Black Acres is an eyesore

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 4, 2014

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T oday's youth face many risks, including loss of language, culture, drug use, violence, suicide, and alcohol abuse.

Alcohol abuse has serious consequences in homes, schools and communities. Within the last three years, the community of Black Rock Acres Housing in Fort Defiance has been an eyesore. The streets are busy daily with people walking or staggering in packs for a quick fix from the bootleggers. Along the fence, vehicles park in a drive-up fashion with customers constantly tapping on windows to be served.

I live on the busiest street and every day the dog alerts us with street fighting, yelling and arguing going on while onlookers stand at their door to witness what the uproar is all about. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore that it doesn't bother us or that it's none of our business. Some of us are sick and tired of drunkenness displayed in the streets of our front yards. I stand to say, "Enough is enough" because it's disappointing to see our children exposed to this type of behavior.

I'm appalled by a beating I recently witnessed in front of my home, young adults beating the face and kicking the head of a young drunk man thrown onto the pavement unconsciously. When approached, they responded, "He deserved it, he did that to his partner" and walked away after beating someone who was unable to move.

As I witnessed the whole thing unfold, it takes me back to the teaching of K'é, how we greet one another with respected clan system. I'm not the only one who sees the daily demonstration of bullying among young people and how they have become so disrespectful. It makes you wonder, where are the parents and grandparents of these young adults who are out of control?

When we sit back and allow our children to bring chaotic behaviors to our neighborhood is absurd. The police department was called and no one showed up mainly because they spend so much time in this area. It's time to bring bootlegging business to the public and out of our neighborhoods. We must face facts that our community has a drug problem, instead of answering, "It's not happening here, can't do anything about it," or denying it exists in our housing areas.

We need to get the leaders involved with drug abuse prevention and bring active, energetic leadership and decision-makers to work with the community by developing a plan for prevention programs through coalition and other community groups.

We are hoping the next elected Diné Nation president addresses issues of shutting down bootleggers and meth labs in housing areas.

Prevention programs work at the community level with civic, religious, law enforcement and other government organizations to enhance antidrug norms and pro-social behaviors. Strategies to change key aspects of the environment are often employed at the community level. These can involve instituting new policies, such as the drug-free school concept, or strengthening community practices by chapter members taking the lead.

Grace Tracy
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Alcohol at root is a spiritual problem

Recently, there were numerous articles on panhandling in towns and hopefully closures of liquor establishments in the Sanders, Ariz., area.

I attended the meeting in Sanders and let me share my observations where most people that spoke were older people, a few people from church organizations and schools, but I didn't witness any one young person who spoke against the liquor establishment. Maybe they spoke at an earlier meeting, I was there about halfway through the meeting.

Another observation was the county supervisor among the three, one Anglo was no doubt against it. The Anglo spoke clearly for the people who had a real concern for the hurting people. But for the two Native Americans, they seemingly were against banning of the liquor license. Several people felt the Native supervisors were for opening of liquor establishments in the Sanders area.

Now, if the establishments were to close, I totally agree with the decision, but is this the answer to the Navajo people's alcoholism? Nope!

It may be the answer for a few days until they find a ride to Gallup or Holbrook to get another drink. Distances are not a problem for these alcoholics. Soon bootlegging will come in. Eventually we'll be back to square one, again.

These liquor establishments in the Sanders area have been in business for years and hundreds of families have been destroyed, and divorces and precious lives have been lost. If these liquor establishments were to close, and the Arizona Liquor Board really cared about the Navajo people, the board would wholeheartedly support the supervisors' decision.

Now to the Navajo people, this is a wake-up call for our Native people, especially the leaders. The Navajo people have an alcohol drinking problem. Nobody forces us to drink this devil's brew; we choose to drink it.

For all these years, the Navajo people's drinking problem is being treated from human perspectives. Using human wisdom will not cure the problem permanently it will only delay it temporarily. The main problem is at the root level of the human being. This is a spiritual problem. There is a spiritual vacuum among our people.

Currently, the government is targeting the symptoms of the problem, which is only halfway in attacking the vicious problem of the use of alcohol. God's instructions are the only answers to the people's problems. Only with true repentance, genuine prayer and total commitment will God hear our prayers and He will perform a miracle. Making us a new person in Christ with no desire to drink alcohol ever again.

We are facing a giant monster, using human wisdom is no match. Only God's reconciliation will assist these alcoholics. God said, "For without me you can do nothing."

Milton Shirleson
Window Rock, Ariz.

Wonderful program slowly going downhill

We read about how the Navajo Nation Head Start Program can now expand its services and is eligible for additional funds to benefit Navajo children, when in reality a lot of the centers and home-base programs have been shut down due to lack of staff.

In 2013, Western Agency had 22 centers and 9 home-base programs operating. Then in 2014, there were only 15 centers and the entire home-base program shut down. This year there is only 11 centers slated to operate and no home-base program. So where are additional funds going? Not to the children that's for sure.

