Our dysfunctional socio-political system

WINDOW ROCK, July 10, 2014

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M y Diné cultural identity is born by Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii (Tobacco People of Red Running Into the Water), born for Tsenabahilnii (Sleep Rock People). My maternal grandfather's clan is çshiihi (Salt People) and my paternal grandfather's clan is Tsin sikaadnii (Clamp Tree). I wish to share my thoughts with you and your readers.

With all being asserted by our political candidates, there seems to be no new wave of thought we could get caught up in, whether it be slogans, clichés, promises, or otherwise. Then again, nothing's ever new for it always has been there only yet to be realized. We all need to point ourselves in the right direction in redeeming our society, for society exists for the individual.

To begin, perhaps valid positions to seriously consider are the real understanding of the meaning and practice of "politics" and take it to heart. As I understand it, it's an opinionated progress of easing, influencing, manipulating, or harmonizing the "effect" on a society of its problems.

It never mentions anything about the "cause" generated by individual glitches, one that ignites a chain reaction of profound devastations far and wide into a society. As we've experienced, when our elected are in office, as redundant with the arrogant and oblivious, comes an onset of their compulsive-obsessive behavior caused by the "convenience" of access to easy money.

Another is when how exposed corrupted politicians seek and hide in the shadows of "fundamental laws," which supposedly cleanse them of their crimes. And the transition plan of "regionalization" is becoming but the frenzy, parasitic feeding grounds at the local levels, without its checks and balances.

Seemingly, these implications may be viewed as bold moves by some but their reactions are nothing more than mere self-interest, laziness, hunger, and fear. These constitute breach of public trust, a mockery of justice, possibly treason, and being a common thief. As with governing systems, whether borrowed, copied, or forced upon a society, most laws and rules for social order originate or are inspired from those who willfully or ignorantly overstep and violate their personal boundaries of conduct.

Further, our system doesn't need more imaginary mazes, walls, or steps to ease its troubles nor do we need to grant "more power" to the disconnected and disillusioned. Just as in daily life, if one is uninformed and unaware of self or its intentions then their "cause-and-effect" experiments will not be as simple as they thought it would be.

And to those running for public office, including our citizens, we have yet to experience what we already have at hand. However, first, there is a real challenge that demands our cooperation. And when politics come into play all rules and regulations become invalid -- what supersedes it? What contributes most to our dysfunctional socio-political system? Hint: With it we've fashioned the "me, mine, what's-in-for-me generation" without ever understanding or grasping its original concept or true intention. As a basis on validity of common sense and what is as has been before -- our greatest strength as a Diné society is also our greatest weakness to our deadly demise -- and it's not shoes or sex, but our misuse of clanship -- Ke' -- the self-interest and abuse of clan relationships.

Our forefathers have said our clan system does play a vital role in our behavior and attitudes, still true to this day. And yes, we do possess the resolve to our socio-political disorder for we have our oral teachings of ideas, values, belief systems, prayers, coupled with the use of the self-correcting, self-regulating system through open communication, actual assessment, and effective exercise of enforcement of our present written rules of social order.

Instead of a petty squabbling madhouse perhaps we can compromise and work together towards building a nation?

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Stop the threats to sacred sites

On June 13, at the NABI meeting in Window Rock, our governing body of Council delegates could not start the session on time at 10 a.m. due to a lack of a quorum. This means that less than 13 were on time.

Close to two hours later three delegates arrived, including two from Western Navajo, and the meeting began. I am late to school, because our leaders practice the same thing. Just remember, leaders are role models, especially for the young people.

The speaker pro tem, while waiting for a quorum, allowed the families affected by the Escalade project to present. Two Navajo ladies who grew up in Bodaway did a courageous and beautiful presentation. The women talked about what life is today: the threat of land loss, broken relationships between the people (Ke'), the uncertainty of what will happen in 50 years, and strangers driving around and visiting families.

The third party was the Hopi chairman who brought his vice chairman and various staff members. Hopi leaders have said in the past that they would file a lawsuit to protect the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers as a sacred site. Should the Navajo Council take the concerns expressed by the Hopi leader seriously?

