as homeless, and really have never recovered from the effects of the negative influences of forced relocation. Psychologically, mentally, physically, emotionally, and problematically, we are the generation of social conflict and disorganization.

-- These are our Navajo people, our families and our communities. The answer to the problem is to build better societies, invest in education, offer some type of effective way make society contribute to the rehabilitation of second generation victims.

-- This is the biggest mistake in the history of the world, against any indigenous Native nation, and their decision to leave us like this for 60 years is even worse. In my opinion, it is the knowing that is the hardest, understanding how they could just ignore my people, knowing it was wrong.

-- It will continue, a cycle, genocide. We are out there killing our own, because of someone's get rich quick scheme.

I really am tired of the empty promises and tired of hearing from our leadership who don't even know and understand what is happening. As our societies crime rate increases, our communities produce delinquents from single parent families, juveniles committing suicide, violent crimes increasing, and no one has a specific strategy to combat the very root of the problem. We will be here watching and waiting some more.

The right leader has to understand our people, they have to be from the Western Navajo to really be able to help us, they have to listen to the people, and really care about our well being.

-- Please, vote Carrie Martin on Aug. 26. She cares!

Joan Chissie
Tuba City, Ariz.

Like comments about standing up to Washington

I liked the way Moroni Benally put the spark into the elections right out of the starting blocks by saying he will stand up to Washington. I hope his words and spirit continue throughout the election. He is willing not to be the "yes" person that our current president has been as well as some of our previous.

In my lifetime, I am proud to say I have known the best chairman the Navajo Nation has ever had, Peter McDonald. He was definitely not a "yes" man. As a matter fact he was considered by many in the outside world as "the most powerful Indian in U.S." throughout the 70s and 80s.

For those of you who know international politics, this type of leadership isn't taken lightly by the U.S. government. They consider it a threat to national security and interest. A very good example is the former president and U.S. ally, Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, for taking the Canal back. It took the U.S. government many, many months to charge him with a crime while he sat in a Florida jail. Meanwhile elections were had overnight and placed in government was an Ivy League graduate.

Today is a new day and I don't believe the fiasco of 1988 will repeat itself unless we allow the federal government to come in and carry out their agenda. We are a sovereign nation (nation/state) with our own laws and court system and should not allow the U.S. to dictate to us whom they will prosecute and whom they won't or any other tribal business for that matter.

I for one do agree with Mr. Moroni Benally on his points of being a sovereign state and standing up to Washington to further our people. I would like to know where all the candidates stand on going up against Washington. Are they willing to go the distance or cave in as our current president initially did early last year over the water issue with U.S. senators Kyle and McCain until the people set him straight?

It's time we take control our destiny, our future, our livelihood as Diné people. It's time we stand up and take what is ours back and not cater to U.S. senators or global corporations, e.g. BHP and NGS, when they need to renew their contracts or agreements.

The only developments that I see today are those that were enacted by Chairman McDonald. No one since has dared to think big. Instead, our current president echoes, "it's already been done" and continuing with business as usual. That's not enough for our people, our kids and our future.

Randy Benally
Rio Rancho, N.M.

'Redskins' debate is about claiming humanity We as Native Americans have so much to be proud of. Of course, we have our problems but we were never meant to still be here and we are.

I myself look at my family and my communities and there is so much to be proud of. I have a mother who didn't go to school or speak English until she was 13 and today she has a doctorate degree. I have cousins who graduated from Yale and Harvard. People in both sides of my family hold the sacred responsibility to protect our culture and our heritage. I learned just as much from them as I did in any college courses.

I was taught to honor and respect our natural environment because it is a living entity and it is what gives us life. I am proud of where I come from and who I am as a Native American, which is why terminology matters.

I know there are some of our own people who think there's nothing wrong with the term "Redskins" because it doesn't mean anything. There's the argument that it is not worth the fight, that we have other issues we should use our resources toward.

The fight to change the name and impact the larger society is not about being offended. It is about claiming our basic humanity. It is saying we will not tolerate being called something that we are not. It's like accepting somebody calling you Jennifer when your name is Jessica. If somebody is not going to give you the basic respect to learn your name and call you that, they are also not going to respect you in your dealings with them.

This absolutely impacts our ability as a tribe, as a sovereign nation, to protect our assets and advance our interests in this world we live in. Aside from that, we as Native Americans in this country have so much to be proud of and our culture can enrich us in ways we never could imagine, but we have been told that this is not so.

We have been told that our culture is what holds us back. We are being told that we should accept a caricature of us as that of honoring our culture. If society is going to honor our culture, they should do it on our terms, not on their convoluted idea of who we are as Native people.

This is about setting a basic foundation of our people asserting our sovereignty. Once we start believing what the dominant culture tells us about ourselves, we lose more ground in all of our battles.

Jessica Stago
Winslow, Ariz.

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