What is happening? How can we say we are going to help these young children when we don't have the centers open to provide services?

A lot of the staff that were let go has been there providing services to our young children. They didn't have the degree that is required, but they were dedicated and compassionate workers who did the job with little pay. This staff had the experience and expertise needed to work with the young children and did it without complaining about the pay. They didn't need a piece of paper (bachelor's degree) saying they are qualified to work with young children. If the program wanted people with degrees, how come they did not help this staff get their degree?

Last school year all the cooks were let go and the school bus drivers were given the extra responsibility of cooking without the compensation. If staff is being required to do dual duties then they should also get a pay raise to compensate them for the job they do. I don't see why people in administration are getting bonuses when these should be given to the people that provide direct services to the children and their families in the local communities.

This year the support staff was laid off (family service liaison, disability coordinators and mental health coordinators). This staff is essential in providing assistance to the center staff.

School started Aug. 25, but the centers that are open are not fully enrolled or staffed. Enrollments are all being done in Window Rock when in reality they should be done at the local centers by staff that know where these children live.

It is so sad to see a wonderful program slowly going downhill. What is wrong with our Navajo Nation government that they are letting this happen?

I hope something is done soon to get the program back up and running like it should. We need to think about what is happening to these young children. I hope the people that are responsible for what is going on will wake up and correct this situation soon. We cannot continue to operate like this, because we are hurting the young children.

Elizabeth Thompson
Inscription House, Ariz.

We should look after veterans' set-aside

Greetings all my fellow comrades and veteran families, the election of our new president for Navajo Nation is upon us again, and I know we will be going through the same promises again. New people are running and some of the same old guards are still hanging in there. If you look at all their platforms, (veterans) are on each and every one of their platforms.

Some of you may not know, but many claims were made by these politicians just to win the election, and it's really sad that they'll do it again this election year.

We did some research on how the set-aside fund for the veterans originated. During the summer of 2006, at a veterans meeting at the Tsayatoh multi-purpose building by the Eastern Agency Veterans Organization, Ben Shelly introduced himself that he was a Council delegate from Thoreau, and is also the chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Navajo Nation Council sub-committee. During his presentation he mentioned that all the Navajo people talked "about honor, respect, and love for their veterans, are priority in their everyday life."

Then Mr. Shelly asked, "Then how come the veterans are not listed in the set-aside portion of the Navajo Nation revenue budget?"

He went on and explained that your Council delegate doesn't have to fight for your annual allocation from the Undesignated and Unreserved Fund anymore. The veterans would automatically get some funding from the Navajo Nation revenue budget on an annual basis.

Cmdr. A. Desiderio started the process. Within three months he traveled to all 31 chapters in his agency. The only other agency was Fort Defiance Agency who submitted two resolutions from Crystal and Fort Defiance chapters. By this time fall session was coming around. With only 33 chapter resolutions he called a meeting at Huerfano Chapter in Bloomfield, N.M. Shelly was given the honor to introduce the set-aside from the floor during the fall session. The meeting was Saturday morning and two days later on Monday the fall session began.

It was discovered in Window Rock that if he introduced it, it would be a conflict of interest because he was the chairperson for the committee. Larry Anderson and Al Wheeler were chosen to request the 2 percent set-aside.

The set-aside was passed. The Council added 2 percent more, making it 4 percent overall. To this date, it's $80-plus million. The credit goes to these two Council delegates, many thanks to them for their effort.

There were two conditions made with the approval. This set-aside is for 10 years duration, so every five years it should have been renewed for another 10 years. The other one was it will be a restricted account and renewed every four years. If not, it will become unrestricted and be open for any usage. Instead of saying it's our money, I think we should look after the welfare and condition of our veterans' set-aside.

Honorable Alton Shepherd (Council delegate) found a small loophole and that's getting 2 percent right off the top and let the other 2 percent go into our account. Someday somebody is going to take 4 percent off the top and nothing into our account -- anything is possible.

These new and regular candidates all claim they have an answer for our problem. Why didn't they do something like this and leave a mark (evidence) without being elected or compensated?

Based on this evidence we know they can help the veterans. Right now all of it is verbal promises again, so post the credit to its rightful place.

My fellow comrades and veteran families, let us not pout and complain. Let's get united and protect what's set up for us.

Earl Milford
Twin Warrior Society
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Degree is good, but no experience?

I am writing concerning a job I applied for and think I was wrongly disqualified for.

I am a veteran of Iraq who has served in the U.S. Navy for four years. I did two years active duty and another two years in the reserves. I live in Church Rock, N.M., and have gone to school and received my associate degree in criminal justice in May 2013 from the University of New Mexico in Gallup. I am currently attending Western New Mexico University in Gallup to achieve my bachelor's in criminal justice. I should be done this December. I'm currently employed at John F. Kennedy Middle School as a bookkeeper and have been working for them for the past three years.