Think about the Navajo relocation 30 years ago and the 40 years of the Bennett Freeze. The concern shared by the Navajos of southern Bodaway and the Hopi leaders is very simple: Stop the threats of sacred sites destruction.

Who are the people pushing for the Escalade development? A white guy along with several Navajos who call themselves the Confluence Partners based out of Scottsdale. What is their agenda? My answer: To take advantage of the people in that area who suffered under the Bennett Freeze by "propaganda" as one person told me with the objective of making money for themselves. They published an ad in the Navajo-Hopi Observer last week that shows six women standing in front of a sign "protect the confluence."

This is a tribute to the Native women across the country where they draw the line against intrusive projects like the Escalade. The six are mothers, grandmothers, and their legacy goes on. But the partners have no respect for the caretakers of Mother Earth. The partners should be championing their efforts and commitment instead of subjugation.

The ad also states that the Escalade would provide 3,500 jobs for the local people. Nothing is mentioned if that number of jobs will be available daily or over the 50-year lease.

They don't care about the projected cost, estimated at a staggering amount, between $300-$500 million. At the Council Chambers I didn't see a line of investors so they want the Navajo Nation to cover this.

Another statement makes reference to the people, "to look the young people in the eye, and tell them they and their families can have a future in Western Navajo and the Bennett Freeze." (The Bennett Freeze was settled in 2009, and some of that money intended to improve living conditions regardless of the Escalade was used to build the Twin Arrows Casino.) The young Navajo people are intelligent enough to make their own choices.

Another line says, "Working together we can overcome and solve the problems of sacred sites." People have heard this many times, but it is one-sided. Usually, there are no problems with sacred sites until developers threaten and want to destroy them.

Are partners defining, dictating and demanding that they know more about the importance of sacred sites? And they want the people to hand over their land? Manifest Destiny? It means that we are the powerful, which in the name of God authorizes us to take over your land and destroy the essence of your identity.

I think that in the end the Escalade will drift away into the political winds. The people of southern Bodaway, the neighboring Native people, the environmentalists, and the protectors of the earth will prevail.

William Long Reed
Tuba City, Ariz.

Horses are important in Navajo tradition

As Navajos it is taught in our tradition that horses bring rain. Horses are used in the everyday life of people. They are used to herd sheep, chase cattle, and most of all, give us comfort.

Before vehicles came about, our ancestors used horses to get from one place to another. They were our transportation.

Horses eyes were fashioned from stars. That's why at night they can really see. They can also sense things. There is also a horse song performed during a Kinaalda. The song is used so that when the female grows up she will have many beautiful horses.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the two twins, and the story of how the horses came about. The two twins went to their father, and he asked them what they wanted. He opened all four directions, and in one of those directions there were horses.

So why is it that our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is ordering roundups of horses? Isn't he supposed to stand for our Diné culture? These innocent horses are being rounded up and taken away. They're mistreated, beaten and malnourished when they get rounded up.

My mother taught me to never hit a horse, because horses are smarter than us. They understand and know when there is no food. Honestly, the only animals beating up the land is cattle.

We rescued two horses from the roundups. They came to us starving, and almost about to die. That was last year. Now they are so beautiful. They understand the Diné language. They came to us afraid and skittish. They wouldn't let anyone near them. Now they walk up to us and greet us.

Now I know that part of the reason why the rez is beautiful is because of the horses. We used to see horses everywhere, now you can only catch a glimpse of one or two.

Amy Small
Steamboat, Ariz.

Maze of bureaucracy surrounds home-site leases

I am a member of the Navajo Nation and a resident of Leupp Chapter. While leaders articulate noble goals and worthwhile endeavors for the Navajo Nation, I am struck by the absolute lack of any mention of the residents of the former Bennett Freeze area.

As we all know the Bennett Freeze was officially repealed by President Obama on May 8, 2009. Since that time and for decades prior, residents of this area have awaited the fulfillment of many promises made to them by various federal and tribal leaders over the years.

I do not live in the Bennett Freeze area but I have worked with two chapters impacted by the Bennett Freeze as an archaeologist. I am familiar with parts of the Bennett Freeze and have endeavored to help where I am able.

My concerns, however, encompass more than the Bennett Freeze. There is a maze of bureaucracy one must navigate and costs one must incur in order to "legally" build a home on the reservation and/or apply for home improvement assistance, water lines, septic systems, and power lines. Many people, not just the residents of the Bennett Freeze, simply cannot build the same quality of life that is available off the reservation.

As I'm sure you are aware, according to Navajo business development, the median household income on the reservation is $20,005, per capita income is $7,269 and unemployment is about 42 percent. In spite of these numbers, can some people afford the fees associated with obtaining a home-site lease? If I had to guess, I'd say yes. But that isn't the point. The point is that we are required to invest heavily in residential development on land that we will never own.

An addition, and equally important consequence of this approach is that irreplaceable cultural resources that the Navajo Nation is supposed to protect are bladed, bull dozed, or otherwise wiped from existence by people who need places to live.

I have yet to see a presidential candidate or sitting president in the last two decades or more pay any significant amount of attention to cultural resources management or the bureaucratic process and associated costs for leasing land for the purposes of building a home.

The recent approval of the Navajo Nation General Leasing Regulations of 2013 by the secretary of the Interior is a significant accomplishment, however, it does not appear to streamline anything and in fact actually adds two more steps that had not been required in years past -- the biological survey and the environmental review.

In addition to the grazing permit holders in one's chapter, the Grazing Committee official in one's chapter, the Navajo Land Department, and an archaeologist, one must now also coordinate with the Navajo Nation Heritage Program and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The questions I lay before you candidates are: 1. What do you know about the Navajo Nation Cultural Resources Protection Act and the subsequent Navajo Nation laws and policies that define the parameters for cultural resource management? What do you know about the applicable federal laws and policies?

2. If you go by the lowest estimates available, what the average home-site leasee is looking at in terms of out-of-pocket costs: A. home-site lease application filing fee, $15; B. archaeological resource inventory, $294 - ?; C. biological inventory, $32.50; D. home-site lease rent, $65 for 65 years; E. if a person needs an environmental assessment, $600 - $1,000; F. if you do not want to wait for the Navajo Land Department to get through their incredible backlog to do your legal survey: $500 - ?

Given that individual leasees will never own the land that they are developing and that upon termination of the lease, the property and all its improvements may revert to Navajo Nation control, do you think these fees are a fair burden for reservation residents to bear?

3. In spite the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act amendments to the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act, it appears that the Navajo Nation General Leasing Act was not actually written with home-site leases in mind 4. What is your perspective on the relationship of cultural resources to the future of the Navajo Nation?

5. Considering that the Navajo Nation has its own archaeology department (and TCP program), what do you think the role of private CRM firms is, or should be on the Navajo Nation?

Kerry F. Thompson
Leupp, Ariz.

Conference helped me become a stronger leader

On June 24, I traveled on my first flight of my life to Orlando, Fla., to represent my high school and my Navajo culture for the first time at the National Association of Student Councils National Conference. Along with me were many other students from all over Arizona. This was not any ordinary fun trip, it was a trip that changed my life.

Wednesday and Thursday I adventured the grounds of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center as a pre-tour of our trip. Friday morning came along and the Arizona Association of Student Councils made our way to Ocoee High School where the NASC conference was being held. For the next couple of days, this is what we called our life.

At the conference multiple speakers spoke of their experiences in life and how they've made a change. Each speaker had their own unique presentation such as a life of teenage love, going through life with the results of having no control of part of your body from a stroke, and losing your twin sister to a car accident leading to a Driven to Inspire speech. Not only did I gain knowledge from speakers, I attended workshops that allowed me to learn about leadership, communication skills and ideas of recycling.

Aside from the leadership category, I met a ton of new faces from all over the United States, even from out of countries like China and Puerto Rico. As the conference sadly came to an end I was able to return home to Arizona as a better leader with the opportunity to change lives one step at a time.

As the student body vice president of Pinon High School, I am glad I had the opportunity to attend the NASC National Conference. It helped me become a stronger leader and I'm looking forward to using all the new techniques I've learned once school starts in August.

I strongly encourage all students to join the student council at their own school and participate in many activities as they can. The experience will be a great outcome and will definitely help everyone strive further in life and to show the astonishing pride that we have in our own culture as Native Americans.

Autumn Cayaditto
Pinon, Ariz.

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