Since I am close to the end of my education, I wanted to use my degrees to seek employment with the Navajo Nation. I applied for the position of the gaming surveillance observer. The minimal qualification was a high school diploma and two years of work experience. I have my associate degree in criminal justice, which meets the preferred qualification.

I used my years in the military to see if it would cross reference for surveillance because that is what we did in the military when we stood watch. We would monitor our areas and address some suspicious activity. I thought these would meet the qualification for the job but I received a letter in the mail last week, which stated that I did not meet the minimal qualification.

It is so frustrating to apply for jobs and they tell you that your degree is good, however, you don't have work experience. My work experience, I figure, would be enough to qualify me for the position.

I have put in job applications for the gaming office and have yet to receive any notification. I have applied for gaming agent, gaming license technician and gaming investigator. Applying for these positions and not getting information is such a drawback considering that I went to school these years and being told that it is not enough. Please, can you help me understand if it was right that I did not meet the qualification?

Danielle Lynch
Church Rock, N.M.

The Confluence is sacred

In response to misleading and false information put out by the Confluence Partners LLC on the Grand Canyon Escalade website ( about the sacredness of the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, we would like to set the record straight about the sacredness of the Confluence.

The website says that they consulted our book "Navajo Sacred Places" and several other sources, and that none of them mention the Confluence as a sacred place. The website concludes, "Again, all this doesn't mean the Confluence is or isn't a sacred place, just that we can't find any reference to or identification of the Confluence in any of the published research or history of Navajo sacred places."

They couldn't find such references because they didn't look hard enough.

We wrote "Navajo Sacred Places" as a teaching tool to educate non-First Nations people about what we Diné call sacred places and their vital role in our culture and tradition. The book is not a catalogue of sacred places on Diné Bikéyah, as the website seems to imply.

There are documents at Navajo Nation Historic Preservation that catalogue sacred places throughout Diné Bikéyah. Because this information is sensitive and confidential, strict rules are in place about who can have access to it. These strict rules have been requested by the Hataal’’s who helped to establish this catalogue. The Confluence and its sacredness can be found here.

These places are protected by the Navajo Nation Cultural Resources Protection Act of 1988, as well as federal laws regarding traditional cultural places. If Confluence Partners were sensitive to the concerns of the people, they would have asked for this information.

We also wonder how Confluence Partners could have missed a report on Diné sacred and historic places in the Grand Canyon entitled, "Bits'’’s Ninééz’ (The River of Neverending Life)," by Alexa Roberts, Richard Begay and Klara Kelley. It was published by the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department in 1995 and is one of several reports by Diné and other First Nations tribes as part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Glen Canyon Environmental Studies Project, with cooperators including the Grand Canyon National Park.

This report has a wealth of information about the Confluence area and individual sacred places within it from both local elders and at least eight previously published sources recorded as early as the late 1920s, all of which are listed in the report's bibliography.

The statement on the website that the NPS is unaware that the Confluence is sacred is questionable, since NPS has this report. A statement from NPS about the sacredness of the Confluence is overdue.

In addition is a 1993 report written for the Navajo Nation about "Navajo Sacred Landscapes in the Lower Little Colorado." Most important and unquestionable in the report are the testimonies of two of the most prominent Hataal’’s of the Diné Nation, both from the western Diné Bikeyah. Both have passed. First the late Nevy Jensen from Gray Mountain, then the late Norris Nez from Tuba City-Coal Mine Mesa. Both attested to the sacredness of the Confluence and included the stories associated with the Confluence. These include stories of our origins as well as ceremonial and clan stories.

To question the sacredness of the Confluence is an insult to these two late, great religious leaders, to all of our religious leaders today, and to the traditional people of the Diné Nation. There are no questions about the sacredness of the Confluence. It is a place of prayer and to be at one with all that is around you. It is a sacred place.

Harris Francis
Window Rock, Ariz.

Klara Kelley
Gallup, N.M.

President's office always open to the public

Each summer the Navajo Nation employs hundreds of students to work in government offices. This summer, we have had the opportunity to work at the Office of the President and Vice President. It has been a vast learning experience and has added to our knowledge and understanding of the role of government.

We know the public does not get the opportunity to see the office in operation. The office is open, always to the public. The leadership of the Navajo Nation is constantly at work, directing the divisions and departments to serving the people. It is overwhelming. Imagine all the responsibilities of health, education, natural resources, economic commerce, public safety, social services, tax, telecommunications, and the environment, to name a few.

Moreover, the president and vice president serve in a government-to-government role with the states, counties, other tribes, Congress, the White House, and U.S. agencies. They align with business leaders and developers in building infrastructures, and to increase job opportunity -- 2,070 new jobs since 2011.

As workers who have enjoyed this summer in being educated in leadership and government, we wish you to know that the Navajo leadership works daily on your behalf making life better, bringing progress and development.

Tayla Tracy
Window Rock, Ariz.

Chad Singer
St. Michaels, Ariz.

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